Open Strings Open Many Doors

Add open string spice to you soloing / riffing...

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I am writing this article not to say this is how to use open strings in your playing, but hopefully to show some of the possibilities that using open strings can create. Read what I have to say, try the tabs and then take what I have written and make it your own! I am assuming that you, the reader already has some basic knowledge of soloing and riffing based on simple scales (e. g. Pentatonic), so I wont go right back to basics. When in normal tuning, the open strings of the guitar are tuned to EADGBE. To take advantage of open strings we need to pick a key that contains some, if not all of those notes. The obvious choice would be A minor or E minor. For this lesson I am going to tackle A minor only, which contains all of those notes. Ok let's take a simple blues lick using Am Pentatonic. I play it with a bit of a swing feel to it. e ---------------------------------------------------------- B ---------------------------------------------------------- G --7--5---------------------------------------------------- D ----------7--5--------------------------------------5----- A --------------------7--5--3------3---5---5-s-7------------ E -------------------------------5-------------------------- This lick can be spiced up a little by adding open strings on each of the strings. Again, I played this one with a swing feel. e -------------------------------------------------------------------- B ----p---p----------------------------------------------------------- G --7--5--0-----p--p-------------------------------------------------- D --------------7--5--0----p--p----------------------------5---------- A -------------------------7--5--0--3-----3--5---5-s-7---------------- E ---------------------------------------5---------------------------- Evan if you play the modified lick at the same tempo as the original lick its already obvious that adding those few open notes is an easy way to add a bit of pace to your soloing! Have ago yourself. Write a little lick just using the A minor pentatonic box. When you got that under your fingers, see where you can add open notes and listen to both versions one after the other! If all goes well you will have created a new, very different sounding lick just by adding a few open string notes! Ok. Next up is using open strings to create self-supporting guitar pieces. When I say self-supporting, I mean musical pieces that need no accompaniment. Here I am going to use an open 5th string (A) as the continuing bass note and use two notes at a time from either the A minor pentatonic or open strings to accompany it. Pieces like this easily get complicated, but using open string makes them less left hand demanding. E--------------------------------------------------------------------- B---------8--8-----------0--5----------------------------------p------ G---------7--7-----------0--5-----------7--7--------------p---5-0----- D-----------------------------------------7--7-----0--5--7--0------7-- A--------------------------------------------------------------------- E--0--0-0--------0--0-0---------0--0-0-------------------------------- The last bar of that can easily be replaced by a lick like we created in the first part of this article! Have a play around, change the bass note, or use different notes form the pentatonic scale. Those of you that know more scales have a mess around with those two. You can start getting some yummy sounds if you keep the bass note the same while changing from one mode to another! That's all for now! If you want to flame me, go for it! If you want me to expand on the subject give me a shout! If some recordings would be helpful I am sure I could whip something up over the next week or so! Like I said, this is not a complete run down on the subject, it's just meant to give some guidance in the general direction!

