Legendary guitarist Steve Vai talked with Guitar World about how he evolved and shaped his bending technique over the years.
“What I used to do – and still do – is I take one technique and I focus intensely on it for like an hour without disruptions or anything.
“And when it comes to stretching notes, it’s so important to put the time and to make sure that the notes you’re stretching to are actually the correct notes. And the best way to get the power behind the note is to have your three fingers down. This is where your strength is going to be.
“Stretching like this… *bends the string while holding the thumb on the back of neck* I’ve never seen anybody do it well because the intonation always goes to hell. There’s something about that that to me always seemed like a limitation.
“But… *bends the string with thumb over the fretboard* It’s especially helpful if you’re only using two fingers. *does a sick bending lick* Or one. So hitting the right note is so important and I used to sit for hours and hours and hours and [practice bending].
“You can practice three frets. *plays another sick bending lick* And then you want to bend it and then make sure it’s the right note.
“So I would sit for hours and put limitations. Like for one hour I’m gonna sit and concentrate entirely on bending notes. And if you’re not practicing something that’s like just a rigid kind of an exercise, then play and make it sound like music.
“On the last record, ‘Modern Primitive,’ there’s a song called ‘Dark Matter,’ and the melody is all these weird stretches. *plays the melody* It took me forever to get that right.
“Because if you’re bending notes then you’re playing melodies within a bend. That’s what starts to happen after an hour of just doing it. That’s great practice, it’s hard stuff. That’s a cool effect and nothing else will sound like that.
“Intonation, you just got to make sure that… You can push too hard and you’ll come up with the wrong note. And then, while you’re practicing things like intonation and stretching – practice with every finger.”
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