The Bend

September 7, 2008 by  
Filed under basics

The bend is the most versatile and useful technique available to guitarists. Very few instruments have the luxury of being able to bend notes. Pianos, trumpets, and saxophones cannot easily bend notes. As my guitar teacher said, “Because guitarists can bend notes, it means they have to bend notes!” The bend is the most complicated introductory technique, because it takes the most practice and coordination to execute correctly, and because there are many types, but with practice it should be easy. Bends are indicated in tab notation as follows:

    1/2     1         1/2       1/2
   +   +   +   +     +   +   +   +

The first bend is a bend of 1/2 step on the second string 7th fret.
The second bend is a bend of 1 step on the second string 7th fret.
The third bend is a bend-and-release of 1/2 step on the second string 7th fret.
The fourth bend is a prebend of 1/2 step on the second string 7th fret, with a release.
The Basic Bend
The first bend shown in the above figure is accomplished by fretting the second string 7th fret (usually with your ring finger), picking the note, and actually pushing the string sideways to bend it. Keep the string pressed firmly against the fret, and make sure you keep your finger on the same fret (don’t slide up or down to a different fret). When the pitch of the string increases by one half step, you have correctly executed this bend. To play the second bend, use the same technique, but bend the string until the pitch increases by one step. The most important part of the bend is making sure you bend to the exact pitch. If you don’t, it will sound awful. It is usually easiest if you fret with your ring finger, but your index and middle fingers can be used as well. This will come with practice.

The Bend-and-Release
The third bend shown in the above figure is a bend-and-release. This is accomplished in the same fashion as a normal bend, but when the release in indicated, you gently release the string and allow it to go back down to the original pitch. Remember to keep the string pressed firmly against the fret while you are doing this.

The Prebend
The fourth bend shown in the above figure is a prebend. This is accomplished a fashion similar to a normal bend. However, instead of picking the note and then bending the string, you bend the string and then pick the note. Prebends are almost always followed by a release, as is shown in the figure. This gives an interesting sound: a note which starts high and bends down as opposed to a normal bend where the note starts low and bends up.

That’s about it for the bend. As you have seen, there are many types of bends and all appear in many different kinds of music. The prebend is the least used, so you don’t need to master it yet, but the others are very useful. And remember, the guitar is blessed by bends, so use them! Keep playin!

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