SOLOING STRATE­GIES: OPEN STRINGS

Australian Guitar - - Technique -

Some­thing’s been bug­ging me. No­body seems to know how to mute their damn strings any­more. I’m not talk­ing about the good old-fash­ioned ‘chugga-chugga’ metal mute; I’m talk­ing about stop­ping un­wanted strings from ring­ing out while you’re play­ing a note or a chord. And yeah, you can buy all sorts of pro­mo­tional-logo’d string mutes to stick on your gui­tar right down by the nut to stop those stray string noises, but for me, that would just be an­other thing to lose along with half a dozen Jazz IIIs ev­ery week. And what hap­pens if you find your­self handed an un­fa­mil­iar gui­tar in a jam sit­u­a­tion? You don’t have a fret wrap on you, and you’ve spent your life up un­til that mo­ment let­ting those fuzzy lit­tle bug­gers take care of clean­ing up your play­ing so you don’t have to. What hap­pens then, huh!?

Aright, al­right, a dis­claimer: there are some in­stances where these do-dads are a good idea – par­tic­u­larly if you’re into a lot of two-handed tap­ping. But some­thing I heard in a Marty Fried­man clinic once re­ally stuck with me: he likes those stray har­mon­ics, semi-ran­dom string noises and the weird sym­pa­thetic over­tones you get from choos­ing ex­actly when and when not to mute. He feels that it adds more hu­man­ity and vi­brance to cer­tain mo­ments. And that’s not com­ing from an anti-tech­nique player: Fried­man is one of the most in­cred­i­bly tal­ented shred­ders you’ll ever hear. The dude knows what he’s do­ing.

I per­son­ally feel that a fret wrap is a great tool for the right mo­ment, but I see some play­ers who won’t solo with­out one, and I feel like they’re re­ally short-chang­ing them­selves when it comes to cool open-string licks and the like. Yes, you can ad­just a mute so that it’s only min­i­mally af­fect­ing open strings, but then they’re not as ef­fec­tive at over­all mut­ing.

Any­way, this is all just a long way of say­ing, “Here are some cool licks you can’t do if a fret wrap is mess­ing up your open strings.”

FIG­URE A

This is a sim­ple pull-off lick which is slightly in­spired by Brett Garsed’s solo in John Farn­ham’s “Two Strong Hearts”. It has a nice bounce to it, and when per­formed prop­erly, it gives you some in­ter­est­ing lit­tle grace notes. As you go from the fret­ted note to the open string, pull the string slightly to­wards the floor. This helps to sound the open string more loudly, and it also adds a very slight mi­cro-bend to the very end of the fret­ted note. It’s the kind of ef­fect that’s al­most too sub­tle to con­sciously per­ceive, but you can feel it.

FIG­URE B

This one is kind of in­spired by the badarse open­ing unac­com­pa­nied solo in Gary Moore’s “End Of The World” – although you re­ally should track down the ac­tual song to hear how great it is, be­cause this isn’t any­where near the ac­tual lick. Try play­ing the same pattern on dif­fer­ent strings, let­ting dif­fer­ent open strings ring out.

FIG­URE C

This is one of my favourite licks ever. Mute the strings with your left hand, hit those open strings hard with the pick and then ham­mer each of the fret­ted notes re­ally solidly for a very per­cus­sive and al­most ro­botic sound. Take this lick fur­ther up onto the other strings and see where it takes you – it sounds great and it looks even bet­ter. Again, I’m not against string mutes: I think they have a time and a place, and they can be re­ally help­ful in the stu­dio. But don’t let them be­come a crutch that pre­vents you from fully mas­ter­ing your in­stru­ment, and don’t let your­self miss out on some of the cool things that can hap­pen when you ex­plore open strings.

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