Why Not Just Downtune? This Is the Difference Between 8-String and 6-String Downtuned 10 Halfsteps

Meaning they have an identical tuning on 6 thickest strings.

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Why Not Just Downtune? This Is the Difference Between 8-String and 6-String Downtuned 10 Halfsteps
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Pete Cottrell from YouTube presented an interesting experiment, testing out whether you can really just downtune a 6-string guitar to get the sonic effect of anĀ 8-string.

Specifically, the musician took his 6-string, downtuned it 10 halfsteps to F# and put it up against the 8-string.

He explained: "One of the many criticisms of 8-string guitars is that you must use all strings, otherwise you're just djenting on the low strings. So why not just downtune a standard 6-string? Putting technical specifics aside, this kinda makes sense, right? Aren't 8-strings just low-tuned guitars? But, the proof is in the pudding, let's test this out in the context of a song."

Pete also pointed out about downtuning the 6-sting: "I beefed up the string gauge and gave it a quick setup, but other than that, there's no modifications."

27 comments sorted by best / new / date

    gorkyporky
    I guess the 8 string sounds crisper. Probably scale length combined with different pickups. Maybe a baritone would work.
    Jyrgen
    Yeah scale length is highly significant in the tone equation. It's way more important than e.g. the wood
    Rexety
    You're absolutely right. Scale lenght, string gauge and tuning are 3 factors that are dependent of each to get a clear and solid tone
    schecterhellraz
    Youtube guitar video where I didn't want to punch the guy in the face at the end. That was refreshing.
    Carl6661
    Overall it was a cool video. Really enjoyed the song and Pete's playing too! That said, I'd disagree with what he says about the difference in sound being caused by the pickups. It's entirely down to the longer scale length and thinner string gauges. Tuning a regular 25.5" six string down that far requires a massive string to get any kind of tuning stability - For a couple of years before I got an 8 string I would use a 6 string with a .090 on the low string, and IIRC even that was still a little on the loose side. The consequence of using such a massive string is that it sounds really dull, doesn't intonate very well, and doesn't have the same twangy attack that you get on a longer scale 8 string that's able to achieve a similar tension with much thinner strings. On a similar note, it would be cool to see the same comparison between an 8 string, and a normal bass. "If you're playing that low you should just use a bass" is a very common misconception about extended range guitars that needs putting to rest. For the most part, 8 string pickups aren't any different than 6 string pickups. They're broadly similar in terms of frequency response, any normal pickup puts out plenty of low-frequency information. After all it's an 8 string guitar, not a bass. Even though you're playing in the same range as a bass, you really do not need anything below approx' 100hz (give or take 10-15hz), because you need to leave space for the bass guitar to occupy. Baritone six-strings almost never have specially designed pickups for the extra low notes. The only difference between 6 and some 8 string pickups, is that a lot of 8 string pickups are geared towards the djent/metal crowd, and can be voiced pretty aggressively to suit.
    iamsnc
    8-string has more clarity for sure. With a baritone the result should be more or less like an 8-string. Based on these two, I would still go for the 6-string, just because they always look cooler.
    Destroyer858
    SCALE LENGTH!!! that's the bottom of the issue, a regular 6 string is 25.5" and a 8 string tends to be 27"
    xeper9
    Of course the 6 string will sound muddy, he's using 6 string pickups, they don't have that low-end response...
    MaaZeus
    I actually like the beefier, muddier tone of that 6 string more than the 8 string.
    DanTheHobbit
    The 8-string is far more balanced in its tonal response than the 6-string. That probably has to do with the pickups. Whatevs. I'm just another Elliott Smith acolyte anyway. EDIT: Yeah, the end of the video explains that. :-X
    Zan595
    Actually, I liked the sound of the 6 string in the video more. It isn't as "shrill" on the ears, and its a bit fatter. It might come down to a difference in pickups or wood between the guitars though, I generally prefer extended range guitars for tuning that low in person.
    hellshadowx
    Does anyone actually think that the difference is that drastic? Hardly noticeable
    KitaRox
    I really liked the chrous rhythm. Great stuff. Tonal, the 8 String does win imo!
    LittleMartin549
    During that break down part near the end, I really liked the way the six string sounded. The eight string was actually a bit... shrieking, or screeching sounding compared to the six string. Nice Video!
    sloppyjoe24
    I heard more definition from the 8 string, but honestly, the mix was so good, it didn't really matter that much to me any discrepancies.
    hatton93
    A lot of the individual and lower notes were a lot more defined on the 8 string but for the large part the power chord sections sounded almost identical to me. But maybe I'm biased because I see 7 and 8 string guitars as a bit of a gimmick.
    twelthshade
    i love down tuning gtrs. But honestly cgcfad or badgbe are the lowest i would go. I have the pitchfork pedal for whatever else and it actually doesn't sound digital or loose like the 8 string did. the 8 string did have a little more clarity but the strings are bigger you could just up the guage on a 6 string. 6 strings is plenty really.
    taylorzac42
    Down tuning a six string makes sense if you are just looking to get that lower octave. Heavy gauge string do wonders for clarity. I switched to an 8 string about 8 month ago because I wanted the extra range. I actually found that all the off the shelf string sets didn't provide enough string tension for good low end clarity. Ended up going .085 .074. .068 .58 .48 .38 .28 .18 .13 on a 28" scale. Super crisp bottom end excellent clarity all the way around. If all you want is heavy riffing I say tune down and get heavy strings. Set it up right and you won't have any complaints. If you want more range and want to learn what is essentially a completely different instrument get an 8 string. I think it's a real shame what most folks do with an 8 string. So much potential.
    iAmYourCat
    With the 6-string, in order to achieve the same frequency as that of the 8 string, you would decrease the tension in the string (tune down). But this means the guitar tuning isn't stable and can't maintain tuning (bends and slips out of tune etc). So you need added mass per unit length (i.e. more wounding, thicker string gauge) to maintain the level of tension needed for stability. But normal 6-string guitar truss rods, necks, nut, and tuning pegs are not built with this level of tension in mind, bending out of tune when struck -- even some short scale length 7-strings (I know...but they exist) have this problem but the truss rod and tuning pegs are build to facilitate this. Using the thicker string gauge, then, means you get the same frequency range with the right tension but at the expense of timbre and clarity that you normally get from thinner gauges (.046, .052) that have less wounding (less mass). Increasing scale length to the neck means that you don't need particularly thick strings and great amounts tension for stability to maintain tuning, in order to obtain the lower frequency range. You then achieve a bit more clarity. Sorry for this rather wanky explanation.
    Wildmen
    guy never heard about the scale length and baritone guitars? i have played ibanez baritone guitar tuned in F# - sounds excellent