How to Bend


Bending strings

String bending is one of the most expressive tools of playing guitar. In fact, nothing in the world sounds quite like it. It's a way to gradually change the pitch of a note. The biggest challenge is to do it with precision and control.


Here's how to do a string bend in the best possible way

- Bending direction: the G, B and E strings have to be bent upwards. The (low) E, A and D strings are best bent downwards. So always bend the string towards the centre of the guitar's fingerboard.


Lefthand fingers Because doing a good string bend requires a lot of finger strength, it's a good idea to use the strongest fingers of the left hand, and to use more fingers at the same time!


The strongest are the ring finger and middle finger. Here's what to do when you want to do, for example, a full bend on the 10th fret of the G string: Place the index finger on the 8th fret, the middle finger on the 9th fret, and the ring finger on the 10th fret of the G string.

Now, if you put your left hand thumb a bit around the guitar's neck, it will be very easy to do a controlled and quick full bend. Make sure all left hand fingers are in place, pick the string, and push the string up towards your thumb tip, as if you are making a fist.


This should be easy. When bending using three fingers at a time,it's no struggle to do a full bend. DO NOT make the mistake of attempting to bend using only one finger on the left hand. Beginning guitar players do this, but it's impossible to get any control over the bend that way.

Make sure you keep the needed amount of pressure of your ring finger on the string while doing the bend, otherwise the note will stop.


How far should you bend?

Generally, we have three bends available: the half bend, the full bend and the one-and-a-half bend.


Doing a half bend should result in the note sounding one fret higher than the fret on which you are bending the note. A full bend sounds two semi-tones, so two frets, higher. A one-and-a-half bend sounds three semi-tones, so three frets, higher. When learning how to bend, you should play the fret pitch that you are bending towards BEFORE doing the bend, to check what the bended note should sound like. After listening to the note's pitch, you can now do the bend. Try to exactly match that pitch. Not too high, not too low. The precision in doing this makes for a beautiful bend. This is called playing in tune, and takes a while to master.


guitarhow lesson- bending strings2...and bend with those three fingers as if you were making a fist.

Bend release

This is when you let the string come back to its original position after bending it, while the note is still sounding.



This means that you first bend the string, then pick it, and then release the bend. It's not so widely used but it can have a very cool effect.


String gauge vs bending

Bending strings is easiest on string sets with gauge .008, .009, .010 or .011 (high E). Gauges from .012 and higher have a higher string tension which makes it much more difficult to bend the strings. A blues guitar player like Stevie Ray Vaughan like to heavily bend 0.012 strings, but he regularly had to glue his fingertips back together because his finger tips would come loose from his nails. Ouch.


Why to learn bending / Famous guitar players using bending

Together with other techniques of musical expression on the guitar, like sliding, hammer-on, pull-off and vibrato, bending can really make the guitar sing. A beautiful combination is when a string is bent, and then held while doing finger vibrato. This takes a while to master but can sound really really good.


Masters of these and other expressive tricks are guitar players like Carlos Santana, Slash, Dave Gilmour, and Gary Moore. They can bend one note and totally 'milk' it using vibrato. This can be heard in any of their recordings.


Famous example: in Gary Moore's 'Parisienne Walkways', halfway into the song he plays one single note which lasts for almost a minute. He picks, bends, holds the note and while getting amp feedback, he applies vibrato. Tasty and exciting... RIP Gary!


That's it, good luck!


guitarhow lesson - bending strings1Fret the string with all three fingers...