E|-------------- A|-------------- D|-------------- G|-----7b9------ B|-------------- e|--------------
The example above directs the player to sound the 3rd string at the 7th fret (note:C) and bend the string (generally upwards) to such an extent, that the final note sounded is the same as 3rd string 9th fret (note:D).
When we bend a guitar string we are working to change the sound of a note being played enough that it sounds like another higher note, but without changing the fret that we are holding.
We have already discussed, in this post about basic acoustics of a string, that the frequency of a vibrating string rises with a rise in the tension applied to the string. While we bend the string, we achieve that increase in the tension and hence we raise the pitch.
The utility of such a method of playing different notes on one string and fret is as follow:
- When we apply the technique of string bending the note changes gradually and continuously unlike two discrete notes if sounded separately.
- All the frequencies in between the note being played and the note produced are sounded.
- The sound is a hallmark or rock, blues age jazz guitar styles.
Here's a free Youtube video explaining the concept:
The sound produced is totally unique making this technique a must learn for all guitarists. The effect is better suited for electric guitars as the strings are much softer and more easily bent as opposed to Spanish acoustic.
The more the persons physical ability to bend a string, the higher the notes that one can achieve. Generally, only notes upto 3 or 4 semitones away can be hit from any fret. Again, the thinner the strings are, the easier they are to bend - its exceptionally difficult to bend the top 2 strings beyond a half note at most. One must develop a trained ear to guide one to stop bending when the proper note has been sounded.
To practice this technique, try playing the scales. Play a note and try to hit the next note by string bending. This is a difficult technique, but not so hard that its just for the professionals. Keep at it ad you will hit the proper notes.
For an example of string bending in use, listen to this: Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton:
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