5 Reasons Why Your Guitar Strings Are So Hard To Bend


acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

Bending strings on your guitar is a technique that allows you to manipulate the pitch of the note you’re playing by a whole or half step. This involves playing a note on the guitar, and the string on the fret is pulled, causing it to be taught and change its tone. If you’re having trouble accomplishing bends, you’re not alone.

Here are 5 reasons why your guitar strings are so hard to bend:

  1. Thicker strings are harder to move.
  2. Tuning on your guitar may be too sharp.
  3. You may still need to build strength and calluses.
  4. Guitars with a longer scale create more tension.
  5. Your bending technique is incorrect.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each of these reasons why guitar strings might be difficult to bend, and we’ll mention a few ways that you can become more successful at bending your guitar strings. Read on to learn more.

1. Thicker Strings Are Harder To Move

The thickness or gauge of a guitar string makes a big difference in how easy the strings are to bend. A 0.009 gauge string and lower are the easiest to bend. Once you get above 0.009 gauge, the string becomes more difficult to bend. 

If your guitar has a thicker gauge, it’ll be more difficult to bend the string but not impossible. So, if you’re having issues with bending while playing your guitar, consider how thick the strings are and consider trying thinner strings. 

It’s worth noting that thinner gauge strings will make less sound when you bend them. Because they’re thinner, there’s less magnetic energy coming from the strings. So, drastically changing the thickness of your guitar strings will make it easier to bend, but it’ll also affect how loudly your bends sound. 

2. Tuning on Your Guitar May Be Too Sharp

Tuning a guitar applies tension to strings until they reach the desired tightness to achieve the correct notes. Tightening and loosening guitar strings will change the pitch. Sometimes with new guitars or ones that we try to tune on our own, we may make the strings too tight. You’ll notice this because it’ll play at a higher pitch. 

These tight strings can make the guitar strings a lot harder to bend. First, you should ensure that your guitar is tuned correctly to help make bending easier. If your guitar is tuned correctly, then you can tune down the guitar to make it even easier to bend. Because tuning down involves making the strings looser, it’ll be easier to bend. 

Sharp or overly tight strings are also more likely to break when they’re bent. So, make sure you’re careful when bending your strings. Otherwise, you may be replacing them more often than normal. 

The best way to combat the difficulty of bending a guitar with standard tuning is to tune down the guitar and practice bending. This will allow you to get used to bending if you aren’t familiar. Once you’re more used to bending with looser strings, then you can try again with standard tuning. 

2. You May Still Need To Build Strength and Calluses

As any guitar player knows, you have to build strength in your fingers and develop calluses to play. This is no different from using the bend technique. Bending is more difficult than just playing regular notes, so it’ll take time to develop the skill. 

Just like when you were first learning to play guitar, the most important part of bending is to stick with it. It can be difficult to master, especially if your fingers aren’t used to it. One of the best ways to make it easier is to get your fingers strong enough to be able to do it no matter how your guitar is tuned. 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when having trouble bending is to stop trying. It’ll be difficult to do at first, but your fingers will never get used to bending if you don’t keep at it. 

If you’re working with higher gauge strings, your fingers and wrists may not be strong enough to bend properly. So, there may not be something wrong with the strings or guitar you’re using. Sometimes it comes down to inexperience. Bending requires you to pull a string from its set position to another, which is difficult to do. 

It’s vital to keep practicing bending. You can practice with looser or thinner strings to get used to the feeling, but you need to build strength in your fingers and wrist. This can only be done by keeping at it. So, practice more, and bending will become easier over time. 

3. Guitars With a Longer Scale Create More Tension

The distance between the nut and bridge on your guitar is called the scale. Scales can be different sizes for guitars, and the length of the scale can make playing notes more difficult, especially when it comes to bending. 

If your guitar has a longer scale, the strings need to be tighter. This is to keep the notes sharp despite the extra length. While guitars with longer necks may look cool, they can be a lot more difficult to bend. So, that may be why you are struggling to perfect the bending technique. 

Like we discussed above, string tension can make it more difficult to bend, but this isn’t something you can fix by making sure the guitar is properly tuned. Instead, you may need to tune down so that the strings are looser and easier to bend. You may need to also consider practicing on another guitar with a shorter scale to get used to how it feels to bend strings. 

Understanding how difficult a guitar may be to play the way you want is vital to know before you purchase it. That’s why many musicians recommend playing the guitar before purchasing it. So, if you’re on the hunt for a new guitar, try it out first to ensure you can play it to the best of your ability. 

4. Your Bending Technique Is Incorrect

Sometimes it’s not the guitar strings that make them challenging to bend — it could be that you’re using the incorrect technique.

Part of using the correct technique for bending is balancing strength and mobility. For example, you can use more than one finger at a time to ensure that you have enough strength to move the string, but using more than one finger limits how far you can move the string. This is important to consider if you’re having trouble with bending because you may need to adjust your balance. 

It’s important to know that your wrist plays a vital part in bending. Most of your strength when you bend should come from your wrist instead of relying on your fingers only. Proper bending should involve moving your arm so that your wrist has more leverage to move your fingers. Without using your wrist, you will struggle to bend strings. 

Thumb placement is another important factor for bending correctly. When bending, your thumb should be wrapped around the fretboard. This ensures that you are using your wrist and fingers correctly. The thumb will also give you a guide for how far to bend the string if you need to practice. 

It’s also important to know which strings should be bent in which way. The three lower strings should bend down toward the ground, while the three higher strings should go up toward the ceiling. This makes it easier on your fingers and more reasonable to bend the strings. Make sure you’re following this technique, especially if you’re having issues bending. 

Not only does using the wrong technique make it more difficult to bend guitar strings, but it can also make it more difficult for you to learn how to do it correctly. If you’re used to moving your fingers to bend rather than using your wrist, you’ll have to completely retrain yourself to no longer do it that way. 

There are full and half bends, and you should be able to do both of them. But if the technique is the issue you’re struggling with, then there’s nothing wrong with starting with a half bend. This only requires you to move the string one fret, as opposed to the full bend, which requires two. It’s going to be a lot harder to do a full bend right away. 

Use the half bend to get used to the process and understand how it’s supposed to feel and sound. Half bends are also a great way to build calluses on your fingers while still being able to complete the note. So, don’t be afraid to start small when learning how to bend, and don’t forget that there are many bending techniques you can master before a full bend. 

Eventually, learning the correct techniques will make it easier, but first, you have to retrain yourself and learn the process again correctly. Following the tips above will help you do it correctly, but understand that retraining yourself to bend correctly will mean stepping back in your ability. But once you learn the right way, you’ll be better than you were before.

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

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