7 Strings Good, 6 Strings Bad: Evolutionary Leap

The 7-string guitar represents evolutionary progression; it's enhanced range (4.5 octaves comes as standard) and unique timbre being the distinguishing hallmarks of its superior inclusive fitness. In this article, discoveries are unearthed that will try to reinforce this assertion, providing rare gems designed to tempt and inspire.


The extra intervals afforded by the new bass string provide access to an exclusive new harmonic dimension. Here are some tasty new voices, extensions, inversions and substitutions to get the juices flowing. These examples are almost entirely diatonic to the chord scale of C- only the Ab dim7, E7b9, E aug and Bdim7 being non-diatonic substitutions. Note: Tune your 7th string to A for these examples.


Here's a tip: Take a chord with a 5A string root, and simply relocate the root onto the 7A. Dropping the bass an octave in this way can have a profound effect on a chord.

Scales And Arpeggios

Scales and arpeggios dive deeper on the 7-string. Tuned to an A, the 7th string offers up 7 new pitches below the regular 6-string axe. This puts its lowest note at the same frequency as the 3A string of a Bass. The major scale and tonic triad arpeggio below are included to facilitate this understanding. Play a regular 6-string C major scale or arpeggio followed by the example and you'll get the idea.

Tip: Creating and learning variations on these shapes is highly recommended. Likewise, converting these templates into other types (e.g. the scale could be transformed into its modes and the pentatonic variants. Equally, the arpeggio could be extended to a 7th or 9th for example or converted into a minor, diminished, augmented, suspended...you might even decide to invert it.

In addition, the new string (I use a 58 gauge) has its own unique timbre, at once both full and rich. Try taking a tired old melody off the 6E string and playing it note-for-note on 7A. The pitches may be the same but there is a rich depth courtesy of the thicker gauge.



The 7A requires a delicate and precise touch to avoid unintentional sharpening of the note and/or fret-buzz. For this reason, it is advised not to have too low an action and always fret the notes right next to the fretwire.

Bear in mind though, that it is an extra string not an extra finger. Once you have integrated the 7th into your existing approach it becomes just like the other 6. Use it or abuse it as you see fit.

Here's a cool technique that lends itself to the 7-string. Try using both hands on the strings to get a Chord/Bass interplay going. Tap the descending bass line with one hand, and hammer the ascending chord fragments with the other. This exercise is also a nifty slice of counterpoint.



A word about the darker side... if you are seeking a tight clear tone for your metal riffage, solid state amps are the way to go. Despite being a valve and valvestate aficionado for clean tones, I find that when the power-type chord riffs come out to play, the solid state amps do tend to give the crispest tone. Take an RG1527 and run it through a Marshall AVT50 and a Marshall MGDFX50. Dial up a scooped mid tone, turn the gains to max and start to palm mute. You'll notice the solid state amp (MGDFX) gives a crisper, denser chug. In this regard I can also recommend 15inch speakers (perhaps in combination with a pair of 12s) to really bring out the bottom end. Either way, be sure to check your speakers adequately cover the 55hz low end of the 7-string.

Like speakers, microphones also have a frequency threshold to be aware of. Make sure you have it covered.

Now we have begun to delve into the realm of 7, are you getting the urge?

Guy Pople is a music, education and multimedia specialist based in the UK`s North-West. He plays guitars, studies theory and runs St Annes Music in Lytham St. Annes, a one-stop shop for musicians on the Fylde coast of Lancashire. St Annes Music offers professional instruments, recording, tuition and accessories.

His live band Nomad is currently building up their original music. You can catch him
on Virtual Strangers.

Guy Pople

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