3 "Overbending" Licks, Albert King-Style

I've always liked the wild, emotional sound of "overbent" notes in a blues context. I'm defining overbending as any bend beyond the distance of a whole step (or a tone, if you prefer). For these licks we're dealing with 3 fret bends: bending a note until it reaches the pitch of the note found 3 frets higher. I play these bends with my 3rd finger, supported by my index and second fingers. You'll want to angle your fingers in such a way that the strings above the one you're bending are neatly pushed out of the way. It's not an easy thing to do, and will definitely take a bit of practice. Albert King himself was a left-hander who played a right handed guitar by flipping it upside down, which probably made this style of bending slightly easier as he would have been pulling the highest strings down towards the floor rather than pushing them up. He also used an unusual dropped tuning, so all his strings were a bit looser. And he had absolutely enormous hands which must have helped.

In terms of the blues scale, there are 3 good bending note choices available: the root up to the b3, the b3 to the b5, and the 5th to the b7. But by all means try bending some other notes as well and see what happens and whether it sounds good. Normally I bang on about the importance of bending in tune, but in this context it can be effective to just push the note up as far as you can: it somehow seems to intensify the emotion if things are a little bit dissonant.

I've written the licks out for you below. There are a few options as far as right hand picking goes, but I've indicated the way I do it, as a guide. As I mention in the video, it's a good idea to relate any licks you learn to familiar chord or scale shapes so you are quickly able to access the licks in the course of a solo. You could see lick 1 as being based around pattern 3 of the A minor pentatonic scale; lick 2 can be related to a pattern 2 blues scale with the addition of an F#note; for lick 3 we're back to pattern 3 minor pentatonic, again with an added F#. Unsure of your scale patterns? - find them here: The Minor Pentatonic Scale. The Blues Scale. 

 Once you've learned the licks, stick on a blues backing track, have a jam, and try and get them into your playing. For the most part each lick should work over any of the chords in a blues, but let your ear tell you what works and what doesn't. You can download a high-quality PDF of the licks here.

Since I'm always asked, here's a bit of info on the gear I'm using for the video. The guitar is my trusty old '52 reissue Fender Telecaster. The amp is an '80s Fender Super Champ, set for a bit of dirt from the clean channel: volume on full, master volume on 2 or 3. No pedals or anything, but a little bit of reverb from the computer when I mixed the video.