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The Benefits of the 7-String Guitar

There are many guitarists who have either never heard of or do not understand the 7-string guitar. If they have heard of it, many times they do not know how useful and beneficial they can be. Individuals become apprehensive by the idea of using one as they think that they cannot get used to it or that it will be a completely new instrument. This could not be any more inaccurate. The 7-string guitar is not hard to become comfortable with and you do not need to learn a completely new instrument to play one.

The 7-string guitar does have a larger neck to accommodate the seventh string. However, it takes very little time to actually get used to this “extra” string. You may find yourself accidentally transitioning to an incorrect string at first, but with a little time and practice, this extra string will become one of your best friends in the realm of your guitar world. Also, the transition from a standard 6-string guitar is simple as a 7-string guitar is has the original six strings with an added lower pitched string. In most cases, this string is a lower “B” string, but in many jazz cases and in some metal cases, this string is lowered another whole step to “A.”

The short amount of time that it takes to become familiar with this new string is well worth the hordes of benefits you will receive from making this simple transition. To begin with, chords that were previously unavailable on the 6-string guitar now are. 13th, Minor 13th, and Major 13th chords, which are chords made of seven tones, can now be played. These chords cannot be fully played on a 6-string guitar because it is necessary, if you are executing the full chord, to utilize each of these seven tones. Also, transitioning from chord to chord, especially when they are in different pitch ranges, can be done with ease. For example, you are hypothetically playing a C Major Triad on the eighth fret on the sixth string and wish to transition to a G Major Triad in the same pitch range. On a standard 6-string guitar, you would have to change position and travel to the third fret on the sixth string. On a standard tuned 7-string guitar, (B, E, A, D, G, B, E = tuning: lowest to highest pitched string), you simple base your triad on the eighth fret on the seventh string. You save yourself access muscle movement while simplifying your transitions.

Secondly, those standard shaped six string arpeggios can now be played in one position, again saving extra movement and muscle usage. For example, let us take an A arpeggio, which has the notes A, C#, and E. Below is an example of a three octave A arpeggio played as it is on a standard 6-string guitar and an example of the same arpeggio played on a 7-string guitar.

Six String A Arpeggio:

7-string A arpeggio:

Note the differences between the two examples. In the 6-string example, you must change position to complete the arpeggio while the 7-string example basically stays in one position. There is less stretching in the 7-string version than in the 6-string version as well. This allows the arpeggio to be played a lot more efficiently.

Finally, scales and modes can be executed with greater pitch range throughout the guitar's neck. Here is a minor scale shape beginning on the 7th string.

In order to play a minor scale with this many notes on a 6-string guitar, more position changes would be needed in order to complete it. This just goes to show how more can be done with fewer transitions and less effort.

Now that we have finished exploring some of the basic benefits, I hope there is a new understanding amongst the previously uninformed. 7-string guitars can help nearly every aspect of you guitar playing, songwriting, and theory knowledge by giving you further possibilities. One “extra” string can go a long way.

Zack Uidl

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