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I'm trying to learn the lead guitar on this song:

The solo (skip to 1:15 in the video) repeatedly involves fretting the b string with the index finger while bending the g string upwards a step. I'm have a real hard time keeping my index fret on the b string static while bending upwards - resulting in me bending that note up 1/4-1/2 a step and it sounding awful.

Does anyone have any advice on how to keep my index finger steady on the fret/string while applying enough pressure to get the whole step bend on the g string?

  • I which direction is you inadvertent bending of the b-string – along with the g-string, or away from it towards the e-string? (Both is conceivable and indicates different problems in your bending technique.) – leftaroundabout Mar 30 '17 at 17:21
  • Where is your thumb when you are bending? – Todd Wilcox Mar 30 '17 at 17:51
  • @ToddWilcox It's "hooked" around the top of the neck, often curled down to help mute the E and A strings. I did experiment last night with positioning my thumb on the back of the neck more like if I was doing a barre chord, but would need to find a different way to stop string noise if I changed to that. – Samih Mar 31 '17 at 9:49
  • @leftaroundabout It goes up along with the g-string slightly. – Samih Mar 31 '17 at 9:52
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I would focus primarily on maintaining pressure between my index finger and my thumb (clamping the neck) while trying not to let the note bending finger get too tense. There can be a tendency to tense up all fingers when exerting a lot of force with just one.

Then, secondarily, I'd work on the bending.

If the tension of the strings is making this tough, you can try loosening them at the beginning and seeing whether you can do it then.

This may be partly a brain learning thing (learning the feeling of using the muscles in this odd way) and partly a muscle strength thing, which improves as you develop strength. The latter requires exercise (using the muscles) interspersed with rest and getting ample protein for the muscles to regenerate, as with any workout.

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If both strings are going the same direction it means you're taking the movement from somewhere it shouldn't come.

  • Likely, from the thumb hooked around the neck. Now, while I'm generally critic of wrapping the thumb around the neck at all (classical technique completely eschews this, and IMO every guitarist should at least occasionally explore the advantages of such a more “open” position), it can't be denied that bends do work better if the thumb can be used as a fulcrum to lever the force against. But still, it should never be the driving force, never too rigid nor active.

  • Another possibility is the opposite mistake: if you're taking all the force directly from the arm, you can't really direct it to individual strings. It's a bit like using an axe to perform surgery.

The correct technique uses both thumb and arm only as loose “anchors”, while the actual bend is performed by the fingers themselves and the wrist. In fact, for me bending is largely a wrist technique (possibly actually too much so). In particular ring finger or pinky bends come mostly from a twisting motion of the wrist. This naturally gives the correct inter-string relation for such a double-stop single-bend, but it's also better for single-note bends due do responsivity.

  • Thank you @leftaroundabout a very useful answer. Would you say then that the wrist motion is more of a pivot around the index finger? Perhaps you could post a video of someone playing who has good bending technique for me to examine? I have always had some issues with finger and wrist strength and perhaps my thumb position has developed that way in an attempt to compensate for that. The better solution might be to build strength and stamina with good technique. – Samih Apr 2 '17 at 8:10
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Practice. There really is no other answer. This kind of muscle memory can only be achieved by doing, not by shear force of will.

It is fortunate though because you have identified a well-defined problem with a well-defined solution. So you practice exactly this move over and over again.

After some practice, you expand the exercise so you start earlier in the sequence, and then move to the practiced position and do the bend.

Don't do the whole song over and over, work on this fragment.

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    I disagree that practice is the only advice that can be given here. Grip style and hand positioning are important in many ways and especially when it comes to bending. – Todd Wilcox Mar 30 '17 at 17:51

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