Extended Range Guitars 1: Introduction To The 7 and 8 String Guitars

by Christian Melendez

7 String Guitar

7 String Guitar

The guitar is a multifaceted instrument, one of the few that is incorporated into many genres of music in this day and age.

I was always attracted to the tonal qualities of a guitar, and having played for some time, I was looking for the next logical progression in my musicianship.

That's when I picked up a 7 string guitar.


First off,I cannot express my love for this instrument enough.

The 7-string guitar became prominent in alternative rock when Korn featured Ibanez Universe guitars on their 1994 debut album. Capitalizing on the massive low end produced by the 7th string (typically a low B), Korn and other nu-metal acts combined alternative metal stylings with rap and grunge influences.

This period marked the high point in the instruments popularity, as many manufacturers jumped on the seven string bandwagon and manufacturers who had been producing sevens expanded their offerings.

The trend eventually passed, but many guitarists were introduced to the extended range of a seven string guitar during this period who might not have otherwise been.

This was offset by a growing stigma that a seven string guitar was a "nu-metal" instrument, fit only for heavy riffing. This was ironic as both Korn guitarists Munky and Head remember being told in their early days that the seven string guitar couldn't be used for riffing, as it was seen as a shredders delight.

Since the early 1990s, many heavy metal guitarists have started using seven-string instruments (John Petrucci of Dream Theater and Trey Azagthoth and Erik Rutan of Morbid Angel, Stephen Carpenter from Deftones), seeing the possibility for detuned riffing while preserving full range of the guitar for solos.

However, the seven string guitar failed to really catch on at this phase in its development.

Originally of Russian descent, the earliest music composed for a seven-string guitar was in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 15 December 1798. The school was owned by Ignác František Held .

Nowadays, its a niche instrument, most associated with jazz and metal musicians. Besides being used by solo artists, seven-strings are also used by Mathcore bands and in other progressive genres.

Band such as Textures, Unearth and Periphery use seven-strings because of the low palm-mutes it produces and the extra range it provides.

Some examples of tuning:


8-String Guitar

The 8-string guitar is a good compromise between the 7 and 10 string guitar. The 8-string is usually tuned 7=D 8=A. However, some pieces require one string tuned to C. Advantages:

  • Full range of bass notes chromatically from A an octave lower than the 5th guitar string, on up to the drop-D string.

  • 19-century model smaller scale and skinny neck facilitates access to all 8 strings, even barres.

  • Ability to play Baroque transcriptions at original pitch.

  • Play Baroque 8-course lute pieces from the originals.

  • Play drop-D pieces with access to the normal 6-string and drop-D fingerings.

  • Low D and A vibrate sympathetically with 2 open strings.

The 8 string electric guitars used by Meshuggah, Asesino, Rusty Cooley, James Shaffer of Korn and other metal artists are most often tuned in regular 4ths, with two extra basses (Low to High) F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E.

Fredrik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom of Meshuggah tune their 8 string guitars F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb, and one and two semitones below this tuning.

Andrew Says:

Wow, Christian, what a fantastic first lesson! You obviously have an incredible grasp at the guitar, and I can't wait to see what you have for us next!

Stop by any time with more knowledge to share!

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