How To Use 7 String Guitar To Enhance Your Musical Expression

With the additional seventh string come several physical and stylistic differences that will totally change the way you approach your guitar playing.

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Are you looking for ideas on how to practice on a 7 string guitar? This is a common occurrence for most guitarists because they are used to playing a standard 6 string instrument. In the end, a standard 6 string guitar and a 7 string guitar are basically the same. However, with the additional seventh string come several physical and stylistic differences that will totally change the way you approach your guitar playing.

In order to become a great 7 string guitar player, you must learn how to get the most out of all the nuances that make 7 string guitar unique. For the rest of this article, I will be showing you various ways to enhance your musical creativity and expression by explaining various approaches for becoming a better 7 string guitar player.

Avoid Overuse Of The Low B String

The first thing a guitarist typically does when he/she gets a new 7 string guitar is immediately start playing around with the new string. In most cases, making heavier' sounding guitar riffs often becomes the main purpose that guitar players choose to pick up their 7 string over their 6 string. This is definitely one of the coolest aspects to playing 7 string guitar. However, the problem is that players often end up in a habit of playing the same style of guitar (rhythm) every time the lower pitch range is used. This will make your guitar playing turn stale very quickly. To avoid this problem and play 7 string guitar more creatively, you must focus on playing with the entire pitch range.

Let me explain:

There are various instruments that use a very large pitch range. For example, the piano ranges from very low notes all the way up to very high notes. If you were to imagine a song being played on a piano, how would it sound? Most likely, you would be hearing a mix of low, mid, and high ranged notes. What if the piano song ONLY consisted of the lowest range notesand lasted 15 minutes? How long do you think it would take before you became bored? Not very long I'm sure. In fact, you'd probably want to add in mid and high range notes pretty quickly to keep things interesting. This is exactly how you should approach playing 7 string guitar. By focusing all your attention on the lowest string, your guitar playing will become too one-sided (and uninteresting). By mixing in the mid and high range, you will help balance out your overall sound.

It is crucial to understand these ideas on pitch range if you would like to create your own music. When I show my guitar students how to write music, I always help them master this area. To become much more creative with balancing pitch range in your guitar playing, see this free lesson on how to play 7 string guitar.

Use A Lead Guitar Playing Style On The Low B String

Due to the lower pitch range that comes with the added string, most guitar players consider the 7 string guitar to be geared toward rhythm playing. This causes them to mostly ignore also expanding their lead guitar' techniques onto the low B string. As a result, these musicians totally miss out on all the interesting new guitar licks that can be made (which are impossible to create on 6 string guitar). If you are not confident in your abilities to play lead guitar or use the low B string, I recommend that you find a guitar teacher who fully understands how to teach 7 string guitar, and can show you how to effectively master these areas in your playing.

Discover And Build Unique Chord Patterns

The 7 string guitar can be used to create many interesting chords that are not possible on a 6 string guitar. In most cases, musicians will use the 7 string guitar to play in a metal style; however, you are not limited to this style alone. The 7 string guitar can be played in a wide variety of different musical genres. With the addition of the extra seventh string, you can give basic guitar chords a much more interesting sound. The coolest part of this is that you can use the low B string to essentially play standard guitar and bass guitar simultaneously!

To demonstrate this, I am going to show you an exercise. First, turn off any distortion settings you have and play through a clean channel on your amp. For this exercise, you will be experimenting with various guitar chords that you may have already learned on 6 string guitar. First, create some chords using only the fifth, fourth, and third strings. Then, combine these chords with the low B string. Next, try this same idea, but use the third, second, and first strings. While you are experimenting with this exercise, pay attention to how different it feels when you are playing the strings closer (in pitch) vs. the strings that are farther apart in pitch. Which one of these do you think sounds more pleasing overall? Once you have decided this, you can begin using this idea in your own 7 string guitar music.

Minimize All Unwanted String Noises

For most guitar players, it is very tough in the beginning to eliminate excess guitar noise coming from any strings that are not being played. This is due in part to the significant change in the physical feel' of a 7 string guitar compared to 6 string guitar. This change comes not only from the additional string, but also from a wider guitar neck. This will take some time for you to get used to. If you want to make your guitar playing cleaner, you need to make it a priority to fix any string noise problems in your technique. Listen closely as you play guitar so that you can hear any extra noise that occurs. Then, use guitar string muting techniques to minimize the noise until only the notes you want to hear remain. To get more help on this, check out this article on eliminating guitar string noise. If you have a lot of trouble playing guitar cleanly, seek out a great guitar teacher who can help you effectively solve this problem.

Play Both Lead And Rhythm Guitar

If you would like to play 7 string guitar more creatively, you must invest time into practicing smoothly transitioning' between rhythm and lead guitar styles. This skill applies as well for 6 string guitar. If you have already worked on this before with only 6 strings, this skill will mostly carry over. However, when playing 7 string guitar, it will be more difficult to switch from rhythm in the lower notes to leads in the higher notes due to the wider guitar neck.

To make improvement in this area of your guitar playing, create two different guitar parts: a rhythm guitar riff (using lower pitches) and a lead guitar phrase (using mostly high pitches). For now, don't worry about making them too complicated. Once you have created both parts, work on combining the two parts together while playing tightly in time' and without any sloppy noises/hesitations during the process of switching from one part to the next. For this exercise, it will be useful to practice with a metronome. Additionally, record yourself playing so that you can listen to any mistakes you have made. This will make it much easier to spot yourself playing guitar out of time'.

