String Bending Tips

Related Concepts:

What You'll Need For This Exercise...

How to Complete This Exercise...

Here are some of the common challenges and solutions:

  • Difficulty bending far enough
    • This is often due to your hand position (and/or thumb position).  Experiment with bringing your thumb up (and even over) the neck to take advantage of the hand’s natural ‘grip’ strength to make your bends more powerful.
  • Lacking control/accuracy of the bent pitch
    • This is also related to hand and thumb position on the back of the neck.  I recommend that my students develop a ‘torque’ motion, not a squeeze or push motion.  The ‘torque’ is similar to the twisting action your wrist does when opening a door handle.  This motion naturally takes advantage of your hand/wrist strength and makes it easier to have fine motor control over the ‘torque’ of your bend… thereby fine motor control over your pitch control/accuracy.
  • Unsure when to use bends musically (in your own solos)
    • Usually, you’ll bend a string to a higher pitch either a half-step (1 fret) or whole step (2 frets).  So, string bending will be most musical when the next note in the scale pattern you’re bending is a half-step or whole step away from the fret your bending.  You shouldn’t just bend because you can!  Instead, thing musically and bend from one distinct note in your scale to the next distinct note in your scale.  Learn more about the 5 most common guitar scale patterns.


Continuing to Improve...

Learning to bend strings well takes time.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel solid improvement within days – it often takes longer than that.  The best approach is to “fake it ’til you make it”.  Seriously, just play as if your string bending skills are perfect… Why?  Because string bending is a combination of intuition and technique.  The intuitive aspect will only come into focus when you’re relaxed and enjoying playing guitar. Sitting down and bending strings for 30 minutes won’t really help because it’s not just about strength and dexterity… it is very much an expressive technique.  If you want to play expressively, you don’t want to be expressing ‘frustration’ :).

In short, don’t worry too much about getting it perfect.  DO do it a lot and focus on your expressiveness more than any other detail.  Pretending to play guitar like you are the guitar player you wish to be is often a great path to becoming just that – the guitar player you wish to be 🙂