Choosing the open string v. the 5th fret -- when?!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by drumsnbass, Dec 9, 2005.

  1. drumsnbass

    drumsnbass Bassic User Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2004
    Seattle WA area
    When does one choose open string over 5th? lots of times it seems when in first position it is just way easier to snag the opn string than stretch to the 5th. how do you all choose?
  2. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    I always try to avoid playing open strings, though I'll use them when it's MUCH more convenient over the fretted equivalent. The reason behind this is that open notes (if your bass doesn't have a zero-fret) sound a bit different from fretted notes.
  3. Playing the note on the fifth fret will always sound fuller and fatter than an open string.
  4. damn straight...
  5. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    There's no hard rule about it. It really depends on the style of music you're playing, the type of bassline and the sound you want to get. In jazz open strings are used a lot and playing open strings in a walking bassline is a convenient way to give you a chance to make a position shift without interrupting the flow of the line. If you've studied James Jamerson's Motown basslines you'll know that he was a fan of using open strings that are non-chord tones as target approach notes to a chord tone. So open strings can be used as a device for things like position shifting or chromatic leading tones (like the open A sting between the Bb and Ab notes in the key of Db, for example).

    On some rock type lines it sounds great to ride the open A string while playing the G, A or F# notes on the D string. Other times you just gotta have that meatiness of the A on the 5th fret of the E string. One thing I find that's very important is to keep it consistant. It sounds funny to my ears when I play an open string in one place and a fretted version of the same note in another place. I usually try to avoid this unless I want the notes to sound different.
  6. Son of Magni

    Son of Magni

    May 10, 2005
    Builder: ThorBass
    I like Scot's thoughts. I'd add that since I almost never play in first position (and because open's sound different), I would never use an open string in a melodic run. I mostly use open strings when jumping octaves, or for chords, or to create dissonance (sp?).

    But about the first position thing. When I play cello, open strings are part of the technique, and their use is actually build into the compositions. But on electric bass, with the long neck, playing in first position and using open strings in that way is just an annoyance that I'd rather not deal with. Or to put it more clearly, you can play in any key and play the same thing with the same fingering, as long as you stay with stopped notes. So, why use opens unless you're going for some special effect? Well, I guess that's not more clearly is it...
  7. If find that the twang of my open strings adds a neat flavor to my lines. When I'm playing below the third fret I like to use them a lot. I'm thinking of getting a bass with a high C so I can stay low on the neck more of the time.
  8. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    When I'm walking over changes I usually stay in first position and use open strings extensively, much like many upright players do. I use EADGC tuning.
  9. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    I only use open strings for certain slap techniques (eg the main riff on Stu Hamms Country music or Ray Riendeaus "liquid") other than that I 'll use open strings as pedal points (really neat way of keeping the groove/low end in a three piece band when the guitarist solos).
  10. i like usting open strings, more so when slapping. they just give a neat tone

  11. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    Open strings suck!
    On a serious note...I only use them when I'm playing in the first box.
  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    You can work on making them sound similar. Work with muting.
  13. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    I use open strings on Tuesdays.
  14. Patrickstar


    Dec 10, 2005
    First of All.....It all comes down to how disciplined you are in your playing. Most technically advanced players would stay away from open strings; A- because they sound different to fretted notes. B- Most techincally advanced players dont really travel down to 1st postition... Unless of course they have a 4 string and they need to play a low Fnat. You would only really use an open string in a melodic run if you were playing first finger on say the 9th fret or 8th fret. If you remain in first position all the time, and never use the 5th i believe your playing becomes poor, tight, inconsitent and very lazy. You wont be able to stretch and have reasonably fast chops. Also i believe open strings are bad for slap unless you immediately mute the open string, ie. PLay a D then a quick pull on to an A and B nat on the D, then playing a D on the G.... If you play open strings in slap to much There is to much reverb of the note... Thus defeating the purpose of slap....

  15. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Well . . . no you're wrong. What position you play in is a matter of preference.

    I'm not sure what "technically advanced" players you're referring to but I've seen videos of Jaco and Stanley spend lots of time in 1st position. And when I saw Jeff Berlin this summer he in many ways confirmed my tecnhique for me: moving down the neck using open strings much like an upright player would when walking.

    I like the way my lines sound with fretted notes and open strings interspersed. I'm not quite sure "what a melodic run" is but whem I'm soloing I will use the open strings, though not as much as when I'm walking. I will change positions depending on what kind of line I'm playing and what kind of sound I'm going for. My playing is neither poor, inconsistent, or lazy (whatever that would mean). And I have crazy-fast chops.

    There's a purpose of slap? I would be thrilled if you would enlighten me.
  16. If you have ever tried to play any of the Jeff Berlin pieces from his heyday in GP he uses open strings extensively to facilitate wide ranging position shifts. Its about using this very flexible resource intelligently and musically. Open strings are part of your instrument. Use them wisely.
    When reading jazz lines in charts when quite often the bass part has not been written by a bass player, without open strings you have an almost technical impossible piece.
    Its all about context. Also for double or triple stops, tapping they are brilliant. Any one heard of Clarke, Miller, King, Hamm. I mean honestly open strings are an integral part of your arsenal. Use when appropriate I say.
  17. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Oh this brings to mind one of my favorite bass solos, "Havona", from Weather Report's "Heavy Weather". Jaco emphatically ends that solo with a really gorgous closing statment using the open G string as a pedal. Really one of the most brilliant ways to really slam a solo home in the last few bars, and also a great example of use of the open strings like Blunt is describing. Check it out.
  18. I have got some great ideas from guitar articles where they have absolutely no hang ups about open strings. Nuno Bettoncourt licks and Petrucci licks await if you check them out. i mean where would metal bass playing be without open strings. And as for jazz, open strings are used so extensively I think this argument can be laid to rest. Use the bloody things if it works.
    And on the open strings in slap, Marcus Miller almost always uses the open G when playing in E as his minor third choice. just check out any transcription and also just use it. Now are we going to say that is sloppy practice. And is not slapping in E an open string. Get real bass players and use the open strings when needed.
  19. bassjus


    Mar 30, 2004
    I've always been raised to pretty much enver play an open string, it's just instinct to me, I'll only use open strings when it's a fast run and it would take some weird position changes to not play open. I think part of this comes from me playing upright. Some teachers will tell you soemways, some tell you others. just do what you are comfortable with.
  20. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I'm also of the "whatever feels right" school. While there is a difference between the open and fretted note, I think most of that subtlety is lost live.

    When learning a new song I tend to stay away from open strings. I don't want to learn to depend on them so that when (note the when not if ;) ) the singer changes the key, I won't be quite so messed up.

    When appropriate I like to end lines with a ringing open string.

    But the "5th" does allow for a more percussive sound with less work. I lately have been really practicing my open E to 2nd fret B technique to give me another position to play E lines. But I am still more comfortable with a fretted E.