Should you "try" to stay away from open strings?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by streetknight, Aug 2, 2011.

  1. streetknight


    May 27, 2011
    My buddy told me to stay away from open strings if possible. Why is this? Should I get in a habit of it.

    If so, would I be better off to tune to Eb or does that make the positions awkward?

  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    Avoiding open strings is pure snobbery. Typical mid-level player attitude who thinks he understood everything about the instrument. The same people tell you you shouldn't downtune.

    The reasoning behind the behavior isn't bad though. You shouldn't lock yourself into boxes but rather be able to change key at will.

    The good attitude is to use them, while being able to avoid them when needed. There are tone differences between open and fretted notes and you should learn to play what fits best for the song.
  3. probably should try to avoid it usually. Avoid when you want to sound more lyrical...or if you use a fretless so you can get some vibrato in there :D again if you use a fretless, you can check intonation.

    the open string is just more twangy than a fingered note. you can sometimes tell an inexperienced bassist by the loud, awk open strings thrown in randomly. it messes up phrasing, mainly

    don't tune down, it sounds impractical
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    The advantage:
    Once you get aways from open strings, you begin to see each pattern you play as a "closed position" 4 fret span. This helps you learn the moveable 'box' shapes of scales and patterns without being dependant on open strings for specific notes. This helps you understand some of the abstract patterns that music takes. It also helps you play many patterns without much left hand movement. It also makes control of the notes under your left hand more consistent. So it has its pluses.

    the disadvantage:
    The patterns in music go way beyond 4 fret "boxes", and ultimately you want to understand the way the scales/arpeggios fall on your entire neck, and be able to choose where you play freely.
    Open notes also have a timbre that is different than fretted notes.

    In the end, know both and use what your ear tells you is best.
  5. XtheDeadPawn


    May 24, 2008
    Ever heard a 5 stringers open B?
    Know how many bassists use that open string? ALOT.

    Why avoid something it's a fricken string you hit it it makes noise. It was made to be used/played like that.

    You want to downtune go ahead don't listen too Extrinsic impractial is a word used by bassists afraid to experiment.
  6. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Using open strings is fine, but keep in mind that a lot of lines that you may be trying to learn are based on the concept of not using open strings.
  7. NOAH_FX


    Aug 12, 2010
    Ottawa, Canada
    I find it hilarious someone posted right after you, with the exact snobbery you spoke of... I'm hoping it's a talented troll, however it may be a none talented troll :(
  8. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010

    Coming from a double bass background, I can tell you that you can't make open strings speak with the same wood growl as fingered notes and open notes stand out like a sore thumb. As mainly a fretless electric player for years, the same thing is true, although to a lesser degree than on double bass.

    On fretted bass it's not so much an issue, but your statement was not couched in any framework such as the type of bass of which we are speaking - it was a broad brush.

    All this said, I do still use open strings at times to facilitate large intervalic leaps or to set up pedal tones, etc.
  9. wideyes


    May 9, 2007
    Eugene, OR
    I like the sound of not only open strings, but notes toward the nut in general. I like to try playing things down there even if they're more feasible elsewhere on the neck. The tone is, to me, richer and more full of sustain.

    No, don't bother arguing about it. It's all preference.
  10. orangeball


    Jul 12, 2011
    To me, IMHO, as far as my ears can tell, the lowest B note on a 4 string sounds better on the E string than the A string. I always try to play an A on the E string, not the A string, too:)
  11. wideyes


    May 9, 2007
    Eugene, OR
    Maybe you just don't like your A string?
  12. oy thank you :p

    maybe it's more of a fretless thing. i use both, but I find that I use the open strings more before I've mapped all the fingerings. (or when I'm not confident I can get the note in pitch, more likely). definitely not a rule and both can be used to good effect...but I typically find that I play more evenly without the open strings.

    and no, sadly i was not trolling. was typing before his response popped heh.
  13. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Unless you're playing 8th- or 16th-note runs, in which case most ears wouldn't notice. Not to mention the fact that avoiding open strings for those passages could potentially make them much more difficult. 1/4, 1/2, or whole notes should be fingered for the reason you stated. :cool: This goes for EB and DB.
  14. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Yes, of course. A general rule of thumb is that you don't add vibrato (and hence the ear wouldn't perceive wood growl or vibrato voicing) to anything shorter than a quarter note; of course the metronome setting isn't mentioned, so it's more of a qualitative rule of thumb than a quantitative rule of thumb.

    All that said, I do use open strings, even on double bass sometimes, but I strive to play closed notes as a matter of technique and habit; relying on open strings when needed, not as a default. To suggest that this makes me either a snob or a mid-level player, or both, is something I'm going to speak out against.

    (I'm not saying I'm not either or both, but not because of either of these two factors.) :spit:
  15. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's

    I don't play open strings frequently -

    They sound different than the fretted note
    They are harder to stop sounding
    If you learn a tune with open strings it is harder to change keys.

    But if you want the biggest note - THEN you play it open. (IMHO)
  16. IPA

    IPA Supporting Member

    May 5, 2010
    You probably should, which is why I don't. :spit:
  17. orangeball


    Jul 12, 2011
    Yeah, it sounds all weird and stuff!
  18. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    I avoid open strings when I can, to me fretted notes sound better, easier to play in different keys and cause less problems when I swap between E & Eb tuning.
  19. Saying "Avoid open strings" is kind of silly. Obviously it depends on what the song calls for, but there's a time and a place for everything.

    If someone said "Only play an A at the 7th fret of the D string. NEVER play it at the 2nd fret of the G string," you would look at him like he's insane. It's the same note, but they're completely different in terms of percussion, timbre, and sustain. And any seasoned bass player will know when and how to use them. Same thing for open strings.
  20. Onlyhestands


    Aug 2, 2011
    I tend to avoid them, unless fingering would become very awkward without them. Personally I don't like the tone from open strings much.