Guitar: Does It Matter Which Way You Bend the Strings?

Bending is one of the fundamental guitar techniques that any proper player should master.

It gives a natural sound to your playing and it’s what for many really makes the guitar sing.

However, if you pay close attention to a broad array of players, you will find that some, on some occasions tend to bend the strings downwards instead of the more traditional upwards trajectory.

Is it the same? 

Does it matter which way you bend the strings of a guitar?

Here’s a short answer:

The direction in which you bend a guitar string really doesn’t matter in terms of the effect on the pitch. However, it might be more comfortable bending certain strings downwards than upwards. This is particularly true for the lower strings, where if you go up, you might fall outside the fretboard.

In this article, I will tell you all there is to know about the different ways in which you can bend guitar strings, when to do it, and if it’s reasonable to do so.

After leaving this page you will have a clearer idea about why, sometimes, there are good reasons to bend your strings downwards.

Are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

Is it ok to bend guitar strings down instead of up?

If something is ok or not will depend on many things. 

In this case, I can tell you that there’s no wrong or right in music.

The result will be the same, whether you bend up or down. 

The physical mechanism that shifts the pitch of a note is exactly the same, no matter the direction.

Bending a string only means increasing its particular tension so the pitch does the same. The directionality of this doesn’t matter, as long as this force is exerted.

Is there a reason for bending down instead of up?

There is a really good reason for bending a guitar string down instead of up: Comfort.

You see, certain strings are easier to bend downwards. Think of the 4th string, for instance.

You will have a lot more fretboard real estate to go downwards than to go up.

Of course, it will always depend on how far you need to bend. Maybe if you just need to do a half-step bend, going up is still possible.

Now, on the contrary, bending the first string downwards will be impossible, since it will fall outside the playing area.

I can also think of some players developing downward bends due to grip preferences. You might be able to develop more force in your fingers when pulling down than pulling up.

Finally, left-handed players that use right-handed stringed guitars are more likely to bend downwards the higher strings, since they are on the top side of the fretboard for them.

Does it matter which way you bend a guitar string?

Absolutely not, it does not matter which way you bend a guitar string, at least in terms of the bend working out.

As mentioned earlier, the way you bend a guitar string only matters in terms of playability and technique.

Every player has its own particular technique and playing quirks, and that’s completely alright. 

It is what makes the guitar an incredibly diverse instrument.

Why do most players only bend strings up?

Most players only bend strings up, because it’s usually most common to bend the thinner strings of the guitar.

Bending upwards is the most logical way of bending these strings since there’s a lot of space to go up.

However, and although it’s not bending (or is it?) when playing vibrato on a note on the lower strings, it is likely that you are mostly pulling it downwards than upwards, at least unconsciously.

Another thing to consider is the way most players grip the neck and where they place the thumb behind or over it.

The thumb usually works as a fulcrum that eases the strain and the force needed to do upward bends.

Should you focus on bending down if you only bend up?

I don’t think you need to change your playing if it works for you.

You don’t need to do anything on guitar just because other players are doing it.

However, if you never tried bending downwards, give it a go. You might find it interesting.

The more tools you have in your shed, the more diverse your playing will get.

Also, since notes sound different depending on which string you play them, maybe a bend you usually do on the 3rd string might sound better for you if you do it downwards on the 4th string.

Experiment, fail, and learn. That’s the way.