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A seven-string guitar is a guitar with seven strings instead of the usual six. Such guitars are not as common as the six-string variety, but a minority of guitarists have utilised them for at least 150 years. Some types of these instruments are specific to certain cultures (i.e. the Russian and Brazilian guitars).

There are eight-string and ten-string guitars in use as well, but these are even less common. Twelve-string guitars are more common, but these are usually instruments that have six two-string courses tuned to the usual six string arrangement as follows: EeAaDdGgBbEe.

History and construction

In the renaissance period, the guitar was generally strung with four pairs of strings, termed courses. Each string in a course was tuned to the same pitch. By the baroque period it had five courses and used a variety of tunings, some of the tunings re-entrant. During the eighteenth century six courses became common and the modern practice of using six single strings became the standard practice after 1800. These developments illustrate an ongoing desire on behalf of players to increase the range of the instrument. Seven-string guitars arose from such a desire and have been in use for over 150 years. French guitarist Napoleon Coste (1805-1883) composed works with a seven-string guitar specifically in mind.

Extra strings are usually added to extend the bass range of the modern six-string guitar. These strings are commonly added in two different ways. The first and most common construction is to increase the width of the fingerboard such that the extra string (or strings) may be stopped by the left hand. The second method is to leave the fingerboard unchanged such that the extra bass strings lie next to the existing bass strings and free of the fingerboard in the same fashion in which the archlute and theorbo are constructed. Such unfrettable bass strings were historically known as diapasons or bourdons. The Italian guitarist Mario Maccaferri (b 1899) was a celebrated advocate of the second type of construction.

The Russian Guitar

Main article: Russian guitar
The Russian guitar, a seven-string acoustic guitar tuned to the Open G tuning, (DGBDGbd) arrived in the beginning of the 19th century in Russiamarker, most probably as a development of the cittern, the kobza and the torban. It is known in Russia as the semistrunnaya gitara (семиструнная гитара) or affectionately as the semistrunka (семиструнка).

Its invention is attributed to Andrei Sychra, who also wrote a method for the guitar, as well as over one thousand compositions, seventy-five of which were republished in the 1840s by Stellovsky, and then again in the 1880s by Gutheil. Some of these were published again in the Soviet Unionmarker in 1926.

This type of guitar has been called a 'Russian guitar,' as it has been primarily played in Russia and later the Soviet Union.

The Russian version of the seven-string guitar has been used by professionals, because of its great flexibility and its sound, but has also been popular with amateurs for accompaniment (especially Russian bards) due to the relative simplicity of some basic chords and the ease of playing alternating bass lines.

The Russian guitar is traditionally played without a pick, using fingers for either strumming or picking.

Image:RussianSevenStringTuning.jpg|Tuning of the russian guitarImage:FSmajorRussianGuitar.jpg|An F# major chordImage:BminorchordRussianGuitar.jpg|A B minor chord

There are more than 1,000 different chords for standard Russian 7-string open G D-G-B-D-G-B-D (low to high), as well as many variations on technique for both hands.

The earliest music published for a 7-string guitar was in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 15 December, 1798. The school was owned by Ignatz Geld (born 1766 in the Czech Republic, died 1816 in Russia).

Alternate tunings include:

  • G-C-E-G-C-E-G ("Big guitar")
  • F-A#-D-F-A#-D-F (1/3rd guitar)
  • E-A-B-D-G-B-D
  • E-G-B-D-G-B-D
  • C-G-B-D-G-B-D
  • D-G-C-D-G-A#-D
  • B-F#-B-E-A-D-f#
  • A-E-A-D-G-B-E

The Brazilian Guitar

The Brazilian 7-string guitar ( ) is an acoustic guitar used primarily in choro and samba. It was introduced to Brazil in the early 20th century as a steel string guitar. The style of "baixaria" counterpoint and accompaniment technique was developed throughout the 20th century, especially by Dino 7 Cordas and Raphael Rabello. In the early 1980s, guitarist Luiz Otavio Braga had a nylon string version made, and this has become the norm for most contemporary choro musicians such as Yamandú Costa.

The Brazilian 7-string guitar is typically tuned like a classical guitar, but with an additional C below the low E as follows: C-E-A-D-G-b-e; although some musicians tune the C down to a B resulting in B-E-A-D-G-b-e.

Additionally from playing choro, the 7-string guitar has being used to play classical repertoire, extending the range of the traditional 6-string guitar and often leading to new arrangements of known pieces.

The Electric Guitar

Seven-string electric guitar Ibanez RG7321BK

Hollowbody and semi-hollow electric seven-string guitars

In the United Statesmarker, the jazz guitarist George Van Eps had a seven-string guitar built for him by after Van Eps, including Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, Ron Eschete, Chance Russell, Lenny Breau, and John Pizzarelli, who is the author of the Foxwoods Casino theme and is the son of jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli.

The first seven-string guitars were built in the "hollowbody" or "semi-hollow" archtop styles, where the guitar has a central resonating chamber, or a central block with resonant chambers on the sides, respectively. This gave the guitar the dark woodiness, breath, and richness that is associated with traditional "jazz" tone, but made it too prone to feedback to be practical for rock guitar.

