How To: Tuning An 8 String Guitar

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Extended range guitars have more than six strings, allowing a wider range of notes to be played. The 8 string guitar, which adds two additional strings to the standard six string guitar, is a common example. The two extra strings are typically a low F# and low B, providing the guitar with an extended lower register range compared to a standard guitar. In this article we’ll go over what goes into tuning an 8 string guitar & other related questions.

Related: How to tune a 7-string guitar

Tuning An 8 String Guitar Cort KX508MS

Related: How To Tune a 9 String Guitar

How To: Standard tuning an 8 string guitar

For starters, there’s many ways to tune an 8 string guitar, but one common tuning as mentioned previously, is F# B E A D G B E – This guitar tuning is a variation of the standard guitar tuning with the addition of the low F# & B.

There is also the “Galbraith Tuning” which adds a low AND a high string to the standard 6-string tuning, resulting in B E A D G B E A – We also write briefly about Paul Galbraith, who invented an 8 string guitar called the “Brahms guitar” in our article that cover the number of strings on guitars. 

Common 8 String Tunings:

Standard Electric – F♯ B E A D G B E
Galbraith Tuning – B E A D G B E A

How To: Drop tune an 8 string guitar

Common 8 String Drop Tunings:

Drop E – E B E A D G B E
Drop D – D A D G C F A D

Why Would You Need an 8 String Guitar?

An extended range guitar such as an eight-string guitar is a versatile & unique instrument. It’s one that can open up new creative possibilities for guitarists looking to explore new sounds, textures, and techniques. While they have had a big resurgence in recent years, the sonic territory is still largely unexplored.

Extended Range: With two additional strings, an 8 string guitar provides easier access to a wider range of notes, especially in the lower register. This makes it well-suited for playing heavier styles of music like metal and djent, where lower tunings are often used to create a more aggressive and powerful sound.

Unique Sound: An 8 string guitar also has a distinctive sound & striking appearance. This can help you to stand out from other guitarists and create your own signature style. If you’re looking to carve out a niche in a crowded & competitive music industry, this can be particularly useful.

Chord Voicings: It’s not all about playing super low & heavy. The additional strings on an 8 string guitar also allow for more complex & interesting chord voicings. This can be useful for musicians who want to experiment with more intricate and harmonically rich compositions.

Fingerstyle Playing: The wider fretboard of an 8 string guitar can also make it easier to play fingerstyle, as there is more space to work with between the strings. This can be useful for musicians who prefer to play without a pick or who want to experiment with different playing techniques such as tapping.

Soloing: An 8 string guitar also provides more notes to work with when soloing, which can allow for more melodic and expressive playing without having to bolt up & down the neck.

Personal Preference: Some guitarists simply prefer the feel and sound of an 8 string guitar, even if they don’t necessarily need the additional range or chord voicings. It’s a matter of personal preference and what feels most comfortable and inspiring for the individual player. If you’re not sure if this instrument is right for you, definitely check one out when you get a chance!


Related: How to tune a 12-string guitar

How To Keep A Tight Sound on Extended Range Guitars

Keeping a tight sound on an extended range guitar can be difficult, as the additional strings and lower tunings can make the sound muddy or unclear. Here are some pointers to consider:

Use Appropriate Strings: Choosing the right strings for your guitar is crucial in maintaining a tight and clear sound. You may want to experiment with different gauges and types of strings to find the ones that work best for your playing style and tuning.

Adjust the Action: The action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard) can have a significant impact on the sound of your guitar. Adjusting the guitar’s action can help to reduce any fret buzz you might have & ensure that the notes ring out clearly.

Control Your Playing Dynamics: Pay attention to your playing dynamics, as playing too hard or too soft can affect the clarity of your notes. Aim to play with a consistent level of force and focus on precision and accuracy in your playing. You could also experiment with using a compressor pedal to level out your notes to the same output level.

Use the Right EQ Settings: The EQ settings on your amplifier or pedals can also help to maintain a tight sound. You may want to experiment with different settings to find the ones that work best for your guitar and playing style. If the sound is a bit too flabby & bottom heavy, try reducing some of the low bass + boosting some mid-frequencies to clean things up.

Use A Drive Pedal: Consider experimenting with a drive pedal such as a Tubescreamer or something more niche like a Horizon Devices Precision Drive.

