Rhythm Workshop: Bending in Rhythm Pt. 3

Image placeholder title


FOR THE PAST TWO MONTHS, WE’VE been treating single-string bends and releases as isolated, independent actions. Sure, these microscopic breakdowns may seem redundant, but they were specifically designed to sequentially increase awareness of the many rhythmic subtleties inherent to string bending, a detail too often ignored. Now dig this: Incorporating both actions into a single motif or phrase allows you to increase the firepower and melodic potential—and reveals a distinct connection between rhythm and melody— all of which can be used to generate endless variations of any lick.

The grace-note bend and grace-note release depicted in Ex. 1a once again sets the stage for Examples 1b through 1d, where each bend and release is delayed in sixteenth-note increments. Ex. 1e adapts the same bend and release move to an eighth-note triplet, while Ex. 1f grafts it to four straight eighths and shifts the target E a half-beat ahead. These and all of the following examples were designed with Am(7) in mind, but they’ll also work well with any other chord diatonic to the key of C—Dm(7), Em(7), F(maj7), G(7), Am(7), or Bdim(m7b5). (Tip: For extra mileage, try ’em all with pre-bends and savor the subtleties.)

For a more strenuous workout, Examples 2a through 2c mimic the same rhythmic bends and releases using a whopping two-step bend—think Albert King, SRV, or Rick Derringer—that also works in all of the previously mentioned harmonic climates. (Tip: Use caution on the first string.)

Ex. 3a reveals what can happen when you incorporate rhythmic, eighth-note-triplet bends and releases into a descending A minor/C major scale sequence. Ex. 3b features a similar sequential movement where each scale tone is picked, bent and held, re-picked, and released over the course of four eighth-notes. Both examples work modally over any of the previously listed chords.

Ex. 4a establishes another Albert King/SRV blues lick as a template for the next four examples. Note the staccato phrasing on the first rhythmic bend and the optional fingerings—one easy and one hard. The motif on beat one remains consistent throughout Examples 4b, 4c, and 4d, but the second beat of each example features the same progression of rhythmic bends as multi-examples 1 and 2. (Tip: Try reversing the motifs in beats one and two.)

Finally, Ex. 5a drops us into fifth position, where we again maintain a consistent motif on beat one, while subsequently delaying each bend and release on beat two by a sixteenth-note over the course of Examples 5b through 5d. All previous rules apply, and any of these motifs and moves can be applied to any beat and, of course, to any notes on any string.

(Next: The Rhythm/Vibrato Connection)