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Documentation of string bending


LilyPond doesn't support guitar string bending yet. This snippet contains a Scheme file which provides some basic features. It was written by Marc Hohl in 2009.

There are currently two open issues in the tracker:

  • issue 3700 aims at integrating the guitar bending written by Marc in Scheme in the LilyPond codebase.
  • issue 1196 is about adding a new bend engraver, which is the ultimate goal.


  • Quarter tone bends are not supported.
  • Line breaks over bending notes are not supported and they are currently disabled, because otherwise the file would not compile as soon as page formatting decisions create such a situation.
  • You can't use hammer-on and pull-off when \bendOn is active, because this snippet uses and transforms the slur engraver. This implies that you cannot, for instance, start a pull-off right after a bend release. This is one of the reasons why a bend engraver is needed (see issue 1196 above). However, you can work around this problem by adding an hidden grace note where the pull-off should start; you may have to use the \shape command to adjust the slur shape.
  • If you use Staff and TabStaff, you may have to add some more padding in order to avoid collisions between the bending interval number and the staff:
    \layout {
      \context {
        \override StaffGrouper.staff-staff-spacing.padding = #5


Add this repository to the list of include paths in your editor preferences and put the following include statement at the top of your file:

\include "notation-snippets/guitar-string-bending/definitions.ily"

You can activate and deactivate the bending with the following commands:

% music...
% bended notes here

Remember to put the music in Voice or TabVoice contexts (not just Staff or TabStaff), otherwise you may get an extra staff, as explained in the Usage manual.

Within these commands, the parentheses, normally used to notate slurs, will notate the bendings. You can write any bending from a half tone up to any interval (a number over the bending arrow will show the interval):

d8( dis)
d8( e)
d8( f)

Bend and release requires the use of a closing parenthesis to close the bending and a new opening one to start the release:

d8( e)( d)

Pre-bends - when string is bent before plucking it - are supported through the \bendGrace command and two different \preBend commands:

\bendGrace { \preBendHold c8( } d2)  r2
\bendGrace { \preBendRelease c8( d)( } c2)  r2

\preBendHold is a simple pre-bend, while \preBendRelease allows to release the bending.

Finally, there are two commands that control how a bending behaves along the time. \bendHold allows to hold a bend for a longer time by using ties:

d8( \holdBend e) ~ e2( d)

\shiftBend allows to bend a string in two steps:

c4( \shiftBend d)( e2)