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I can't bend to pitch

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Chicken Curry, Mar 29, 2021.

  1. RhinoV

    RhinoV TDPRI Member

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    Well, the forum states that the posts should not be disrespectful to anyone, so please understand that my reply is not intended to be in any way disrespectful, but rather an accurate explanation and assessment of what you are asking. Playing guitar consists of 2 components, physical dexterity and ability, and inherent musical talent. The first is almost never a "natural " gift and must be practiced and nurtured by the player for a period of time until the muscles and brain work in tandem to allow the body to execute the musical ideas in the players imagination. This is why there are so many good players out there that are not even 10 years old...they already have great musical minds and they practice just to improve their muscle memory and physical execution, which is pretty easy for the young bodies. The actual "musical " component is not going to appear in most people who don't already have it in their heads, regardless of how much they practice their physical execution. In other words, your musical mind is only limited by your ability to express your ideas in some physical manner, but even if you have the most awesome physical skills, you might not become a great player if you have limited musicality or natural talent. The fact that you say that you practiced endlessly and still have a hard time with your ability to hear accurate pitch leads me to believe that you have some limitations to your musical abilities and might not be entirely successful in your efforts, regardless of how good you can move your fingers. This is NOT to say that you are unable to get to the point where you might be able to eventually get good at this, but it is going to take a much longer time to try and develop a skill that you don't already have naturally, in fact, you might never be able to get a handle on this. Like a good Chef, you can learn everything about great recipes, combined ingredients, etc etc, but the dishes you create will suffer greatly if you have any issues with your sense of taste, or none at all.
     
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  2. 60telepicker

    60telepicker TDPRI Member

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    As Jakedog says, you can hear you're wrong, so should also be able to hear when it's right. Trying playing the note you want to achieve, get it your head, then bend to it from two frets down. Play the E (2nd string 5th fret) and at same time bend the D (rd string 7th fret) up to match. Search Youtube for country lessons - blues and rock players often fudge a bit on pitch with bends (vibrato), while country players strive for more precision. Last,cI got this from Tony Rice (phenomenal bluegrass flat picker video - most of us tune up with electronic device, or 5th / 7h fret harmonics, etc. He got his D string right with pitchfork, the just hit open strings compared to the D (saying "there you can hear that's right"). When finished perfect tune. I often try to tune this way, have gotten much better at it. One of best ear training practice I've ever had
     
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  3. rockinstephen

    rockinstephen Tele-Meister

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    Bending isn't easy for me. I've tried lighter strings but they rattle too much at the bridge of my James Burton Standard Tele. I switched back to .010"s. I now use .011's on a couple of other guitars. I've learned to slide and hammer on to compensate for my lack of bending skills...
     
  4. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Are you playing songs or skills?

    If you’ve just been practice skills. Scales, techniques, whatever. With a metronome and a tuner running the whole time, that sounds horrible to me.

    Relax. Play some songs. Join a band. Electric guitar is the realm of young drunken idiots who can barely play yet make great songs. Not some grim, determined march.

    Bending is way, way overused and overrated anyway.

    Play songs. Have fun. Join a band.

    Also, after this much time, attention and concerted work and frustration, give up. Not on guitar. Just on the kind of bends that elude you. Most great art is created through limitations. Take this as an opportunity to forge your own style that is you.

    After a few months away, every once in awhile try to play a bendy lick you like. Chances are decent once you get out of your head and relax at some point it’ll “click”. If not, so what? Plenty of music to be made without bends. Or with slightly out of tune bends, for that matter.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2021
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  5. Yuro

    Yuro Tele-Meister

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    Chicken Curry:

    I would use at least .010 strings. Lighter strings are more difficult to bend accurately, in my experience. I like the sound of .010's better than the .0105 or .011's I've tried. I find .009 are too easy to over-bend.

    Get a background track of simple blues or use a Ditto or similar for simple background and practice some riffs a few times a day. Don't beat yourself up, just LISTEN and put it away if you start to think too much.

    Also, work on vibratos the same way. Start with the action but practice with music. Don't just do the same move over and over...It's a drag and it usually reenforces the wrong thing you keep doing...whatever it may be.

    Have FUN with it.
     
