Seven string guitars are popular among metal and hard rock guitarists who want to have a wider range of notes to work with. Usually they are used to add really low notes to sound darker and more aggressive, like with djent.
They can also be used for other styles of music, but they might be a bit overkill if you’re not planning on doing a lot of shredding.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend sticking with a six string guitar. But if you’re feeling ambitious or the music played with it is really your thing, you can get started right away with a seven string and skip the traditional six altogether.
They are just like regular guitars but with a wider fretboard. That’s what can make them slightly harder to play, plus you need the learn how to combine the added string in your chord progressions and solo’s.
There are not a lot of changes you have to make to the design of a guitar to make it a seven string, that’s why a lot of popular metal guitar models also offer a seven string variant you can buy.
In this post we'll cover:
Differences between six and seven string guitars
- The bridge needs to be able to accommodate seven strings, as does the nut
- The headstock is usually slightly bigger to fit 7 tuning pegs, often 4 on top and 3 on the bottom
- You have to have a wider neck and fretboard
- The neck is usually of a higher scale to account for the lower string to be in tune across the neck
- You have to have specific pickups with 7 poles instead of six (and are slightly wider)
The knobs and switches and guitar body can overall be exactly the same as their 6 string counterparts.
Benefits of a seven string over a six string guitar
The main benefit of a seven string guitar is the extended range of notes that it offers. This can be particularly useful for metal and hard rock guitarists who want to add really low notes to their sound.
With a six string guitar, the lowest note you can usually play is an E, maybe drop D. Anything lower than that will almost always sound out of tune on most guitars.
With a seven string guitar, you can extend this down to a low B. This can give your sound a much darker and more aggressive tone.
Another benefit of a seven string guitar is that it can be easier to play certain chords and progressions. For example, with a six string guitar, you might have to use a barre chord shape in order to play a root 6 interval.
However, with a seven string guitar, you can simply add an extra note to the chord shape and play it without having to use a barre. This can make some chords and progressions much easier to play.
How to tune a seven string guitar
Tuning a seven string guitar is similar to tuning a six string guitar, but with one extra note. The lowest string is usually tuned to a low B, but it can also be tuned to a different note depending on what sound you are going for.
To tune the lowest string to a low B, you can use an electronic tuner or a pitch pipe. Once the lowest string is in tune, you can tune the rest of the strings to the standard EADGBE tuning.
If you are using a different tuning for the lowest string, you will need to use a different method to tune it.
For example, if you are using an alternate tuning with a low B, you can use a method called “drop tuning”. This involves tuning the lowest string down to the desired note, and then tuning the rest of the strings relative to that.
Artists that use a seven string guitar in their music
There are many popular artists that use a seven string guitar in their music. Some of these artists include:
- John Petrucci
- Misha Mansoor
- Steve Vai
- Nuno Bettencourt
Who invented the seven string guitar?
There is some debate over who invented the seven string guitar. Some say that Russian guitarist and composer Vladimir Grigoryevich Fortunato was the first to use a seven string guitar in his composition “The Cafe Concert” in 1871.
Others say that Hungarian guitarist Johann Nepomuk Mälzel was the first to use a seven string guitar, in his 1832 composition “Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots”.
However, the first commercially available seven string guitar was not released until 1996, when luthier Michael Kelly Guitars released their Seven String Model 9.
The seven string guitar has come a long way since it was first invented, and is now used by many popular artists in a variety of genres.
If you’re looking for an instrument with extended range and versatility, a seven string guitar might be the perfect choice for you.
How to play a seven string guitar
If you’re used to playing a six string guitar, the easiest way to start is to just play like you normally would, avoiding the lowest B string.
Then, when you want to sound extra dark and growly, start adding the lowest string to your chord and start chugging away.
Lots of guitarists use this with palm muting to get a very staccato aggressive sound.
As you get used to the extra string more and more, you’ll see additional patterns you can play into your chords and licks.
Remember, the low B is just like the B string next. to the highest E string, so you already know how to go from the E string to a B string on the guitar, now you have that same pattern but with very low and interesting sounding notes!
A seven string is a great addition to your arsenal and it’s overall pretty easy to get into once you see what you’re doing.
Although outside of metal you will rarely see them being played, that’s because it’s primarily used to get those low staccato chugging sounds.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
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