String bending makes guitar playing so much better. It gives that fine touch. Playing any guitar solo without it makes the sound somehow robotic and soulless. That’s why it is crucial to know how to bend a guitar string properly.
However, a lot of guitar players struggle with mastering that technique. Moreover, for a lot of guitar beginners bending is just too hard to perform.
In this article we’re going to present everything you can do to make your guitar strings bend easier.
There are two main causes that make guitar bending harder than it should be. First is just a poor bending technique. Second cause arises from improperly set up guitar, overall.
Take a look at these 11 essential tips you can take in order to make your guitar bending much easier.
1. Lighter Gauge
If you notice that you have to use just too much force to bend a string, than you may consider using lighter strings. The main difference between strings different in their gauge is this.
Lighter strings are much easier to bend. For heavier strings, you just have to use more force to bend. Why is that so? It’s physics!
Heavier strings exert bigger tension on a guitar neck. String tension is directly proportional to the force you have to use to press the string, or to bend it.
Also, lighter strings have a lighter mass, which makes them easier to press onto fretboard. Either way, lighter strings make possible to perform bending significantly easier.
If you’re a guitar beginner, your fingers probably don’t have that much strength in themselves. That’s why lighter strings really can help with this. After some time, when you develop the strength in your fingers, you can choose whatever gauge you want.
Check out the article from this page about how string gauge affects the tone, intonation, fret buzz, action and so on, here.
If you’re interested, check out this scientific study, String Theory – The Physics of String-Bending and Other Electric Guitar Techniques, published on National Center For Biotechnology Information.
Also, think about getting yourself some good quality, lighter gauge strings. I have Elixir strings on one of my electric guitars.
What’s great about this one is the nanoweb coating it has, which makes it more durable and more protective against corrosion. It is ultra thin, so thin that you don’t even notice the strings are coated. Strings are ligher, of course (from .009 to .042).
My pick for an acoustic guitar is this one. Feel free to check it out.
2. Use More Fingers
A lot of guitar beginners tend to bend the string with only one finger. That’s a mistake. A rookie mistake.
Use two, or three fingers to bend a string. Consider this example: When you lift weights, is it harder to lift the same weight with one or two hands?
Obviously, it’s easier to lift the same weight with two hands. The same logic lies in string bending. Place your fingers on the string, and then bend the string you want with your 4th (ring) finger.
4th finger is used in most cases for string bending. Let’s say you want to bend a second (B) string on its 12th fret. That means that you have to place your 4th finger on a 12th fret, with your middle finger placed on 11th fret and your index finger placed on 10th fret.
That way you’ll bend the string way easier.
3. Use Your Wrist
Another rookie mistake is to use only the force of your fingers when bending the string.
By using your wrist, you’re saving a significant amount of energy. Try to include your wrist muscles when you bend a string. That way you will avoid finger soreness that can possibly happen.
This is especially helpful tip for guitar beginners. Not experienced players usually develop finger soreness when they try to learn any new guitar technique.
Of course, soreness is unavoidable to some extent. Still, this can significantly reduce that.
4. Strengthen Up
Fingers have to have strength to perform not only string bending, but every other guitar technique as well. There are a ton of finger strength exercises you can do every day.
Don’t exercise finger strength too much. Many guitar beginners are eager to learn a guitar over night. It doesn’t work that way. Patience is the key.
Heavy strength exercises put enormous amount of pressure to your finger muscles. It is actually just like body building at the gym.
It’s not possible to develop a strong muscle in one take. It takes days to develop it. Luckily, when it comes to finger muscles, the development is faster.
You’ll notice your strength builds significantly just after a few days. But keep in mind that you shouldn’t exercise it more than 10 to 15 minutes a day! Have patience!
5. Adjust Action
Action height represents the length between the bottom of the string and the fret.
On your guitar, it directly affects its playability. If the action height is too low, you may hear fret buzz on some strings.
You can adjust that height. Some players like low action height, while some like that to be higher. Usually, a bit higher action height makes string bending a bit easier.
That’s because it is easier to “grab” and “catch” a string when it’s a bit more away from the fretboard. On the other hand, high action makes the press on the fret a bit harder.