43 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    ZoSo71
    No that has more to do with you guitar being in-tune with itself. The thickness in strings isn't enough to warrent a difference in the way you hearing the note, unless you have spot on perfect pitch. Have your guitar intonation checked
    Arucard
    quite cool. as for gooseholla's distortion comment, a noise gate sorts that out! my favourite example of pulling off to open strings (i know that you're not restricted to pulling off to open strings, but all examples were pull-offs, so it reminded me...) is Where You Come From by Pantera. ***ing kick ass riff does code work in these comments? hope so, the Where You Come From riff is: [code] d|---..| A|---..| F|---..| C|-5p 0---5p0---..| G |---..7---..7-5p0-5p0---5p0---..5b -| D|---..7---..7-5p0-3p0 -5p0-6p5-3p0----| AH . ... [/code]
    Rockstar_450
    cheers re4lity. You took the time to help others on this site. Anybody that does that deserves to be commended
    ANGUS/JIMI_ROCK
    Nah, sometimes its better for it to be played on a 5th string because you're actually fretting the note and you can put expression into the note... I agree, you can't bend or slide down from an open note
    konfusion1111
    if your playing the same not on the 3rd and 4th strings youll notice that they sound completely different... its because of the string thickness... i am just a bigginner at this kind of sruff so correct me if im wrong... that (i think) is what stay together for the kids by blink-182 sounds soo cool
    adamsharpe
    A perfect example of this type of playing is the bridge to Tool's song Schism.
    Rockstar_450
    Kurdt2k: rockstar_450 maybe the article is aimed at people who arent guitar gods like u obviously are...ffs i hate people who think theyre better than everyone else.maybe the article was just trying to get a point across, not every1 is an expert like u [POSTED: 17 September 2004 - 10:52]|
    sorry for comming of the way i did. i apologise. i don't think of myself as a 'guitar god'. But i believe that a guitar is a musical tool, not a 'guitar'. people learn in terms of strings and frets and that's it, they don't even know their musical intervals, to them a scale is just a shape you move up and down the guitar in accordance with the root note... sorta follow me. I think it disrespects the instrument. You could never get away with such ignorance on a piano, but i guess that's why guitar is beginner friendly, still I find it silly when people get stoked at seeing very amature music theory. That doesn't actually annoy me, what does is when people say "lessons are for pussies" then if they wonder why u r better than them they say "that's just coz u got lessons". i know it's my opinion and know i should have kept it to myself. sorry to everybody that i offended. Good on anybody who can learn from this article. also good on the people who want to share thier musical knowledge with others to help them along! cheers all.
    tHewHiteHendrix
    a better example of using open strings is in Eruption, by the infamous Eddie Van Halen off of his first Cd. He's so fast already that adding the open strings seems to make notes fly into the song out of nowhere.. if you havent heard eruption.. you should, eddie uses almost all of his guitar tricks and compresses them into one INSANE song. (my fav. part is around about 0:57) Jimi is still better tho.
    Spanner
    Its good, but it is not a lot to do with actual theory, good though.
    Fedaykin
    In that last example isn't he using a open 6th string (E), indtead of an open A (5th)?
    Evil_Monstar
    To those who frown upon not taking formal lessons on guitar (i taught myself) a lot of those people (if they're intelligent at all) learned a different insturment first. My first insturment was the piano, formally taught for three years.
    re4lity
    I understand what you are on about rockstar_450. Personally i have learned everything from the absolute basics and upwards from there, abit like the piano way of learning things - i agree its the best way to learn in my opinion. When i wrote this, my first article i was finding it very hard to decided what to include and what not to include. I could have gone right back to basics and explained about intervals etc but this would have been one hell of a long article. Instead i put a paragraph at the begining pointing out that i was assuming some previous theoretical knowledge! If anyone would like me to explain where different sounds come from theoretically in this situation by all means reply here and ill whip somthing up over the next few days. No offense taken rockstar_450, i entirely understand where you are coming from!
    CíarántheGreen
    Also, strings when open give a different sound than when fretted, so if you're playing like rock or something mildly hard, you generally want to avoid the open strings.
    gooseholla
    They can sometimes sound horrible though if in distortion and they are hit too hard etc....
    Emenius Sleepus
    open strings can also be used as drones, or ringing notes, and, obviously, for arpeggiated chords... say, take a normal "C" shape, and move your root from the 3rd fret (C) to, say, 7th (E), thus getting: normal "C" : 032010 E?: 076050 I'm not sure of the name, but it's a more unconventional-voiced chord that makes use of open strings
    Rockstar_450
    This article is aimed at IGNORANT guitarists! a note isn't just a fretted or non-fretted thing... its a note!!! a good guitarist will know about 4-5 places off the top of his/her head where a note can be played on a guitar you talk about f**king frets and strings. not where the note is relative to the key. and any guitarist who has any musical knowledge knows how to use an open string in a blues scale...
    Kurdt2k
    rockstar_450 maybe the article is aimed at people who arent guitar gods like u obviously are...ffs i hate people who think theyre better than everyone else.maybe the article was just trying to get a point across, not every1 is an expert like u
    slash_620
    does anyone hate it when people tab songs on the fith fret when they could be played open?
    Danny7
    But then just because the note is the same the different strings give different sounds. For example, in Stay Together For The Kids, however easy it may be.. if all of the D's were simply played on one string it wouldn't sound half as effective as utilising the two D's on the adjacent strings. There is a similar effect at the beginning of the second solo in I Believe In A Thing Called Love, where the 5th fret G and open E (both E's) are used to make a thick, cool sound.
    Captain Colon
    Nah, sometimes its better for it to be played on a 5th string because you're actually fretting the note and you can put expression into the note...
    Agreed...personally I try to use open strings as little as possible.
    Lick_Soloist
    Very nice, still, speed the thing up with the ol hybrid picking, hammer on, pull offs!!
    Mick Mackler
    Good info. Also, no matter where you are on the fret board, you can always utilize an open string when that string is the same note as any note in the chord. It adds either a higher or lower octave to the chord and makes it sound fatter (literally). For example, I like (starting with low E string): X87980. The open high E accentuates the E on the G string. Try it all over the place, you'll be surprised.
    re4lity
    good point mick mackler, i use that myself often. Im always using the non-standard chord voicings in my instrumental peices to get that different sound!
    deftones17
    not a bad article at all. the pentatonic minor scale would be more appropriate tho.
    ad_lib_oz
    slash_620: does anyone hate it when people tab songs on the fith fret when they could be played open?
    Nah, sometimes its better for it to be played on a 5th string because you're actually fretting the note and you can put expression into the note...
    Brandon_leigh
    slash_620 wrote: does anyone hate it when people tab songs on the fith fret when they could be played open?
    YES!!!