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 (opens in new tab).
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win (opens in new tab). His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.