Bass Lesson: Open Strings

Bass Advice

Guitar and bass definitely have some limitations in terms of the way our notes our laid out. However, these also offer some pretty cool options in terms of using open strings and being able to jump around the range of our axe at times much easier than other instruments. A lot of you will already do it without thinking about it, but for some it can be an interesting idea to really make use of. Thinking of E, A, D and G as root notes for lines is a good starting point.


Figure A is a groove based around the low E string. All notes can be played with the right hand (­fingers or pick!) but you can also try hammering D to E on beat 2 and B to C# on beat 3 of the ­first bar. In the second bar the semi quaver run on beat 3 can also get some hammer on treatment.


To extend that idea a little further, Figure B again works around the low E string but adds some more pull offs with a descending line of E, Eb and D broken up by the open G note. Beat 4 of the first bar is also a different use of two notes typically side by side on the fretboard (A and G) but that can also be played by utilising the open G note. Bar 2 copies a similar descending line that then leads to an Eb7 to E7 chord sound finished with another open Low E note.


Figure C is a moodier rock sort of vibe. Based around B minor, the ­first bar has the root note and then F# and G quavers played on separate strings. Experiment with getting both notes to ring (rather than chopping them off) and you get a wash of sound that’s almost a bit clashy but sounds great with the feeling of the root note (B) in your head. Bar 2 is a Gmaj7 type sound that uses open A, D and G. Again try getting the last two notes (F# and G) to ring out for some added tension. You can also try hammering on A to B and D to E for a smooth legato sound. Bar 3 is the same as Bar 1 and then we’ve got a D Major to E Minor sounding progression. The last two quavers of the riff walk up from A to A#, which creates some tension that then sounds like it wants to resolve to B (so repeat the riff a few times and get the feeling of that sound!).


Taking some cues from ‘80s rock Figure D is based around G Major and mixes crotchets, quavers and some open string goodness to mix things up. Bar 1 works over a G Major chord and utilises open D and G notes whilst Bar 2 has an E Minor sound. Nothing wrong with just pedalling low E, but this injects some extra melodicism with the F# and G and then the walk up from A and B to the C on Beat 1 of Bar 3. With a C Major sound it then leads to Bar 4 with a cool open D string pedal tone that is the basis of the ascending melody on the open G (C, D, E and F#). Possibly a bit corny for some, but hopefully at least opens up some options rather than just playing root notes and fretted notes the whole time! More next month.