Updated: Mar 6
What is a seven-string guitar and why was it invented?
The seven-string guitar was invented in the early 1990s by American guitar luthier Steve Vai. Vai was looking for a way to extend the range of the guitar so that it could better emulate the sound of a bass guitar. The result was the first seven-string guitar, which featured an extra low string that gave it a deep, rich sound. Today, seven-string guitars are commonly used in metal and rock music, and are known for their ability to produce heavy, powerful sounds. While they are not as popular as six-string guitars, seven-string guitars continue to be used by some of the world's most popular guitarists, including Vai himself.
How does a seven-string guitar differ from a six-string guitar, and what are the benefits of using one?
A seven-string guitar is a type of guitar that has seven strings instead of the more traditional six. The most common types of seven-string guitars have an extra low string that is tuned to a low B, but there are also eight-string guitars that have an additional high string. Charlie Hunter is one of the most well-known guitarists who primarily uses a seven-string, and he is credited with popularizing the instrument in jazz and funk circles. Seven-string guitars offer a wider range of notes than six-string guitars, which can be beneficial for both rhythm and lead parts. Additionally, the low B string adds some extra weight and depth to the sound of the guitar. For Charlie Hunter, the extended range and added depth of the seven-string guitar was essential in creating his signature sound. While Charlie Hunter may be the most famous proponent of the seven-string guitar, he is far from the only one. In recent years, seven-string guitars have become more popular in a wide variety of genres, and they are now manufactured by most major guitar brands.
Who are some notable musicians who play seven-string guitars, and what styles of music do they typically play?
Seven-string guitars are typically associated with heavy metal music, and for good reason - the extra string provides a low, guttural sound that is perfect for driving riffage and solos. Notable heavy guitarists include Korn guitarists James "Munky" Shaffer & Brian "Head" Welch. However, there are a number of other genres that make use of seven-string guitars as well. Jazz guitarists have been known to utilize the extra string for extended chords and melodies, while some blues guitarists use it for slide playing. The bottom line is that the seven-string guitar is a versatile tool that can be used in a variety of musical styles. Some notable musicians who play seven-string guitars include Steve Vai, John Petrucci, and Kiko Loureiro.
If you’re interested in seeing how a seven-string guitar is played, check out this video of Charlie Hunter in action at the Murphys Irish Pub with Scott Amendola on drums. Pick a song, the timings correspond to songs withing the context of the full set. And be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for exclusive upcoming content.
00:00 - Start
01:18 - Rubbed Out
06:32 - Let the Good Times Roll
11:20 - Blue Pepper
15:59 - I Want You Back
20:38 - Daydream
26:14 - One Mint Julep
30:42 - Born to Be Blue
38:57 - Angelica
43:32 - The Wizard Pounds the Pavement
48:36 - unknown
53:30 - unknown closer
55:36 - Soweto is Where It’s At