Playing Open Strings

By Damian Francis

What do the chords, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, all have in common?

They are all open!

As guitarists mature in their playing, using open strings seems to become obsolete.Some think they are for "new guitarists who aren't familiar with the fret board." I beg to differ. Using open strings is essential to any musician who wants to have a varied vocabulary of music in their repertoire.

The problem is, many just don't know how to use them properly in their playing to add to the music and not take away. In this lesson you will learn how to take open strings and chords and turn them into music that will be unique to your style.

Keep in mind open strings are not recommended in all circumstances (for instance a solo that is higher up in the fret board) because that octave (eight note jump down) would sound out of place. So let's get started!

Tip #1:

Let's start off by making open strings sound very fast and full of excitement. We do this by integrating other familiar notes on the fret board in with the open strings.

Remember our previous speed lesson and take things slow at first or your riff will sound like slosh. Take a look at the first example.

|-------------------|-------------------|-------------------| |-------------------|-------------------|-------------------| |-------------------|-------------------|-------------------| |0-5-0-3-0-2-0-3----|-0-5-0-3-0-2-0-3---|-------------------| |-------------------|-------------------|-0-5-0-3-0-2-0-3---| |-------------------|-------------------|-------------------|

Notice how it sound like you're going extremely fast but really you're hardly putting any effort into it? That's because in this exercise the sounds you get come from your picking hand. The exercise you see above can be used anywhere you want on the fret board so have fun with it.

Tip #2:

Start incorporating different strings into your playing. No one ever said that you could only use one open string at a time when soloing. What's the fun in that? I love to make the riffs and solos I use sound nice and full by adding in extra open strings (when the key allows for it). See this example to get a visual of what I mean.

|------------------------------| |------------------------------| |-----5-7-/-9-7-5-7-5----------| |-7-7---------------7-7--------| |-0-0-----------------0--------| |------------------------------|

Tip #3:

Have you ever strummed a power chord and accidentally hit anopen string? How did it sound?

It's amazing what you can do with power chords and open strings. I'm going to show you in this next example how to do that. Try new things out for yourself as well. That's how we learn properly.

Take some of your favorite power chords and add on some extra notes, or include an open string. No, it won't be a power chord anymore but it will add a new dimension to your rhythm.

|----------| |----------| |-9-9-9----| |-9-9-9----| |-7-7-7----| |---0-8----|

See how we used a normal power chord, then added an open E string, then finally added the c. When put together, these tips can really help you to think outside of the box and write new, more diverse pieces of music.