Solving A Common Bending Problem On Electric Guitar
There are a number of subtle problem areas concerning string bending on electric guitar. These problems afflict virtually all beginners, and often prevent players from leaving the beginner stage and sounding good! These problems are rarely, if ever, talked about, and yet I find myself correcting them with students all the time. Here is one.....
Students will often make mistakes in the middle of a lick because of right hand trouble due to a left hand bend. They will often miss the note that comes after the bend and the reason why is as follows: when we do a bend, the string is moved away from its usual position. When the next note is also on that string, the string will most likely not be in its usual position. It is usually still in motion (from the bend), and so, when we go for that note following a bend, we are required to hit a moving target!
This problem is compounded by the fact that the effort of making the bend with the left hand will cause tension on the right side of the body, and part of that tension reaction will be to tense the right wrist, further immobilizing the pick.
The solution? The Principles, of course!
Firstly, we must follow the dictum "you must watch your fingers" (Principles Chapter 2) , which is, amazingly enough, something many students don't do! In this case, it means watch the pick, and the string as well. All of the other practice techniques taught in "The Principles" must be applied as well, posing, no tempo practice, following, etc., to eliminate the sympathetic tension in the pick hand. If you approach it correctly, it is easy to fix, and I do it for students within about 15 minutes in a lesson, but of course, the new habits must be re-enforced daily for a long time to make it stick.
There are a few situations we find ourselves in regarding this technique of hitting a string after a bend.
We may do a bend with a down pick , and have to follow it with another bend hit with a down pick on the same string. Usually, the string will be partially let back down after the first bend, and brought back up for the second bend. In this case, the pick must return to a position above the string after the first bend, with wrist relaxed, and meet the string precisely as it travels up.
You can see this in these 2 licks from the solo to "Stairway To Heaven". In the first one, the note after the bend is also a bend, so the string will be traveling back up after being let down partially from the first bend, in which case, the pick and string are moving in opposite directions, the pick going down, and the string coming up.
In the second lick, it is quite a different feeling in the right hand because the note after the bend is not a bend, so the string goes down after the bend and stays there. The pick, after hitting this big bend, will wait above the string for its next note, while the string is being held up for the duration of the bend. Then, AS the string is let down from the bend, the pick must begin its downward motion to meet the string and hit it after it goes all the way down for the non-bent note. So, the pick is chasing the string here, and we must be careful; it is easy to miss the string, or hit it weakly. This must be practiced watching the pick and string.
Meet You On The Way Down!
Sometimes, we find ourselves doing a bend with a downpick, and then hitting the same string with an up-pick while the string is on its way back down. Here is an example of this form "Foxy Lady" by Jimi Hendrix....
This lick is short, but in the context of a longer and faster lick, this could easily cause trouble if we are not really aware of where our pick is in relation to the string.
Take each of these situations and devise simple licks that use them, and do those up and down the neck. If you use The Principles, apply them, and work according to the Basic Practice Approach (Chapter 5). After awhile, these motions will become automatic. If all of this seems obvious and simple to you, and something you have never had trouble with, well....Congratulations! You are one of the luckier players, you have worked it out, consciously or un-consciously. But I can tell you, as someone who has taught guitar for 40 years, there are plenty of students who have this trouble, and don't even know it!
Hopefully, there will be a few less players with this problem now!