Wide String Bends On Guitar – String Bending Guitar Lesson

by Tom Hess
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If you want to sound pro when you play lead guitar...

... you’ve got to master string bending on guitar.

(And integrate string bending licks into your playing.)

“Pfft!”, you say.

“String bending licks? 

BOOORING! I learned string bending on guitar in my first 2 weeks of playing!”

Ok, hotshot...

Wait until you try the ultra-wide string bends on guitar (like the 2-step string bends, 2 and 1/2-step guitar string bends and 3-step guitar bends) I’ve cooked up for you in this article.

But even though these string bending licks are quite advanced...

...anyone can do them once you understand a few guitar phrasing principles (and tactics) I’ll lay out for you.

start building lightning fast guitar picking speed
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By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

I’ve taught hundreds of my lead guitar students to master string bending on guitar and today is your turn.

To begin...

Watch this lead guitar phrasing video where I teach you wide string bends on guitar:

Now that you know how to play wide string bends on guitar, here are 5 specific guitar phrasing nuances to focus on to master string bending licks:

Tip #1 For Doing Wide String Bends On Guitar: Bend Strings In Tune

Bending strings in tune is a key element of lead guitar phrasing, no matter if you are playing wide string bends on guitar or string bending licks using smaller intervals.

How do you bend string in tune during string bending licks? Try this exercise:

Play the note you intend to bend up to as a regular (unbent) note.  Get its sound into your ear. Then, do the string bend and stop when the string is in tune. Repeat this a few times to make sure you are consistently bending the string in tune. Then, begin to play string bending on guitar without playing the target note of the bend beforehand.

Question: “Tom Hess, should I practice string bends using a tuner to be extra sure my string bending on guitar is in tune?”

Answer: No. Rely on your ear instead (and get feedback on your string bending licks from a great guitar teacher) to tell you if your guitar phrasing is good and your string bending on guitar is accurate and in tune. If you rely on your eyes too much, it will make your ears unable to do their job of confirming the intonation of your string bends.

Question: “Tom Hess, I'm having a really hard time getting my string bending on guitar to be in tune (even with simple whole-step bends, never mind wide string bends on guitar you show in your video)! What can I do?”

Answer: Here are some tips to help you with string bending licks (and help you work your way up to wide string bends on guitar):

1. Practice bending strings a shorter distance (such as half step bends)... ignore the wide string bends until you are comfortable bending half and whole step bends).

2. Make sure you have your thumb wrapped around the neck of the guitar when you bend strings. Like this:

Guitar vibrato hand position

3. Tune your guitar down a half step or a whole step to make string easier to bend. (That will make your vibrato feel much easier too.)

4. Experiment with using a lighter string gauge. (I used to use 10-gauge strings for many years... but a few years back I switched to 9-gauge strings and have never looked back.)

Watch this video to see my analysis of different string gauges to decide how to choose the right string gauge for you:


Tip #2 For Doing Wide String Bends On Guitar: Master Other String Bending Variations

Whether you do wide string bends on guitar or regular string bending licks, there is more to that style of lead guitar phrasing than simply pushing the string up in pitch.

There are different ways to do string bending on guitar (and create a variety of string bending licks along the way.

Here are some of them:

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1. Ghost bends (pre-bends). This is where you bend the string first (without picking it), pick the note and ‘then’ release it. This way we only hear the downward portion (the release) of the string bend.

Note: make the release part much slower than you’d make a normal string bend. Why? Because all the drama is in the release of the bend and in prolonging its tension. This lead guitar phrasing video shows how to do this.

A cool exercise is to play an entire scale using nothing but pre-bend (ghost bend) string bending licks on guitar. For example: the C major scale C D E F G A B can be played like this:

Bend from B up to C (a half step) as a ghost bend and then pick the note (you’ll hear a C). Then bend from C up to D (a whole step) as a ghost bend and pick the note (you’ll hear a D). Continue playing this way through the entire scale. 

If you can do this exercise accurately, playing wide string bends on guitar will feel a lot easier. 

2. Exotic bends. I learned these after studying Marty Friedman’s guitar phrasing. What you do is bend from a note that is not in the key to a note that IS in the key. You can do this with all your string bending licks (from wide string bends on guitar to bending smaller intervals).

This creates a very exotic sound and feel.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

3. Re-articulation bends. Re-articulation is just a fancy word for “playing something again”. And in the case of re-articulation string bends, what you do is: play a note (any note) and then bend into that note). Yes, this is the same as the ‘how-to-bend-in-tune training drill’ discussed earlier in the article. But there is no rule that says it can’t be a cool basis for string bending licks in its own right :)

Want to know even more advanced tips for string bending on guitar?

