Suppose you want to hit E5 (which is 0 fret on 1st string) in a passage of your solo, what are the reasons you'd pick the open note or the closed note on 5th fret 2nd string?

In general for electric guitar, I always pick the closed note whether it's distorted or clean tone. I find the extra control on muting very useful for amplified sound.

I am not so sure for the case of acoustic guitar solo. Open note sounds louder and attack is stronger. Since the sustain is nowhere as long as electric guitar, I don't find the sound muddy. However, I find that the synchronization is a bit weird. My left hand and right hand are typically in sync. For fretted note, fret and pick occur at the same time. For open note, my left hand has to "pause" a bit.

4 Answers 4


As already stated in other answers, it’s situational and subjective.

One way I find it useful to play open notes is on bass strings, when I want to allow them to sustain and slowly decay while I progress with the melody on treble strings an octave or two higher.

Additionally, I sometimes play open treble strings in a similar way. Generally it’s in lower positions, often within a lick that also uses the same note closed, as a way to vary tone within the lick, as well as keep the note ringing while the melody progresses through additional notes.

Here’s a quick tab of a G Major blues lick that does this. Apologies if my notation is substandard, I don’t often write tabs, but at least this shows the notes and whether they’re open or closed:

G blues lick with open and closed notes

Allow the open notes to sustain while the rest of the lick is played, especially the last double-stop G/D (the first open B is tough not to mute when you hit that next note on the G string, but that’s okay, it still works.)

As you can see, Major 3rd (B, in red) is played at the same pitch, both open and closed, to different effects. The first one, on the open B string, is plucked and sustains at least until the next note is played on adjacent G string, whereas the second one (4th fret G string) can be hammered onto from the preceding Bb, and mutes as soon as the finger is removed to pluck the following open G note. It gives this simple 3-note semitone phrase a different flavor than is typically accomplished by playing that note the same way both times, whether both open or both closed.

  • Thans for choosing my answer, I’m glad it’s helpful. I’ve realized since posting that I wrote the tab upside down, and have fixed it. Low E string is now at bottom of tab.
    – wabisabied
    Jun 14, 2021 at 22:36

This depends on a particular situation. Open string sounds brighter (the harmonics are louder) than the fretted notes so it's a question of which sound connects better with the other notes. There is no objective answer.

Also you can't bend or vibrate an open string, at least not with the regular techniques. Your remark on muting is valid as well.

Concerning technical difficulty, this is certainly something that you can achieve with a bit of practice.

By the way, the top open string of a guitar is E4, not E5, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guitar#Standard


Depending on several factors.

As already noted, the sound of an open string is quite different from fretted strings. Were it a short note, amongst many other short notes, it would not sound out of place, played by someone who knew what to do.

As a long note, it can work, although vibrato or bending , as previously stated, are usually out of the remit. But, if playing that note open means a hand position can be changed (no need to hold on to a fretted note) then it's a good idea.

A good player will be able to play an open string to sound like a fretted one, the picking will be different, but that's quite feasible. And if the piece involves alternating between that open string note and several other notes (there's probably a term for that), that's something which the guitar has used for ever.

The synchronisation shouldn't be an issue to a seasoned player.


This is extremely situation dependent.

Are you playing a scale run up in the 5th position, or some type of arpeggiated chord pattern in the open string position? Depending on your answer I think the sensible thing to do is play whatever is closest to the other notes in the pattern and creates continuity of sound in the passage.

If your left hand has to pause then you need to practice. You are probably not familiar with the technique. You could also play finger style on the acoustic (and electric) creating more opportunities to be in sync (or out of sync depending on you level of development).

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