7 String Guitars
Contemporary guitarists searching for a wider and heavier palette of sounds have turned to the 7 string guitar to get their fix of heavy riffs and extended playing ability. The additional low-tuned bottom string has allowed prominent players such as Steve Vai and Stephen Carpenter to take popular shred and metal music to newer heights, as well as introducing further technological advancements into the world of electric guitars.
Metal guitarists aren't the only ones who have found 7 string guitars to be an effective means to extend their playing abilities; traditional players who have existed in Russia during the time of the Czars have been using 7 string guitars to full effect for over a hundred years. Jazz players have also taken notice of the extended range that the 7 string guitar offers, making them a well-rounded playing tool for players of all genres.
A Short History of the 7 String Guitar
The 7 string guitar was very prominent in Russia in the 19th century, and as such, was initially referred to as a Russian guitar. Thought to be an evolution of other Eastern European instruments like the cittern, kobza and torban, the invention of this 7 string guitar is attributed to a man named Andrei Sychra, who is also credited with over one thousand compositions made on this instrument alone. The extended range that this instrument offered musicians and bards of that time provided relatively simple chord structures possible on the fret board, as well as the possibility for alternating bass lines on the 7th string.
In the 20th century, the 7 string guitar was seen in a different light by players in the United States. Prominent jazz guitarists such as George Van Eps and Howard Allen, as well as Lenny Breau had 7 string guitars built for him in the 1930's by Epiphone and Gretsch in the hollowbody and semi-hollow body arch top guitar styles.
The invention of the solid body guitar helped push guitar technology to new heights. One of the first solid body 7 string guitars was conceived by Lenny Breau, and featured a high A string instead of a string that extended the lower tonal range of the guitar. Many other manufacturers such as Fender also jumped on to see the potential of this type of guitar, but the high A string proved to be prone to breaking, and the idea never caught on.
The 7 string guitar experienced renewed interest in the early 1990's when Ibanez put out the Universe guitar, a signature model for Steve Vai that featured a low B string instead of a high A string. Vai toured extensively with Whitesnake using this Universe guitar, and used it extensively in his solo album titled “Passion and Warfare.”
This renewed interest helped bands such as Korn capitalize on the extended low end that a 7 string guitar had to offer. Their debut album featured dark and heavy riffs only possible on the low tuned 7th string, and helped spring the 7 string guitar into popularity. Manufacturers such as ESP, Jackson, and Schecter Guitars soon joined the bandwagon of 7 string guitar manufacturers, putting out their own unique models by the turn of the century.
Many other artists have turned to the tonal potential that the 7 string has to offer for their music. This includes guitarists such as John Petrucci of Dream Theatre and Stephen Carpenter of Deftones who have both put out signature guitars for their respective sponsors. This extended lower range has even been expanded further with the recent release of the 8 string guitar. Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares had a hand in the development of this 8 string guitar, and uses it with his band Asesino.
Models of 7 String Guitars
Many leading guitar manufacturers today have put out 7 string guitars to go along with their regular lineups of 6 string and bass guitars. One of the industry pioneers of the 7 string guitar as we know it today, Ibanez, has been at the forefront of this movement, and has put out many models of 7 string guitars to cater to different price points.
One of these is the Ibanez Universe model, the model that helped catapult the 7 string guitar into favor with contemporary metal guitarists. As a signature model for Steve Vai, this model comes in a variety of form factors and finishes, but all share the same lightning-fast playability and top notch construction to facilitate easy playing across the entire fret board, as well as great sound when played through your amplifier of choice.
Other manufacturers have also made 7 string guitars that are also of noteworthy quality. ESP guitars, another popular brand among metal players, have a variety of 7 string versions of their normal lineup of guitars. The Eclipse, Viper, and M-Series all have 7 string versions while still retaining the familiar profile and playing ability of their 6 string counterparts.
Schecter Guitar Research has also capitalized on the renewed interest for 7 string guitars. The Hellraiser line of guitars also have many metal-oriented 7 string guitars which are also equipped with special EMG pickups to maximize their tonal range for both metal and other genres of music. These easy playing instruments also come in great looking finishes, including flame top maple caps, and matte finishes depending on the guitar you choose. Many 7 string guitars from this brand also come at a variety of price points for the more frugal player.