Soloing Tips: Using the Pitch-Bend Wheel on Electronic Keyboards (part one)

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The video lesson below is for keyboard players who want to “properly” use the pitch-bend wheel on their electronic synths or other keyboard.  By “properly,” I mean that you can’t just randomly roll that pitch wheel around and expect your keyboard licks to make any sense (outside of cartoonish sound effects).


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The keyboards in this list are personally recommended by me. They are Yamaha keyboards, which I swear by (no affiliation there).

If you want the professional sound of a killer solo when using a pitch-bend wheel, it’s a great idea to emulate the kind of pitch-bends that are used by experienced lead guitarists, sax players, and the like.  That’s the secret, and there’s some detailed explanation of certain ways to do that included in the video below.

IMPORTANT TIP: I highly recommend you master a least a couple of prepared licks before you “go live” with any kind of pitch-bending.  Otherwise, you may end up in Cartoon Sound Effect Land, and you will probably UN-impress your audience. They may not even know why, but they will definitely be thinking “amateur.” Ouch!  Just take some time to get a few of these things down beforehand,  instead of going right out and “tone-randomizing” your audience with non-skilled pitch bends. If there was a Geneva Convention about audience torture, you can be sure they would ban that.

In the video, I discuss the most important aspects of exactly how the use of pitch wheels works, and I cover a few useful riffing concepts using “whole-step” bends (explained in the video) .

Below the video, I’ve included my response to some people who are asking “where’s Part Two?” on YouTube.  In my response, you will find some additional tips on doing “half-step” bends.

Note, the first video (the one below), is NO LONGER ON YOUTUBE, because I am gradually moving access to most of my YouTubes into the realm of this website only.




Here’s that selected reply of mine (from when this video was on YouTube).

Hey ken still waiting for part 2 pitch be nd
Gary Hunt yeah me too, Ken please update.

Hi Casper and Gary, thanks for your interest in this topic. I have been immersed in course creation projects and other stuff, including studio work (gotta eat and pay rent!), so my YouTube one-offs have taken a back seat, temporarily anyway. However, since I may now have a passionate band of pitch-benders forming outside my front door LOL I think I had better put out at least one more of these, covering some half-step techniques! When I do, it will probably be on my blog at Thanks for your patience, sorry for the wait.

For now, let me just point out that moving the pitch wheel from its default center position, to a spot which is exactly 1/2 way to the “forced stopping point” (meaning, the point where it stops and can’t go farther from center), takes you 1/2 step musically from the original tone. (Remember that rolling the wheel away from your body takes you UP in pitch, and rolling it towards your body takes you DOWN in pitch. To illustrate this, if you hold down a C-note on the keyboard, and push the wheel 1/2 way along the full available distance, rolling it AWAY from you, this brings you a half-step UP in pitch — which is C# (or D-flat, depending on the context). BLUESY TIP: Experiment with doing this from E-flat to E natural when playing some bluesy licks in the key of C, with a C7 chord as the harmony. In this situation, you are holding down the E-flat key with your right hand, while moving the wheel 1/2 the possible distance AWAY from you till the pitch you’re hearing swings up to E-natural. Confirm you are actually reaching E-natural by checking the white E-natural key (with the pitch wheel now centered). Accuracy in this movement takes practice and will improve your ear.

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