There’s nothing quite like the tone of open strings on an acoustic guitar. While barre chords still sound great in their
own way, an acoustic guitar really gets to strut its stuff when some open strings are allowed to ring out. Here we’re
going to take a look at riffs that make open strings, both low and high, an integral part of their sound.
Let’s start out with a simple exercise to help illustrate the concept a bit. An easy way to get your feet wet with drones is to simply
take an open-position chord and move the fret-hand shape up to the respective IV and V chords of that key while allowing the open
strings to continue to ring. If we were in D for example, the I chord would be D, the IV chord would be G, and the V would be A.
what this would look like:
If we try the same thing in C, the chord shapes would be C, F, and G. Check out the interesting harmonies created here with the open
E and G strings ringing.
Here’s the same idea in the key of E. The shapes are built off the E, A, and B chords, but the resulting harmonies are much more interesting
than the typical I–IV–V variety.
Now if we apply some different technical treatments to these chords, such as strumming, Travis Picking, and arpeggiation, we end up
with some unique riffs. Maybe something like these:
This type of approach can be used with all the diatonic chords of a key—not just the I, IV, and V. Here we’ll move up diatonically
through the keys of D, A, and E. Pay special attention to the colorful harmonies that are created by the open-string drones.
Key of D:
Key of A:
Key of E:
By including an expressive device, such as slides, things can get even more interesting. Try the examples below to hear this approach.
Even something as simple as a power chord can sound fresh when combined with droning strings.