String Bending 101
Bending on a guitar means playing a note and then bending the string upwards toward the ceiling or downward, to change the pitch of the note. The pitch changes because as the guitar player pushes the string upward or downard, the string becomes tighter. Bending strings on the guitar is a very useful and absolutely essential technique for all types of playing.
To bend a note, simply play a note anywhere on the guitar. When the note rings out, keep your finger on the string and then push up towards the ceiling. A great tip is to use your 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers to push the entire string up. It’s a lot easier to bend a string with multiple fingers. Trying to bend a string with a single finger can be tough.
For an advanced bending trick, check out the free lesson on unison bends below.
When you first learn how to bend, it may be natural to extend your fingers upward to make the string bend but this is not ideal. You want to keep your entire hand and fingers still, and try not to extend your fingers. Keep them in the same shape and move your entire palm upwards, instead of leaving all the work to your fingers. It also helps to rotate your forearm.
The main reason a guitar player may want to bend is to add expression and feeling to a note. This is great because when a guitar player bends, they actually play a different note entirely from the note they started on. For example, if start on the 12th fret of the B string, you can play that B note, and then bend up a half-step to reach the C note. Guitar players may also use bends to jump an entire step as well. Pretty cool! Choosing how much you want to bend is an artistic decision every guitar player chooses as they play.
Now that you know how to perform a string bend, it’s important to know what they look like when they’re written in tablature. Bends are represented in tabs and notation by an upward arrow like the one below. In the tabs above, the guitar player is to play the 13th fret of the B string (2nd string) and then perform a full bend.
To learn more about bending, make sure you check out the Rock Level 1 course as well as the advanced tutorial on bending in Rock Level 2 here.