open string -vs- 5th

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by chuckyt, Mar 1, 2002.

  1. chuckyt


    Sep 6, 2001
    lafayette, LA
    i have been learning how to play music by means of the bass for several months now. one habbit i have is to play fifth fret notes instead of the equivelent open string. is this bad?
  2. warwickbass


    Dec 8, 2001
    it all depends on what your playing, youll find uses for one that wont work or would not work well using the open note, and some for the fifth fret.
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    On basses without zero fret open strings can sound differently than fretted notes, so it might be advisable to avoid open strings on lines that are supposed to have a consistent tone throughout.

    "open string licks" are a different thing though.
  4. I think you'll always get a different tone from open strings than the equivalent 5th fret note- the 5th fret note will sound fuller, and conversely the open string thinner, but with more clarity.
    it's unavoidable due to the string lengths being different, different gauge of the string, different position on the neck.

    whether anyone but you notices it is a different matter.

    I avoid using open D and G strings- the tone is too thin- except for special chordal things.
    but I often use an open A string- especially when using drop-D tuning.

    I think most players (especially 4 string players) switch between using open and 5th fret notes- eg. John Entwistle.
  5. As I began to mature in my bass playing (that was last week, I think ;) ) I learned that pattern playing helps you start up the fingerboard. This finger diagram was also in "Ron Greene's Bass Guitar Dial"


    Say that's an arpeggio and the 2nd finger is on the A string. So whatever fret you put the 2nd finger on for the root of the chord, the other elements of the chord just fall into place. (The major scale also fits nicely into that pattern.)

    And minor scales have a different pattern.

    My point is (.....uhhh..... where was I? Oh yes....) sometimes one of those fingers hits the 5th fret, which is lots easier to play than breaking the pattern for an open string. (IMHO) :cool:
  6. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I think you're WAY better off not depending on open strings. This habit of yours will serve you well when you get hit with a song in, say, Ab where there are hardly any open-string notes or chords. I hardly ever play open strings. It's also great for fretless, where the tonal difference between open and fingered is even greater and you really start wantng to avoid open strings.
  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Very early in my playing daze, I eschewed the use of OPEN strings('cept the "E")...Why? My Mel Bay book said so.
    Later, I reconsidered that notion. Why? Saw too many better players just rip away using the OPEN strings(in particular, the "D" & "G").
    Some of those triplets employed by the Acoustic players involve the OPEN "D" & "G"...
    Those 'passing tones' used by Jamerson? OPEN strings.
    Slapping? Sometimes, the OPEN "D" & "G" sound 'better'.
    One of my favorite lines is to "Bolivia"(a Cedar Walton tune). That line goes something like-

    The rhythm is-
    (The "& of 4" is tied thru the 2nd bar's "1")

    Anyway, both the "D"s & "G"s are OPEN strings...the "E" &"F" are played on the "G"-string(8th & 10th frets, respectively).
    At a very fast tempo, playing that 2-bar phrase without OPEN strings? I dunno.

    The point is-
    Don't lock yourself into a certain way of approaching a piece of music. I do agree with Eli about knowing how to play anything "in position".
    The OPEN strings are there...why not use them?
  8. Lots of good advice here already especially from JimK, I can only add that when playing open A or E make sure that you really mean it ! I've noticed when playing thru a larger type rig at medium or better volumes open E's may just thump a little more than is called for.
  9. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i try to stay away from open strings - once you hit it, you can't control it except to stop it.

    when you have fretted notes, you can control the dynamics a lot more with your fretting hand - let up a little pressure to dampen out a note that isn't sitting well with the rest.

    open strings are take it or leave it - if you happen to have hit it a bit to hard, you're stuck with it.
  10. Ty McNeely

    Ty McNeely

    Mar 27, 2000
    Exactly. The guitarist at my church never understands why I always play at 5 instead of the open strings. He always is like ", open!" whenever I'm learning a song. I like to have dynamic control over it ALL the time, plus if you hit it a bit hard it might end up getting that swell effect and I hate that.
  11. Dave Castelo

