Using open notes in riffs is easy. Using open notes within a solo is not. Not only do you have to analyze the context of the solo, find the best fitting notes, and worry about the progression, but you also have to worry about your intonation. If your guitar is not properly intonated, your open notes will be a disaster.
In this article, we will discuss how you can incorporate open notes into your solo tastefully.
The first thing you need to do relates to our first paragraph; check your intonation! When you are playing a guitar solo, chances are you aren’t using the first two frets only. Most likely, you will be playing past the twelfth fret.
This means that once you hit your open note, if your intonation is off, it will sound awful. Not only will it be blatantly obvious that you are out of tune, but the rest of your solo will suffer from that one mishap.
Don’t let it happen; check your intonation. If it is off, even in the slightest, get to work fixing it. The tiniest nuance in your tuning will make a huge mark upon your listener’s ears.
Next, you should learn your intervals. If you don’t already know your musical intervals, you will need to learn them. You don’t need to memorize each and every single one by ear, but it is best that you know them in relation to the fret board. This will make finding the right notes easier.
Knowing the placement of the intervals on the neck will allow you to find your basic triads in case you want to outline them, your sevenths in case you want to move further than a triad, as well as your octaves. One of the most common uses of open notes within a solo is the octave.
All octaves are twelve frets away on the same string. This means that if you are playing a note on the twelfth fret, an easy way to incorporate an open note is by following up with an open note on the same string.
Another great way is to outline the triad using the open note as the root. This works great for arpeggios. If you are playing a C Major supertonic triad, consisting of the notes D, F, and A, you can play the root D as an open string and the F and A notes as fretted notes.
Another cool trick is if you have a guitar with a strong nut, you can bend the open notes behind the nut. This technique is common among bluegrass players, as it adds a twang to the notes.
Open notes can also be used to build legato on the lower strings. Creating hammer on and pull off patterns using the first four frets and the open notes can tie your notes together.
The best way to learn how to use open notes is to try. Open notes won’t work in every solo. The only way you can discover if they will is to try different techniques. Have fun, and keep an open ear.
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