Bending Technique In Blues

Great start @Willsie01. Few suggestions for improvements:

  • Hard to understand from the video angle but I do not see your right hand muting the string at the top of the bend. For this one, it should be the side of your right hand touching the string to stop the sound at the highest point of the bend.
  • Try to keep your thumb at the back of the neck while practising (especially if it is doing nothing like muting the bottom E string)
  • Slow down on vibrato to make it more deliberate. Instead of thinking you are vibrating your index finger, think you are anchoring with it and turning your hand inside and out. Like your index finger was glued to the fretboard and you are trying to shake off a ladybird from the tip of your pinkie. Concentrate on the tip of the pinkie, not the index finger.
  • Practice this lick with a metronome so you can time it better.

Hey John,

Good to see you’ve made a start on bending. It’ll add alot to your playing.
Takes abit to get the hang of, so be kind to yourself.

Just a couple of additional pointers if I may.

  1. I notice your fingers are providing the push up on the strings. The power needs to comes from your wrist. The fingers should remain pretty fixed. Think of turning a circular doorknob. It is almost exactly that motion. Perhaps visit Justins lesson on it again. Crucial to get the mechanics right, otherwise you’ll never get the power or control needed. Once you get it though, its just like turning a doorknob. :sweat_smile:

  2. Always be mindful of the note you are bending to. After all, thats what a bend is. And whether its a quarter, half, full, or more, of a bend. It’ll help develop that muscle memory. Dont be afraid to play a new lick with a slide, then do it again with a bend to see if you are matching the pitch.

Keep going John. It’ll start to feel more natural the more you do it, with the right mechanics.

Cheers, Shane

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Good to see you posting the video. So some observations and going over what’s been said so far.

You actually need to get your thumb over more. The whole action comes from rotating the wrist. The knuckle joint on the index finger and the bottom of the neck act as a fulcrum. That needs to be anchored into position with your thumb gripping the neck. And the wrist rotation needs to be made with the forearm, so it is more the radius and ulna rotation.

Think of the action of turning a doorknob. If you do not use your thumb you have no purchase. If you just use your hand, your wrist joint will flex and it will be harder to turn.
As you grip and engage the forearm muscle the whole action is easier. But don’t take my word for it, :sunglasses:


John to reiterate the thumb position, listen to what just says at the 4:00 mark.
I would also recommend you practice just doing the bend, without applying it to a lick.
For example, use Close’s “Smoke On The Water” routine, referenced here
so you can focus on just getting the action and the target tone/note right. When you have that down use it in some licks. :sunglasses:

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@elevatortrim I am thinking of muting the string after the bend but it needs work!
@sclay I’m trying to pivot around the edge of my palm, just below the index finger, but your analogy to a doorknob is interesting. I’l think of that.
@TheMadman_tobyjenner Good video. I think it’s given me an idea as to why I found the PRS easier to bend on: compared to my guitars. It has a very comfortable low neck profile and I believe that my thumb fitted more easily over the top edge. Another visit to the shop to check is called for. I do know it was the most comfortable electric I’ve ever tried out. Are they known for low profile necks? I’ll check out Richard’s Smoke On The Water.

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In the shop I tried the charcoal burst, which doesn’t look so good online but in real life is superb.

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no idea whether I’d ever use 24 frets but Apache is on my bucket list so the tremolo, yes.

This is a hard one for me. Tricky yo get the sequence right at the moment.

I thought for bending it was better to have the thumb/hand grasping the neck to give better grip?

Thanks for this tip. Makes a lot more sense when putting it like that!

Not sure how this lick would work with a metronome as it’s so short and can be playing in a number of variations - fast, slow, gaps between, etc.

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Never seen it described that way. Thanks for the tip.


Yes Stuart correct sir. It reinforces the pivot action or the strings would push the hand away from the neck. :sunglasses:

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I revisited the music store this morning and it’s very convincing that the PRS neck profile is way more comfortable for me than any of my current guitars. I think this is a strong argument for selling my current electrics and getting a PRS or other brand with similar advantage. I haven’t checked out any other guitars yet.

Edit: One thing I noticed was the PRS guitars look as if they are well made but the frets on the two models I tried need dressing. A lot of edges and corners need sorting.

I read somewhere that if you want to play the scale the ‘blues’ way you should just use fingers 1 & 3 and not 1 & 3/4? Is that right?


Hey Stuart,

As blues playing involves alot of bending, its more practical, necessary even, to often utilise the ring finger over the pinky. Unfortunately, the little fella is not great on bends. :smile:.

Cheers, Shane

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Thanks. So guess that’s a yes then! :slight_smile:

Indeed, Justin discusses this in the minor pentatonic lesson of his blues lead module:

Stuart use 1 and 4 on the thick E string and 1 & 3 on the B and e, the two thinnest strings. Like most things its advisory not mandatory. When Justin first teaches the first Pentatonic scale

E 1-4
A 1-3
D 1-3
G 1-3
B 1-4
e 1-4

It only to get you used to which threads to hit/finger. In reality you will be bending a lot on the two thinner strings and using your ring finger will be stronger. But I am using another Blues teacher who encourages you to use both ring and pinkie depending on what you are playing. But I’d advocate fingering the Pent scale playing B & e with 1 & 3 (is that poetry?) but also trying to bend with your pinkie ONCE you have nailed it with your ring finger,
My 2 cents, prices vary,

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Thanks. That lesson is quite a few in front of where I am at the moment, but good to know.

I have been using both for practice. Finger 3 of the to thinnest strings is a bit of a stretch but getting there.

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New dude here in the Community. Thanks for the info on the 4 exercises – I kept hunting for them. Now have your response printed out and in my notebook.

No problem Don. I assume from your reply the additional text/tab guide was never added. This seems like ages ago and so it was ! I had to check which of my responses you were referring to !

Anyway hope they help.

And welcome to the Community. If you want to introduce yourself to folks, go HERE