IN THE WOODSHED
In the first of a new series that aims to promote better practise and perfect your playing, Charlie Griffiths looks at bending Whole Tone intervals – using all four fingers!
Charlie Griffiths aims to perfect your practise! This month, bending whole-tone intervals.
The art of accurate string bending depends on being able to control a number of variables. The first thing to consider is which string you are playing; the approach used to bend the sixth string is quite different to the technique of bending the first string. When bending the sixth string the only option we have is to pull the string down towards the floor; pushing upwards will result in falling off the fretboard. The opposite is true when bending the first string. In that case the only option is to push the string up towards the ceiling. As a general rule, you can apply ‘pull down’ bending to the fourth, fifth and sixth strings and ‘push up’ bending to the first, second and third strings. For the third string however, push and pull bending seems to be applicable depending on what feels natural.
In Example 1 we focus on pulling down the third string with each finger. Bending with the first finger is made easier by resting the side of your knuckle on the underside of the fretboard, and using that as a pivot. Rather than flexing the finger to move the string, turn the wrist to move the digit in a lever-like motion. Turning the wrist ensures that you are using your large forearm muscles and not putting undue pressure on the smaller muscles in your hand. Often early stage guitarists make the mistake of thinking that bends come from pushing up with the finger muscles; this is not the case and can lead to muscle strain. It’s also a good idea to hook your thumb over the top of the neck for extra security.
To bend with your second finger keep your hand in the same position and squeeze your first two fingers together to essentially act as one. The same approach can be taken with third finger bends. Gently squeeze your first three fingers together to maximise your grip on the string and turn your wrist as before to produce the bend. Adding the fourth finger can cause the hand to ‘straighten up’ too much, so a good solution is to move the third finger out of the way and make contact with your second and fourth fingers.
For Example 2 you can use exactly the same finger positions but this time turn your wrist in the opposite direction in order to push the string up a tone. In Example 3 we mix push and pull bending together; pull down on the third string and push up on the second string. At this stage really focus on making the pitches accurate. A tone is the same distance as two frets, which you can also think of as the first two notes of Happy Birthday; so sing along as you bend to help connect your fingers with your musical ear.
Finally, we have two musical examples so you can try the technique in a ‘real’ situation. First comes a heavy riff reminiscent of Black Sabbath or Queens Of The Stone Age, which uses tone bends with all four fingers along the sixth string. Next is an A minor lick Steve Lukather might use in Toto, using the minor b3- b7) Pentatonic intervals (1- 4-5- as a basis.
Practise each example in short sessions so as not to put unnecessary strain your hands, and, finally, try playing along with the backing tracks we’ve provided.
Gently squeeze your fir st three fing ers together to maximise your gri p, then simply turn your wri st to produce the bend
NEXT MONTH Charlie takes an in-depth look at creating vibrato using all four fingers.
Steve Lukather: well-studied in the art of string bending