    Dave Castelo

    Apr 19, 2000
    Open Strings = Evil
  12. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Depends on what notes preceed and what notes follow in the bass line. And how the song was played originally if you want to keep it that way.
  13. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I use open strings a lot, primarly because that's the way that I learned how to play and I use the same technique on BG and DB(no use of the third finger, unless in the upper register). When the tempo gets hot, those open strings become your friend because they give your hand a chance to rest, this is more so true on the DB than on the BG. On the DB, the open strings are also used as a pitch reference point. I don't play fretless BG, but if I did, I would definetly use the open strings for the pitch reference whenever the opportunity arose.
  14. steve 1

    steve 1 Guest

    Feb 18, 2002
    utica, ny
    i only play open E. but thats because i have to. A, D, and G i fret, because i get a better tone and just like JT said, i have more control over the note.
  15. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Well, that's an interesting point. My band plays a song in A at a pretty brisk tempo (160?) in which my part is all 8th notes: a-g-a-e-g-e-g-g# for two bars , then the same lick in D for two bars -- for like 5 minutes straight. When we first started playing this tune, I played it all fingered (I have a low B). And holy JEEZ, did that hurt. Not only is the a-e hop tough, but this is on a 7-string and so I was at the far end of my finger reach. I would start to cramp up after a couple of minutes. I finally "broke down" (yeah, I can be a real stickler at times) and started using the open e and playing the whole lick on the E string, and it was AMAZING how much easier this section of the tune got -- just because of those two eigth notes every bar where my hand could relax.

    The point? It is nice to have a set of rules or norms by which you approach any task; but for Heaven's sake, ya gotta know when it's time to bail out.
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Another tune that works well with OPEN(not evil) strings is Jaco's "Liberty City".
    Try playing that WITHOUT employing those evil strings.
    Personally, I don't have a problem muting &/or controling the dynamics of OPEN strings. Then again, I only play a 4... ;)
  17. another song that uses open strings a lot in riffs (as opposed to chordal playing/ using the open string as a drone) is "Genghis Khan" by Iron Maiden- there's series of quite fast licks that bounce between the open string and the 5th and 7th frets, on the E, A and D strings - that would be pretty difficult using all fretted notes.

    there's a similar thing in one of the verses of "Yankee rose" by Dave Lee Roth.
  18. One of my new favorite songs uses a lot of open E's. On my 4 string ihave no alternative but to use an open E. But since I've been playing my 5 string recently, I use the B-5. It (to me) sounds much more mellow. The song is played on a P bass with a pick, but I'm using a jazz bass with my fingers and it has a very mellow tone. I probably should use my P bass, but it's under the weather at the moment. Anyway, like someone said before about being consistent with the tone, thats what I do when I play the B-5 instead of open E.
  19. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    For years, I didn't use open strings, just because it didn't occur to me. I learned by watching and listening to others, and none of the guys I watched used open strings.

    About 10 years ago, I saw a local guy play a 6 and he used open strings extensively. Kinda caught my interest, so I started incorporating them into my playing. I wound up writing a bass line to one of our originals that makes extensive use of all of the open strings on a 4 string, involving a lot of hammerons and pulloffs. If I hadn't learned to incorporate open strings, one of my coolest bass lines wouldn't have come to be.

    Also, as Phil said, the occasional open string is a great tonal reference for fretless intonation.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think I'm going to agree with Jim more than JT on this one - but it may be a difference, the more strings you have.

    So JT said :"i try to stay away from open strings - once you hit it, you can't control it except to stop it."

    I'm not sure this is true and although I do generally avoid open strings, there are things like "ghost notes" where you can use the open string - slightly muted - to fill in the gaps on things like 16th note grooves.

    So you have a line where it is basically impossible to get to the note you want, in position and in time, but you can use the open string as a muted, percussive "ghost note" in the line. The open string is always there as a possibility and the way you mute it can fool the listener's ear into thinking you played a note they were expecting to hear, but which would have been impossible any other way.
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