If you want to play and sound like your rock guitarist heroes, then you will need to learn the art of String Bending.
It’s a technique all the top players use to add colour and emotion to their solos in the genres of blues, rock, jazz, country and pop music.
String Bending is achieved by moving a held down string with your fretting hand in a direction perpendicular to its axis. You are moving the string up and varying its pitch. This can be done for one, two or three notes.
To bend strings you put a finger on the string and then, while pressing the string down on the fretboard, play it while pushing it up to the side. This stretches the string and makes its pitch go higher. Bends of one or two semitones are commonly used, but very skilled guitarists may use bends of 3 semitones or even higher.
To bend a string well you must make sure you fret it properly. You may need to use three fingers to get the pressure you need to perform the String Bending you want.
You must also let the note ring out. You can also release the pressure and let it return to its normal pitch i.e. a bend release.
The range of a pitch bend is limited to some extent by the type of guitar you are using, by the material the strings are made of, how taut they are, and by the area of the neck in which you are playing. Steel strings can be bent further in pitch than nylon strings can and thin strings bend further than thick strings. It is far easier to use String Bending in the middle of the neck than playing near the nut at the top.
Problems and Solutions
The most difficult problem for beginners is getting the string bent the correct amount, to hit the right note you’re aiming for. You should first play the target note on a higher fret, listening carefully to its sound and then try to bend the string to get the exact same pitch.
The more you practice String Bending the better you will get and the easier you will find it to play using this valuable technique.
In this video Andy will show you a neat little riff, packed with bends. It’s from the Dire Straits classic song Sultans Of Swing.