In this guitar lesson, you will learn how to practice bends in an effective and efficient way. The advice you read here, if implemented correctly, will help you to become a master of the bending technique. The concept is simple and it will only take a few short minutes to learn the material here, but the impact on your lead guitar playing could potentially be massive.
Bending is a crucial lead guitar technique. All the great guitarists that you love have mastered it. When done correctly, bends can sound immense but a slight misjudgement can result in your playing sounding “off”.
The reason for this is because bending is the art of, well, bending a string in order to raise the pitch being produced from one note to a higher note. The note you’re supposed to be bending up to isn’t random though, it’s specific and often, when guitarists are performing a bend, their note falls short of the required pitch or even goes beyond it resulting in something that sounds out of key. This happens all the time, even when a guitarist knows they’re supposed to be bending to say, the note a tone higher for example.
On the flip side, these shortcomings often come off and work fine but as a guitarist, you want to be in full control of your instrument and the sounds that come out of it rather than leaving it to the gods.
What we will learn here will put the control into your virtuoso hands by using the fact that bends are very specific to our advantage.
We are pretty much ready to dive right in but there’re just a couple of things I want to cover first.
Firstly, I don’t really think you’re a virtuoso. The most likely reality is that you suck rather hard but hey, at least you’re making steps to improve.
Secondly is this next section.
What you won’t learn in this guitar lesson
I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea with what this lesson on how to practice bends actually is. You need to think of this lesson more as an approach to fine tuning your technique. This lesson is not an instruction on technique itself. I’m actually working on the assumption that you’ve already learned correct bending technique and now you’re looking for the best way to practice bends. So, yea, this article is very specific. If you’re looking for a way to take your basic bending abilities and turn them into pitch perfect perfection, you’re in the right place. If you’re looking to learn how to execute a bend correctly, sorry, you skipped a step. Go learn how to do a bend properly then come back.
How to practice bends on guitar – the exercise in a nutshell.
The concept is extremely simple. Here an example of what we’re going to be doing.
Told you it wasn’t complicated but believe me when I say, this just flat out works.
So, what’s going on there? Well, the first thing that we’re doing is picking a note. The first note is nothing to do with bending but this gives us our reference note. This will be the note that we’re bending up to. In this case, it’s an A note. The one at the seventeenth fret on the high E string to be specific.
Immediately after picking that single note, we’re going to execute our bend while our reference tone is fresh in our heads. This will be a full tone bend therefore, we will bend the high E string at the fifteenth fret as indicated by the TAB. We then hold this bend at the correct pitch. We’re bending from a G to an A.
That’s the basic idea in a nutshell. Practicing your bends with a reference point will make it much easier to identify an under bend or an over bend than if you were simply doing it blind.
Guitarists often hit a bend assuming that they’re reaching the pitch that they require but this is definitely not always the case. In fact, what you may find is that when you try this exercise, you find that your bends aren’t all that perfect. I know that I found this out when I started using this exercise many moons ago.
This exercise brings your ears into the game a lot more. You will get instant feedback on whether or not your bend was correct or whether you need to work on it more.
Now as you’re aware. There is more scope for bends than what our example demonstrates. Bends can be done virtually anywhere on the guitar so next, we will look at taking this concept and building on it so that we can practice our bends all over the fretboard.
How to practice bends on guitar – building on the basic concept
Now that we know what to do, we can take this basic yet impactful idea and build on it. What we are going to do is take this exercise and simply repeat it in different areas of the fretboard and, on different strings too but here’s the thing, we are going to do it extremely informally. We’ll be taking an almost random approach to this.
Here is a rough idea of what you should end up with when running this exercise yourself.
As you can see, there’s no pattern there. This is because I selected locations completely at random. All I did was ensure that I was covering a wide area of the fretboard whilst performing the exercise and this can be taken even further still as I cut off the example at fifteen bars.
The chaotic random approach is exactly what you should do with this too. Don’t bother trying to come up with some sort of pattern. Choosing bends as you go works perfectly fine and I’m speaking from personal experience.
Don’t just do this with full tone bends
As you can see in both of our TAB examples, I’ve been focusing on tone bends but as I’m sure you’re aware or, at least I hope you’re aware, bends are not limited to the full tone. In my experience, the full tone is the most commonly used in lead guitar but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to other types of bends for example, semi tone bends which are also quite common.
The premise of the exercise would remain exactly the same only you’d be changing your reference note. So, for example, if you’re practicing a semi tone bend in the same place as our very first example, you’d first pick the sixteenth fret and bend up to that instead of the seventeenth as we saw earlier. Get it?
How to practice bends on guitar – Adding vibrato to the exercise
Once you have a decent command of bends in their most basic form, you can start to add a little extra spice into the equation.
One way to do this is with vibrato. Now, what many of you would have been doing is adding vibrato anyway either consciously or subconsciously. You know who you are. It always amazes me how many guitarists can’t simply play a note without screwing with it.
Before you add the vibrato, be sure that the bends are accurate and that you can hit them perfectly the vast majority of the time. Once you can do that, then you can start adding in a little vibrato but let the pitch perfect bend ring out a little first and squeeze in some vibrato right at the end. The wideness of your vibrato is up to you but I’d recommend quite a tight vibrato so that the crispness of your bend is apparent.
How long should you spend on this exercise?
The answer to how long you should spend with this bending exercise is a big fat “it depends”. Well, it is and it isn’t. It does depend on factors such as how vital bends are to your playing style and how good your bends are currently.
For example, someone who is constantly smashing out those pentatonic solos at the higher end of the neck may want to give this some focus. As would someone who wants to do this but finds that their bending sounds generally sucky sometimes.
On the flip side, a guitarist who plays a lot of acoustic guitar rhythm and strumming may not need this as much and likewise, someone who already has a good command of bends may not need this exercise so much.
If you think you have a good command of bends, I’d advise you to put that theory to the test by giving this exercise a good try. Put yourself through your paces and see if you were right. Hopefully, this is just a case of fine tuning.
With all that said, this isn’t an exercise that you should be devoting huge chunks of your practice time to and here’s one of the reasons why.
How fast will you see results?
In my experience, very fast indeed. I’ve found that a minimal amount of input can yield great results. This is true both with my guitar playing, and with the playing of newer guitarists whom I have taught in the past. I’ve even taught this exercise to a guitarist verbally over the phone and the next day, thy sent me an audio clip on Whatsapp showing that their bends had improved exponentially. They were a beginner so their starting point was lower but it still proves my point.
A few minutes here and there every now and again is plenty with this exercise. Keep it random. Keep it simple, keep it nice and slow, and Use your ears.
That about wraps up this lesson on how to practice bends on guitar. I hope this will prove useful to you going forward. This is still an exercise I use now as a fine tuner and I’ve been playing for approximately fifteen years.
Want to learn more guitar stuff? Try this lesson here. It teaches you the location of every natural harmonic on the fretboard and beyond. Or, you could learn how to play the Hirajoshi scale on guitar. Or, you could learn the basics of tapping on guitar or how to use double stops on guitar. Basically, there are lots of guitar lessons here.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.