Learn the basics of bending strings
Learning how to bend strings is one of the most important things you can do as a lead guitar player. You’ll encounter it in guitar solos in most styles of music, most commonly in rock, blues, and country. Before you try learning any guitar solos, you should spend a little time working on some exercises to help build your technique, and then try learning some solos that will help you put those techniques into practice.
What is String Bending?
String bending is a technique where a guitar player plays a single note and then pushes the string up with the fingers of his or her fret hand, creating a vocal-like effect. The string can also be pulled down, but is usually pushed up. It’s easiest to do on the plain steel strings one, two, and three; you can do it on the other wound strings as well, but it’s more difficult to get much of a pitch change.
Thumb and Fret Hand Position
Your fret hand thumb needs to be placed over the top of the neck to apply downward pressure to counteract the upward pressure from pushing the string up. Use your first, second, and third fingers to push the string up, and lock them together as one unit. The strength of the “push” should come more from your hand moving, not your fingers.
Getting the Notes in Tune
You should practice doing bends up and down the neck to get used to the different tensions, and how far you need to push the string to get a whole step or half step pitch change. By the way, a whole step is a pitch change of two frets and a half step is one fret. Try the exercises below to practice getting your bends in tune.
Practice with some easy solos and instrumentals
Now that you’ve got the idea, why not try learning some guitar solos or songs to perfect your technique? You want to pick songs that are slow, or don’t have a flurry of notes with a bend sandwiched in the middle. Check out these songs and solos.
- “Obscured By Clouds” – Pink Floyd. Technically, this should not be on the list as he plays the melody with a bottleneck slide; but it’s slow (84bpm) and there’s a lot of time between notes (one bended note every two measures for the first 8 measures), and you can replace the slides with bends.
- “Mudmen” – Pink Floyd. This is another instrumental off of the same album as the song above, and also slow.
- “What I Got” – Sublime. Short solo, but very cool and easy to memorize.
- “Liquid Mercury” – Jimmy Page. This is an instrumental on the album “Outrider” released in 1987. It gets fast later in the song, but the beginning has lots of space between the bends.
- “Whale and Wasp” – Alice In Chains. Very, VERY sparse bends. It’s like, the same note over and over again until 1:15; but hey, that’s what you want now, right?
- “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond” – Pink Floyd. Once you’ve done the previous five, commit to learning the first 8 minutes of this 13 minute masterpiece. By the time you’re done, you will be a kung-fu master of bending and ready to accept your official rock star diploma.