Using 6-string As A 7-string Guitar

author: UG Team date: 07/31/2003 category: the basics
rating: 9 / votes: 11 
With many metal bands, nu-metal in particular, using seven strings, there is an increasing demand on guitar manufacturers to make seven strings, so that fans can play just like thier seven-string-wielding heroes. Many manufacturers are now making seven strings, including: Ibanez, Jackson, ESP, Ltd, Yamaha, Washburn, Carver, Epiphone, Squire and B. C. Rich. For people heavily into bands such as Korn, Orgy and Fear Factory, buying a seven-string is usually the best option. However, people who want to play just a couple of Korn or Fear Factory songs, buying a seven string is not economical. This lesson is aimed at these people. I will outline the options avalible, and my own personal techniques for playing certain songs that require a seven string. Detuning. I hardly ever use this technique, although others swear by it. You take your normal six string tuned to EADGBE, and tune it down to BEADGB. These are the pitches of a normally tuned seven string, minus the top string. However, tuning this low with a set of. 09's make the strings flop about and creates heavy buzzing of the strings against the fretboard when played. The strings also drift out of tune very quickly, especially when played hard. These problems can be allieviated in part by changing the strings to a heavier set. When I do this I use 0. 12's or 0. 13's. Anything lighter just doesn't sound good. Also, using this method, very high soloing is impossible, but large string bends are made much easier with the lower tension. A trade off for the lower tension is that excess pressure when fretting a note will cause it to go noticeably sharp, and tone is usually lost around the 18th fret on guitars under $600, with buzzing and fret muffling. For people with Floyd Rose style trem systems however, this is almost as uneconomical as buying as seven string, because unless you can do it yourself (and that still takes time and effort), you have to get your trem restrung with heavier guage strings and tuned down, and then recalibrated for the lower tension, which will cost around 60 ($90). Then you can't play high solos or normal scale shapes, so you either adapt, or shell out some more to get it restrung and retuned again. (If I sound bitter, I am. It cost me 135 in all. ) Some Guitars are custom-built for this sort of tuning, such as the Yamahah Drop-6 and the Fender Subsonic. However, these are expensive alternatives, the Drop-6 costing 300 (450) and the top of the range Subsonic 2000 ($3000). 'Octaving'. This involves either playing the piece an octave up, see Figure 1, or playing an octave up then one down through a pitchshifter set to six tones down, or a Digitech (preferably) Whammy Pedal set one octave down. Playing a hard, heavy riff on the 5th and 4h strings instead of the 7th and 6th, to be honest, sounds crap 90% of the time, so again, I don't usually use this technique. Playing through a GOOD whammy pedal/pitchshifter can give you monstrous heavy riffs just like Dino Cazares etc. but if you play through some knock-off second hand multi-fx pedal's pitchshifter, you're gonna get a pants honky growly 'Satch-gone-mad' sound. Figure One-Intro style riff on 7 string (BEADGBe), and on 6 string (EADGBe) one octave up
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-0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0---
B(b5)                                                                         
       B5      E       B5 

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-----------------------------------2b3r2------------4-----
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--------1--------------3-2-3-2-----------3-2-3-2---------- 
------------1-0-1-0-----------1-0-1-0--------------------- 


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-----------------4-----------------4----------------4--------
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-2--2--2--2-2----2--2--2--2-2--2--2--2--2-2---2--2--2--2-2---
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B(b5)                                                                         
       B5       E       B5 

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------------------------------------5b6r5------------------
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--------3--------------5-4-5-4-----------5-4-5-4----------- 
-------------3-2-3-2-----------3-2-3-2--------------------- 
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A variation on this can be used to sound slightly closer to the original, by playing the notes within a six-string's register as they were originally, and not an octave up, as in Figure 2. Figure Two-Intro style riff on six string (EADGBe) in 'semi-octaved' style.
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B(b5)                                                                         
       B5        E        B5 

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-------3--------------5-4-5-4--2b3r2--5-4-5-4--4------------- 
-----------3-2-3-2------------3-2-3-2------------------------
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Admittedly, there's not much difference, although the arpeggiated B(b5) chords could be played as in Figure 3, but while correct in theory, it sounds stupid. Figure Three-1st phrase of intro style riff played as near as possible to seven string on six string (EADGBe)
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-2--2--2--2-2--2--2--2--2--2-2--2---------
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B(b5)
Switching Key. I never used to use this method, but it's growing on me. It does seem like cheating, but you only really notice the difference when you play it against the original. Basically, what it involves is playing every note 2 1/2 tones higher than the original to transpose a seven-string to a six string. Really, that's usually same fret, one string higher, or 5 frets up on the same string. When doing this, the lowest note, B on a seven string, becomes the lowest note, E on a six-string. See figures 4-7 for examples. For notes above the 16th/17th/19th fret (depending on what sort of guitar you own) transpose them up normally to an 'imaginary fret' (a fret above the number your guitar has) 2 1/2 tones above the original, and then take them down an octave from the 'imaginary fret'. See figures 9-11 for a demonstration. Figure Four-Intro style riff on seven string (BEADGBe)
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-0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0--
B(b5)                           B5      E        B5 