Practice Proper Technique: Finally, practicing proper technique is key to maintaining a tight and clear sound on an extended range guitar. Focus on playing with good form, using the appropriate amount of pressure on the strings, and minimizing unnecessary finger movement. This can help you to produce a clean and precise sound, even in lower tunings or with more strings.

meshuggah signature guitar

Frequently Asked Questions

What Tuning Does Meshuggah Use?

Meshuggah is known for using a unique and innovative tuning system that they developed themselves, called “Djent tuning.” This tuning is characterized by its extended range and the use of eight strings on the guitar. In their earlier days, they relied more on 7 string guitars since 8 string instruments weren’t as readily available. They would then commonly tune to Bb (Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb), which is a half step down from standard tuning for 7 string guitars.

When the band moved to 8-string guitars, it made sense for them to begin performing in the same tuning but with an extra F on the lowest string:
F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb

This tuning allows for a wide range of powerful low, and it’s ideal for Meshuggah’s distinctive rhythm guitar style, which features complex polyrhythms and syncopated grooves. It’s also a popular tuning for many other progressive metal and djent bands, as it provides a lot of flexibility and versatility for the guitarist.

How Are 7 & 8 String Guitars Tuned?

Because seven and eight-string guitars have more strings that allow for a broader range of notes and lower tunings, they are often tuned differently than ordinary six-string guitars. The following are some popular tunings for seven and eight-string guitars:

7-String Guitar Tunings:

Standard 7-String Tuning: B E A D G B E
Drop A Tuning: A E A D G B E
Drop G Tuning: G C F Bb Eb G Bb

8-String Guitar Tunings:

Standard 8-String Tuning: F# B E A D G B E
Drop E Tuning: E B E A D G B E
Drop C# Tuning: C# G# C# F# A# D# G# C#

There are numerous different tunings for seven and eight-string guitars that guitarists utilize, and these are just a few examples. To fit their playing style and musical tastes, some guitarists may employ other tunings or design their own unique tunings. Feel free to use these as starting points & venture out if you feel like experimenting.

Related: Standard Tuning In Guitar: How To Do It & What You Need To Know (6 string) fanned fret multiscale extended range guitar by strandberg

What Frequency Should I Tuned My 8 String Guitar To?

The frequency that you should tune your 8-string guitar to depends on the tuning you want to use. The most common tuning for an 8-string guitar is the standard tuning, which is F# B E A D G B E. This tuning allows for a wide range of notes and is often used in progressive metal and djent styles.

If you’re not sure what tuning to use, you may want to experiment with different tunings to find the one that best suits your playing style and musical preferences. Some guitarists prefer lower tunings, such as drop E or drop C#, which provide a heavier and more aggressive sound. Others may prefer higher tunings, such as standard tuning or drop D tuning, which allow for more flexibility and range in playing lead lines.

It’s important to note that all instruments are typically tuned to A=440 pitch frequency, which is also known as “concert pitch”. You should use this unless you are feeling experimental and mostly play by yourself.

Who Plays 8 String Guitars?

Here are 10 guitarists who are known for playing 8-string guitars:

  • Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders)
  • Meshuggah (Fredrik Thordendal and MĂĄrten Hagström)
  • Javier Reyes (Animals as Leaders)
  • Misha Mansoor (Periphery)
  • Charlie Hunter
  • Aaron Marshall (Intervals)
  • Stephan FortĂ© (Adagio)
  • Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal
  • Mark Holcomb (Periphery)
  • Josh Travis (Emmure, Glass Cloud)

These are just a handful of the many outstanding musicians that play the 8-string guitar. Each of these guitarists has a distinct playing style and approach, and they have contributed to broaden the possibilities of what may be accomplished on an extended range guitar.

How Many Octaves Does An 8 String Guitar Have?

A normal 8-string guitar has a range of roughly 3.5 to 4 octaves, depending on the tuning and scale length of the guitar.

In standard tuning, an 8-string guitar has a range that extends from F#1 (the lowest string) to E5 (the highest string), which spans a range of about 3.5 octaves. However, different tunings or scale lengths can increase or decrease the range of the guitar accordingly.
What Is An 8 String Guitar Called?
An 8-string guitar is simply called an 8-string guitar. However, sometimes it may also be referred to as an “extended range guitar” (ERG), as it offers a wider range of notes than a standard 6-string guitar.

There are also subcategories of 8-string guitars that may have more specific names based on their design or tuning, such as the Fanned Fret 8-string guitar, Baritone 8-string, or even a Brahms guitar. However, they’re generally just referred to as an 8-string guitar, regardless of its specific design or tuning.

multiscale fanned fret extended range guitar

Why Do 8 String Guitars Have Slanted Frets?

