Good bends are good but bad bends are absolutely horrible. I notice such thing where ‘bending = soul/feel’ but to me that’s just half of the story (or maybe just a quarter of it). We don’t just simply bend a note and suddenly light starts shining around us. We can’t ignore note choices e.g. where a note is bent from and where the note is bent to. The great blues players get this. Oh did I mention Marty Friedman? His bends are just wow and coupled with his vibrato, wow wow. Mr. Friedman is just one of many examples though. (History: I got to jam with Marty when he was doing a clinic in KL many years ago. Such experience!)
Now getting back into topic. Let’s put it this way, good bends come from good notes. It is when we have a good sense of where our bends are going that we can squeeze all the soul/feel out. Don’t bend for the sake of bending. Know the notes before bending.
With that in mind, I guess this should be a very cool thing to practice our notes sense: don’t bend. Try replacing bends with slides or slurs. Now some might go ‘oh no that’s soulless’ etc. etc. Here’s my experience. As I got into jazz where notes are rarely bent anyway, I fiddled more with note choices looking for the cool notes at the appropriate moments. And then when I get back to playing blues or rock, I know where the cool notes are and where I should bend to and from should I feel like bending some notes. That’s all for now, happy practicing!
PS: Pianists don’t bend so, yeah.