Find your ideal action height. If you’re not experienced enough, it is best to take your guitar to the professional examination where adjusting will be properly performed.
6. Lubricate Nut Slots
Guitar nut can be a cause of various problems if it’s not functioning properly. It can affect intonation, tuning stability, fret buzzing, and playability in general.
Friction between a string and its nut slot can often cause tuning problems. Not only that, it can cause bending problem, also. How?
If the friction in a nut slot is too high, bending is harder to perform. You have to use more force to overcome the friction force. When you bend the string, a friction force is pulling it in the opposite direction.
Friction force, in this case, is blocking a string to move up or down (when you bend). To overcome this problem, you need to lubricate your nut slots.
Lubrication of nut slots makes that friction force weaker. How to do it?
The simplest way is to use a regular pencil. Pencil contains graphite, which is a very slip material. You want those nut slots to be slip. That way you’ll cancel that friction force.
You may also consider getting yourself a locking nut. One of the main advantage of having a locking nut installed on your guitar is that it improves tuning stability and reduces friction significantly.
Anyway, read the article from this page about locking nut and locking tuners, here.
You can also use a simple lube, like this one. It’s cheap, and it will serve you for years, so why not have it in your home?
7. Adjust String Tree
String tree is perhaps one of the most overlooked parts on a guitar. Small, located on a headstock, it often goes unnoticed by many guitar players.
However, it can play an important role when it comes to the tone of your guitar. Again, it follows the same logic as a guitar nut do, in this case.
It’s the friction problem that may arise. String trees can often corrode. That causes a friction force to get stronger. Find out more about string trees in the article from this page, here.
8. Choose Right Strings
Sometimes it’s about the quality of guitar strings you use. Poor quality guitar strings often rust and corrode quickly. They have poor elasticity, also.
That can make bending significantly harder. If you use coated strings, it gets even more harder to bend them. Get yourself some good quality guitar strings. Find out more about coated and uncoated string types by reading this article. (from this page).
Or you can just check the strings on Amazon. (I posted the link, above.)
9. Fretboard Maintenance
Fretboard gets dirty fast. Sweat, gunk, dust, dirt – all of that quickly accumulates on a fretboard if it’s not maintained regularly.
Over time, you can notice gunk accumulated around each fret. That can make string bending significantly harder to perform.
Make sure you wipe the fretboard at least once a week. That way you’ll keep all kinds of dirt off your fretboard.
You can wipe it with simple, non abrasive piece of cloth. Every few weeks, I’m using Fast Fret guitar lubricant. It works both for acoustic and electric guitar. It’s cheap, and easy to use. You also get a piece of non abrasive cloth in it, so it’s really a good deal to have this one.
Check out how to deal with sweat on a guitar in the article, here.
10. Add Relief To The Neck
Slightly relieved neck can help make bending a bit easier. Strings are exerting tension on a neck in one direction. Neck, regulated by truss rod inside is exerting tension in opposite direction. That way the counter tension is made.
Relieved neck can change the action height in a way that it’s easier to perform string bending.
If you don’t have experience in doing that, it is best to take your guitar to the professional examination, where all needed operations will get done properly.
11. Clean Your Strings Regularly
Clean your strings, as it will not only keep them fresh, but it will also make them play easier, in general.
Strings are collecting a sweat and oil from our fingertips on their surface. Not only that dirt worsens the sound, but it also make them harder to play. Strings just tend to corrode and rust. Corroded string can create a bigger friction between a string and a fret.
Bigger friction is making bending harder. That’s because a friction force acts in an opposite way of the direction where where string is bending.
For example, you bend a string by pulling it upwards. Friction force is acting downwards, then.
Too strong friction force can make bending significantly higher. That’s why it is important to clean your strings regularly.
Check out how to deal with rust on your guitar strings, here. (article from this page)
Those are most important tips when it comes to string bending. If you comply to them, you can be sure it will be much easier to bend a string.
Anyway, I hope this article gave you some valuable information on this issue. If you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’m more than happy about it.
Don’t forget to check out other interesting articles about guitar care and maintenance.
Cheers, and rock on!