As I’m drawn to ringing dissonances, blues notes, and passing tones, I try to incorporate open strings in a melody whenever possible. Against a moving line, sustaining open strings can create an eerie, beautiful effect. Here’s an example of this coloring technique. It’s the theme for “The Girl with the Red Eyes,” from my CD Loose. Don’t be intimidated by the notation–the music is easier to play than it looks.
We’re in C minor. Notice how the open-B string rings after the b5 blues phrase. This lets you stretch the tonality to a Cm/maj7. In bar 6, the open-B and open-G strings chime over Eb, blending the 3’s resolution with the tension of an augmented 5. The behind-the-nut bends (bars 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12) sound like pedal steel. They’re most comfortable on Fender-style headstocks. For better leverage, press about an inch from the nut with your fretting hand’s 1st finger.