What's String Bending

If you've ever wondered exactly what people mean when they say "string bending," then this lesson will show you the ropes.

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String Bending History And Gauges. String bending was originally developed by blues and country players to mimic the sound of bottleneck guitars, or much later, pedal steel string guitars. Bending has now become one of the most widely used techniques in most guitar styles, as it can provide greater texture to your sound, as well as added emotional dimension. The principal factor which governs the degree in which you can bend a string is its thickness, or GAUGE. String widths (gauges) are generally expressed as decimal fractions of an inch and can be found on any package of strings you buy. Weighing up the pros and cons of each type of thickness or style of string is really a matter of personal taste. You must take into account that while thin, light gauge strings are more pliable and easier on your fretting fingers, they are more likely to break with continued use, create a shorter sustain, have a lower volume, and the degree in which they can stretch makes them more troublesome to keep in tune than that of higher gauge strings. Thicker guitar strings can give you a richer, warmer tone, and can be tuned down and will not flop around like light guage guitar strings. Some players maintain that higher thickness strings simply sound better than thin ones. If your guitar uses light gauge strings - where the high E string is no more than 0.010 inches thick- you should be able to alter the pitch of a note by at least a tone. Although this can also be achieved with steel string acoustic guitars under the most favorable circumstances, it is almost impossible to reach a tone on classical or flamenco gutiars, or even with thicker electric strings. With their degree of pliability, the treble strings are most often used for bending, which causes them to break most frequently. It's wise to keep a supply a spares in your case. Bending The Strings. This is one of the most basic and widely used techniques of the modern guitarist today. It is usually achieved by playing a string, then pushing the string up with the fingers to create a pitch change. Keep in mind that you should be pushing mainly your wrist upwards to achieve the pitch change, and that putting your unfretted fingers behind the finger used to bend can give you more strength in your bend, and therefore, more accuracy. It can also be produced mechanically with a tremolo arm. String Bending Exercise. - Play the 14th fret of the third (G) string. Now, remember that sound, because it will come in handy when attempting to bend up a tone. - Place your 3rd (ring) finger on the 12th fret of the 3rd string. E[---------| B[---------| G[---12----| (G) D[---------| A[---------| E[---------| - Pick this note. You are playing a G. - While the note is sustaining (or ringing), push the string upwards (towards the roof) until the pitch increases by what you assume is relatively close to a tone (remembering the 14th fret we played earlier). -You should now be hearing the note A. At first it may be difficult to stop or get to the correct pitch, but this will come with practice. In fact, some styles of playing don't even need pitch-perfect bending. A slightly flat note in blues playing can be a very nice effect. Take care, however, not to bend the string to much (called "Over Bending") unless it is called for, because this will make the note sound sharp, a sometimes unpleasant effect. As an alternative, it is also possible to pull the strings downward, rather than push them upwards. This is generally used when bending the bass strings, because, if the low E string is bent upwards or the high E string is bent downwards, it is likely that the string will slip off the fingerboard of your guitar, producing a very unpleasant sound and killing the note. This shouldn't be too much of a problem considering that most players find it easier to push the treble strings (high E, B, G) upwards and pull the bass strings (E, A, D) downwards anyway. Well, I hope this can help with some string-bending questions.