Solidbody electric seven-string guitars

The first solid body seven-string electric guitar as we know it today was invented in 1985 by Maestro Alex Gregory who was subsequently granted two patents for this invention . The drawings and specifications on the patents show this 7 string to be the blueprint for any electric 7 string guitars produced thereafter. After signing a deal with Fender, this guitar was produced in 1987 . The first prototypes of the Maestro Alex Gregory signature 7 string Stratocaster were disclosed to the public at the January 1988 NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA . At the same time, they were listed in the U.S. Signature Series of the Fender Price List effective April 1, 1988 . While the guitar was widely publicized, some writers like Musician Magazine thought the idea was “...silly. If the electric guitar was meant to have more than 6 strings, Leo Fender or Les Paul would have already thought about it.” Then, in 1989, Hamer Guitars signed a deal for the same guitar. This was offered at the NAMM Show in January 1990 and was highlighted in Guitar School Magazine (at $2,500), along with a cheaper Ibanez version (1,399.95) under a column titled “What’s Hot in Guitars” . Later, in 1998, Schecter signed on to produce the 7 String Maestro Alex Gregory Signature Model guitar based on the original specs along with several derivative models . The Maestro went back to Fender in 2000.

While the Maestro Alex Gregory models were produced in limited quantities and have become collector’s items, the first mass produced 7 string was the Ibanez UV7 played by Steve Vai and Reb Beach . At the time, Vai was heavily into numerology, and in particular was drawn to the number 7. Vai was drawn to the idea for much of the same reasons seven-string classical and jazz players were - the extended range the additional string offered. After initial experimentation with a high A, a low B was added as the high A proved to be too prone to breaking (George Lynch was experimenting with seven-string designs independently at this time as well, also tuned to high A, but opted not to pursue development largely due to issues with an experimental moveable pickup system). Vai began touring with Whitesnake with a seven-string prototype, and then used the guitars heavily on what is considered to be a landmark instrumental rock album, his 1990 release "Passion and Warfare."

In the early 1990s, several other heavy metal guitarists began using seven-string instruments (notably John Petrucci of Dream Theater and Trey Azagthoth and Erik Rutan of Morbid Angel), seeing the possibility for detuned riffing while preserving the full upper range of the guitar for solos. However, the seven-string guitar failed to really catch on at this phase in its development, and the Universe model was discontinued briefly in 1995.

The seven-string guitar became prominent when Korn featured Ibanez Universe guitars on their 1994 debut album. Capitalizing on the massive low end produced by the 7th string (typically a low A). This period marked the highwater point in the popularity of the seven-string guitar, as many manufacturers jumped on the seven string bandwagon that they had previously steered clear of including such "traditional" brands as Fender subsidiary Squier and Gibson subsidiary Epiphone, and manufacturers who had been producing sevens expanded their offerings. The trend eventually passed, but many guitarists were introduced to the extended range offered by a seven-string guitar during this period who might not have otherwise been. This was somewhat offset by a growing stigma that a seven-string guitar was a "nu metal" instrument, fit only for heavy riffing. This was ironic as both Korn guitarists Munky and Head remember being told in their early days that the seven-string guitar couldn't be used for riffing, as it was seen as a shredding guitar at the time. However, in an interview Munky stated: "Now playing without it seems like playing without a finger."

Today, the seven string has emerged as somewhat of a niche instrument. Drop-tuned six-string guitars have taken the places of 7's for bands that primarily engage in low-end riffing, and the seven has begun to grow in popularity amongst many of the same sort of bands who were using them in the early 1990s — progressive-oriented metal and rock guitarists (such as Jeff Loomis of Nevermore and Jasun Tipton of Zero Hour). Additionally, seven-string guitars were popular and considered cutting edge in the 80s and into the 90s with the shred scene. Now players such as Rusty Cooley, Francesco Fareri and Ricky Graham attempt to "bring back" the shred scene of the 80s which was called "speed metal". Matt Bellamy from Muse uses a custom red Manson 7-string to play just one song, Citizen Erased, with a AADDGBE tuning (the song was originally recorded on a detuned six-string). This guitar was originally made for a jazz musician, but they decided they were going down a more acoustic route and Matt Bellamy decided he'd buy it instead. Besides being used by solo artist, seven-strings are also used by Mathcore bands and in other progressive genres.Band such as Textures, Unearth, Periphery, Novembre, and Grethor use seven-strings because of the low palm-mutes it produces and the extra range it provides. Dino Cazares of Divine Heresy, Asesino, and formerly of Fear Factory and Brujeria is notable in the metal genre for his custom 7 string ibanez guitars. His custom guitars typically utilise just one bridge pickup, feature reverse headstocks and he often tunes them down one step to A. Amongst his new guitars is a Ibanez Xiphos 7 String. Triumphant Return guitarist Matti Ice uses 7-string guitars tuned A,D,A,D,G,B,E. Christian Olde Wolbers of Fear Factory (who became the guitarist in 2004) has his own signature Jackson 7-string guitar, offered in Soloist and Dinky forms. Trainwreck of Kritic Kill uses Ibanez 7-string guitars tuned down two whole steps. Stephen Carpenter of Deftones, as well, has several of his own models released by ESP. They have also been used by artists such as Devin Townsend and Lacuna Coil and are available in both regular size and baritone. Deathcore band, Whitechapel, favoring a low sound have 3 guitarists who all use 7-string guitars.

Other seven-string guitars

In the early 2000s, Roger McGuinn (renowned for his skills on the twelve-string guitar and for his long association with The Byrds) worked with C. F. Martin & Company to develop a seven-string folk guitar. McGuinn's guitar (currently being marketed by Martin) is tuned the same as a standard folk guitar with steel strings, but the third (G) string is augmented with a high octave string. Many of McGuinn's notable guitar solos utilize the G string of the twelve-string guitar to perform the main melody, and therefore the Martin seven-string guitar was designed to achieve this extended range playing without the need for doubling all six of the guitar's strings. In 2008 experimental luthier Yuri Landman built the Springtime, a 3-way stereo seven string guitar for Blood Red Shoes.

Notable users

Philo Cramer (formerly of FEAR) Fighting Cocks (5 knobs/2 knobs)


See also

External links

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