“When I first heard guys like
Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, and Jimmy Olander
playing with B-benders,” recalls Johnny
Hiland, “I didn’t know what a B-bender
was. I learned their licks without a bender,
and that really helped me develop precise
bends.” That’s the truth. At an exclusive
lesson for GP at Prairie Sun Studios, Hiland
demonstrated some of his gorgeous, sick,
and twisted bends.
“I got to the point,” he says, “where I
would take any scale and bend all the notes.”
He then goes through Ex. 1 in A major. This
is trickier than you might think, thanks to all
the wound-string bends, some of which he
executes with only his index finger.
“I found I could take an Asus2 and bend
up to the major 3rd,” says Hiland as he plays
Ex. 2. “This is actually moveable,” he explains,
and finishes the lick with sweet bends that
end up on a great-sounding A7 voicing. Hold
the notes on the D string super steady and
yank the G string toward the ground with
your third finger (supported by your second).
Hiland then demos the licks in Ex. 3, variations
of which can be used to flesh out a 12-bar
blues in A. He adds some muted notes in the 1st
bar to keep things clucky and throws in some
tangy minor seconds over the D and E chords.
One of his coolest licks was how he navigated
a move to the IV chord in a country
shuffle in C, in Ex. 4. “When I get to the F
chord, I bend the F note up a whole tone,
then I bend the C up a whole tone. Then I
grab the A, bend it a half-step up to a Bb, and
bend the C under it up a whole-step. Then
release them both and land back on the F
chord.” To execute this, you’ll need to bend
the string toward the ceiling while you pull
the string in the opposite direction toward
the floor. If you nail it, though, it will create
one of the dreamiest sounds ever, with one
chord melting and morphing into the other.
Bend it like Hiland!