Is it required to bend notes when playing a guitar solo?
There's the mystical belief that in order for a guitar solo to sound good, you must bend notes.
Note bending is a staple of electric guitar solos. However, it has never been required to do so. One can perform a guitar solo using nothing but notes played "straight." Or, better yet, skip the solo entirely.
What a lot of guitar players don't seem to understand is that most people don't like the sound of a bent guitar note. To a non-musician, it almost sounds like a wounded animal crying in agony, especially if you don't bend the note right and end up being off-key.
If you must bend notes however, here's a few tips.
Master the single semitone bend first
Everyone starts with the two-semitone bend. Don't. Single semitone bends are a whole lot easier. Start with those first.
If you require a 2-semitone bend, just move up a fret at the appropriate time and bend from there to get the note.
Know your string metals and cores
I've mentioned this before but will mention it again.
Strings with a hexagonal core (e.g. D'Addario) will always be tougher to bend compared to round-core (e.g. certain DR string models) because a hex-core is a stiffer string when tuned to pitch. If you keep trying to bend stiff strings, you will not only not hit the note, but probably damage your fingers and also snap strings often.
Also, the more nickel is in the string, the easier it is to bend. Strings labeled as "pure nickel" like Fender 150R are the bendy-friendly kind. You lose treble by using more nickel, the strings will go dead quickly, and sometimes they go out-of-tune more often, but they bend a lot easier.
Flatter fingerboards are more bendy-friendly
The rounder a fingerboard is, the more you encounter what's known as fretting out.
If you're all about the bends, you'll get along a lot better with a 12-inch-or-greater fingerboard radius. If the number is lower than 12, such as Fender 9.5-inch or vintage 7.25-inch, you will fret out. A lot. It doesn't matter how well your neck bow and string height is set up. Rounder fingerboards just fret out. There's nothing wrong with that; it's just the nature of the way they play.
Yes, there are certain Fender and Squier models that do have 12-inch fingerboards. The Squier J5 Telecaster for example does have a such a radius.
On the Gibson/Epiphone side of things, all of their guitars unless stated otherwise have 12-inch-or-flatter fingerboards.
Try solos without bends
Again, remember, most people don't like the sound of a bent guitar note. The more you can solo without semitone bends, the more pleasing to the ear your solo will be.