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  6. stueycaster

    stueycaster TDPRI Member

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    How many fingers are you using? I hope you're not trying to use only one. Use 3 unless you're bending the G-string and holding the 2nd fret down the B-string and bending to that pitch. You'll at least have to use 2 fingers even then. But that would be a good thing to practice. You'll have the note you're trying for right there. And you'll build strength.
     
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  7. ratdoc

    ratdoc TDPRI Member

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    23 and me says I'm genetically less likely to be able to match pitch, so I have that excuse...
     
  8. clayfeat

    clayfeat Tele-Afflicted

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    Bend slower.
     
  9. chucker

    chucker TDPRI Member

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    practice along with a keyboard. it's a good visual aural reference. easy as that.
     
  10. Yuro

    Yuro Tele-Meister

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    I thought of another simple thing. String height. It's harder to bend when strings are too low. If you're guitar is set up for lightning licks on the 12th fret, it's harder to bend strings than on something with moderate action....at least for me.
     
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  11. aFewGoodTaters

    aFewGoodTaters Tele-Meister

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    ^^^^ This

    Since OP is saying he knows he isn't bending to the correct pitch, that tells me he doesn't have an issue with hearing the correct note or interval. Rather, it points to a technique issue.

    Practice your bends using your third finger (ring) as the fretting finger and support that finger by fretting the same string with your second and first finger right behind. This provides more strength and stability. Also, try being from your wrist as opposed to using your fingers. Imagine the motion of turning a door knob, and try to replicate that motion when bending. Practice whole step bends first, then move to half step bends (more challenging for most). Once you can bend to pitch, then try to add vibrato on top. Don't just use vibrato to mask a poor technique, it doesn't work that way.
     
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  12. Spooky88

    Spooky88 TDPRI Member

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    Without reading the other responses to your post, when I started playing guitar I was just light bending one string as Billy Gibbons does ("giving it a jiggle"). As my ear improved I started bending half and whole steps using a tuner doing this for 15-30 minutes at a time until I could sing and make proper lead bends. A favorite technique and it's fairly basic is to bend the 2nd (B) string at the 15 fret (D) with your pinky a whole step while holding the 1st (E) string at the 12 fret (E) with your index finger. Simply match the pitch. The key to great bends is hand strength. I drive a semi truck for a living. My hand and finger strength is exceptional IMO. That could be a factor as playing and practicing for lengthy durations can cause tendinitis. Good luck, you'll get better with practice!
     
  13. RowdyHoo

    RowdyHoo Tele-Meister

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    I would tell you to just keep at it and in time it will come. Try not to try so hard and just enjoy the playing in the knowledge and confidence that you will get there.
     
  14. kilroy6262

    kilroy6262 TDPRI Member

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    THIS. This is an exercise I was going to suggest as well. This was shown to me by a guitar teacher friend of mine. I would just make two minor changes to what peegoo said - hit the fretted note just once and then bend the string two frets lower to match the note you just played. So, play an A on the 14th fret of the G string, then immediately play a G on the 12th fret and bend it up to the A note you just heard. Repeat. Over and over. And don't worry about doing it slowly - that will just train you to always bend slowly until you hear the right note. What you want to do is train yourself to always bend the right amount with out having to do it slowly.

    Also consider that bending strings is a different experience at different points on the neck - it's easiest at the 12th fret and hardest at the 2nd fret (nearly impossible for me to do at the 1st fret). So when you bend, do you tend to go too far (sharp) or not far enough (flat)? If you go sharp, do this exercise at a lower fret, like maybe the 3rd or 5th, where the string will give you more resistance, and if you go flat, do it at the 12 fret where the string is easier to bend. Master it at one place and then move to other places.
     
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  15. sammy1974

    sammy1974 TDPRI Member

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    Also remember this perspective:

    Limitations are a big part of what creates 'style'.
    Gilmour can't shred.
    B.B. King couldn't chord (well, more like wouldn't)
    Van Morrison has a 3 note range (I'm exaggerating)
    etc. etc.

    You could embrace your limitation better.
    Find/do what comes naturally, emotively, expressively, to you.
     