101 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    darkcontender
    i still dont get it as well.. haha, mebe post some pictures to illustrate how it's done? i dont get it when you say push/pull the string up/down. ehehe.. =p
    newellclimber
    yes all in all you get my vote even thou you dont know me but hey that doesn't matter my 2 Questions id like too ask you is if lets say i bend an A to a B note if i bend it up or if i bend it down do both those techniques bending Up & bending down both Sharpen the note by a Tone or does one sharpen & one flatten. thankyou Simon
    fishergirl106
    newellclimber wrote: yes all in all you get my vote even thou you dont know me but hey that doesn't matter my 2 Questions id like too ask you is if lets say i bend an A to a B note if i bend it up or if i bend it down do both those techniques bending Up & bending down both Sharpen the note by a Tone or does one sharpen & one flatten. thankyou Simon
    they both sharpen the note by a tone, its impossible to flatten a note by bending
    georgeow
    timmtam wrote: Hey im a newb, and i was wondering why when i bent it up the sound didnt sound like the other one.
    you probably aren't bending the string enough...or maybe too much...
    timmtam
    Hey im a newb, and i was wondering why when i bent it up the sound didnt sound like the other one.
    benjo01
    cool thanx, i see how it is used vastly.. i can almost do guns n rosees scom solo thanx.
    jaded_minority
    oi! dont insult those who r just beginning. some ppl might not have grown up with learning an instrument. you were a beginner once 2. who are you to tell someone wether they shud learn something or not?so shut the **** up and let ppl get on with learning their chosen hobby.
    hieubert909
    if a tab says.. 7b9 would i bend the 7th fret so it would sound like the 9th or do i bend the 7th andd then play the 9th??
    SynApsIS
    holy shit i didnt realise people are such idiots
    do you have to keep the strings pushed onto the frets or not? and is this only possible with electric guitars? I can't seem to get it on my acoustic
    jesus man thats how the string vibrates, ffs
    TheUnforgivenii
    Ok, so I haven't actually got my guitar yet, but I'm getting it on Monday and thought that it would be a good idea to just do a bit of learning first. I had an idea of what bending was but not what it was for and any sort of technique to learn it. I did actually find this helpful and would just like to say thanks. P.S. All you fadging shriv's that seem to dislike the beginner...go and stick a pick up your arse. Yes i am English and yes I like to avoid abbreviations, but wtf do you care? I'm also 15 if anybody wants to know.
    blackscout
    I kinda figured out what bending was, but this cleared up some of the basics.thx Btw, on my acoustic i can do it fine on the 3 thickes strings but the othe rthree just sound flat or not much different. Wht m i doin wrong?
    platinumike
    Im a noobie, and only have an acoustic guitar. I tried string bending and the not does sound slightly different, but i can tell im not getting the right effect, is this something that isnt usually done on an acoustic?
    s11pkn07
    this was a very helpfull lesson. i had an idea what it bending was but this cleared alot of things up.
    darkenedcries
    hmm, is it supposed to be brought up at the neck or by the soundhole? and does it got farther up than the neighboring string or no?
    StratoSlayer
    good article bro this should have helped a lot of people i only recently learned you had to bend to a certain tone
    humalogmix
    Don't worry about difficulty with bending acoustic strings, they're way thicker and so far off the fretboard it makes it very difficult to do when you first start string bending. It'll be tough until your fingers develop more strength.
    humalogmix
    One thing I do when I bend the higher strings (e, B, and G) is use a "squeezing" action. I don't push entirely with my fingers so it doesn't require as much force. The way I go about doing that is while I hold my guitar with my thumb wrapped around the top, not touching any strings, but holding firmly I push the string up and squeeze my hand tightly. The string moves up from the force of my finger but because the neck of the guitar isn't absorbing any of the force of the push it all goes right into the string bend.
    SEANOmd
    it's hard to pick this kind of stuff up on your own, and it's cool that there's a guide for it that any newbie can understand and apply, rather than a page worth of gibberish that makes perfect sense-assuming you already know the technique. 5/5
    SlashJnr.123
    Its weird why some people think that violin and guitar are the same. in a way is it possible to play violin in a guitar-style way?
    humalogmix
    That method has always worked for me, I can bend strings 5 semitones...I'm pretty sure my method has got something to do with that.
    LanceDNA
    Hi guys... needed some help here. When i do a bend, my fingers would go underneath the other strings when bending and would cause quite a bad scratch on my fingernails(on the surface) when bending repeatedly. Is this normal or am i doing something wrong?
    MrPendent
    Thanks for this article. While I understand the basics of bending, because I am playing largely in a vacuum (figuratively, of course ) I didn't have anyone I could ask about something--and Google led me to this article. Thanks!
    sherry07
    R.Stratocaster wrote: I still don't get how to bend strings. It would have been easier if there were pictures.
    Watch a video or something. it isnt hard once you get the hang of it.
    tripleainto
    Remember as well to bend "away" from the next following note. Example if you're bending the 3rd string and the next note is going to be on the 4th string, you're going to bend the 3rd string towards the floor.
    DR VC
    Kickass beginner lesson, explains pretty much all one needs about string bending to a new guy/beginner. I think vibrato was the term for rocking your finger back and forth while playing a fret, which produces a 'vibrato' effect. You'll see violinists do it alot.
    Operator of PR
    This is a helpful lesson, I found the history pointless, but interesting because ppl like me like to know this stuff. Out of curiosity. I have read several times this tecnique, but I can't get the sound to change at all. Most likely because I'm using a Spanish guitar, but oh well. I'm going to try and find some good songs to practice this technique, like Linkin Park or Three Days Grace or Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Check out their tabs and see if they help. And btw, I'm still fresh in the field, just a few months, but it would be esier to learn songs like One X by Three Days Grace or somgs by LKinkin Park because, although tabs are hard to get at first, the Linkin Park songs are much easier to play than most. and they sound cool too. Don't worry about the effects though.
    RonBurgondy
    i think i'm getting this, but maybe not though, do you literally hold the string and slide it up like if your bending on the 3rd string, you move it closer to the 4th? or do you just apply less pressure? lol I need practice...
    Dr-Rock
    I think that SmartGuy who started posting near the top there should be arrested under the trade descriptions act, the idiot. Yes, this is basic stuff, but everyone needs to start somewhere, and it taught me a thing or two. Cheers.
    theirishmafia
    i finally understand bending, other lessons aren't very clear on what exactly you are trying to achieve.
    Influence
    Hooray! Excellent work there Zamboni, a really helpful tutorial for newcomers - it really helped me!
    Alx.Sully
    I appreciate the lesson. I just started playing guitar and found this lesson incredibly helpful.
    Moonlit101
    oh, thanx even though i should've known that cause you do the same thing with a violin, duh wow i feeel pretty stupid for that one
    Moonlit101
    oh, thanx that halped me alot, even though i should've known that cause you do the exact same thing with a violin, duh (lol)
    WantToLearn
    do you have to keep the strings pushed onto the frets or not? and is this only possible with electric guitars? I can't seem to get it on my acoustic