What goes up must come down. Thus far, all of the rhythmic pitch bends
we’ve examined have had inaudible releases.
A release is simply a bend in reverse, and
audible releases vastly increase the melodic
potential of pitch-bending, but it is up to you
to determine whether the release of any bend
is heard or not. To release a bend, simply
return the string to its point of origin—either
gradually or in strict rhythm—while maintaining
enough pressure to sustain the note.
This technique opens up worlds of melodic
Examples 1a through 1e reprise the same
one-beat rhythmic bends we began with
last month, only in reverse. Here, we’ve
got a grace-note release from a pre-bent A
in Ex. 1a, a sixteenth-note release from a
grace-note bend in Ex. 1b, an eighth-note
release in Ex. 1c, a dotted-eighth-to-sixteenth
release in Ex. 1d, and a quarter-note
release in Ex. 1e. (Tip: Try starting Examples
1b through 1e with a pre-bend.)
Ex. 2a condenses these first four rhythmic
releases into a single measure, while
Ex. 2b follows suit using only pre-bends. Ex.
2c shows how to adapt the same releases to
oblique bends, where two notes are played
but only one is bent and/or released.
In practice, these seemingly minute
rhythmic variations can have a marked effect
on any melodic line. Apply them to a
singular lick, such as the one notated in Examples
3a through 3d, and their differences
quickly become apparent, especially at medium
and slower tempos.
Examples 5a through 5c illustrate how
to apply various rhythmic releases to both
full and fragmented C-major/A-minor
scale sequences, played on a single string
or in fifth position. Try recasting them
over any chord diatonic to the key of C—
C(maj7), Dm(7), Em(7), F(maj7), G(7),
Am(7), or Bdim/Bm7b5—to produce different
Strive to recognize real-world applications
of these techniques wherever you can.
For instance, you’d be hard pressed to find a
better example of melodic bends and releases
than Jeff Beck’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s
“’Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” from Blow
by Blow. Ex. 6 paraphrases Beck’s moves—
which include a bent bend (!)—over the
song’s introductory Cm7(9)-Abmaj7-
Fm7-F/A-C/Bb progression. (Tip: Add the
notated volume control swells for total
authenticity.) Partially released bends
present another avenue for exploration,
so for extra credit, try repeating bar 1
with only a half-step release (from D to
C#) over A-F#m7-D-E, and observe the
melodic and harmonic transformation.
Continuity Alert: Check out Adrian
Belew’s rhythmic bends and releases
with King Crimson—performed with
and without whammy bar—in bars 3
and 4 of Ex. 7c in the February 2014 issue’s Under
Investigation. You can also
adapt most of the above examples to any
of the single-string major scale patterns
or combined tetrachords in this month’s
Next: Combined rhythmic bends and releases.
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