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Single-String Benders, String Damping, Fuzz b-Bender and More on 3Bender Playing

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

Henry Kaiser provides additional insight into getting the most out of a 3Bender

Grammy-winning artist Henry Kaiser with his 3Bender

In our last blog, we featured 3 artists who we think exemplify the common explorative nature of 3Bender owners. Henry Kaiser kindly responded with additional comments. We thought his comments deserved their own blog post.

Henry Kaiser is a guitarist, composer and ethnomusicologist that has appeared on more than 300 albums and scored dozens of TV shows and films. A partial list of the artist with whom he has collaborated include: Herbie Hancock, David Lindley, Bob Weir, Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Fred Firth, Terry Riley, John Zorn and Wadada Leo Smith

In his words:

"One thing that may not be obvious to someone contemplating purchasing a 3Bender guitar without trying one out: You don't have to be playing all the strings at once that are bending and/or releasing.

Those of us guitar pickers who are of the hybrid picking persuasion (flat pick + fingers) (or fingerpickers), we got there by many different routes: Clarence White, James Burton, Richard Thompson, Zoot Horn Rollo, Don Rich, and many more - the list of great hybrid picker ancestors is long. The thing is: You don't have to play all the strings at once, especially if you are a hybrid picker. So the 3Bender is not just a 3-string bender… It’s that, yes… but it’s also a single-string bender: a B-Bender, a G-Bender, and an A-Bender. It’s also 3 different two-string benders: B+G-Bender, B+A-Bender, G+A-Bender. Plus all the open or fretted E, D, and E strings.

What you don’t pick is as strategic as what you do pick with your picking hand. I found that with my normal playing and picking, all of these separate possibilities for expression were right there under my fingers, without really having to think very much. I think that all this may not be obvious to someone reading about the 3Bender, but once you have one in your hands and plug it into an amp and start playing, all these things/possibilities become both obvious, and surprising. Another aspect of getting the most out of a 3Bender for me is string damping—with both the picking and fretting hands. If you are a slide player, you are likely used to intuitively damping the strings that you are not playing; and you might use either hand, or both hands, to do this. Duane Allman is a classic example of an electric slide player who is pretty much always damping the strings he is not playing. Which was especially necessary when he was playing through a cranked Marshall amp. If you are not familiar with this technique, look up some of the videos about Duane’s damping style on YouTube. Applying this sort of damping to 3Bender playing is a very useful thing to have in your musical toolbox. I think the damping comes in especially “handy” when I play with fuzz and the 3Bender or high gain overdrives. I love some of Clarence White's fuzz B-bender work during his tenure in The Byrds. The 3Bender excels at this kind of fuzz playing, but you might really need to be in possible damping control of the strings that you are not playing, and might not want to hear." - Henry Kaiser


In reference to players using their palms to dampen strings, fuzz guitar and general guitar exploration, I am including a few of my new favorite videos:

1. Lauren Batemen does an excellent job of explaining the fundamentals and explaining why palm muting is an important part of guitar playing:

2. The Sonny Landreth video below is a master-level course in innovation. He talks about damping/muting with either or both hands in this video starting at about the 11-minute mark. As Henry eloquently explains above, hybrid pickers, fingerpickers, and slide players all use similar/relatable techniques to dampen the strings.

3. Clarence White playing fuzz guitar:

4. Lastly, don’t miss out on this recently posted video of Henry discussing his hero Sonny Sharrock:

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