3 Things Beginners Should Know About Bends Part 1

use your thumb for guitar bends

Whether you play acoustic or electric (or both), one trick that really seems to win a listener over is a good bend or two. Just remember that like any other flashy or fancy trick, using these in moderation is the key. Too many bends can be obnoxious, but used sparingly, bends can add a lot of excitement and character to any lead or rhythm part.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that a lot of beginning guitarists aren’t getting the most out of their bends. To show you exactly what I mean, I’ll give you three quick tips over the next few posts. I’ll also note here that bends on electric are much easier than they are on acoustic due to the thickness and types of strings used by each type of guitar. Now, that’s not to say that they’re impossible on acoustic, just a little harder.

Your Thumb Is Your Friend

Probably the biggest tip I can give you right off the bat is that if you are not using your thumb, you’re missing out on a huge amount of strength behind every bend. To get your thumb in on the action, simply wrap your thumb around the top of the neck as you’re bending. Then whenever you bend, use your thumb like an anchor point and squeeze your fingers and thumb together. You’ll generate a lot more power behind your bends this way.
If you’re new to this concept, getting your thumb up and around the back of the neck may seem a little awkward at first if it’s not already there, especially in context of trying to work it into the song you’re playing. But don’t worry, just like all new things, it’ll take a bit of time to get used to.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

One last thing I want to mention is that I’ve also had some guitar teachers in the past say that you should never wrap your thumb around the neck. That this isn’t “proper traditional playing technique”. Yes, I’ve actually heard this. Well, the only thing I can really say about that is, if you want to stay traditional, then go for it. It’s not a wrong way to go by any means. Just know that by doing so, you’re missing out on a major source of help by not allowing your thumb take some of the work load off of your other fingers. Naturally, when the work load is more evenly distributed, your fingers will last a whole lot longer. And that’s always a good thing.

To see Part 2 of the series on guitar bends, click here.

To see Part 3, click here.