by M A N @roquesdoodle
You've heard it. And chances are you've seen it as well. It's a technique known as bending and it is (as far as I'm aware, anyway) unique to the guitar (and similar fretted instruments).*
The bend is quite simple; fret a note and then bend the string by either pulling or pushing the string across the neck, thus raising the pitch. Unlike sliding your finger up the fret board, bending gradually raises the pitch of the note, allowing you to control how quickly or slowly you reach your target note.
It takes a bit of practice to master, but once you have it down, you can accurately bend a half-step, whole-step, pre-bend (bend a note before plucking the string, then release the bend, lowering the pitch), bend double-stops, play unison bends (the most famous unison bends probably being the final solo notes of Stairway to Heaven), and on and on.
It's usually one of the first techniques a player learns and is often a staple in every player's toolbox (hell, I can't play anything without bending). You won't find much bending in jazz or classical, but bends abound in rock, country, and especially blues. It's a simple technique, but it adds so much flavor to the music. If you play, find a favorite lick that has bends in it and then try and play it without the bends. Chances are it will sound anemic. The inverse also applies as well. If there's a lick you're playing that sounds a little sterile, bend some of the notes. You'd be surprised how much a simple thing like a bend can spice up your playing.
Because the technique is so common, there really isn't any point in linking or embedding any videos since just about any video will show a player bending. But if it's something you've never paid attention to, go back and watch some of your favorite players and see how often they bend. You might be surprised how often they do.
* I'm aware that many other instruments are able to "bend" notes: saxophones, harmonicas, trumpets, etc. But I'm referring to the physical act of bending a string.
On a separate note, I recently noticed the fleet of guitar talent that American Idol has had gracing its backup bands. Within the span of a few weeks they had Jeff Beck, Orianthi, Steve Vai, and Nuno Bettencourt throwing down in the band. This is the only season of AI I've ever watched, so were there others that I may have missed?