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James Walkers

Guitar Blog

Guitar Techniques #1 - String bending

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

String bending is used commonly in blues and rock music, listen to some B.B. King for the perfect bending technique, it's very easy to sound out of tune when bending strings so below are some fundamental techniques that will have you bending like the king in no time!

Bending in tune

The fundamental basics of a good string bend is making sure you bend in tune, meaning the end of your bend must be at in pitch and land on a note in the key of the piece you're playing.

For example, if you're playing a piece in A minor you wouldn't bend up one fret from the 'a' note on your guitar, that would be out of key and in bends it's even more noticable. This excludes 'passing tones' as those notes are never landed on like a bend would be.

How to practice

  • Pick a note, any note.

  • Play that note.

  • Remember that note.

  • Go down 2-3 frets.

  • Play that note.

  • Bend up to the pitch of the higher note.


This exercise works because you can chose any note to practice on and iron out the areas of the fretboard where your bends seem off. I always struggled with bending at the headstock end but not the higher end, this is because it takes a different amount of bend depending on what fret you're on so you have to learn how much to bend to make it in tune all over the fretboard.

Other techniques


This is like an inverted bend, to do this you need to bend up to the note you want to start on from the fret where you plan to land, you should do this carefully and without picking, to avoid any unwanted fret noise as you bend. Once you are there simply pick the note and bend down to your target note and it will be like an inverted bend, very popular with Guitarist Steve Vai.

Bending with a whammy bar

Although strictly speaking this isn't bending as much as loosening the strings but it has the same effect and can sometimes. You can just pull the whammy bar right down and up but I prefer to take the same approach as string bending and try to target a specific note on your bend. Here's a lesson showing some whammy bar techniques using bending as a melodic tool.

Rake This isn't as much a bending technique as more of an appetiser to the bend, it's basically a sweep before your bend, usually 3 strings. The key is to make it one fluid motion.

A good bend requires attention to expression, adding a nice bit of vibrato at the end of your bend can add a lot of expression although it can be more tricky. When I solo and use bends I imagine I'm a singer and I'm singing the notes, that way I'm not thinking so much about individual notes but focusing on the feel and expression of my solo.

That's it for today thanks for reading!

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