How To Make Your String Bends and Vibrato Sound Great
By Paul Kleff
Do you have trouble making your string bends on the guitar sound good? Does your vibrato sound weak and out of control? Most beginning and intermediate guitar players struggle with their string bending and vibrato technique. Out-of-tune string bends and a weak vibrato will make your guitar playing sound like an amateur.
Mastering these techniques will make your guitar playing sound like a pro. Learning and practicing them requires a similar technique and approach for both. The best part is that it’s not difficult to learn to bend strings accurately and develop a killer, expressive vibrato. This lesson and video will show you exactly what you need to do and practice to add these important techniques to your arsenal.
The most important factor in bending strings is to bend to a specific pitch. You cannot bend strings and expect your bends to sound good without controlling the bend so that it achieves the correct pitch (usually another note higher in the scale you are using.)
Let’s start by using the note at the 3rd string seventh fret (D) bent to sound like the note 2 frets higher at the 9th fret (E). This is a whole step bend. Play the D note and then play the E note—repeat this until you get the sound in your ear of the note changing from the D to the E.
To get in the correct position to perform the bend, put the third finger on your left hand on the D note. To support the bend, place the second and first fingers of your left hand on the third string below the third finger. Next, play the note and bend it slowly and listen to the increase in the pitch of the note. When it reaches the sound of the E note, stop the note and hold it—you have just accurately completed a whole step bend. Now play the E note at the 9th fret and listen carefully to the sound of the pitch—check it to make sure it sounds like the same pitch you achieved when you made the bend. Repeat this several times—bend it and check the pitch.
String bends can (and should) be practiced anywhere on the neck on any string. Play a note anywhere followed by the note two frets higher. Now bend the original note to sound like the note two frets higher. You can also practice half-step bends by bending the note to sound like the note only one fret higher. You want to train your ear to listen for the note reaching the correct bent note pitch.
Watch this video to learn exactly how to practice your guitar vibrato and string bending technique:
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Creating Good Vibrato
You can use the same technique learned in the string bend to create vibrato. Think of the vibrato as a series of string bends played smoothly, accurately and with a steady rhythm.
Using the hand position from the string bend, place your left hand, third finger on the D note at the 3rd string seventh fret again. We want to bend this note to sound like the note at the ninth fret, but now return the pitch to the seventh fret, then bend it again to sound like the ninth, then release the bend back to the seventh. Do the bend and return several times using a slow, steady pulse.
Performing the vibrato in time to the music will help your vibrato sound like it fits the song when you are soloing. It can be fast or slow—either one is ok—the most important factor is that to keep the pulse steady for the duration of the note you are performing the vibrato on.
Remember the following key points in performing string bends and vibrato:
Use multiple fingers to support the note.
Bend/vibrato to a specific pitch.
Use a steady pulse between the notes when playing vibrato on a note.
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