Improve Your Bends
I have mentioned before, just how important the smaller techniques in guitar playing are. In fact, I put more emphasis on these techniques than techniques like sweep picking, tapping, or legato.
Accents are what really make a guitarist's playing shine, yet we tend to not take these accents so seriously. It doesn't surprise me one bit when an advanced guitar player goes to bend a note, and they are just slightly flat. In fact, it pretty much seals the deal for me.
I remember taking a screen writer's course once, and I'll never forget how he said that "a bad line at the end of a scene can hang like a *blank* in the wind". I didn't want to be too crass here, but you can pretty much fill in that blank. He was absolutely right!
Imagine that there are two characters having a very personal conversation on screen. It might look something like this:
"John, I'm pregnant."
"Oh my God, I don't know if I can provide for you or the baby right now!"
"Sometimes life can be so hard, and with the recent death of your father...."
(Enter John's roommate, Kevin)
"Hey! who wants tacos?"
Not my best creative writing skills their, but still, a bad note that is not well placed or produced can have the same effect.
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My method for practicing bending is simple, and its helped a lot of younger guitar players out, so I'd like to share it with you now.
Lets say that you are bending from the 10th fret of the B string up to the 12th fret of the B string - this is a simple, run of the mill, whole step bend.
Before you actually do the bend, first play the 12th fret, and get that tone locked into your head. Right after this, actually bend the note, and see how well you can match the pitch of the 12th fret.
Use this simple principle to practice all of your bends. Lock in that pitch, before you go to randomly bend a note. This is also a great benefit to ear training, and will probably help you with your improvisational skills as well.
If its a half bend, play the 11th fret first and then bend the 10th fret to the 11th fret.
Quarter bends are a tricky thing, because it can be hard to detirmine what a quarter bend should sound like. Well, a quarter bend is not much of a string bend at all. First, use the method for practicing half bends that I just explained to you. Then imagine what that half step pitch would sound like if it were 50% reduced.
It might also help to find the pitch that you are going to bend to, and then hum the pitch aloud, while bending that note to your humming.
My final advice to any guitar player is to practice bends in as many different areas on the fretboard as possible. To go even further, practice doing bends that are larger than a full bend. Try a full and a half bend for instance. To go even further than that, see how quickly you can play the "arrival pitch destination" of a bend, and how quickly you are able to bend to that pitch.