Strength and Accuracy for the Guitarist


Your Weekly Dexterity and Stamina Exercise

Updated January 20, 2005


Don't Go Anywhere Else!

Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx



Playing in the Box

and Getting the Bends

(Which leads to, I promise, playing outside the box-- bends and all.)

Blues/Rock Improvisation,

a stone's throw from Metal Improv as well


Last session we took a very brief look at the a pentatonic box pattern played at the fifth fret. This is your basic, very basic, stepping off point for improvisation. It's interesting and can be used with moderate effect, but it doesn't get interesting until you spice it up.

Before the advent of video, players listening to recordings had no way of telling what technique the recorded player was using to get a certain effect. Such was the case with blues bottleneck players. Other guitarists looking to cop that sound couldn't tell by just listening what these cats were doing. Unless you knew, you couldn't have any idea. You would know that you liked the effect and you'd also be more than a little interested into working this sound into your arsenal of tricks. Well, let's make believe it's 1940 and you've just heard your first recording of a guitarist playing with a slide. You can tell straight off that the fluid transition between pitch is not simply a finger dragged up the fretboard. How to get that sound? You put on your thinking cap. Hmmm, sounds like the string is being tightened. That won't work though, because there are downward pitch shifts as well-- and with more than one note. How can you tighten or loosen one or more string at once. Finally it hits you. 'He must be bending the strings!"

I'll put the two box diagrams from last session here. Use these as a reference for the new diagrams. We will be considering us as all playing along in a I VI V7 progression in the key of A.

Remember, red dots are the tonic, black dots are pentatonic scale tones and the blue dots are chromatics and passing tones. Okay, we're all back on the same page.

Bends are used by the guitarist these days not so much to emulate the sound of the slide, but to emulate the sound of the singing human voice. It has been written by musicologists that instruments were only developed to mimic the sound of the human voice. [I guess the cigarette must predate the musical instrument. All those Lucky's and folks wanted to quit singing and take up the guitar!] This means that not only will the guitarist wish to smoothly gliss from one note to another, whether higher or lower in pitch from the starting point, but it will also introduce us to vibrato, that warble that opera singers love so much. Vibrato will be the topic of next week's session. It is a study unto itself and I don't think that a guitarist exists who wishes his vibrato wasn't more fluid, more controlled, more voice-like--and doesn't practice to improve it.

Anyway, on to bends!

Look at the diagram to the left. In this sample, the first finger covers the e and the a on the first and second strings -- the red and black dots. Red dot is the tonic, remember? The third finger covers the d on the third string.

Here's how it should look, pre-bend.

The third finger is then used to dig slightly under that third string and push it up towards the sixth string so that the d fretted pitch is raised in pitch to an e, the same pitch as is being played on the b string with the first finger. It will look something like this when the bend is completed. (Note that the third finger and the third string are also pushing the fourth string up into the fifth string. This is gonna happen and is of no concern.) When I say 'dig under' the string, I mean that it will require you to practice to develop the knack of getting that string to bend up without slipping out from under your finger. The string should remain pressed to the fretboard. You're not trying to levitate it up off the board. Also note that my second finger has snuck around to help out.

One bend doth not a riff make.

Tattoo that on your... I have done so. Look towards the right. No, your other right. Okay. Here we see the same diagram as shown above, but with the addition of a yellow dot. It's chicken. No, it just tastes like chicken. This note is played with the fourth finger. (That's the pinky for those of you who are digitally challenged. I call it 'the one I pick my nose with.' Totally not PC.) Play it directly after the bent note, then play the black dot. Hey man, that's like almost a complete lick! here are a million little permutations of this bent and few notes. It makes a decent intro to a turnaround.

One can add a second bend from that chicken dot and further expand the riff and the possibilities for progressing forward into new territory. Seriously, the bend and vibrato can make your solos more 'musical' -- and like I said, we'll look at vibrato next session.

This last little diagram shows a slight deviation of the bend in the first bend diagram. This is a kind of dissonant interval that we're bending into. It sounds kinda cool and is useful in any genre aside from classical. Once again, you're bending the d up to an e.

Enjoy these sessions of technique builders! Come back next week for more.

Hey, if you feel you've benefited by these pages, please consider buying my novel LOW END through

  LOW END  By Harry George Pellegrin.  The first in the Gary Morrissey series of mysteries.  Dealing with modern subject matter in the classic style of the 1940's Mystery Noire masters--think Raymond Chandler in New York in the 1980's...  LOW END is the story of a drug addict who is murdered after he believes he has found evidence of a major government conspiracy.  Is it only drug-induced paranoia?  Might be, except his paranoia could be considered justified: he was murdered, after all.  Friend Gary Morrissey takes it upon himself to find out just what happened and lands himself in the crosshairs.
See more info...
Classic Guitar Method  Composed, written, transcribed, edited and arranged by Harry G. Pellegrin: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.
See more info...
DEEP END: The Wreck of the Eddie Fitz  By Harry George Pellegrin. A mystery novel. Involving a semi-professional musician and a Kreyol death cult, DEEP END takes the reader from the bottom of Long Island Sound to the steamy streets and Blues clubs of New Orleans. Alternative spirituality does battle with the common working man.  Published by PAB Entertainment Group in association with
See more info...


Reflecting Pools    Original Music by Harry G. Pellegrin:
Reflecting Pools is a departure for me as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one track...

"...Reflecting Pools is a notable first album [for Mr. Pellegrin]. A dramatic sense of tonality and mood are propelled by exemplary musicianship and exciting compositional exploits."

Available through

...And containing nine tracks that are relaxing, inspirational -- sounds like a snooze. Not really, this is great stuff to listen to on a rainy afternoon, while with your significant other (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) Please visit the Reflecting Pools page on this site or

In That Zone, is now out! Please visit for details and to order.

See the info page on this site...

Site Design 2003-2007  Pound Sterling Graphics