Thoughts on open strings


I have a question regarding the use of open strings. I have noticed that there is a natural resonance or vibration on the open strings that you don’t get on the fretted ones. I remember this from my guitar playing years ago. I heard from other players that the open strings are usually to be avoided for this reason except on passing notes or on an ending. I know the course makes use of the open string quit a bit, but I was wondering what your thought on this is. Sometimes, as I practice your lessons, I might just move the riff over (same key, same octive) to more fretted notes. Thoughts?


Funny, I just got your email about this and suggested you ask around in the forum to hear some more opinions, and I see you beat me to the punch. :slight_smile: I’ll paste my email reply for others reading:

That’s an interesting question. It depends a lot on your instrument + type of strings (roundwound vs. flatwound) too. For example, I love the open string sound on my vintage reissue Fender Precision bass with heavy gauge flatwounds, but I wouldn’t use the open strings on my Peavey Cirrus with relatively bright roundwounds for a lot of things because they sound too thin/trebley.

So yeah, it depends a lot, on the music/genre/role you’re trying to play too. If you want thicker, less trebley sounds, your closed strings are the way to go, in general.

Anyone else have thoughts?


I agree here 100%. A lot of rock/pop/punk stuff where you’re really riding the one note can be played on an open string, and sometimes it has to be played on the open string because the other notes of the line are bouncing off of that string.
My main operating procedure is: Always play closed (which is to say, fretted) for control and then move to open if it sounds better/ more accurate (to a recording).

For any beginning course, the open strings are always the ones to start with, as it gives the extreme lows on the E, and (as is the traditional pedagogy) sets you up to play in that 1st position, where all the open strings are.
As things advance, things generally move from playing As Ds and Gs closed as the fretboard above the 5th fret become more accessible and navigable.


I use open strings in fast passages. They are good for getting from a high position to a lower position. The open string lets your left hand to get down the fingerboard quickly.


This is timely as I have focused on this for the past month. After Josh’s most excellent course, I am working out of the Hal Leonard book (on Book 3 now!) and just re-fingered several of the songs I played with open strings - hard to relearn with the new fingering (ugh!), but in many cases made the song easier to play. Using the fretboard also sets one up to easily change keys, if necessary, as the fingering would stay the same (well, at least for me as a beginner!).


Yeah, good point.

Also, the process of relearning with new fingering is such a fruitful one. When I’m learning new music I like to come up with at least two or three left hand approaches just so that I have fluidity and I don’t end up in a panic zone if I happen to change something accidentally. And because the relearning/coming up with new fingering ideas process is such a good learning tool. Now I can come up with an ideal (for me) fingering for pretty much anything on my first or second pass, because I’ve gone through that process so many times.


I seem to have more difficulty muting open string notes than fretted notes. For that reason when I read a “0” on bass tabs, I try to move open string notes on the 5th fret of next string.