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------------------------------------2b3r2------------4-----
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Figure Five-Figure Four transposed 2 1/2 tones or switched from key of B to key of E
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-----------------2-----------------2----------------2------
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-0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0---0--0--0--0-0-
E(b5)                                  E5      A        E5 

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-------------------------------------2b3r2------------4-----
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----------1--------------3-2-3-2-----------3-2-3-2---------- 
--------------1-0-1-0-----------1-0-1-0---------------------
Figure Six-Riffery on a seven string (BEADGBe)
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-4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4--------2--
-4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4--------2--
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 P.M        P.M                 P.M        P.M           P.M   

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----2h4p2----------------------------------------------------
--------4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4-----
--------4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4-----
-----2--2--0-0--2---2--0-0--5----4--2---2--0-0--2---2--0-0---
       P.M                P.M        P.M 

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--------------4/6\4---------        
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B5     Bsus4   B5
Figure Seven-Figure Six transposed up 2 1/2 tones or switched from the key of B to the key of E
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-4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4--------2--
-4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4--------2--
-2--2--0-0--2--2--0-0--5--4----2--2--0-0--2--2--0-0---------
 P.M        P.M                 P.M        P.M          P.M   

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----2h4p2---------------------------------------------------
--------4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4----
--------4--4--------4--4---------7--6---4--4--------4--4----
----2--2--0-0--2--2--0-0--5--4---2--2-0-0--2--2--0--0-------
       P.M                P.M        P.M 

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---------------4/6\4--------- 
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-----2/4\2------------------- 
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E5 Esus4   E5
It sounds the same, only not as heavy. If you're playing in a band, a good way to make it sound deeper and heavier is to get your bass player to play 'double' or 'twin' figures with you. Basically, they play the same thing as you, but an octave lower. See figure 8. Figure 8-Accompanying Bass (Tuned: EADG) to figure seven.
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-2--2--0-0--2--2--0-0-----4---2--2--0-0--2--2--0-0--0-----
E5                Esus4   E5 

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-2--2--0-0--2--2--0-0------4--2--2--0-0--2--2--0-00-------

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Kick ass! Figure Nine-B pentatoic piece on seven string (BEADGBe)
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0-(let ring)-----------------------------------------
Bmin 

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--------19h21-----------------------------21--------21------21--
-19h21----------------------------------------------------------
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Figure Ten-Figure Nine transposed up 2 1/2 tones to 'imaginary frets' (from key of B to key of E)
-------------27p24-----------------------------------------
--------27----------27b29----------------------------------
-24h26--------------------24h26----------------------------
---------------------------------26p24----------------24h26
---------------------------------------26-------24h26------
------------------------------------------24h27------------
-5-(let ring)----------------------------------------------
Bmin 

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-24h26-26h27p26p24----24--------24------------------
-----------------------------26--------26--------26-
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Figure Eleven-Figure Ten transposed down one octave on a six string (EADGBe)
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------------15-----------15b17---------------------- 
--12h14-------------------------12h14---------------
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-0-(let ring)---------------------------------------
Emin 

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---------------12h14--------------------------------14--------14--------14-
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-12h15---------------------------------------------------------------------
Even though the rest of the piece is one octave down, the low E has just been left as it was, as moving it an octave down would have put it well out of the guitar's register. If you want to make this technique quicker, just take every note down 7 frets (3 1/2 tones), but I demonstrated it the long way for clarity. When doing this however, be careful not to just switch to the next (lower) string and move two frets down, as this creates lots of extra work with fingering on the sixth string. Also, around the second and third string, because of the third string tuning you have to shift over a string and take it down three frets. Inversion. This is all very well, you may be saying to yourself, but the whole point of a seven string is growly power chords and sledge-hammer riffs, and how the hell do I do them on a six-string? The method I use to get the power of a seven string is 'invert' a power chord. Played with distortion it sounds almost identical to the original. Basically, and inverted power chord is a normal 3-note power chord without a bass root note. It's called an inverted power chord, because the 5th is lower than the root. This applys to seven strings, as a power chord with a root on the seventh string can be played identically on a six string as a double stop, whilst retaining the sonic characteristics of the original. Figure Twelve-Power Chords On Seven String (BEADGBe)
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-2------3------4------5------6------7------8------9--
-2------3------4------5------6------7------8------9--
-0------1------2------3------4------5------6------7--
B5    C5   C#5  D5   D#5 E5    F5   F#5   G5    G#5  

