Bending strings causes the pitch of the note fretted to change to a higher pitch.
Most commonly strings are bent a whole step (to sound like the note 2 frets higher)
But sometimes they can be bent just ½ step (sounds like 1 fret higher) or even higher: 1 ½ steps (sounds 3 frets higher) and the finger-numbing 2 step bend (sounds like 4 frets higher.
How to bend a string: (I’m using the 12th fret region of the neck as an example here.)
- On the 15th fret, 2nd string; use your ring finger to fret the note.
- Place your index and middle fingers on the string to add extra support to the note.
- Use all 3 fingers to push the string upwards along the fretboard. Be sure to keep applying pressure to the fretted note as well.
- The note should be “bent” until it sounds like the note on the 17th fret. Compare the two notes by playing the 17th fret with your 3rd finger and then bending the 15th fret note to the same pitch. Don’t be afraid to put some muscle into it. Don’t worry the string won’t break. This is a full step bend.
- When the pitches match you’ve got the right idea!
Some examples of guitarists that use string bending in their songs and solos:
Eric Clapton, Stevie ray Vaughan: Full step bends
Buck Dharma (Blue Oyster Cult): half step bends
Eddie Van Halen: 2 step bends, sometimes even more!
Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson: All types of bends
Have fun and happy bending!