Lead Guitar 101

4 - String Bending


String Bending

Lesson Goals:

♦ Learn string bending technique
♦ Learn different "degrees" of a string bend
♦ Learn "Reverse" string bends
♦ Practice string bends
in the "A" minor pentatonic scale


Another lead guitar playing technique you will use extensively is the technique known as "string bending".

As the name implies, string bending involves starting with a note, picking it, then while that note resonates, bending it up to a higher note.

There are limitless possibilities when it comes to string bending and virtually any note in the scale you are playing can be bent.

Let's start with doing a simple bend. Look at the TAB below.

101 4 bend simple 01

The string bends that we will work on in this lesson will be based in the "A" minor pentatonic scale from an earlier lesson. As a result, this string bend, which takes place on the 8th fret of the 2nd string, will be played using the 4th finger. To play this bend just pick the note and bend it at the same time, hold it for a moment at its highest pitch, then release it back to the original note. Only pick the note once.


Look at the TAB example below.

101 4 bend 1 01


In this example, you would start with the note on the 8th fret of the 2nd string, do a full bend, then resolve the lick on the 5th fret of the 1st string.


Look at the diagram of the "A" minor pentatonic scale below.

101 4 scale 1 01


Another way to "visualize" the string bend lick, illustrated in the second TAB above, is to picture it in terms of where it falls in relation to the scale it is being played in.

When the string bend above is performed properly, the "bend" note (on the 2nd string) at its highest pitch, should sound identical to the note on the 5th fret of the 1st string (the note the lick resolves on).



The technique for playing a string bend will vary according to your location, degree of bend, and where your lead is going after the bend.

One very good habit to get in to when making a string bend is to make full use of all your available fingers whenever possible.

We can illustrate this be doing an experiment. Pick up your guitar and play the string bend lick in the TAB above by placing your 4th (pinky) finger on the 8th fret of the 2nd string. If you are observing the "each finger gets a fret" rule, this is the finger that would naturally be used.

Now try doing the string bend using only the 4th finger by itself...............it's very difficult isn't it?

This time try the bend by first letting your three remaining fingers fall into place on the appropriate frets. (3rd finger on the 7th fret, 2nd finger on the 6th fret and 1st finger on the 5th fret - each finger gets a fret)

Now, using the added leverage and strength of having all 4 fingers available, do the bend.......it's much easier.

In order to make clean and solid string bends, a good idea is to always make use of the other fingers available to assist in making the bend. Sometimes, depending on what the next note is after the bend, one of the other fingers has to be on it's way to that next note, and can't be there to assist. If that is the case, just try to at least incorporate one other finger when doing a bend, if possible.

Of course. if you are doing a bend with the 1st finger you will not physically be able to get assistance from any other fingers, This will happen occasionally, but you will find that the majority of string bends will take place using the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers.


"Degree" of Bends

String bends can take place in varying "degrees" of pitch. The degree of the bend is largely up to the interpretation of the player according to the solo they are playing.

String bends can raise the pitch of  the note by a 1/4 step, a 1/2 step, a full step and even a 1 1/2 step.

A full step bend would bend the string to the note that is 2 frets above the original note. A 1/2 step bend would bend the string to the note that is 1 fret above the original note. A 1/4 bend would be a "slight" bend to a note slightly above the original, but slightly below a 1/2 step. And, a 1 1/2 step bend would bend the string to a note that is roughly 3 frets above the original note.

There are no "right or wrongs" in terms of the degree of a string bend. It really is a matter of what "feels" right at the time.


"Reverse" String Bends

A normal string bend involves starting on a note and bending "up" to another note. Another type of string bend is the "reverse" string bend or a "pre-bend".

A reverse bend or pre-bend involves starting with a note that is already in a bend, and bending that note "down", or, releasing it, to a lower note.

Look at the next example below.

101 4 pre bend 01


This illustrates taking the same note as in the first example, but this time, starting with the note in a full bend, then bending that note "down", or allowing it to "fall" back down, and resolving on the note on the 8th fret of the 2nd string.

Give it a try, and remember to use all four fingers during the bend.



In the example below we have given you a good practice exercise for doing some string bends. These are based on an "A" minor pentatonic scale, as before.

101 4 bend practice 01

The lick starts with placing the 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the 3rd string and doing a full bend. Be aware that the next note (5th fret of the 2nd string) will have to be played with the 1st finger, so you will have to make this first bend with the 3rd finger and only using the 2nd finger behind it for support.

The second bend in the exercise is similar to the first one we did toward the beginning of this lesson.

The third bend is a "reverse" or pre-bend. Use the 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the 3rd string, and start by bending the note (before picking it) up 1/2 step (1 fret) in pitch, then pick that note, and let that note "release" back to the note that you did the bend from.


Your Lead Guitar Playing

As you begin to get comfortable with some of these string bending concepts, play around with some ideas on your own. You could start by using the minor pentatonic scale in various keys and just experiment with various string bending combinations.

You could also visit our "Cool Lick Series" and start to work out some of the licks and riffs posted there.

Keep picking!