Watch this video to learn ideas for string bending licks most people will never know:

Tip #3 For Doing Wide String Bends On Guitar: Master Guitar Vibrato

String bending on guitar will never sound great if your string bends have poor vibrato.

What exactly ‘is’ vibrato? Ironically, vibrato is a series of rhythmic bends applied to a note. But when you do it right, it doesn’t sound like ‘string bending on guitar’. Good vibrato sounds like a rhythmic pulse. 

Here are the most important guitar vibrato tips to avoid as you practice wide string bends on guitar: 

- Keep Your Vibrato In Sync With The Beat. This is something few guitarists think about, but your vibrato (on top of your string bending licks) ought to be just as much in time with the music as the notes themselves. If it’s not, your guitar phrasing won’t sound as expressive as it could be.

The trick to making your vibrato in time is to think of the pulses in terms of note values (quarter notes, 8th notes, 16th notes, and triplets). This way it becomes easier to know when the vibrato is in time and when it isn’t.

Watch this video to see how to keep vibrato in sync with the beat:

- Balance The Speed And Width Of Your Vibrato. The faster your vibrato is, the wider it ought to be to sound good. That’s because if your vibrato is fast and narrow, it sounds nervous and out of control. Conversely, the slower your vibrato is, the narrower it should be. That’s because a vibrato that’s slow and wide sounds like more string bending on guitar (which is NOT how you want vibrato to sound). 

Watch this video to see how to best balance the speed and the width of your vibrato:

- Avoid Letting Your Vibrato Get Out Of Tune. This happens most often when you don’t release the string all the way back to pitch after completing each pulse of the vibrato. To avoid out-of-tune vibrato, listen carefully to the pulses and let your ears guide your hand to achieve the right sound.

Watch this video that shows how to practice vibrato the right way (that will enhance your lead guitar phrasing and help you master string bending on guitar).

Tip #4 For Doing Wide String Bends On Guitar: Master String Noise Control

When you play string bending licks (whether it’s wide string bends on guitar or bends of any kind), they won’t sound good if your playing is full of excess string noise.

Where does excess string noise come from? When it comes to string bending on guitar, noise comes from the lower (in-pitch) or the higher (in-pitch) strings ringing out.

But muting that noise is not hard when you use 3 simple noise-killing techniques.

They are:

1. Thumb muting. As the name implies – you rest your picking hand’s thumb on the lower (thicker) strings and slide it up and down as you play. Thumb muting is a very effective way of muting the lower strings during your string bending licks.

2. Muting the thinner strings with the index finger of the fretting hand. 

3. Muting the thinner strings using the unused fingers of your picking hand (specifically, fingers 3 and 4). 

Practice making these noise killing techniques part of your lead guitar phrasing and you’ll have an easier time making string bending on guitar sound pro.

Tip #5 For Doing Wide String Bends On Guitar: Integrate String Bends With Guitar Slides

Simply sliding into a note cleanly (or bending a string in tune) is one thing.

But sliding into a bend (picking only the start of the slide or not at all) makes the note sing with heart-piercing emotion.

And guess what?

There are many slide variations you can use in combination with string bending licks on guitar.

These include:

The basic ascending slide everybody knows. (Simply slide up to a higher pitch from a lower pitch.)

The basic descending slide. (Simply slide down from a higher pitch to a lower pitch.)

A backslide. (Play a note, then slide up (or down) from it and quickly return back to the note you played.) Here is a video demonstration of backslides in action.

A super slide. This simply means: sliding up one octave or more.

A re-articulation slide. Similar to a re-articulation bend, you play a note and then slide right into it (from above or below).

And of course, make sure you are controlling string noise around the slide (and the string bend) to make your playing clean. 

Question: “Tom Hess, when I do these slide variations (especially when I try to combine them with string bending on guitar), I keep missing the note I need to slide to! What am I doing wrong?”

Answer: The solution is simple. Your eyes need to look at the fret where you’ll be sliding before your hand starts to move there. This makes it much more likely to land on the correct note during a slide.

Now that you know how to do wide string bends on guitar, the next step is to develop lightning fast picking hand speed so you can play all the cool guitar licks you want. I show you how in my free eGuide called: How To Build Lightning Fast Guitar Picking Speed… It’s FREE. Click the link below, to download your copy, so you can develop incredible picking speed even if you’ve struggled to do so in the past & don’t have a lot of time to practice.

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Tom Hess
About 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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