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I’ve been playing for almost 8 months now but I can not do a full bend on the e string. I’ve gotten used to doing full step bends on the other strings but I could never do it on the high e string. Tried it once and broke my string. After that I got a fear of bending the high e over a half step. I use 10s FYI. So is there a trick to doing these bends? Or am I just too afraid when it’s very much possible?

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8 months is not a lot of time so don't push yourself to do something you are not ready for. I play on 11s and bend up to a Maj 3rd routinely, even a 4th. Jeff beck does a lot of very large bends. I will say that it will feel different on different strings. Rather than trying to bend on the high e string have you mastered bending on G and B? Common blues and blues rock lick (e.g. Led Zep, Cream, Beck, Hendrix, etc) involve bending a note on the G or B string up to the next note on the blues scale or minor pentatonic. Players will usually plant the index finger on the same note of the next string and bend the note to that as a target, they will match the two in unison. As a concrete example index finger on the 5th fret of the B string and ring finger on the 7th fret of the G string. A "full bend" on the G string will be the same note as the 5th fret of the B string. Jimmy Page uses these a lot in Dazed and Confused where there is a whole section with him playing a melody completely in bends down the neck, I think right before solo #1.

In any case the tension is different in each string and I find that some beginners have an easier time bending on the G string than on the e. I bend a whole step with my index finger alone. It is possible, you jest need to get some practice.

As for breaking. Where did it break? At the point where you were bending or at the bridge? It is possible that you snapped the string on a sharp fret and you may need to get them dressed. Gibson guitars off the rack are notorious for this. The frets are like little rectangles with a sharp edge. When I got my 335 new I broke a string a couple times a week. Got the frets files down ($50 at the time) and NEVER happened again. Sometimes they break at the bridge for the same reason, a sharp V shape in the notch of the bridge cuts right through. So your issue might be that you need your guitar set up. Otherwise you should be able to bend the string all the way off the finger board and not break them.

Lastly, different bridges and bridge set ups can affect the feel and how easy it is to bend. I find Gibson tune-o-matics provide a great feel. But Floyd Rose bridges seem to generate more tension and make the strings harder to bend. Of course this is very anecdotal. If the bridge is set up well this should not be and issue. It is just my experience and I may have played a bad FR 30 years ago.

If you want to hear a great "bending" guitar solo listen to Jeff Beck doing Good Bye Porkpie Hat by Mingus on Wired. You can find the TAB for it.

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  • The jeff beck example might be unfair as he does use a strat with a whammy bar. But he does do straight bends too. – ggcg Apr 30 at 1:26
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    Couple of points. Where you bend a string has a big influence: somewhere round fret 12 is a lot easier than round fret 4. On a well set up guitar, the strings should all be about the same tension, so each will be as easy/hard as the next. On mine, I have lighter strings where there is more liklihood of being bent. On a spring-assisted vib. equipped guitar (Strats, Floyd-Rose et al) you're also working against the tension of the spring/other strings, so the feel, and reaction, will be different. – Tim Apr 30 at 6:30
  • True about the bending at different frets. For me it always feels different and harder to bend on the e string as posed to the G. Maybe I am feeling something different or my guitar needs adjustment. But I've always felt this on every guitar I've played. – ggcg Apr 30 at 11:20
  • Top string has only one option for being bent. Upwards. 2nd and 3rd - the most popular - can be bent upwards or downwards (no, not pitch!). That means an already bent finger just bends more to bend the string. Maybe time to consider the gauge of each string? – Tim May 2 at 9:50
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For big bends you should be using as many fingers on that string as you can. When bending up a step, or even higher, I tend to put my ring finger on the target fret, middle and index onto the frets below, and then bend from the wrist by moving the entire hand

To an extent it also depends on the guitar. If you are using 10 gauge strings on a guitar with a long scale length (such as the Fender 25.5") bending the high E is definitely difficult. Using lighter gauge strings or a shorter scale length guitar (e.g. a Gibson with a 24.75" scale length) makes bending the high E doable.

If you don't want to change your string gauge or guitar, try tuning down a half step (Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb). This should definitely make that bend doable.

Finally, if all else fails, it might be a sign that you've developed a burr on the high E saddle. Take the string off the saddle and inspect it for sharp edged that could cut into the string.

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  • Minor additions: besides the saddle, it could also be the nut that is to blame. But that should be obvious from the point at which the string breaks. Also, obviously you shouldn't try big bends on the first couple of frets. – Richard Metzler Apr 29 at 16:09
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A bend of a tone (two frets) shouldn't be enough to break a string. Unless it's old, or there's a problem with a fretwire or a saddle.

.010s are pretty standard, and should bend quite easily up a tone and a half, on just about any scale length guitar.

You ask 'how?'. Not by using one finger! Use two, three or even four. If they don't fit into the fret concerned, it doesn't matter. Just get them all behind the proper one. Don't just use fingers to bend - use the strength of the whole hand. And with top string, generally push in an upwards direction, otherwise you'll fall off the fingerboard!

It may take a while to be able to bend up a whole tone, but do not be afraid. Faint heart never won a good bend. When you do get good - try a pre-bend ( a weird name!)sometimes called a let down (not to be confused...) meaning you start with the string bent, and then drop it to the normal pitch. Trick is, getting the bend in tune before you play it and hear it.

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