The seven string guitar is a powerful instrument that’s revolutionized the world of music. In this 7 string guitar tuning guide, we’ll delve into the art of tuning seven string electric guitars, as well as equipping you with knowledge & techniques to master this extended range instrument.
The seven string guitar’s rise has been nothing short of remarkable. It was first popularized in heavy metal and progressive music, but it has since spread to a variety of genres, including rock, jazz, fusion, and even classical.
The seven string guitar adds a low B string into the mix when compared to a six string guitar. This extra string opens up a whole new world of possibilities for musicians, providing extended range, enhanced chord voicings, & expanded melodic options.
Furthermore, mastering the seven string guitar requires a deeper understanding of guitar tunings, and techniques for maximizing the instrument’s tone, balance, and playability. The added string presents unique challenges and opportunities, making it essential to embrace these differences. This article will cover standard tuning, alternate tunings, practical tips for maintaining tuning stability, and a few inspiring seven string artists to explore.
Related: How To Tune an 8 String Guitar
Related: How To Tune a 9 String Guitar
Understanding the Anatomy of A Seven String Guitar
To fully grasp the essence of a seven string guitar, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with its unique anatomy. While the added seventh string seem like a simple addition, it significantly alters the instrument’s dynamics & opens up a world of possibilities.
One fundamental aspect to explore is standard seven string tuning. In this standard tuning, the open strings are typically tuned to B, E, A, D, G, B, and E from low to high.
The inclusion of the low B string adds depth and richness to your playing, providing a lower register that can be utilized for heavy riffing, crushing power chords, a wider range of melodies, and an overall heavier sound.
Aside from tuning, it’s critical to understand how the additional string has an affect on scale lengths and neck design of the instrument. To accommodate the lower-pitched B string, a longer scale length (the length of the playable string from the nut to the bridge) is frequently used.
These longer scale lengths help to maintain a balanced feel and sound by ensuring proper string tension and intonation across all strings. Furthermore, the neck design may include a wider fretboard to facilitate comfortable finger placement and the precise execution of complex chords or intricate solos.
Finally, when considering string gauges for a seven string guitar, it’s crucial to strike a balance between tension, playability, and tone. For the lower-pitched open strings (B, E, A, and D), opting for slightly heavier gauges, such as .056 to .068, can help maintain sufficient tension and clarity, especially for down-tuned or extended-range playing.
As for the higher-pitched open strings (G, B, and high E), lighter gauges ranging from .009 to .011 can facilitate faster playing, bending, and soloing.
However, finding the right string gauges is ultimately a personal preference, and it’s recommended to experiment with different options to discover the ideal combination. When it comes to drop tuning your instrument, you will also likely need heavier gauge strings to balance the tension.
How To Tune A 7 String Guitar (Standard Tuning)
To tune a seven string guitar to standard tuning, which is the most common tuning, follow these simple steps:
Prepare your guitar: Ensure your guitar is in good condition, with proper string tension and stable tuning pegs.
Start with the low B string: Pluck the low B and adjust the tuning peg until it reaches the desired pitch. The tone from the tuner & from your guitar should match in unison.
Next, tune the low E string: Move on to the E string and adjust it to match the correct pitch.
Tune the remaining open strings: Proceed to tune the A, D, G, B, and high E string one by one, ensuring each string matches its respective pitch.
Once you have all your guitar strings tuned, give them a 2nd check to make sure they’re all still 100% accurate and you’re all set!
Seven String Guitar Alternate Tunings
If 7 string standard tuning wasn’t versatile enough, here’s a few different tunings to explore if you want to venture beyond the norm.
Drop A Tuning
In this tuning, the low B string is dropped down to an A, resulting in A, E, A, D, G, B, and E from low to high.
It’s commonly used in heavy and extreme metal genres, providing a deep and powerful low end.
Open G Tuning
This tuning offers a rich, open sound. The open strings are tuned to D, G, D, G, B, D, and high E.
It is widely used in slide guitar playing and can create unique voicings and resonant tones.
Djent is a genre characterized by heavy, palm-muted riffing and intricate rhythm patterns.
The tuning often used is F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, which allows for tight, chugging riffs with added depth in the lower register.
Jazz Fusion Tuning
This tuning is popular in jazz fusion and allows for extended chord voicings and complex harmonies.
