Advanced String Bending Guitar Lesson

by Tom Hess


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Think you can bend strings on guitar?

Let’s find out:

How many 2.5 step guitar string bends did you use in your last solo?

When was the last time you played a sliding guitar string bend chain?

How often do you play half-ghosted string bends on guitar?

Ok, I don't expect you to know these names, but...

...these techniques are advanced variations of the basic guitar string bend.

Because they take a lot of control and finesse to play well.

Good news is:

Anyone can learn to play them – including you.

And when you do - every lick you play will drip with heart-piercing emotion.

Check out this advanced string bending guitar lesson and I’ll teach you how:
 


Here are some more tips for you to master these advanced string bends on guitar:


String Bending Guitar Tip #1: Clean Up Sloppy String Noise. Here Is How:


The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
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If you want to master string bending, you’ve got to clean up excess string noise from your guitar playing.

There are 2 types of sloppy guitar string noise:

Unwanted guitar string noise from lower (in pitch) strings.

Unwanted guitar string noise from the higher (in pitch) strings.

When you bend strings on guitar, the most likely form of string noise will come from the lower strings.

How do you mute it?

Use your picking hand’s thumb. This means:

Rest the thumb on the lower strings and keep it touching the strings at all times.

Watch this video to see thumb muting in action:
 


Common questions about thumb muting:

Question: “Tom Hess, I am so used to muting with my palm. I’ve been doing it for years. Is it even worth it to switch to doing thumb muting for string bends on guitar?”

Answer: For most people, the answer is: yes, it is.

Here is why:

Reason #1. Your picking is more efficient with thumb muting.

When you play, you want your guitar pick to stay in the space between the strings. 

I call this space:

The String Trench
 

(Yes, just like in World War 1.)

You want your guitar pick to stay in the trench as much as possible, until it’s time to skip strings.

This is why, when you thumb mute, not only do your string bends become cleaner …

… but the rest of your guitar playing also becomes cleaner and faster. (Including: scale sequences, arpeggios and all other guitar licks.)

Note: a common problem you may have with thumb muting is:

… unwanted pinch harmonics.

If you are hearing harmonics, it means your thumb is hanging over the edge of the pick.

When you hold your pick this way and try to thumb mute, your pick strikes the string you are attempting to play. 

To fix it, change the way you hold the pick. Pull your thumb back, so it does NOT hang over the edge of the pick. 

This way you’ll only play the string you want to hear with the pick. While your thumb rests securely on the lower strings.

(You can roll the thumb towards the tip of the guitar pick when you do intend to play pinch harmonics.)

But back to our string bending guitar lesson:

Another common cause of noise during guitar string bends could be:

Touching the lower (in pitch) string with your fretting hand finger when you do a string bend.

Here is how to fix it:

Idea #1: bend the guitar string with your ring finger and put the middle (and/or index) finger on the lower string – muting it. A light touch is all that’s needed.

Idea #2: push the lower (in pitch) string with your pick while you do guitar string bends. This way you free up a lot of space for your fretting hand to bend strings (and do wide vibrato) with no interference.


String Bending Guitar Tip #2: Master Your Vibrato

When you can bend guitar strings in tune and have them sound clean, the next step is to…

… combine string bends with soulful vibrato.

When your vibrato sounds great, your entire guitar playing sounds great too (including any string bends you use in your guitar solos).

When your vibrato sounds weak, so does the rest of your guitar playing (even if you play really fast).

The physical motions of playing vibrato on guitar are very simple.

All you do is wrap your thumb around the neck of the guitar and rotate your forearm/wrist to do vibrato.

Like this:
 

Guitar vibrato hand position


The challenge is training your ears to guide your hands to produce the sound you want to hear.

Watch this video to see how to do it:
 


Tip: When you play vibrato and it doesn't sound quite right, ask yourself what exactly you don’t like about it.

(The key word being “exactly”.)

Asking these questions will guide your hands to make the adjustments needed to match the sound you hear in your head.

Is the vibrato too slow? Is it too fast? Are the pulses of the vibrato inconsistent? Is it out of tune?

If you can’t easily tell what’s wrong with your vibrato…

… record it into your computer and listen back to it at half speed.

Here is why:

This helps your ear can pick up many flaws you can’t catch when you listen at normal speed.


Common vibrato mistakes to avoid:


Mistake #1: Out-of-tune vibrato

This is just as bad as an out-of-tune guitar string bend.

This happens if you bend a guitar string, but do not release it all the way to the original pitch.

As a result, the note sounds out of tune.

This problem sounds especially awful when your bent-note vibrato is out of tune.

Here is how to solve this:

- Record your vibrato and listen back to it at half speed. This makes it easier to hear when the note is in tune or not.

- Determine in advance how wide your vibrato will be. Then slide back and forth between those 2 notes, like I show in this video (watch from 2:30):
 


Mistake #2: Fast And Narrow Vibrato

When your vibrato is fast and narrow, it makes your entire guitar playing sound nervous. The faster your vibrato is – the wider it ought to be to sound good.


Mistake #3: Slow And Wide Vibrato

When your vibrato is slow and wide, it doesn't sound like vibrato anymore. Instead, it sounds like slow guitar string bends. This doesn't sound expressive at all. 

(Slow guitar string bends can sound great in the right context, but they are not the same thing as "vibrato".)

When you do slow vibrato, make it narrow. This way the speed and the width of the vibrato pulses stay in balance.


Mistake #4: Doing classical vibrato on electric guitar

Classical vibrato means: rocking the string back and forth (from the bridge to the headstock of the guitar).

Here is the problem with this:

It’s very easy to do this vibrato fast … but quite hard to make it wide. That means: classical vibrato is almost always narrow and fast. (See Mistake #3).

The solution is to do rock vibrato. That means: treat vibrato as a series of rhythmic bends (that are fast enough to sound like vibrato).
 

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Question: “Tom Hess, if classical vibrato is fast & narrow, why does it exist at all? Why do guitar players do it?”

Answer: Classical guitarists use this vibrato, because they play on nylon-string guitars. And it’s impossible to bend nylon guitar strings the way you can bend electric guitar strings. So, their only option is to shake the string from side to side.

We don’t have this problem when we play electric guitar. That’s why you’ll sound better when you do rock vibrato.


Question: “Tom Hess, how often should I practice vibrato and for how long?”

Answer: For best results, practice vibrato every day, but for a few minutes at a time. Frequency and consistency are most important .

You’ll improve faster by practicing vibrato 5 minutes per day every day than you will by practicing it once per week for an hour.


String Bending Guitar Tip #3: Add More Guitar String Bends To Every Solo You Already Know

Go through every guitar solo in your repertoire (either your own or solos from other guitar players).

And practice inserting string bending variations you just learned into each guitar lick of the solo.

There is no right or wrong way to do this.

Just cram all the guitar string bends you can into them. Use them as often as you can. The more, the better.

The goal is simply to practice applying these guitar string bending nuances to real music as soon as possible.

This is the fastest way to master them.

As you get better at string bends on guitar, the next step is to other phrasing techniques that make your guitar licks drip with soul-satisfying emotion. I show you how (for free) in my new eGuide: “The Secret To Adding Fire & Emotion To Any Guitar Lick… Even If You Can’t Play Fast Yet” Download it today and start playing guitar licks other guitarists will want to steal.

And if you like my free article and videos, you will love my personalized Breakthrough Guitar Lessons. This is where you tell me about your musical background, guitar playing challenges and goals…

… and I create a personalized guitar lesson strategy for getting you playing the way you want.

Plus, you get my support every step of the way to help you master your lessons most quickly.

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Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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