One of the most distinguishing factors between Blues guitar players is their ability to express themselves in unique ways. Playing expressively is also a way to keep your audience engaged. And one of the best ways to express yourself while playing the blues is through string bending. Bends add a vocal quality to your sound, allowing you to add interesting and unique flair to your riffs, licks, and solos.

In his course, Take 5: Blues Bends, Jeff McErlain fast-tracks you to incorporating bends into your Blues guitar playing.

Here are 3 blues bends guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Jeff McErlain’s Take 5: Blues Bends on TrueFire!

Level 4: Overview

Download the tab & notation for this blues bends guitar lesson

In this study, we’re going to check out a a take on Free’s “Walk in My Shadow”. It a G blues and we’re going to build on the bends and vibrato we were introduced to in the previous sections. The big vibrato I use here is new and very cool and also a rock essential. It adds a huge amount of excitement to a solo.

It, like everything, should be used appropriately. If you always go for really big wide vibrato it can get very tedious, and frankly I think it can sound silly. When used at the right time however, it sounds awesome!

Level 4: Performance

Download the tab & notation for this blues bends guitar lesson

I’ll let you in on a little secret…don’t tell anyone. This solo is basically Eric Clapton’s solo on “Strange Brew”, which he borrowed from Albert King. I did this for a reason — mainly, because it’s cool. 😉 It’s also STANDARD BLUES VOCABULARY and essential to becoming a good player. I repurposed ideas from that solo to create a new one. Are the licks the same? Yup, but you may not have noticed unless I said something.

I did this as an exercise to show how we can take one solo and rework it into another situation. EVERYONE has done this and it’s the proven tradition in blues and jazz. Steal from the masters and make it your own eventually.

Level 4: Breakdown

Download the tab & notation for this blues bends guitar lesson

Bends and vibrato are very physical and require hand strength that needs to be built up over time and practice. I cover those techniques in the first video, and since we live in the information age of direct gratification, we have things like YouTube where we can watch just about every guitar player in our living room.

So instead of watching some fools taking hot pepper challenge videos, use your valuable time watching great guitar players’ hands. I have learned so much from watching other people play. For example, Eric Clapton’s vibrato is physically very different than Jimi’s, or Jimmy’s, or Eddie’s, or Stevie’s. By examining all of these guys, we can expand the way we vibrato and come up with our own thing.

Digging these free blues bends guitar lessons? Check out Take 5: Blues Bends.