7 string guitar came to prominence in 1990, when Ibanez released its famous model, Ibanez Universe, on market. It was developed by Steve Vai, who was the first guitarist that played a 7 string guitar live.
With that in mind, you may wonder if 7 string guitar is worth buying. Is it?
7 string guitar is worth trying, at least. If you’re an advanced or intermediate guitar player who likes to experiment, it’s definitely worth to try the 7 string guitar. However, it highly depends on many factors, which will be covered in this article.
Before thinking about getting yourself a 7 string guitar, think about these questions first.
- Is your 6 string guitar just enough for your playing appetites?
- Do you have small hands and arms?
- What kind of music do you play on your guitar?
- Do you like playing guitar with different, drop tunings?
- Are you a beginner when it comes to playing a guitar?
With these questions answered, things should get much clearer.
What’s The Point Of a 7 String Guitar?
7 string guitar provide some features that 6 string guitars don’t have. First one, and the most obvious one, is an additional string.
With that extra string (B string, the thickest one), you can play riffs written and played in dropped tunings. It’s handy when it comes to play certain genres of metal. A lot of bands have their guitars dropped in tuning. First band that comes to my mind is Motley Crue. They tune their guitars a whole step down.
One of the biggest advantage of a 7 string guitar is the fact that you can play both standard tuned riffs, and dropped ones, without tuning your guitar between.
There are other advantages (and disadvantages), as well. We’ll get into that later on.
Do You Need A 7 String Guitar?
To answer this question, let’s get back at the questions presented at the beginning of this article, one by one.
1. Is Your 6 String Guitar Just Enough For Your Playing Appetites?
There’s no need of getting yourself a 7 string guitar if the music you’re playing on your 6 string guitar is sufficient.
In other words; If you’re “only” playing classic rock, blues, country, standard metal etc., 7 string guitar isn’t necessary for you. That’s the case for me, also.
If you like to play riffs written in standard tuning, solos as well, 7 string guitar is not needed.
However, if you like to play some dropped tuning riffs regularly, 7 string guitar is useful.
2. Do You Have Small Hands And Arms?
7 string guitars have bigger and longer necks. That’s obvious, because they have an extra string.
That can easily become an issue for someone with smaller hands. It’s harder to control the strings with bigger necks. Especially if you like to play with highly distorted sound.
Bigger necks demand more control of the strings. If you play some riff (especially hard rock, metal riff), it is crucial to mute all of the unnecessary strings from ringing.
That’s harder to handle when you have to deal with a bigger neck. Palm muting comes to my mind, when I talk about it.
3. What Kind Of Music Do You Play On Your Guitar?
7 string guitar is, as it’s been already said, useful when it comes to playing a dropped tuning songs and riffs. Dropped tunings are mostly present in metal music.
So, if you’re a metal head, 7 string guitar can become an option for you. If you’re primarily classic rock, blues, funky guy – 7 string guitar isn’t necessary.
4. Are You a Beginner When It Comes To Playing a Guitar?
7 string guitars are not the best option for guitar beginners. Beginners struggle with mastering many fundamental guitar techniques.
7 string guitars demand some guitar techniques to be mastered before. For example, palm muting. It’s been already said that 7 string guitars have bigger necks, because of that extra string.
Palm muting is a technique that has to be mastered if you want to be more than a beginner player. Yet, it is harder to perform proper palm muting on a 7 string guitar, because there are more strings to mute with your palm.
Another one is string bending. 7 string guitars have also a longer necks. Usual length of an average 7 string guitar is 26.5″. That’s around one inch longer than a regular 6 string electric guitar.
You can assure yourself by checking the Stringjoy Guitar String Tension calculator, here.
Longer necks means the strings are tighter. Tighter strings are harder to bend, for example. Bending technique is something a lot of beginners struggle with. That’s because for bending you have to have a strong fingers.
Check out the article from this site about string bending.
Anyway, I recommend you to check out this article to see if you’re a beginner or an intermediate guitar player.
Is 7 String Guitar Harder To Play?
