open chords on electric guitar

WHY Do Open Chords Sound Bad On Electric Guitar?

Are you strumming open guitar chords on your electric guitar but finding that it sounds bad?

This can be a common issue.  Here are some things you might need to know.

Why do open chords sound bad on electric guitar?

The main reason why open chords sound bad on an electric guitar is improper technique in the way you play the chords.  It is important to make sure that you are:

  • Holding the strings down properly to prevent fret buzz.  
  • Not pressing down too hard on the strings and pulling them out of tune.
  • Not playing too far back on the frets.  You want to make sure that your fingers are positioned close to the frets while playing the chord.
  • Avoid muting other strings that you are not fretting unless the chord requires them to be muted.
  • Strumming the right strings.  For example, an open D chord is played with only the four top strings without the low E and A.
  • It’s just a cheap guitar with cheap electronics.

These apply for both electric and acoustic guitars.

Other Reasons Your Open Chords May Sound Bad

Aside from playing technique, some other things may be causing a bad chord sound – this applies to both open and barre chords:

  • The guitar may be out of tune.
  • The guitar’s setup and intonation may be wrong.  In this case, you may need a professional guitar setup job done to set the proper intonation.
  • The amps settings may be not right for open chords.  For example, sometimes with a lot of distortion, open chords don’t sound good.

Are Open Chords Bad?

No.  Open chords are not bad.  They are important chord forms on electric guitar.

  • They are easier to play than barre chords.
  • And the more you practice them, the better you will get at playing them with proper technique.
  • You can use them in different songs and in different musical styles.

The reason why open chords “sound bad” is that most beginner guitarists play them with improper technique and this makes the chords sound bad.

How Do You Make Open Chords Sound Good On Electric Guitar

There are a number of ways to improve the sound of guitar chords on your electric guitar:

  • Practice and get better at playing open chords.
  • Use different amplifier settings.  Experiment with your amp’s tone stack and see if you can dial in a good guitar tone for your open or barre chords.
  • Check the intonation and setup of your guitar.  A quick way to do this is to compare the open string note with the 12th fret note on a string.  If they are not the same note and the 12th fret note is a little sharp or flat, you have an intonation issue and need a guitar tech to take a look at it.

My Guitar Is In Tune But Sounds Bad

This sounds like you are not playing the chords properly and just need some more practice with them. However, there are some things you can do to get a better sound from your chords:

  • Be sure that you aren’t muting other strings when playing a chord.  This used to be a problem for me when I was a beginner.
  • Make sure that your fingers are placed right behind the frets and not too far back on the neck.  If your fingers are too far back on the neck, it will make the guitar sound out of tune.

Why Do Open Chords Sound Bad With Distortion?

This is due to the fact that distortion adds more high frequency content to the sound.  When you play chords with distortion, it will make the sound bulky and sharp.

The solution is to use less distortion (maybe even none at all).  You can also use a different amplifier setting by rolling off some of the bass or treble frequencies.

To me, distortion sounds best with power chords.

How To Improve Open Chords Sound On Electric Guitar

Here are some things you can do to play open chords on your electric guitar so they sound good:

  • Practice playing chords with less distortion.  You can also start by playing them through a clean amplifier setting so you aren’t adding heavy distortion.  You can experiment with different amp tone controls and see what sounds best for your chord sound.
  • Experiment with different types of open chords.  Open chords are usually satisfying for most people to play on an electric guitar, but some of them sound better than others.  This is because of the frequency content of the chord.  For example, an open A major chord will sound different than an open E major chord.
  • Practice playing chords on different parts of the fretboard.  This can give you a more complete musical experience.
  • Experiment with new techniques for playing chords on your electric guitar.


If you are having issues with your open chords, you might want to consider doing some research to see how other people play the same chord on their electric guitar. This will not only help you improve your technique, but also give you ideas on how to be creative with these chords.