Bending Technique In Blues

Since my high E string broke while I was practicing my bends :sob: , I have ptsd whenever I try to bend on that very string :melting_face:
It is worth mentioning that it’s my 1st time that a string snaps in the middle of my practice session, and I think the reason is more related to the string being old than the bending technique (but still, I’m scared to bend that high E string for a complete tone :dotted_line_face: )

I’m using thicker strings now (from 9 to 10 gauge for the thinnest) for a change (wanted to explore how it feels in the sound and in the touch) and It wasn’t surprising to see that the bending is a bit harder but I’ll get used to it :muscle:

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I broke a shed load of e strings when first starting out bending. Mainly 9s but at least 1 10.
So I had been putting new strings on (spares or breaking into new sets) and it still happened. That made me think it was not the strings just me, so I slowed everything down and eased into each bend to get a better feel of the action and movement require. I should add I also ordered a batch of 10 individual 9s just in case. A guess what ? Since they arrived, not one broken string when bending !! :rofl:



Just buy a few individual high-e strings and replace them as necessary.


Every time I get a new guitar, in the beginning I’ll be breaking a lot of strings during bends - but after a while it always stops happening. I’m pretty sure it actually has to do with microscopic burrs on the frets that wears on the strings… eventually enough to cause them to break. But after enough bending it all smooths out. Usually I can even feel/hear that the string scrapes over some of the frets when bending… where others are totally smooth.

Perhaps this is not at all what happens, but I have no other explanation :wink:

What I’m trying to say - don’t, generally speaking, be too afraid of bends and expect them to cause string breaks. Even a 9 string should be pretty strong, I doubt many people would be able to snap them… and especially not with 1-2 fingers :slight_smile:


Me neither.

This evening I worked through Justin’s bending technique video and it was unexpectedly hard for me to bend up a tone. I’m not talking about playing a lick, just bending strings in isolation. I don’t know the string guage as they were on the guitar when I bought it. A second hand Yamaha Pacifica Mike Stern PAC-1511MS, incidentally, if that means anything. I’ll get the micrometer out tomorrow and measure the strings.
Can I think about fitting lighter strings to aid learning at the stage in at?

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That’s really a matter of personal preference. Lighter strings will definitely make it easier to bend up a tone, especially on the middle two strings if that’s something you do a lot.

The problem I have with lighter strings is that they easily slip underneath each other when I do big or fast bends. It feels like I have less control and unwanted string noise gets in the way more often. My fingers are quite big though, so maybe this is less of an issue for you.

String gauge also plays a role in the overall tone and sound output, especially on an acoustic guitar. But that’s a different story and probably less relevant. At this point I’d recommend choosing string gauge based on technique / playing preference.


I replaced the 9 gauge strings on my strat with 8 gauge and it was MUCH easier to do string bends. Buy some spare 8 gauge high-e strings as you are likely to break a few. Cheaper than buying full set when you only need one string.


John, your Pacifica has a Fender scale length neck = 25.5 inches. Longer than a Gibson scale = 24.75 inches for example. That means for the same string gauge, to reach standard tuning, the strings on a 25.5" scale will be at higher tension. Many people choose a gauge one lower on their 25.5" for that reason.
If gauge 10 is standard, then gauge 9 will be lighter and easier to bend. Gauge 8 us super light. It’s horses for courses. Another option is to keep your gauge and tune to Eb tuning. You then play at fret 6 for the A minor pentatonic say.

I don’t have big hands, Jeff. Seem to remember Justin ssaying that avoiding strings slipping under each other is developing a technique to counter it?

That’s definitely true. Having small, big, blue or rectangular hands is by no means an excuse to avoid learning things. Good technique will overcome most if not all issues.

Ah! I should have thought of that! When I was looking at blues acoustic guitars it was said that a shorter scale length was better for bending. Slipped my mind.

I regularly play my acoustic tuned down a tone with a capo at the 2nd fret to simulate a short scale guitar. Not for bending though. I checked the fret spacing and it’s close.

I’ve got an Epi ES Dot with a 24.75” scale length. I’ll see how I fare with that today.

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Lots of good advice given above. I will just add that I had the same experience when learning to bend (while doing the Essential Blues Lead module): I really struggled to bend up a full tone. (I was using 9’s on a 25.5" scale strat copy).

I just forged ahead and whenever I had a full tone bend, I just bent it as much as possible. Until one day I noticed that I was bending too much. I don’t know if my hand/fingers got stronger or if my technique improved, but I could definitely reach a full tone without too much trouble. Now I can get 3 semitones on the thinnest strings (sometimes).

So, just keep at it and it’ll probably get easier without you even realizing it.

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Bending is all about technique so before you run out and buy new strings check your technique. Are you using your wrist and not your finger. Replacing your string with lighter one to learn bend will not fix bad bending technique.
Justin does a really good job of explaining doing bends properly but lots of people don’t seem to put it into practice.


Yes, this is what I’m following.

Can you share a video, so we can assess the action you are using. Think this helped David in his early Blues days. Just a thought.


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Yes, I can try to do that.

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Been a bit manic at home so not got a video done yet but I aim to do so.

Got to my local instrument shop today and was pointed to the electric guitars they had with short scales and lighter string sets. Yamaha, PRS and Fender (I didn’t think fenders had a short scale but hey ho). The only one that I felt was a clear improvement on the guitars I already have was a PRS SE Custom 24. I could actually see myself learning to bend up a whole tone in a useful way. As a bonus the guitar felt so balanced and comfortable for me in contrast to the epi and Yamaha I own, those I struggle with a bit. The guitar I tried had a tremelo arm and that felt like it was just to hand. The PRS apparently has a 25” scale length. I’d like to find a guitar just as comfortable that has a 24.75” scale to see if it’s any better. Are there any out there?
And time to sell the epi and Yamaha now I’ve found a guitar that feels better for me.

If you are looking for something lighter than an LP, the SG is 24.75. :thinking:

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John before you get Gassed I’d better add.

The LPs, SG and both Washburn HB are 24.75 but my Roadhouse Deluxe Strat is 25.5.
I find it no harder to switch between models and do full tone bends, in fact the 1.5 tone bend in Need Your Love So Bad seems easier on the Strat, So I think much of this is down to technique and also where you are bending ie which string which fret.

But that PRS looks sweet, especially the Faded Blue Burst version.

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