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Bending the Strings in Rock & Blues Guitar

Updated on April 26, 2018
Guitar Wizard profile image

Music School Owner, Recording Artist, Guitarist, Composer, Performer & Educator. My goal is to make good music, make and keep good friends.

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Who Bends? Some Classics

They all bend in all of their songs but here are some outstanding rock examples. Eric Clapton: Strange Brew, While My Guitar Gently Weeps on The Beatles White Album. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd): Comfortably Numb, Another Brick in the Wall, Jimi Hendrix: All Along The Watchtower, Manic Depression, The Eagles: I Can't Tell You Why, Don Felder and Joe Walsh on Hotel California, Jeff Beck: Cause We Ended As Lovers, Santana: Black Magic Woman, Stevie Ray Vaughn: Texas Flood, Jimmy Page: I Can't Quit You, Living Loving Maid

Bending to Make the Guitar Sing

One of the most recognizable sounds of blues and rock guitar is the bending of a string to produce a higher pitch. This technique allows a guitarist much expression and imparts a vocal quality to ones playing.

Bending allows the guitarist to emulate some of the "vocal-isms" inherent in blues singing, such as slurring between the pitches to produce among others the in-between "blue note" between the flatted 3rd and major 3rd.

Other examples include:

  • bending the 4th to the flatted 5th
  • bending the 4th to the 5th
  • bending the flattened 5th to the natural 5th,
  • bending the major 2nd to the flattened 3rd or major 3rd,
  • bending the major 6th to the flattened 7th
  • bending the flatted 7th to the tonic
  • Bending the 5th to the 6th or flatted 7th

As mentioned previously, bends add a lot of emotion to guitarist's performance and help give solos a vocal-like quality. As electric guitars came more into prominence in the later years, guitarists were able to bend their strings to much higher pitches than the usual ½ step (or less) places found in earlier blues because of lighter gauge strings.

Any note can be bent, the rule of thumb is that you must bend to a note in the scale, usually the next one. The technique of over bending to a higher note past the next note is a great sound and many guitarists utilize this effect to create a soaring sound.

In this current day, it not unusual to hear in addition to the small slurs, whole step, minor 3rd and even major 3rd bends.

Listening Suggestions

  • BB King
  • Albert King
  • Buddy Guy
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Freddie King
  • Larry Carlton
  • Eric Clapton
  • Mike Bloomfield
  • Jeff Beck
  • David Gilmore
  • Robben Ford

Check out my links to my articles on phrasing and improvising on one note.

Also subscribe to my You Tube lessons at GuitarSchool1 for some awesome free lessons.

Blues Guitar Bend 1

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Blues Guitar Bend 2

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Blues Guitar Bend 3

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Blues Guitar Bend 4

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Blues Guitar Bend 7

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Blues Guitar Bend 8

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Blues Guitar Bend 9

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Blues Guitar Bend It!

Mark Fitchett at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach
Mark Fitchett at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach

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