Cracking Open String Guitar Licks

Using open strings in guitar solos is a cracking idea that can open up a world of possibilities often ignored by lead guitarists. Open strings tend to work best the major and minor keys of E, A and G as the open string notes are part of the relevant major/ minor pentatonic scales.

Single String Hammer On Pull Off Licks
One of the easiest ways to utilise an open string is to use the E minor pentatonic scale on the E (1st string) to play hammer on and pull off licks. Using the open string as you move up and down the neck enables you to play large intervallic leaps that would be difficult to play if you were trying to fret every note.

Open String E Minor Pentatonic Lick

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Open String E Minor Pentatonic Lick.

A well known lick using an open string is the intro to Thunderstruck by AC DC. In this song Angus Young uses the open B string to pull off notes to create arpeggios followed by a pattern that runs down the B mixolydian mode. Here is an example in a similar style.

Open String Lick Thunderstruck Style

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Open String Lick Thunderstruck Style.

Multiple String Hammer On Pull Off Licks
What can be played on a single string can of course be applied to multiple strings. This example uses the middle G and D strings to further expand what can be played with open strings while moving around the neck.

Kirk Hammet Style 2 Open String Lick

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Kirk Hammet Style 2 Open String Lick.

Drone Strings
Open strings can be used as a drone (think bagpipes not bombers!) to ring out simultaneously with fretted notes played on adjacent strings. This technique can thicken up the sound by having 2 notes played together. This works well when soloing on acoustic guitar as a single note solo can sound a bit thin without overdrive or distortion that helps boost a solo on electric guitar.

Blues players such as John Lee Hooker often used open strings as a drone when playing licks to create a fuller sound while sliding to the same note on the adjacent string. For example sliding to an E on fret 5 of the 2nd string while letting the open 1st string E note also ring out. This can also works while sliding to a B note on fret 4 of the 3rd string and letting the open 2nd string B note ring out.

John Lee Hooker Open String Style Lick

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John Lee Hooker Open String Style Lick.

A drone string can also be used to ring out while playing a melody on the adjacent string. This creates interesting harmonies and while again creating a fuller sound in comparison to a single note melody or solo.

Open String E Drone Lick

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Open String E Drone Lick.

So now it’s your turn to get cracking with incorporating open strings into the licks, melodies and solos you play on guitar.

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