8-string guitars with slanted frets typically have what is called a fanned fret or multi-scale design. This design is used to optimize the intonation and playability of the guitar by compensating for the differences in tension and scale length between the bass strings and the treble strings.

The slanted frets allow the bridge to be angled so that the scale length is longer for the bass strings and shorter for the treble strings. This helps to maintain proper intonation across all of the strings, and also allows for a more comfortable playing experience by aligning the frets with the natural positions of the fingers.

Another benefit of the fanned fret design is that it can help to improve the tone and clarity of the individual strings, as each string is allowed to vibrate more freely without being affected by the tension of the neighboring strings. This can be particularly important for extended range guitars like 8-string guitars, which can benefit from increased clarity and separation between the low and high strings.

Why Are Fanned Frets Better

Fanned frets on a guitar can offer a number of advantages over traditional parallel frets as mentioned in the previous section. While this does not make them inherently “better”, here are a few reasons why fanned frets may be considered the optimal choice:

Improved intonation: The slanted frets can help to compensate for differences in string tension and scale length, resulting in better intonation across all strings.

More comfortable playing experience: The fanned frets can help to align the frets with the natural positions of the fingers, making it more comfortable to play complex chord voicings or fast runs across the neck. This can also help to reduce hand fatigue and strain during long playing sessions.

Better tone and clarity: The fanned frets can help to improve the tone and clarity of individual strings which is especially important with ERGs.

Versatility: Fanned frets can make a guitar more versatile and suitable for a wider range of playing styles and musical genres. The improved intonation, comfortable playing experience, and better tone and clarity can make the instrument more expressive and adaptable to different musical contexts.

Overall, fanned frets on a guitar can offer a range of benefits that can enhance the playability, intonation, and tonal quality of the instrument. However, it is important to note that fanned frets may not be ideal for everyone, and some players may prefer the traditional parallel frets for their own playing style and preferences.

What Is The Point Of A Zero Fret

A zero fret is a fret that is placed directly in front of the nut of a guitar. Its purpose is to set the correct string height and to serve as a point of contact for the strings, just like any other fret on the guitar.

The main advantage of a zero fret is that it helps to ensure consistent string height and proper intonation across all strings. With a zero fret, the nut only needs to provide lateral spacing for the strings, without having to worry about setting the correct height for each individual string. This can help to simplify the manufacturing process and ensure that the guitar is set up correctly from the outset.

zero fret diagram

In addition, a zero fret can also help to improve the tone and sustain of the guitar by providing a solid point of contact for the strings. This can help to transfer more of the string’s energy to the guitar’s body, resulting in a more resonant and sustained sound.

Overall, the point of a zero fret is to provide a consistent and solid point of contact for the strings, while also helping to simplify the manufacturing process and improve the tone and sustain of the guitar. While not all guitars use a zero fret, it can be a useful feature for those looking for a more consistent and reliable playing experience.

Why Would You Want Scalloped Frets

Scalloped frets are a type of fretboard design where the wood between the frets is removed, leaving a concave depression in the wood. The depth and curvature of the scallops can vary, but the basic idea is to create a greater distance between the fretboard and the strings, allowing for easier bending and vibrato.

Here are some reasons why someone might want scalloped frets on their guitar:

Improved bending and vibrato: The main advantage of scalloped frets is that they can make it easier to perform bends and vibrato techniques. The lack of wood between the frets allows the strings to move more freely, giving the player greater control and expressiveness.

Lighter touch: With scalloped frets, the player can get a similar effect to a high action or heavy gauge strings with a lighter touch. This can be particularly useful for players with weaker fingers, or those who prefer a more delicate touch.

Improved note clarity: Some players believe that scalloped frets can improve the clarity of individual notes, as the lack of wood between the frets allows the string to vibrate more freely and with less damping.

Unique playing experience: Scalloped frets can offer a unique playing experience, allowing the player to produce a range of expressive techniques and tonal effects that may not be possible with a traditional fretboard design.

scalloped fretboard

Overall, scalloped frets are a matter of personal preference, and not everyone will find them to be useful or desirable. However, for players looking for a more expressive and unique playing experience, scalloped frets can offer a range of benefits that may be worth exploring.

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About The Author:

I've been a guitar player for going on 20 years now. I love to play everything from classic rock to metal & want to share some things that I've learned along the way.

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