Lesson: Bending Steel

by Will Landrum
www.guitarconsultant.com

String bends are an important part of your overall playing
ability. This technique is great for allowing feel and
emotion to come out in your playing.

Two important aspects of string bending are:
1. Finger strength
2. Ear Training

Finger Strength

The first problem you may encounter when learning to bend
is pushing up hard enough on the string.

Make sure you're using a light enough gauge string.
Normally, I use "lites" for my electric guitar.

Lite Gauge Strings:
E 042
A 032
D 024
G 016
B 011
E 009

You may want to use "Extra Lites" if you're just starting
out.

Extra Lite Gauge Strings:
E 038
A 030
D 022
G 014
B 011
E 008

The biggest secret I learned about bending notes is that you
MUST use supporting fingers!

Here's what I mean.

Let's say you're doing a bend at the seventh fret, third
string using your third finger. The bend comes much easier
if you use your second finger to help the third
push the string up.

Lay both fingers on the string. Keep your fingers
together; no gaps. This technique provides good leverage to
make the bend happen.

Another great thing about this is that the same applies to
bending with your pinky. Use your second and third fingers to
help your pinky push that string up. In some cases, you may
want to use your first finger as well.

Ear Training

Obviously, your bends won't sound good if you don't know
what note you're shooting for. You need to practice your
bends by alternating between the bent note and the
regularly fretted note so that your ear will become
accustomed to the correct pitch. This also serves to teach
you how far to physically bend the string. I've included
"ear training" notes in the exercises below.

Here's the tablature for a good range of bends to practice:

Legend

2b4 = bend second fret note up to fourth fret note.

1. This bend is good for building strength because it's so 
low on the neck.

use third finger to bend
------------------------------------------------------------
-------0-------0--------------------------------------------
--2b4-----2b4-----------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------

2. This bend is good if you're just starting out. It's 
located at the center of the string tension and the fretted 
note for ear training is an easy reach with your first 
finger.

use third finger to bend
------------------------------------------------------------
---------10---------10--------------------------------------
--12b14------12b14------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------

3. This bend will help your pinky get into shape.

use fourth finger to bend
---------10---------10--------------------------------------
--13b15------13b15------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------

4. Play this one when your pinky IS in shape.

use fourth finger to bend
--22b24------22b24------------------------------------------
---------17---------17--------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------

You're now on your way to bending steel with your bare
hands!

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