How Unison Bends Inject Feeling Into Solos

Unison bends are a sub-technique of string bending in general and a fundamental part of every lead player’s repertoire. In music, a unison is created when the same pitch is played in two or more musical parts, either simultaneously or in succession. In the context of string bending, a unison is created when we bend to a note either preceeding or proceeding that same note on another string. The result is additional emphasis on a given target note. Let’s start by looking at some simple examples using the minor pentatonic scale. I’m using B minor pentatonic at the 7th fret for these examples. First, we need to choose our target note. This is the note you want to accent or emphasise in your phrase. Here my target note is the fifth of the scale, on the second string. but we can also play this note by bending to it from the fourth of the scale, on the 3rd string Now, we have a few options here. One is to bend that third string, and as soon as it reaches the target note, we mute the bent string and immediately play the same note on the second string. to get a clean mute of that bent string, once you reach the target note of the bend, release your finger and let the string “snap” back on to the tip of the finger fretting the same note on the second string. Your pick hand can also help to mute the string by bringing it into contact with the string you want to mute. It will take some practice to get your positioning right, but keep making minor adjustments until you find the sweet spot. Try and get the bent string to mute right at the peak of the bend, as it hits the target note, without releasing the bend, so you can attain the unison sound. another option is to reverse this sequence, so we pick the note on the second string and then follow it with the bend on the 3rd string. This time we need to mute the second string note just as we begin our bend on the 3rd string. Simply allow the string to release from the fret wire, but keep your finger touching the string to mute it. We could also play both notes simultaneously as follows… No muting involved there, so it’s a bit easier. Let’s try something similar on the first and second strings. This time we’re targeting the root or 1 of the scale and bending from the seventh of the scale on the second string. If this is a new technique to you, your fingertips will likely feel a bit sore. But just as calluses develop with chord fingering, with regular practice over time, a tougher skin will form on the fingertips in response to this increased pressure. Also, keep your fingernails trimmed. We can move the sequence we’ve just played up and down the fretboard in the same scale. For example, taking the latter sequence between the first and second strings, we could follow the scale down the neck as follows… …or we could follow it up the neck. Or, the sequence between the second and third strings… This is a great exercise to strengthen your fingers and improve your bending accuracy. If you didn’t feel any pain before, you probably will now. But as the tired old saying goes: no pain (no gain). Of course, we’ll want to incorporate unison bends seamlessly into our licks and phrases. Sticking with minor pentatonic for now, let’s try these simple licks making use of the bends we’ve covered so far… If we don’t necessarily want both unison notes to ring out together, we can use the same string to form our unison been sequence. For example, let’s say our target note was the fourth of the scale on the 3rd string. We could bend to this note from the minor third of the scale on that same string… Let’s try combining the picked note with the bend… As you can see, i use two fingers to bend as this gives me a little more strength to execute the bend. My middle finger frets the note I want to bend and my index finger gives it some extra support just behind it. Like before, we could reverse the sequence so the bend comes before the static note. Again, let’s take a look at some simple examples using this single string unison bend technique… Unison bends are an effective way of adding feeling to your licks, to really emphasize your target notes. Keep experimenting with unison bends using different target notes in your scales and licks. Of course you can use unison bends with any target note you want, in any scale. On the lesson page you’ll find tabbed examples of how unison bends can be used in other scales. Cheers!


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