The Next Step

Even though the main ideas of this article are not very hard to understand, the majority of 7 string guitar players do not truly know how to apply them. Over time, as you master the points discussed in this article, you will be able to play 7 string guitar with a much higher degree of creativity. In order to reduce the amount of time it will take to play creatively on 7 string guitar, check out this free lesson on 7 string guitar creativity.

To find out how you can play guitar cleaner by getting rid of extra string noise, check out this lesson on eliminating guitar string noise.

About The Author: Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, recording artist and the guitar player for the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He teaches guitar players from all over the world in his online guitar lessons. Visit his website tomhess.net to get free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar playing articles.

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Geldin
    This pretty much sums it up. A seven string is a six string plus one. You've got a little extra range on the bottom, but you've still got everything up top, too. If you go forgetting that, you're missing out on a 6/7 of the guitar's range.
    Andragon
    Incorrect. When you get your 1st Extended Range guitar, play the **** out of the "new" strings. Get it out of your system. It's gonna be ****ing great... and then follow what this guy said.
    DarkWolfXV
    Its great if you want to play, lets say death metal and still want high e for solos.
    Minivirus2
    Many thanks Tom. I've been looking at picking up a 7-string for a couple weeks now and just went to give one a whirl yesterday. As I'm sitting in the store, with guitar in hand, I came to the realization "I have no clue how to play a 7-string." Sure, I could incorporate the B into scales and such, but I didn't know any techniques or songs. With the impecable timing of this article, I believe I'll be picking up that shmexy 7 this weekend and I'll have no problem adapting to it. Again, a big thank you!
    Jim #4
    i disagree with the "overuse" of the low B i think theres nothing wrong with using the lower range to create heavier and deeper riffs. in fact 7 strings usually have better voiced pickups for the low end. unless you have a custom made 6 string it wont sound as good in the lower regions
    MESAexplorer
    Andragon wrote: Incorrect. When you get your 1st Extended Range guitar, play the **** out of the "new" strings. Get it out of your system. It's gonna be ****ing great... and then follow what this guy said.
    I agree completely, this is exactly what I've been saying.
    Iommianity
    MESAexplorer wrote: There is a lot of good info in this report, but I feel like a lot of it is opinion and you're making it a rule. It depends on what you like, how you like to play and what you're playing. Korn and Meshuggah tend to use the lowest 3 strings for 90% of their discography. You can't say their unsuccessful, and you can't say they're not talented. I'm a huge Tool fan, and the simplicity of complicated rhythms on the DAD strings sounds amazing. Good songs don't require the whole guitar. Your opinion is that songs are boring if they're focused on one point.
    That's not really what he was saying at all. He was really talking about adding dynamics to playing a 7 string guitar, as opposed to just treating it like a down tuned 6 string. And I think it's a fine point. Why are you going to add more strings when your objective negates most of them? That's not a judgement on the music written.
    shreddymcshred
    while i don't own one, i imagine one of the greatest assets of the 7 string guitar is the extended range you get in any 4 fret span. With the extra string, you can cut down on downward position shifts
    bastards
    Same happened to me when I first played one of those Ibanez 8 strings. Like the late, great Dimebag once said, "Don't use 7 strings if you can't use 6!!!" The biggest thing is really adapting
    GiMiTiUs
    If you can play 6th string guitar, then you can play 7 string guitar. It takes few days, maybe weeks for someone to figure out how it works. But it's worth it!
    MESAexplorer
    There is a lot of good info in this report, but I feel like a lot of it is opinion and you're making it a rule. It depends on what you like, how you like to play and what you're playing. Korn and Meshuggah tend to use the lowest 3 strings for 90% of their discography. You can't say their unsuccessful, and you can't say they're not talented. I'm a huge Tool fan, and the simplicity of complicated rhythms on the DAD strings sounds amazing. Good songs don't require the whole guitar. Your opinion is that songs are boring if they're focused on one point.
    MESAexplorer
    Iommianity wrote: MESAexplorer wrote: There is a lot of good info in this report, but I feel like a lot of it is opinion and you're making it a rule. It depends on what you like, how you like to play and what you're playing. Korn and Meshuggah tend to use the lowest 3 strings for 90% of their discography. You can't say their unsuccessful, and you can't say they're not talented. I'm a huge Tool fan, and the simplicity of complicated rhythms on the DAD strings sounds amazing. Good songs don't require the whole guitar. Your opinion is that songs are boring if they're focused on one point. That's not really what he was saying at all. He was really talking about adding dynamics to playing a 7 string guitar, as opposed to just treating it like a down tuned 6 string. And I think it's a fine point. Why are you going to add more strings when your objective negates most of them? That's not a judgement on the music written.
    Don't get me wrong, there is always room for improvement in your playing, and there are many uses for ERG's beyond having a chugging string. But if you want a 7 string just to have a 6 string guitar and a guitar that pre-de-tuned then that's your guitar and you can do what you want with it. And besides using the low B for more chords or more convenient chords, isn't it all common sense. I've been playing 7 strings for about 8 years now and 8 strings for about 3. I'm not ranting to rant.
    MisterMushroom
    The coolest part of this is that you can use the low B string to essentially play standard guitar and bass guitar simultaneously!
    No, you can play standard guitar, and the 3 higher strings of a 4 string bass.
    Ultraussie
    Good lesson but this lesson advertising on here is annoying the f**k out of me. Good timing though cos I just brought my first 7 string the other day! woot Not that im no stranger to low tunings, main reason I brought the 7 string was for the pickups and the scale length for Drop A, extra range was a bonus