Country Bends is a free lesson as part of a preview series for Jason Loughlin‘s new course, Country Guitar Survival Guide. Be sure to subscribe for more lessons and check out Jason’s other course, 50 Rockabilly Licks You MUST Know.
There so many ways to approach bending in country music. I’ve found it easiest for me to break it up into three categories: bending thirds, bending sixths and bending out of triad shapes. This lesson is just a quick overview of how think about bending thirds.
What is a third? A third is any two notes separated by two steps. The third of C would be E, the third of E would be G and so on… This interval is the basic building block for all harmony.
The first thing I would do is pick a scale to use with the chord I’m playing over. In this example I’m using a mixolydian scale to match each chord. When I’m playing over G I’m using a G mixolydian scale, over C I’m using a C mixolydian scale. The mixolydian scale is closely related to the major scale. It works great with Dom 7 chords. The only difference is the seventh note of the scale has been lowered a half step.
Once I have my scale I play it up and down on each string harmonizing it with a third. Because we are staying in key some thirds will be major and some will be minor. The harmonized mixolydian scale is as follows: Maj 3, min 3, min 3, Maj 3, min 3, min 3, Maj 3 and Maj 3. The first, third, fifth and seventh notes of the scale are going to be intervals you want to land on when soloing. They are going to be points of resolve with the chord. Learn this on every two strings and every key. Easy!
Ok, on to embellishing this interval. There are three types of approach bends that I use for thirds. First, let’s approach each note of the third from a half step underneath. If my third is C-E I would set my fingers up to fret B-E and bend the B up til it sounds like C. I can do the same with the higher note of the third. Since my interval is C-E I’ll fret C-Eb and pull the Eb down til it sounds like E natural. Confused yet?! Only two more approaches. You’re doing great.
The next approach is a diatonic bend. This means I’m bending into the third from the scale notes that proceed it. Bb bends a whole step to C and D bends a whole step to E. I can also bend out of the third using diatonic bends. C bends a whole step to D and E bends a half step to F. I would pick just one of these bends at a time and run them through my scales, write solos, improvise..get to know them.
I recommend getting a looper pedal to make practicing a little more enjoyable. These interval studies can be tedious but the pay off is worth it. Feel free to ask me questions or suggest future topics.