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---10------11-----12-----13-----14--------------
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----8-------9-----10-----11-----12--------------
   A5   A#5   B5(no.2)                         
Figure Thirteen-Figure Twelve played on a six string
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-2------3------4------5------6------7------8------9--
-2------3------4------5------6------7------8------9--
B5    C5   C#5  D5   D#5 E5    F5   F#5   G5    G#5  

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---10------11-----12-----13-----14--------------
---10------11-----12-----13-----14--------------
 A5   A#5   B5(no.2)                           
This sequence can be made to sound heavier, if slightly less authentic, by playing normal power chords when the sequence comes within natural range of the guitar's register, as in Figure 14. Figure Fourteen-Altered seven string derivative power chord sequence.
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-----------------------------------------2------3---
-2------3------4------5------6-----------2------3---
-2------3------4------5------6-----------0------1---
B5    C5   C#5  D5   D#5      E5    F5   F#5  G5    

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---4------5-------6------7------8------9-- 
---4------5-------6------7------8------9-- 
---2------3-------4------5------6------7-- 
G#5  A5   A#5  B5(no.2)                   
For an even more authentic sound, you can add a third note to the double stops, making them a suspended shape, but still sounding like a seventh string powerchord. When played with an upstroke and meaty distortion, they growl like a caged lion. Figure Fifteen-Figure Fourteen with sus2 type double-stop power chords.
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-4------5------6------7------8-----------2------3----
-2------3------4------5------6-----------2------3----
-2------3------4------5------6-----------0------1----
B5     C5    C#5     D5     D#5         E5     F5    

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--4------5-------6------7------8------9--  
--4------5-------6------7------8------9--  
--2------3-------4------5------6------7--  
 F#5    G5      G#5     A5   A#5  B5(no.2)
Figure Sixteen-'Revenge' by Papa Roach. Example of sus2 type double stop power chords. Six string (EADGBe)
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-2----2----4--------5----5----4---------2----2----4----
-2----2----2--------3----3----2---------2----2----2----
-0----0----2--------3----3----2---------0----0----2----
E5    B5   C5       B5       E5        B5        C5    

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----5----5----4-4-4-4-x-7-7-7-7-x-5--4---4--4-4---4-4-
----3----3----2-2-2-2-x-5-5-5-5-x-3--2---2--2-2---2-2-
----3----3----2-2-2-2-x-5-5-5-5-x-3--2---2--2-2---2-2-
   B5         D5        C5       B5               D5  

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x-7-7-x-5--4---4--4-4-
x-5-5-x-3--2---2--2-2-
x-5-5-x-3--2---2--2-2-
 C5 B5               
Find A Bass Player. The Papa Roach tab above is an example of sus2 type chords being used to sound heavy without a seven string. The guitarist, Jerry Horton, tunes down to drop-D (DADGBe), so the pattern of the sus2 is different but it's there. How Papa Roach and many other bands manage to sound really heavy with normally tuned guitars is thzat thier bass player plays the same notes as the power chords/ riffs they're playing, just an octave (or even two) lower. The Bass line for the above riff might go like this Figure Seventeen-'Revenge' by Papa Roach. Example of twin bass & guitar figures. 4-string bass (EADG)
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E5        B5      C5       B5       E5       B5   C5      B5 

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--3----2-2-2-2---------------3--2---2--2-2---2-2-------- 
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D5C5B5                  D5  

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--3--2---2--2-2-----------------
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C5 B5                          
But how does this apply to a seven string? Simple. If you play either the sus2 doublestop type chords, or just the plain double stops, and politely ask your bass player to play the missing root note or else, you'll be combining your great talents to play as a seven string. Figure Eighteen- Combined bass (EADG) and six string (EADGBe) playing as seven-string
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-----------------------2----------------6h7p6--4--2-----------
-2----2----5-x-4----2-----2----2----------------------2----2--
-2----2----5-x-4----0-----2----2----------------------2----2--

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--------------2---------------7--9-------------
--5-x-4----2-----2----2------------------------
--5-x-4----0-----2----2------------------------

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-2----2----------4-----------2----2---------------------2----2
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B5      D5 C#5 E    B5       E                B5      D5 C#5 E

