May 25, 2023
The ubiquitous note bend gives guitar players a layer that most instruments don’t have. You certainly can’t bend anything on a piano (unless you’re willing to risk losing a hand when a string breaks). It’s a simple enough technique, but there’s an art to pulling it off. For experienced guitarists, it may be automatic, but we thought we’d give a few quick tips for those still learning this time-honored trick.
First off, it’s good to recognize that not all note bends are created equal, and while you certainly aren’t required to hit any particular note, for the most part, you’ll want to hit an actual note at the top of the bend. Usually, this is either a half step, whole step, or minor third above the note you’re starting with.
It can be hard to get this right though, so it’s a good idea to train your ear to hear when you’re there. The best way to do this is to pick the goal note and play it straight. Play the starting note, then move up and play the goal note. Do this a couple of times and then practice the bend. This will help you reliably recognize the interval and train your eyes and hands on how far the bend should go.
All new guitarists learn quickly how important callouses are for playing the guitar. That goes doubly so for note bends, so if you’re having trouble holding them because it simply hurts, just keep building up the callouses. Like any exercise, this is a matter of consistency over time, not overdoing it, and giving yourself a chance to rest and recover between practice sessions.
If you’re finding it hard to bend notes with one finger (or even if you’re not), you can always use multiple fingers for support. Let’s say you’re using your pinky as the bending note. You can hold down the next three frets with your other three fingers as well and use the whole bunch to give you strength for the bend. You can support this way for any finger except finger one, of course. While you’re at it, you can get a little more leverage by bringing the thumb over the top of the fretboard while you bend.
Most players tend to have trouble with noise from other strings when they first start bending. You can fix this by strategically dampening the strings above. In one technique, you can use the first finger as a support finger and creep it a little higher than the others so that you can use it to dampen the string or two above your bend.
Another way you can do this is to use the meat of your pick hand (and/or that thumb) to mute the top or top few strings while you bend. This technique is necessary when you’re using finger one to do the bend. Just be sure not to dampen the notes you’re trying to bend. You can also bring your thumb over the top again to mute the top string and help flatten your fingers a little to keep extra strings dampened.
Remember also not to change the position of your knuckles when doing your bend. Many beginners start their bends with nice curved knuckles and straighten the top knuckles to achieve the bend, but this weakens the bend, makes noise more likely, and can shove the fingers under the strings (which hurts!). Instead, use the wrist to achieve the bend, keeping the knuckles stable.
Finally, the obvious way to get better at bends is to practice them! But remember that sloppy practice tends to make for sloppy habits, so make a point of practicing good technique and don’t repeat the bad bends. You can drill your bends in a number of ways, from playing up scales with bends to learning new songs with bends and focusing down on just that part – the important part is practice!
Although there’s no substitute for time and discovering on your own, hopefully these tips are helpful as you master the art of the note bend.
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One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
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