Bending strings causes the pitch of the note fretted to change to a higher pitch.
Most commonly strings are bent a whole step (to sound like the note 2 frets higher)
But sometimes they can be bent just ½ step (sounds like 1 fret higher) or even higher: 1 ½ steps (sounds 3 frets higher) and the finger-numbing 2 step bend (sounds like 4 frets higher.
How to bend a string: (I’m using the 12th fret region of the neck as an example here.)
- On the 15th fret, 2nd string; use your ring finger to fret the note.
- Place your index and middle fingers on the string to add extra support to the note.
- Use all 3 fingers to push the string upwards along the fretboard. Be sure to keep applying pressure to the fretted note as well.
- The note should be “bent” until it sounds like the note on the 17th fret. Compare the two notes by playing the 17th fret with your 3rd finger and then bending the 15th fret note to the same pitch. Don’t be afraid to put some muscle into it. Don’t worry the string won’t break. This is a full step bend.
- When the pitches match you’ve got the right idea!
Some examples of guitarists that use string bending in their songs and solos:
Eric Clapton, Stevie ray Vaughan: Full step bends
Buck Dharma (Blue Oyster Cult): half step bends
Eddie Van Halen: 2 step bends, sometimes even more!
Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson: All types of bends
Have fun and happy bending!
Aww, Mike. I really wish you included a riff exercise, as that would be something I could really sink my teeth into.. String bending was one of the first thing’s I got into. I became even more enamoured when I managed to pull off a “Wolf’s howl” on my friends cheap solid-state with crap reverb when I first started. I didn’t think a two-step bend was possible, but half and quarter-step’s are also difficult.
One request/suggestion – if you could come up with an bending riff that is akin to the lead guitarist’s line from “Have I the Right” by The Honeycombs, I would be eternally grateful. As of yet, I’ve been totally baffled by what that guitarist is doing.
Thanks for the email. We actually have a whole course, with video lessons, dedicated to string bending. It’s part of the Core Techniques program and it’s loaded with riffs and examples. Here’s a link to check out whats included in the course:
This is part of our All Access Membership so if this course interests you, I would recommend checking it out.