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    B5       A                                
Find a bass player, and make up some of your own riffs and stuff. For single notes on the seventh string, there are few options. They can either be played as double stops, or as single notes an octave up, but neither retains the impact of the original. If you have a good whammy pedal, use it for single note lines. If you don't have a whammy pedal, use double stops. If the original note is palm-muted, then palm-muted double stops can sound almost identical, as in this example, the bridge from 'Shoots and Ladders' by Korn. See below for an explanation of the different tuning. Figure Nineteen-'Shoots and Ladders' by KoRn. Example of single notes on a seven string (ADGCFAD) played on a six string.
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------------4-3-----------4-3---------------4-3----------4-3---
-2/3-3-3----4-3--3-3------4-3--2/3-3-3------4-3--3-3-----4-3---
P.M.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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-----------------4-3-----------4-3---------------4-3----------4-3--
----2/3-3-3------4-3--3-3------4-3--2/3-3-3------4-3--3-3-----4-3--
 - - - - - -I                                                      
 C5 

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-------------4-3------------4-3-----------------4-3-----------4-3--
-2/3-3-3-4-3-4-3--3-3-4-3-4-3--2/3-3-3-4-3-4-3--3-3-4-3-4-3--------
-2/3-3-3-----4-3--3-3-------4-3--2/3-3-3--------4-3--3-3------4-3--
P.M.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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---------------------4-3------------4-3----------------4-3----4-3--
2/3-3-3-4-3-4-3--3-3-4-3-4-3--2/3-3-3-4-3-4-3--3-3-4-3-4-3---------
------2/3-3-3--------4-3---3-3------4-3-2/3-3-3------4-3-3-3--4-3--
- - - -I                                                                
C5
If you play doublestops for single notes with distortion, the two seperate notes will blend into each other, and sound a lot like the original seventh string note, especially if palm-muting is involved. Different Tunings. The most common alternative tuning of a seven string is the one employed by KoRn and Fear Factory. ADGCFAD- a whole tone down. This is a tuning highly suited to being played on a six string, as the lowest note, A or A5, can simply be played by an open double stop on the bottom two strings. All notes on a seven string tuned this way are played two frets down. Figure Twenty-'Blind' by KoRn. Example of ADGCFAD tuning transposed to six string (EADGBe)
------------6------------------------------------------------------
-5-5-5-5-5---------------------------------------------------------
-3-3-3-3-3---------------------------------------------------------
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----------------0h2--0h3----0h2--0h3----0h2-0h3--0h2-0h3-6-6-6--0h2
G#(b5)    A5             D#5  A5                D#5 

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-----------------------3-3-3-3-3-----------------------------
-----------------------1-1-1-1-1-----------------------------
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--------------------------------------0h2--0h3----0h2--0h3---
-0h3--0h2-0h3-6-6-6-------------------0h2--0h3----0h2--0h3---

G#(b5)    A5                                        D#5  A5  

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-0h2-0h3--0h2-0h3-6-6-6--0h2-0h3--0h2-0h3-6-6-6--- 
-0h2-0h3--0h2-0h3-6-6-6--0h2-0h3--0h2-0h3-6-6-6--- 
                                                   
                      D#5                         
The problem with this tuning is open string melodies are much harder to work with and let them all ring out when fretted. Chord shapes also pose slight difficulties. In general though, if there are quick single open string notes, they can usually be ignored without detracting to much from the track. Another tuning is drop-A. (AEADGBe) much the same as drop-D, the bottom string being tuned down a whole tone. This is played the same way as the Korn-Fear Factory type tuning. If you can't tune down your six-string to drop-D for some reason, this double stop method can also be used for the low D and D#s that otherwise couldn't be reached, for example: Figure Twenty-One-'Renagades Of Funk' by Rage Against the Machine. Example of doublestopped D5. Six string (EADGBe)
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-5--7----0------5--7---0----5--7--0----3/5---------
-3--5----0------3--5---0----3--5--0----3/5---------
---------------------------------------------1/3---
C  D  D5   C  D  D5 C  D D5 F G
Figure-Twenty-Two-'Between Angels and Insects' by Papa Roach. Example of doublestopped D5. Six String (EADGBe)
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-0--0--0--0--\5--5--5--5--5--5--0--0--0--0--0--\5--5--5--5--5- 
-0--0--0--0--\3--3--3--3--3--3--0--0--0--0--0--\3--3--3--3--3- 
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D5            C5                   D5                C5       

