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Bending

Fig.1. String BENDING.  You may use more than one finger to bend the string.

-String bending is an essential technique used to increase the pitch of a fretted note.
-Bending is commonly used when playing lead riffs & chord transitions.
-Most commonly, a string is bent by either pushing and sliding it up the fret (see fig.1) or by pulling and sliding it down.

First let’s look at the most common technique of bending the string:

-Bending the string by pushing it up is generally used for the higher (thinner) strings.
-Bending down is used more on the lower strings. This makes bending easier. You may choose to push or pull up on the any string but be careful not to pull the high & low “e” strings off he end of the fretboard.

-String bending is a feat of strength.
Thiner strings are easier to bend.
It is more difficult to bend the strings on an acoustic guitar because the strings are thicker.
They are also usually higher off the frets (higher action):

Fig.2.

Fig.2. Action of an Acoustic Guitar (Left) vs an Electric Guitar (Right).

-Since you must first bend the string down to fret the note then slide it across the fret to bend to the desired note, the higher action means the string must be bent further to achieve the desired note.
This, combined with the thicker strings of the acoustic guitar makes it especially difficult to bend a note a full step (2 fret equivalent).
-1/2 step bends (1 fret equivalent) are easily achieved on an acoustic guitar.

 Fig.3.

Fig.3   -In the Left image, the string bends 4mm at the 3rd fret using 1kg force.
-In the Right image, the same string bends 11mm at the 12th fret using 1kg force.
The High E String bends almost twice as far in the middle of the fretboard while under the same bending force.

-As you practice you will build strength in your hands and fingers and bending will become much easier. The more you practice the quicker it will happen.

-When Bending, carefully listen and bend it just far enough to imply the note you want to play (bend to the correct pitch).
If you do not bend the string enough, the note will sound Flat. If you bend the string too much, the note will sound Sharp.
Bend the pitch as close as possible, especially if you are holding the note.
Practice by fretting the next note (1/2 step), play it then go back and bend the original note to imply that you’ve just played.

The following short videos are designed to help you understand & master the Bending technique:

Video 1.  Play the note at the 13th fret then practice bending the note at the 12th fret up to imply the same pitch.

Video 2. Next try bending a whole step.  This will take considerably more strength.
This is much easier to do on the upper frets.

Video 3. This Common Bend is used to transition between the open string power chords and is a “Must Know”.

Video 4. Another very popular bending Riff is the “Blues Spread”
The string is bent to imply the Blue Note of the Blues Scale.
-Pick the string again once the Blue Note is reached and allow it to ring as you slide it back down.

Video 5. The “Chuck Berry style Lick” is another one to practice
It is used in many songs of various musical types.
-The bend is made with the Ring finger while the top 2 strings are fretted with the Index finger
Play them alternately allowing the top two strings to ring.

Video 6. Work on your coordination by practicing the “Blues Spread” and “Chuck Berry Riff” together.
Lead solos are constructed by tying together different Riffs.

-Strings can also be bent by pushing the string behind the nut (fig.4).

Trick (Magic Hat)Fig.4. Behind the nut bending. This technique is rarely used and is considered more of a fancy trick.

Another Trick is stretching the string by pulling back on the Head stock and flexing the wood of the guitar neck. This technique is not recommended due to the danger of damaging the guitar neck.

This “neck bending” technique can also be used to create Whammy effect by pulling and pushing. However, again, it is not recommended and a Whammy Bar is the recommended method for achieving this effect.


 

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