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When I bend on the G string, and then, while still bending, strike a note on the B string, the note on the B string comes out flat. The open B string is in tune and intonated. What's the reason and how can it be fixed?

I'm playing an electric guitar with a Floyd Rose vibrato unit.

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When you bend the G string, you are very slightly deforming the neck, and if you have a vibrato bridge or tailpiece you are most significantly pulling that out of its normal position.

This is normal behavior for a guitar. If you want to have notes on one string stay in tune while you bend other strings, you can reduce the effect with any or all of the following:

  • Lock down your vibrato bridge/unit
  • Bend the strings that are out of tune slightly to bring them back into tune (this might require practice and strength)
  • Buy a guitar with an unusually stiff neck - I believe there are carbon composite necks and necks with two-way truss rods that resist bending forces more than usual.
  • For Floyd Rose vibrato bridges or bridges that can't be locked down, you can put part of the palm of your picking hand on the bridge to hold it in place while bending a string.
  • Hi Todd. Thanks a lot, that clarifies the problem. The solution seems to be to lock down my floyd rose then. It seems slightly strange though that such a measure should be necessary to fix such a basic problem, but oh well. – Daniel Rasmussen Mar 12 at 14:52
  • @DanielRasmussen My floyd rose can't be locked down, so be aware of that. Probably a better answer for floyd rose is to keep your picking hand on the bridge and hold it in place when you bend. Takes some practice, but that's what music is all about! Also, if you found my answer helpful, you can "upvote" it by clicking on the triangle that points upwards above the number to the left of the answer. – Todd Wilcox Mar 12 at 14:56
  • Thanks a lot! I will practice that. I just upvoted your comment. – Daniel Rasmussen Mar 12 at 15:00
  • If you are bending a string wouldn't that cause the other string to go sharp? Going flat seems counter intuitive to me. – b3ko Mar 12 at 15:35
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    @b3ko It's not the bent string that goes flat, it's all the other ones. That's the question - when one string is bent, all the others go flat, how to deal with that? – Todd Wilcox Mar 12 at 16:19
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Vibrato units rely on springs which counter-balance the strings. When set up normally, everything's in tune. However, when a string breaks, there is less tension on the string side of the balance, putting the other five slightly out of tune, as the spring now has more tension compared with the strings.

The opposite will happen when a string is bent. This causes more tension on the string side, so the other strings will have slightly less pull against the springs. Thus they'll drop in pitch, albeit very slightly.

It's one of the downsides of vibrato systems, and can be countered by bending the offending string up to pitch - which then makes all the others even worse!

It could be the neck, although on quality guitars it's rather unusual.

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