I'm working through Alfred's Jazz Guitar Sight Reading Book. It is asking me to play swing riffs in First Position F Major. Should I hit open notes since many notes in standard tuning are in the F Major scale? Or is it trying to teach you to stick with not relying on open strings so that you can move it up the fret board? (The book does nothing to explain, but I'd like to practice right)


It really ought to mention (or even make a big point of) using/not using open strings here. There is little point in playing open strings, for several reasons. The sound of an open string played in the middle of a phrase can sound different from the fretted notes, and often detracts from the fluidity. Using open strings confines the playing to that one key, so no building up skills whereby you could play everything fretted, then move up or down to use the same fingering/strings in another key.

One thing bothers me. Often a phrase on guitar can be played in several different places, here stated '1st position'. Doesn't the text give any clues as to where certain notes are found,I'm guessing it's somewhere near the beginning of the book, where students would need specific guidance.

  • since OP's asking about swing riffs then this is spot on. The problem of course with open strings is that you can't cut the note short by lifting the fretting hand, which is pretty key to swing guitar. – Some_Guy Feb 17 '17 at 9:30
  • Thank you! Initially I had played it with open strings, so I will start practicing properly:D – Kolob Canyon Feb 17 '17 at 15:42

In the interests of learning how to play effectively all over the fretboard, you should probably learn to play without using any of the open strings. That way you will be able to play those same swing riffs in any key simply by changing your hand position up and down the neck. If you use the open strings you will just learn to play them using open strings. There isn't anything "wrong" about doing that (it may bring out some tonal qualities that aren't possible using fretted notes), you just won't be able to play those riffs in any other key that way.

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