Vibrato And Bends Mastery
By Chris Glyde!
Vibrato and Bends are one of the most important aspects of learning the guitar.
Often times neglected by even professional players, a bad vibrato can ruin a passage
or phrase. We’re going to talk about how to get a strong vibrato and make sure that
you can do it time and time again.
First thing to note is this will take some time. You can’t expect to play vibrato a
couple times and have it down. That’s just not realistic, so be easy on yourself. We’re
going to break this into multiple steps.
Step One: Practicing half step bends without a metronome
Please perform each step as you read it :
Pick up the guitar and hold it in a proper playing position
Choose a fret on any string, press it down and play that note
Next slide back one fret and play the note on the new fret. After playing the note bend the new note up to the pitch of the old note. You should start bending the string right after playing the new note
After you’ve done this, you’ve performed a successful half step bend. This may or may not have been comfortable, so I want to discuss some tips for hand positions and from there we will continue on to how to practice this
Tips: (you can ﬁnd pictures for a lot of these tips at the bottom of the article.!
Make sure your thumb is over the top of the neck this way you can use your wrist as leverage.
Make sure you’re not making the vibrato by moving the ﬁnger tips. You should be moving the wrist/forearm to execute the vibrato.
I like to use more than one ﬁnger when playing vibrato, especially on an acoustic guitar.
The side of your ﬁrst ﬁnger should remain in contact with the guitar at all times. You should be using the knuckle as a kind of pivot point.
If you’re on strings Low E, A, D or G you will bend down. If you’re on strings B and High E, you will bend up. This isn’t a straight up rule, but for now, while you’re learning to bend strings and do vibrato this will be easier for you.
You can see an example of the proper position for bends and vibrato in the picture
below:(you can also see 4 more pictures of real time bending if you scroll down further)
How to practice this:
" What you did up above was choose a target note, slide back to the note before
it, and then perform the bend. This is how you will practice bends and vibrato in
isolation (not in a musical context). You should spend 2 minutes practicing vibrato this
way every time you practice.
Step Two: Practicing Half Step Bends On A Metronome
" You will also be practicing half step bends in isolation in this section. The
process will be the same as up above. You will ﬁrst choose a target note, then you will
move one fret back, and then bend the new note up to the sound of the target note.
However, this time you will do it in time with the metronome.
" You will practice on three speeds: 60 bpm, 90 bpm and 120 bpm. You should
spend about 2 minutes on each speed when you practice vibrato.
" There are two parts of a bend, the starting point and the top of the bend. During
each click of the metronome you will rotate between the two. So, on each click you
should be on either the starting point or the top of the bend. In between the clicks you
will move to the opposite point. So, a two click process will look like this:
Step three: Integrating your bend skills
" In order to incorporate your current isolated bending skills into actual music, you
will need to understand at least the pentatonic. The task here is pretty simple: you will
need to either play licks you know or just noodle some random notes. At the end of
your noodling you should use a bend. Pay close attention to whether or not the bend is
in tune, as you will need to use your ear for this.
" You will also need to make sure that as you play these notes and noodle on the
guitar, you maintain the proper technique necessary to play bends well. Please revisit
the tips section from step 1 of this article for a reminder.
Step 4: How this applies to other types of bends and vibrato
" You will notice that this article is titled vibrato and bends mastery, yet I spent the
whole time talking simply about half step bends. Vibrato, for those that aren't aware, is
simply multiple bends in consistent succession (3 or more in a row). So, you can use
the same concepts that we used up above to practice vibrato. Also realize there are
many types of bends. If we were to do a full step bend (2 frets), or a bent note vibrato,
you would still use these concepts but make slight variations of them to ingrain these
It’s important to try to learn how to apply concepts to diﬀerent situations. It’s up to you
to decide how that will work. Take this knowledge and master your vibrato and bends.
About the author:
Chris Glyde is a passionate music instructor who provides rapid progress guitar lessons in Rochester New York.