This month, both guitar journal entries are about using open strings to play scales. This entry gives you a fast lick to practice, making use of a C scale starting at the 8th fret of the low E-string.

Naturally, you can use a capo or retune the guitar to make this possible in any key, but the most obvious key choices for a guitar in open tuning would be keys that contain the notes of all the open strings. This means that the keys with flats fall away pretty quickly (again, unless you tune the guitar down), since in the key of F, we have a B♭, and in the key of B♭ we already have a B♭ and an E♭.

So the keys that work best contain the notes E, A, D, G, and E (open strings on the guitar). These are:

Key of C: C D E F G A B C
Key of G: G A B C D E F# G
Key of D: D E F# G A B C# D
*Somewhat* in the key of A: A B C# D E F# G# A – (The open G string will work if you use it as a passing tone leading up into the G# to the A). It will work best as an A blues (A7 based), but that is really the key signature of G, due to the ♭7 degree, G.

So, to build up a vocabulary of open string licks, it is best to concentrate on learning scale shapes using open strings for the keys of C, G, and D. That simplifies things; you don’t need to feel like you have to learn them in all 12 keys. You can easily expand your repertoire to include the keys of B (C♭), G♭ (F#), and Db (C#) by tuning the guitar down 1/2 step.

This lesson focuses on the C scale at the 8th fret of the low E-string. Here is that scale, over one octave, in tablature:

To make the picking flow smoothly (no string-skipping picking required!), pick the fretted notes, and pluck the open string notes with the middle- or ring finger of your picking hand. This will seem very awkward at first, as pick a string that is lower than a previous note, but the notes you pick sound higher. Work on it slowly, and you will get used to it in time. I made sure to play it slowly, step-by-step, in the video so this makes sense. It took me years to figure out wat guys were doing when I heard these kind of licks! I hope my slow explanations help you get it faster than I was able to.

Now, here’s the complete lick in tablature. Pardon the lack of bar lines, and refer to the video for how this should sound:
————0———-6—-9(bend up)————9-8–6————0—————————-
—-0———7-8————————————————-8-7——– 0———————-
——-6-7——————————————————————8—- 6-7—————–
-8———————————————————————————— -8————–

These kind of licks always look ridiculous in tablature! In notation, they look too simple… It’s all about the picking and the articulation of the notes to create flowing 8th-note phrases.

In a future entry, I’ll go over all the useful scale forms in the keys of C, G, and D. This should keep you busy for now. Thanks again for watching and reading.