What are guitar bends? These are techniques that bring a guitar to life! Songs by artists who are masters of this technique make you want to close your eyes, listen to the music with complete surrender, and shake your head in agreement with everything the tune, the instrument, and the artist are trying to say through the composition. You just sit there and feel like you have finally found something that resonates with exactly how you feel. 

The technique is most synonymous with blues, rock, and country music and is, of course, essential if you want to play any one of these genres.1 The technique adds expression, feeling, and soul to the sound of the guitar. It can make the guitar sing, scream, wail, or moan like a living, breathing organism!  

These are just some of the many qualities that bends can infuse into the sound of a guitar. The goal of this technique is to emulate the soulful expression of a human voice through the sound of a guitar.

What are Guitar Bends?

Guitar bends are a series of playing techniques that are used to raise the pitch of a note by plucking it and then immediately pushing the string up or down against the neck of the guitar  and perpendicular to the fretboard. The tension created on the string by pushing it up or down perpendicular to the fretboard increases the pitch of the note depending on how far the string is pushed.2    
String bending is considerably easier on electric guitars than on acoustic guitars because thinner strings bend more easily and most electric guitars are strung with lower gauge strings.8

How Far can You Bend the Strings?

It is common for strings to break from being bent too far across the fretboard. However, the technique is usually executed by bending the string by half a step or a whole step. 

A half step is the smallest distance between any two notes on the fretboard. Each fret is a half step. Moving one fret up or one fret down from the initial position equals one half step. Similarly, a whole step is a move of two frets up or down the fretboard.3

When a string is bent by half step, it increases the pitch by one fret and can be achieved with a slight push. A whole step bend, on the other hand, raises the pitch by two frets and the string is pushed significantly farther from its original position on the neck of the guitar.4

Experienced guitar players push the strings by one and a half steps or more, which is the equivalent of four frets. Such bends are usually saved for the climax of their guitar solos.5

Key to Mastering Guitar Bends

Guitar bends need to be executed with precision to sound good. There are several different types of bends, such as full tone bends, semi tone bends, quarter tone bends, unison bends, harmony bends, etc., which are accompanied by techniques such as guitar bend release, silent release, bends with vibrato, etc.6  Mastering even a few of them helps you transition between notes more easily, adding more freedom to your guitar playing. The following tips are a must to develop the technique.  

  • Developing the muscle memory for the technique is essential to perfecting the technique along with the ability to recognize and reproduce the sound of all notes with accuracy.7 
  • Good intonation is a must to play guitar bends that sound good. 
  • Mastering guitar scales is another factor that can help speed up the process and build your guitar bending skills.

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  1. String Bending: The One-Hour Workout | GuitarPlayer. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.guitarplayer.com/lessons/string-bending-the-one-hour-workout
    2. 5 Types of String Bending You Need to Know – Blackstar. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://blackstaramps.com/lessons/5-types-of-string-bending-you-need-to-know/
    3. Understanding Half Steps and Whole Steps – dummies. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.dummies.com/article/academics-the-arts/music/instruments/guitar/understanding-half-steps-and-whole-steps-198118/
    4. How to Tune Your Guitar a Half Step Down? – Six String Acoustic. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://sixstringacoustic.com/tune-half-step-down
    5. Guitar String Bending Lesson for Beginners. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.fretjam.com/string-bending.html
    6. String Bending Basics – Guitar Tricks Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.guitartricks.com/blog/String-Bending-Basics
    7. 8 Ways To Play String Bends On Guitar. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.fretjam.com/string-bends.html
    8. Guitar Strings Bending | Tutorial and Exercises. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.fachords.com/guitar-strings-bending/