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Open notes or Fretted notes?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by skarabrae, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. I often choose to play fretted notes, when I have a choice between fretted and open notes. Even if the passage is more difficult, I typically use the fretted notes ... I like the tone and control of the note better.

    Typically, if the open note is a passing note, or "has" to be played to sound right, is the only time I use an open note.

    Anyone else prefer fretted notes to open notes ... ?

    Hmmm ... does it really matter?

  2. I usually run into this on A's and D's. It's not about getting around the neck for me as much as it is what sounds right for the song. It just depends. For the most part, I play the fretted.
  3. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    I feel the same way as you. I fret notes when and where I can unless it's an open string passing note. I like the control I have over the attack and release of the note when it is fretted.

    If I am feeling lazy, I'll pump some open strings for R-5 basslines.

  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Most people use fretted notes. I've been trying to use more open notes these days, though, because I saw Bob Babbitt using open notes every single time on that Shadows Of Motown movie. In the end, the only one who cares whether you use open notes or not is you.
  5. I generally use whatever is most comfortable or convenient. Occasionally I'll play some passages in the 12th fret area on the low B and E strings and that yields an insanely beefy sound. Good for R&B and smooth groove type playing. I always get better growl with open notes or notes played closer to the nut. Its a balance between ease and tone.
  6. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    Doesn't Babbitt use a sponge or piece of foam at the bridge to dampen the strings? This would have a huge impact on his open strings.


    PS. I love the sound of the open strings on my double bass. I tend to use them more on double bass for pizz.
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Yep, a big piece of foam right by the bridge.

    And ya, open strings sound better on double bass except when you bow. The other side of Talkbass had a big discussion about bowing open notes one time and everyone seemed to agree that it doesn't work. Wish I was good enough to know.
  8. For me ... thinking more about it ...
    I think it is really about the control over the note that I have.
    Controlling the level of attack, and timing of sustain, on fretted notes gives me the tone I want.

    I agree that open notes DO have a certain sound, "the growl" so to speak ... which I go for when looking for a "dark" or "powerful" feel.
    But, tend to use it as passing note, or in the case of the low B, I bang that note as a "spice" note ... :eyebrow:
  9. tiredman9


    Aug 15, 2005
    New York
    i try to play fretted notes a lot unless i play a couple notes after the open note on that same string--for example id rather play 0-3-5 on the A thann: 0-3 on the A then a 0 on the D. but thats just me

    and hey how sick does a G sound at the 15th fret of the E-string...now thats hardcore
  10. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Generally, I'll play fretted notes. Having that fretting-hand finger against the string gives plenty of control for the nuances of the note - whether choking it off quickly or shaking it for all it's worth. It also tends to keep things simpler for moving riffs elsewhere on the neck, particularly when having to suddenly transpose a part up or down a couple of notches.

    However, I'm not a purist. Sometimes an open note will fit the bill, either because of something about it's tone or because how it fits in my phrasing of the passage. While I'd say that I play the notes available on my open strings in fretted positions 95%+ of the time, the exceptions often make an important difference to the line.

  11. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    To me, it all depends where i'm mainly playing on the neck. If i'm playing in the middle, I'll fret. If i'm playing chordal progressions up high on the neck, those low drones bring the song to life (Stu Hamm's solo inspired that) and again, when i'm walking on the G, or C, i'll probably play open.
  12. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Only open notes for me!
  13. bassjus


    Mar 30, 2004
    I pretty much only use fretted notes, I was taught that way on BG and DB, but recently the teacher I've had are trying to get me to play the open strings. I don't know why it matters, but I guess I should get used to both?
  14. Tingly


    Jul 16, 2005
    Yonkers, NY
    I like to use open notes when the tone is going to be a long one and drone on under the melody, or for the ending note of the song.
  15. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    I play a 5-string in standard tuning, but my last two bands were tuned in C# and the other in D. I definately have preference for fretted notes and enjoy the slightly different quality of the intionation. I'll hit an open E or A now and then, with the D band.

    The C# group was prog metal with plenty of Fear Factory type speedy rhythms and using 2nd fret of B rather than a loose open string made things a bit easier with finger style.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's the thing - for Double Bass it's essential and is part of good technique.... I like playing Jazz mostly and you find that a lot of composed/arranged parts are written with DB in mind.

    I used to find some lines really tough on BG and thought - how can people be playing this on DB - but then when I included all open strings where possible, it all fell into place! :)

    Another thing is that you can use open strings to cover position shifts smoothly - so rather than moving your left hand when you are fretting notes and make extraneous noise - make sure you shift on an open string!
  17. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    If you're reading, open strings are a godsend. If you're playing upright, you use open strings to aid in position shifts and checking your intonation. Its really up to you when and where to use open strings. No right or wrong way.

    The reason Steve Swallow sounds so good playing jazz on electric (with a pick, no less) is because of his use of double bass technique and open strings are a big part of how he approaches the instrument.
  18. mlbarlow


    Apr 26, 2005
    Plattsburgh, NY
    I like to drop an open note if I want it to be pronounced, especially, if I want the note to resonate through a passage. It's really nice to let it go in a really funky spot (i.e. on the 2nd or 4th 16th note of a beat in funk, or on beat four of a walking jazz line.)

    Whatever, do your own thing. That's the only way to play hip.
  19. kreplock


    Aug 6, 2005
    a lot more harmonics make it thru your tone using open notes, tho' i'm sure it's nearly impossible to tell when playing with a full ensemble. but if i were playing something slow with just bass and voice, maybe one more instrument i'd decide which sound i like. if the drum-monkey is thrashing the cymbals then i couldn't care less. ;)

    normally i, too, prefer the control of fretted notes over open.
  20. I just think that, as with many "versus" threads on this forum, this is or should be a nonissue.

    It's like asking, freeway or surface street? There's no reason you have to make a general choice between the two. You take the freeway when that suits what you want to do, and you take the surface street when that suits what you want to do.