Including open strings in the chords you play is a quick way to expand your sound and stretch out over a wide sonic space. Ringing open strings against various chord forms can create unique overtones and beautiful colors only possible through multiple octaves of notes ringing simultaneously.
The inspiration for some of these open-string chords comes from Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. His chord-voicing technique always favors a distinctively dissonant tonality, which takes a traditional root note chord progression and transforms it into something special, such as songs like “Impossible Germany” from the Grammy-nominated Sky Blue Sky.
Another reason open-string chords are useful is they train your finger dexterity and intonation. Some chords require longer stretches than others, so you have to be sure your fingers are arched properly to avoid muting the open string. The longer the stretch, the more potential you have to create an open-string chord that will have people wonder, “What chord is that?”
There are many open-string chords, but I've chosen 12 of my favorites, some of which are practical to use in your guitar playing, some of which are just for fun, but still sound great on their own. If you're looking for a complete list of various chords and their inversions, check out my course Guitar Super System.
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric website Music is Win. His entertaining guitar-related content receives hundreds of thousands of video views on Facebook per month, and his online guitar courses tout more than 1,500 students with a cumulative 4.7 rating on Udemy. Get in touch with Tyler on Facebook, watch more of his guitar lessons and vlogs on YouTube, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.