Open String Licks

Bill Keith's melodic style of banjo influenced some of these open string licks for guitar. Combining fretted notes with sustaining open strings underneath gives the illusion that the guitar has more strings than just six sometimes. It can also give a harp like effect, not quite as convincing as the harp harmonic technique, but that topic would require its own article.

Example 1 is in the key of D and employs the reverse banjo roll (a,m,p). Try to let all the open string notes sustain as long as possible.

Example 2 is way up the fretboard and in the key of E. This resembles a reverse banjo roll as well but starting on the M (middle finger of the right hand). I use this one quite a bit since it sounds a little out of the ordinary, a little less predictable.

Example 3 is in the same area of the fretboard as the previous example, but with some wider right hand leaps and a bluesier sound combing the flat third and major third.
Example 4 is a nice long rockabilly lick in the key of E. It employs some forward banjo roll action (p,m,a) and some reverse (a,m,p) on the way down. Try to play this one as fast as you can over a "Mystery Train" kind of groove.

Examples 5 thru 9 use the same type of descending open string lick that is altered to fit into 5 different keys. It's a good idea to have a bunch of these worked out for multiple keys just in case. Pay close attention to the right hand fingering on these. Pop the hybrid picked notes hard for a nice chicken pickin' effect.



For a printable PDF version of the music, please click for Page 1.

Jeremy Rouse is a Toronto based guitarist who has played for Jesus Christ Superstar (with Ted Neeley) and the 30th anniversary tour of Cats.

Besides performing in the orchestra pit for musicals he has performed with The Big Smoke Big Band, The George Lake Big Band and Swing Shift in Toronto, and has also played with his own group Pre Season Draft, an instrumental Country/Spaghetti Western Swing group.

Rouse was featured on the cover of CMT magazine in January of 2001, and was the guest guitar columnist for Canadian Musician Magazine in February, 2001.

Jeremy Rouse