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Novices to guitar playing would most likely hear a term that is commonly used among professional players, namely “bending”.

Bending Guitar Strings

Bending refers to a technique wherein a guitarist plays a note by pressing on the string at a fret. As the string is bent up or down, you change the tension of the string so that it raises or lowers the note’s pitch. Bending also refers to “finger vibrato” wherein you create a vibrating note by bending the string fast up and down. Because bending can add a new dimension to your guitar playing, this is an important skill that you must learn.

This technique commonly requires the use of your middle (3rd), ring (4th) and your pinky (5th finger). Usually, you perform the bend with the 3rd or 4th finger and then have the string stabilized by the ring or pinky finger respectively. Bends can be done upwards by one fret (known as a “half step”) or by two frets (also known as a “whole step”).

Let us start with whole step bend exercises. Using your index (2nd) finger, strum the 12th fret of the 2nd (B) string). Next, take your middle finger, and play the 14th fret of the 4th (G) string. Make sure that you bend the G string upward. Play these two notes back and forth fast until they start to match. For another exercise, while in the 12th fret, let your index finger strum the 12th fret of the 4th (high e) string. With your ring finger or pinky positioned on the 15th fret of the 5th (B) string, strum that note, playing the two notes back and forth. Make sure that you bend the B string upward. Again, you should play the two notes fast back and forth until they sound the same.

Next, let’s move on to half step bend exercises. First, with your index finger, play the 12th fret of the 5th (B) string to create the B note. This time, let our ring finger or pinky play B flat at the 15th fret of the 4th (G) string. As you bend the G string up, play the two notes back and forth fast until they sound the same.

The trick to this skill is that as you bend the note closer to the fixed note, it will become more difficult for you to distinguish between the two notes. Overshooting the bent note will create this effect even better. However, this skill takes time and patience to learn, so it is best to practice as often as possible. You can use the above exercises but positioning your fingers at different frets.

You can also practice bending so that you can create two vibrating notes. Aside from playing the two notes back and forth, you can help your playing hand by moving the neck of your guitar. Bending can also be performed with sliding, melodic contour, and other advanced level techniques. One fascinating skill that you can perform with bending is by using the bent guitar strings to mimic a person’s vocal patterns. Legendary Steve Vai is an expert at this.

Learn more about bending guitar strings today!