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Executing Better Bends

When was the last time you sat back and analyzed something simple, like the way you bend? For some odd reason, I felt like covering something really basic this month. So, if you are an advanced player, you probably want to skip this lesson. I get a lot of emails requesting columns like this, so every once in a while. :)


It is amazing how many guitar students I’ve had come in over the years that think they can bend a string in tune with just one finger. From a physical stand point, if you are doing this, you are doing WAY TOO MUCH WORK. The human hand, last time I checked, has 5 fingers on it. Use them all! Let’s analyze good bending technique.

The thumb is the focal point of all your bending strength. Take a look at the pictures below to see what good bending technique looks like. Several things are happening here. First, my thumb joint is positioned so that the edge on the neck of my guitar is wedged into it. This gives you a nice grip on the neck and a focal point to exert your finger strength toward.

The second thing happening here is that I have 3 fingers on the same string. Having those 2 fingers supporting my ring finger, makes it infinitely stronger. When doing bends, you should have at least one supporting finger behind your bending finger. A common technique when bending with your ring finger is to use your middle finger for a support and your index finger to cover the slower strings from ringing (see pic 3). This is typically done on higher bends. Notice when I am doing the bend on the top 2 pictures, I am using my thumb to mute the low E string. What you can’t see in the picture is that I am also using my picking hand to mute the lower strings as well.

1 – Getting ready to bend.

2 – Whole Step bend complete!

3 – Going High


The next step is having good intonation. Before you can spice your bends up with soaring vibrato, you have nee to able to bend in tune. Let’s face it, we don’t all have perfect pitch. If we did, no one would ever miss a bend. For those of us who don’t have it, which is most of us, we need to practice our bending intonation. The easiest way to do this is to take a note and practice bending to that note. Play the note, go down a whole step and bend to that note. Go down a half step and bend to it. Try doing a step and a half bend to that note. etc……. Using the note as a reference point will help you rapidly train your fingers to bend the appropriate distance automatically.

Practicing this all over the neck, on every string, for about 10 minutes a day will get your bending sounding a in tune.

Questions? Comments?



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