  16. davidchagrin

    davidchagrin Tele-Afflicted

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    I got good at this skill by playing simple melodies, but bending every single note. Get back to basics. Try Mary had a little lamb.
     
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  17. dynasonic

    dynasonic TDPRI Member

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    Are you trying to bend with one finger (ring finger) or using three(index/middle/ring)? A one finger bend is difficult to hold at pitch, but when you get the strength of three fingers pushing the string upwards it becomes very easy. I recall when friend was learning guitar he was struggling when bending and when I watched his technique i saw that he was trying to bend with only his ring finger.
     
  18. Theiglupickin

    Theiglupickin TDPRI Member

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    Sometimes it comes down to, you're trying too hard. Getting the feel of it comes with time and playing along with a song where you can use it. At times I've focused on getting some lick down to a perfect sound only to realize, it'll be there when you're in the moment of improvising and playing it in a tune. Like bands that spends hours and sometimes days trying to perfect a recording, they've beat themselves up so much they get tired of it and getting the natural inspiration that they had when they started it is much harder when you've been exhausted playing it over and over. I just had a song I tried to learn a year ago and being a finger picker as well as lead, I shelfed it for a while and this week I pulled it out, found some renewed inspiration for the song and nailed it! It turned out to be easier than I thought! Don't kill yourself trying to perfect it, give it time and eventually you'll hit the sweet spot and wonder why it didn't come sooner!
     
  19. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    You have good relative pitch or you wouldn't be able to play music. If you want to know the perfect pitch, stick a guitar tuner in there.
    Bending a heavy string requires more effort but less movement across the frets than a light one. Best method for strengthening fingers comes from playing guitar, or piano, or similar instruments that use the fingers. I now have quite severe arthritis, typing this is unbelievably difficult but playing guitar is probably the best physio to keep the fingers working. Not as quick and fluid as I used to and some moves are now impossible but I can still bend strings, whole chords or different strings in different directions.
    The guitar needs good action. Bending a set of 9s needs the string pushed halfway across the neck, a set of 12s barely to the next string over for the same shift. String gauge is personal choice, there are many threads on here. The guitar needs a good set up or it will require a lot of effort, or choke the strings off. The neck trued, the frets levelled and rounded, the action set low but not buzzing the frets.
    There are many threads on setting up the guitar. It needs some skill, especially the nut where a mistake cannot be undone. The nut height is somewhat critical in getting a guitar that plays like silk rather than an egg slicer. Frets wear and need re-levelling and reshaping or they choke. Easy bending requires a good set up - there are many threads on here, no point repeating.
    Whilst I do my own set up, it requires some specialist tools (read expensive) to do well. Most players around here take their instrument to a luthier (who happens to be a mate of mine). It is a learnt skill but not everyone is their own mechanic. It is worth asking other players around your locality who does their set up.
     
  20. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    We are definitely an indie band. So studio time is very precious. Normally we get beds down for a song, all in the room together, in 2-3 takes. 3-4 songs down in a 3 hour session with setup, engineer listening time, etc.

    One song - the album closer. We must have played it hundreds of times live as we were writing the record. It has a feel and we had that feel. We found the engineer because he did sound at a festival we played and he did a great job - “got” us immediately and we closed the show with that song.

    We did that one last that session. A mistake probably. We played it, I’m not kidding - at least 8-9 times. We work fast so all compressed into maybe 45m.

    Which, if you’ve ever done that, is exhausting. You start to lose track of time and reality. Seriously. The takes start to blend together and you can’t remember where you are in the song. Train wreck. And the results sucked.

    After the last take there was a long pause. Then the engineer comes over the cans: “This sucks. Get out of your heads. There’s a ****ing bar across the street. Go have a couple shots or something. I’ll figure out what’s going on and we’ll try again. If it’s not happening we’ll call it and regroup”.

    So we did. He called the drummer on his cell and told him to come back. They had a little convo. Then they called the rest of us back. Actually smiling and laughing about some dumb **** we saw at the bar.

    One take and all the magic was there. Another just for good measure.

    Final product (album closer).
    https://floormodel.bandcamp.com/track/bills-backyard

    Sorry for the long tangent. Sometimes it helps to remember happier times when we were all together.
     
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