The open strings are tuned to Bb, E, A, D, G, B, and high E, providing a wide range of possibilities for chord progressions and melodic exploration.
Related: How many guitar tunings are there?
Tips and Best Practices for Maintaining Tuning Stability
Maintaining tuning stability is crucial for any guitarist. Here’s a few tips to help you maximize your time playing your instrument & minimize the hassle of having to constantly re-tune.
Proper String Installation and Stretching:
To ensure optimal tuning stability, it’s crucial to install your strings correctly. Make sure to wind the strings neatly around the tuning pegs, avoiding excessive slack or overlapping.
Additionally, stretch the strings after installation by gently pulling and tugging on them while tuning up. This process helps to settle the strings and minimize future tuning issues. We recommend doing this at least a couple of times to really stretch the string out. It’s like spending a few minutes up front, while saving yourself the hassle in the future.
Truss Rod Adjustments:
The truss rod plays a vital role in maintaining the neck’s proper curvature, which can affect tuning stability. If you notice persistent tuning problems, it might be worth checking the truss rod or guitar neck in general.
Seek professional guidance if you’re unsure, but minor adjustments to the truss rod can help optimize neck relief &contribute to stable tuning.
Nut and Bridge Maintenance:
A well-maintained nut and bridge are essential for tuning stability. Ensure that the nut slots are properly lubricated to reduce friction and binding.
Periodically clean the slots and consider using a suitable lubricant, such as graphite or nut-specific lubricants. Similarly, ensure the bridge saddles are properly adjusted and free from any debris or corrosion, allowing the strings to move freely during tuning.
If using extra thick guitar strings, make sure your guitar nut has ample enough space to accommodate the added string gauge.
Temperature and Humidity Considerations:
Temperature and humidity fluctuations can have a significant impact on your guitar’s tuning stability. Extreme temperature changes, high humidity, or low humidity can cause the wood to expand or contract, affecting the instrument’s overall setup.
Try to store your guitar in a controlled environment, avoiding exposure to direct sunlight, excessive heat, or extreme moisture levels. Consider using a humidifier or dehumidifier to maintain stable humidity levels, especially in regions with significant weather changes.
Failing to consider these things can cause neck warping, fret sprout, and cracking so be sure to keep your instrument protected!
Seven String Guitar Players & Bands
Looking for a bit of inspiration? Here’s a handful of bands & guitarists who are known to favor the sound of a 7 string guitar. Check them out & if you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to comment below!
Guitarist John Petrucci of progressive rock band Dream Theater is known for incorporating a seven string guitar into the band’s progressive metal compositions, adding depth to their music.
Fear Factory is a pioneering industrial metal band known for their heavy and aggressive sound. Guitarist Dino Cazares has utilized a seven string guitar extensively throughout their discography, contributing to their signature blend of metal, industrial, and electronic elements.
The nu-metal pioneers Korn introduced the seven string guitar to the mainstream in the 1990s, contributing to their distinctive and heavy sound.
The Swedish metal band Meshuggah is renowned for their use of seven string guitars, which contribute to their signature heavy and intricate sound.
This is a legendary death metal band that has embraced the use of seven string guitars in their music. Guitarists Trey Azagthoth and Erik Rutan have incorporated the extended range to create a darker sound and menacing tones, adding depth and intensity to their brutal and technical compositions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are 7 string guitars harder to play?
Playing a seven string guitar can present both challenges and benefits, but whether it is more difficult to play ultimately depends on the guitarist and their level of experience.
The extra low string may necessitate some changes in playing techniques, such as navigating wider fretboards and adjusting to the added range.
However, once you’ve mastered it, it opens up new creative possibilities and allows for more chord voicings, a slightly darker tone, and melodic options.
Many guitarists discover that playing a seven string guitar becomes a natural and rewarding experience with practice and adaptation, providing a unique sonic palette and increased versatility.
Are 7 string guitars just for metal?
No, seven string guitars are not limited to the metal genre. While a seven string guitar is commonly associated with metal music due to its extended range and ability to produce heavy and aggressive tones, they have also found a place in a variety of other genres.
The seven string guitar has also been adopted by musicians in progressive rock, jazz fusion, experimental, and even pop genres. Consider checking out Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Krantz, or Charlie Hunter.