Bending Notes

(written in 1984)

One day I sat down and wedged a shoe on the low A of a Moog Taurus pedal. I turned on a drum machine and told myself that for the next three hours I would solo over this pedal tone and concentrate exclusively on bending notes. Some of the interesting things I came up with are revealed here.

The most widely used form of bending notes is to place three fingers down on consecutive frets and bend the note one whole step up from the pitch you started on. You should have a good grip on this technique before you read on.

One thing you should always be conscious of when bending a note is your intonation. Make sure that the note you’re going for is the one you hit. Here are some things to try:

1) Hit a note and bend one fret from the note you’re starting on (for example, hit a G and bend to a G#)

2) Hit a note and bend three frets higher than the note you’re starting from (hit a G and bend to A#)

3) Hit a note and bend four frets higher than the note you’re starting from (hit a G and bend to B)

4) Try bending five, even six, frets if possible.

5) This is an “ascending bending” technique. You hit a note, bend it two frets, bring it down to its original position and slide your finger up the neck to the next scale tone. After that note sounds, stretch two (or three) frets to the next scale tone, release to the original note, slide and repeat this until you can’t get any higher on the neck.

The following is an example of blues in the key of A:

Hit G (8th fret) with your third finger. Bend the note to A; return it to G; slide up to A with your third finger; then stretch the A to a C. Return the note to A; slide to the C; then bend to a D. Return the note to C, slide to the D and bend to E. Keep this process going until you’re stretching from an A to a B on the 22nd fret. This whole action takes place with only one pick attack. It’s all slides and bends.

6) Start with a note that is already bent, attack it and return to the flat position. For example, on the B string, bend to a B from an A (10th position). Strike the note and return it to A. Do this seven times in a row on different notes as fast and as cleanly as possible and you’ll have a nice effect.

7) Bend a note, hold it with your other available fingers, play other notes on other strings. For example, on the G string, stretch from an F# to a G# (9th position). While holding that note and letting it ring out, play with your fourth finger, E on the E string (12th fret). Then play with your first finger C# on the E string (9th fret). Then with your fourth finger, play B on the B string (12th fret). All this time, you’re still holding the G# that is bent from the F# with your third finger. It may sound complicated, but take it slowly.

If you sit and concentrate on nothing but bending, you will come up with your own fun variations.