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-5--2--2--2--2--/5--5--5--5--5--5--2--2--2--2--/5--5--5--5--5--5-
-3--0--0--0--0--/3--3--3--3--3--3--0--0--0--0--/3--3--3--3--3--3-
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A5                       C5                  A5            C5
Also this method works for lower six string tunings, such as ones employed by Slipknot, Mudvayne, Limp Bizkit etc. For a full explanation, see my tab of 'Dig' by Mudvayne (Version 7). Finally, I'll tab out the original version of 'Freak On A Leash' by Korn, so you can compare it to my version already posted on Tabcrawler, and see how I've transcribed it for a six string, using some of the techniques above. Hope it helps! Figure Twenty-Three-'Freak On A Leash' by KoRn. Original Version for Seven-String tuned to ADGCFAD.
I-------------12---------------------------------------12---------
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I Intro and Verses- Guitar One, up 8va with pitchshifter          
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Intro and Verses- Guitar Two, with distortion 
D5                            D#5                           D5                

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D#5             D5                D#5  D5    D#5 

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x3 
Pre-Chorus- Guitar One and Two, with distortion. 
D     D(Cbass)           D#5     D 

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I-2-------------4------5------3---
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I Chorus-Guitar One, with heavy distortion 
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I---------------------------------
I-4--4--4--4----------------------
I-4--4--4--4---3--3-4--4----------
I-4--4--4--4---4--4-5--5---3------
I-------------------------------3-
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Chorus-Guitar Two, with distortion 

A              E     F#   F5 

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I-9--9------------9--9--------------------------9--9----------   
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I Bridge part I-Guitar One, with slight distortion and chorus
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|--9--9------------------I-9--9------------9--9----------------
|-----------------------------I--------------------------------
|- - - - - - -  - - - - - -  I P.M.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
|                                                              
|                                                              
|---10--10--------I-------10--10-----------10--10--9-10-9------
|------------------------------I-------------------------------
|------------------------------I-------------------------------
|------------------------------I-------------------------------
|------------------------------I-------------------------------
|------------------------------I-------------------------------
|------------------------------I-------------------------------


|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|----------9--9------------9--9--------9--9-- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  - - - - - - - 
|                                             
|                                             
|-----10--10---------10---------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 
|-------------------------------------------- 


          x3 
Bridge part I-Guitar Two, with slight distortion and chorus 
N.C. 

I--------------------------------------------------------------
I--------------------------------------------------------------
I--------------------------------------------------------------
I--------------------------------------------------------------
I-4---------5------6------7---4---------5------6------7---4----
I-4---------5------6------7---4---------5------6------7---4----
I-2---------3------4------5---2---------3------4------5---2----
Bridge part II-Guitar One and Two, with heavy distortion 

B5          C5   C#5      D5 B5         C5    C#5     D5 B5    

-------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------
-----5------6------7---4---------5------6------7-
-----5------6------7---4---------5------6------7-
-----3------4------5---2---------3------4------5-
    C5     C#5     D5  B5       C5     C#5    D5 


I-----------------------------------------
I-----------------------------------------
I-----------------------------3--3---4----
I-----------------------------4--4---5---3
I-9--9---9--9-9------------4--4---5---3---
I-7--7---7--7-7------------2--2---3---1---
I-0--0---0--0-0-0-0-0-0-------------------
Outro Chorus-Guitar One and Two, with distortion 
A5                         E     F#  F5 

I---------------------------------------------I----------------
I---------------------------------------------I----------------
I-----------------------------3--3--3--4------I----------------
I-----------------------------4--4--4--5---3--I----------------
I-9--9---9------------------4--4--4--5---3----I-9--9---9-------
I-7--7---7------------------2--2--2--3---1----I-7--7---7-------
I-0--0---0--0-0-0-0-0-0-----------------------I-0--0---0-0-0-0-
I Outro-Guitar One, with distortion                I 
I                I 
I-7---------(19)--(7)-------7--------8----5---------I-7--------
I---------------------------------------------------I----------
I---------------------------------------------------I----------
I---------------------------------------------------I----------
I---------------------------------------------------I----------
I---------------------------------------------------I----------
I---------------------------------------------------I----------
A5                         E     F#  F5      A5

|------------------------------ 
|----------------------------0- 
|-----------3--3--3--4---0----- 
|-----------4--4--4--5---3----- 
|-----------4--4--4--5---3----- 
|-----------2--2--2--3---1----- 
|0-0-0-0----------------------- 
|                                  
|                                 x3 
|-(19)--(7)-------7-----8----5- 
|------------------------------ 
|------------------------------ 
|------------------------------ 
|------------------------------ 
|------------------------------ 
|------------------------------ 
  E       F#  F5
Outro-Guitar Two, with distortion and pitchshift There ya go! Until next time, keep the (sic)ness going, and listen to Zack Wylde, kids!
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