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Lesson Series

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Rick Graham - String Bending

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 14 **

String bending, for me, is one of the most important guitar techniques of all. I personally feel that guitarists often neglect it, even though it's something which can help your musicianship immeasurably. Addressed in the right way, it can transform the way you approach phrasing your guitar licks and lines and really help to improve your aural skills and ear training. Employing this basic guitar technique can also help you to achieve a very vocal sounding approach to lead guitar playing, which can be extremely expressive and once you have the basics down there are many routes you can take which will give your guitar soloing a very unique flavour.

I’d like to start by emphasising the importance of correct intonation when using string bending technique. A poorly executed string bend can sound absolutely awful if the intonation is even slightly off, so I tend to do some warm-ups when practising, using simple ideas so I can focus on controlling the intonation. For instance I’d take an A minor pentatonic scale and focus on doing whole tone bends such as on the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings on frets 7, 8 and 8, respectively. When you do this, be sure to stay in complete control of the intonation.

Bending with the Index finger

Once I’ve warmed up, I’ll then move on to using the index finger. Still in A minor pentatonic, I’ll practice bending on string 3, fret 5 and bend the note up a whole tone with the index finger. If you are new to this it will feel quite awkward at first but as always, stick with it and you’ll have it in no time. It’s a good idea to find as many spots within that scale where you can bend up a whole tone to the next note in the scale.

Finger Combinations

It’s a great idea to work on finger combinations to build up strength and control. Using A minor pentatonic again, I like to play string 2, fret 8 with the little finger and pull off  to the 3rd finger a fret below and immediately bend up to the pitch of the previous note. Taking this idea further, we can apply it to every finger of the left hand using a chromatic idea. Start at fret 13 of string 2 with the little finger and pull off to the 3rd finger a fret below and immediately bend the note up and then lower it again. Simply repeat this with all fingers of the left hand. It makes for great practice and sounds cool too!

Combining slides with string bending

The final idea is a combination of both string bending and slides and sounds very unique indeed. Starting at the 10th fret of the 2nd string and using the framework of D minor pentatonic, I’ll play that note, hammer on to fret 13 with the 3rd finger and slide up to the 14th fret but slide back to the 13th fret and immediately bend up a whole tone. This requires considerable practice but when you get it down, it’s quite satisfying to play. Hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson and I’ll catch up with you next issue!

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