7 string guitar is harder to play because it takes time for a guitarist to get used to it. Later on, it becomes as easy to play as it is to play a regular, 6 string guitar.
You’ll see why is that so, in a second.
How Are 7 String Guitars Tuned?
7 string guitars are tuned in a standard way. That means that the extra string (the thickest one), is a B string. Therefore, the strings on a standard tuned 7 string guitars are following: B, E, A, G, B and E.
Of course, nothing stops you from changing the tuning however you want. Usual alternative is to drop the 7th string (B) to A, or to C.
PROs and CONs Of a 7 String Guitar
Let’s now recap all of the advantages and disadvantages of a 7 string guitar.
Soloing on a 7 string guitar provide slightly different experience. How is that so?
Well, think about the standard tuning. Two thinnest strings on a guitar are B and high E. Also, two thickest strings on a guitar are – B and E (low E).
That means that you can solo on B and high E, and repeat that same solo, in the same way, on B and low E. It gives you that additional possibility.
Extended Tone Range
With an extra string, you get additional 5 tones. That may not sound like a lot, but it really can change the way you play, or write, a riff.
Many times, when I want to write some cool riff, I get in that situation when I can’t go any lower on my guitar. Sometimes, going lower is something you really need.
This extended tone range is really cool, especially if you like to play with some really deep and heavy riffs.
Playing Differently Tuned Riffs Without Additional Tuning
As it’s been said, some bands like to have their guitars tuned down. It’s frustrating when you want to play some riffs from those bands. You have to tune your guitar down half a step, or a full step. It’s tedious.
Also, sometimes you just want to play the song from your speakers and then play along with your guitar. If the song that’s coming from your speakers is in dropped tuning, you just can play it along on your guitar!
With a 7 string guitar, on the other hand, you don’t have to tune your guitar every time you want to play a dropped tuning riff.
That’s pretty practical!
If you’re a guy that likes to experiment with the sounds on your guitar, 7 string guitar is a way to go.
With all of the things described above, 7 string guitar will give you more freedom to experiment with it.
Visualization Of The Fretboard
When you take the 7 string guitar and start to play it for the first time, you’ll get that weird feeling.
Everything you’ve used to play on your 6 string guitar have to be played slightly different on a 7 string guitar. For example, let’s say you want to play an open G major chord.
On a 7 string guitar, your middle finger will press a 3rd fret on an E string, but there will be a B string above it.
Another example: Let’s say you start to play Master of Puppets on a 7 string guitar. You start downpicking on an E string – but again, there’s a B string above it.
It is slightly unpleasant to jam on a low E string when you have to watch for a B string not getting plucked.
It takes time to get used to that “new” fretboard on a 7 string guitar.
As it’s been said earlier, palm muting is harder to manage on a 7 string guitar. That’s because the neck is significantly bigger, because of that extra string.
So, yes, palm muting is harder to perform properly, because there are more strings to mute in the first place. For many players, that’s just not pleasant – let’s put it in that way.
Again, 7 string guitar neck is bigger. Therefore, it may not be suitable for someone with smaller hands.
Playing Some Riffs Feels Weird
It’s weird to play some standard, 6 string guitar, riffs on a 7 string guitar. If you like to jam on a low E string, it’s weird to have a B string above it. It’s also harder to play many metal riffs because of that.
This is a matter of personal taste. But, in my opinion, 7 string guitar is uglier than a regular 6 string guitar.
I don’t like the appearance, particularly, I don’t like the fatter neck. It seems unnatural to me.
Again, this is the matter of subjective, personal taste, so keep that in mind. If you agree with me on this, then this is certainly a disadvantage for you, also.
Not For Beginners
7 string guitars are not suitable for beginners for reasons described above. If you’re a guitar beginner, it’s best for you to start on an acoustic guitar. Or at least on a standard 6 string electric guitar.
I hope this article gave you some valuable information and insight about 7 string guitars. If you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’m more than happy about it.
Don’t forget to check out other interesting articles from this site about various guitar topics and issues!
Cheers, and rock on!