Guitar Techniques: String Bending
String bending is one of the most important guitar techniques to learn for a lead guitarist. It can also be quite difficult for someone beginning to learn how to play lead guitar. Unlike many other techniques, string bends requires the guitarist to be able to hear when the correct note begins to ring in order to know when to stop the bend. This level of ear training is almost always overlooked in electric guitar lessons.
How to Perform a Bend
A string bend is performed by the guitarist pushing a ringing string along the fret until a new desired note is reached. By bending the string in this manner, the tension on the string is increased to produce a higher pitched note. This basic idea can have a variety of timing and pitch nuances added to create a variety of interesting sounds. The tone bends produce is a smooth transition in pitch, as opposed to the larger jumps from changing directly from note to note.
How to Practice Bends
There is an easy way to practice bends to help develop the ear training, which may not have been trained among people predominately learning from guitar lessons dvd (though many guitar instructors still overlook this aspect of musical training as well). Since most bends are done to notes which are two frets higher than the original note, first practice by playing a note and then the note two frets up over and over until the sound begins to become second nature. Then try to produce the exact same tone shift by playing the original note and then bending the string.
This will take some time to develop just the ear training aspect, but eventually this change will be second nature. This is a fairly difficult guitar technique to first develop, but the difference between someone comfortable with bends and someone who just doesn’t use this technique is quite apparent.
As familiarity increases look at riffs and parts that use other techniques used when learning how to play lead guitar, such as hammer-ons, and try replacing those with bends. Any practice piece a guitarist is familiar with from other electric guitar lessons could potentially be used to practice bends. The important thing of using bends is to already be familiar with how something is supposed to sound before adding bends.
String bends are not always begun in the same fashion, there are three separate ways in which a string bend can begin. The first is the instantaneous bend, which is began as soon as the note is played. This adds a little grace note, but the full original note isn’t allowed to ring for a noticeable amount of time.
The second method in learning how to play lead guitar is the timed bend, which times that start of the bend to coincide with a rhythmic change. The original note rings for a certain duration and then is moved to a different note, very much in the same fashion as would be done if the new note was simply fretted in terms of tone.
The final timing method of this electric guitar lesson is the pre-bend, unlike the other two guitar techniques, the pre-bend doesn’t necessarily have to be at the correct tone. The string is bent before the note is picked, after the note is picked, the string is released back to the original tone. It is a grace note method like the instantaneous bend, except it is moving from a higher note to a lower note rather than the other way around.