The 7-String Guitar: How to Navigate That Extra String

7 String GuitarIf you’ve already mastered guitar chords and guitar chord transitions on your normal, 6-string guitar, why not take it up a notch?  Experimenting with a 7-string guitar can be a great way to enhance your skills and try something new, once you’ve been taking guitar lessons for a while.

However, even though it’s just one more string, the transition can be tricky for some. To help you get started with the 7-string guitar, here’s a great article by Tom Hess, featuring some great tips for navigating that extra string:


Are you struggling with musical creativity on 7 string guitar? If so, don’t worry. …This is actually a very common issue for most 7 string guitarists. This is especially the case if the majority of your time has been spent playing on a 6 string guitar. Even though there are many similarities between 7 and 6 string guitar, 7 string guitar brings many new things to the table in terms of its physical feel and potential for creative musical expression.

To become an excellent 7 string guitar player, you will need to fully understand how to overcome any challenges that arise with your new instrument. It is also necessary for you to become aware of all the new guitar playing possibilities that will help you express yourself better in your music. As you continue reading the rest of this article, I will show you many new ideas to help you express yourself creatively in your 7 string guitar playing.

Integrate The Low B String Into Your Lead Guitar Playing
Since a 7 string guitar essentially adds a bass string onto the guitar, many guitarists consider the instrument to be primarily used for rhythm. However, this is only a single piece of the puzzle. In fact, 7 string guitar is unique because it gives you a great opportunity to extend your lead guitar playing into the lower range as well. To get the most from this instrument, extend the scale and arpeggio patterns you know from 6 string guitar onto the low B string. This will help you to expand the pitch range of your lead guitar phrases to make it more similar to piano. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, find a guitar teacher who knows how to effectively teach these 7 string guitar playing concepts.

Discover And Build Unique Chord Patterns
The 7 string guitar can be used to create many interesting chords that are not possible on a 6 string guitar. In most cases, musicians will use the 7 string guitar to play in a metal style; however, you are not limited to this style alone. The 7 string guitar can be played in a wide variety of different musical genres. With the addition of the extra seventh string, you can give basic guitar chords a much more interesting sound. The coolest part of this is that you can use the low B string to essentially play standard guitar and bass guitar simultaneously!

To demonstrate this, I am going to show you an exercise. First, turn off any distortion settings you have and play through a clean channel on your amp. For this exercise, you will be experimenting with various guitar chords that you may have already learned on 6 string guitar. First, create some chords using only the fifth, fourth, and third strings. Then, combine these chords with the low B string. Next, try this same idea, but use the third, second, and first strings. While you are experimenting with this exercise, pay attention to how different it feels when you are playing the strings closer (in pitch) vs. the strings that are farther apart in pitch. Which one of these do you think sounds more pleasing overall? Once you have decided this, you can begin using this idea in your own 7 string guitar music.

Learn To Use The Entire Range Of The Instrument
In most cases, guitarists are introduced to 7 string guitar through heavy metal riffs played by their favorite bands. This influences them to purchase a 7 string guitar for themselves. As soon as they pick up this instrument, they focus all their energy into creating heavy riffs or rhythms on the low B string. This is certainly one of the most unique features that a 7 string guitar has to offer, however if you spend too much time on the same string, your music will quickly become stale and uninteresting.

For instance, let’s say that you are going to create a song. In this song, you have a wide variety of instruments to choose from such as guitar, piano, bass, keyboard, drums, etc. However, while writing this composition, you decide to create the music by ONLY using the lowest pitch ranges that can be played on each instrument for the entire duration of the song! I’m willing to bet that your listeners will become bored after the first 30 seconds. After this amount of time, your audience would likely be listening to the music while saying to themselves: Are you going to ever play some higher notes??

This is exactly what happens when many people play 7 string guitar. By spending all your time on the low B string, your guitar playing will lack variety. In order to fix this, focus on incorporating the other strings into your rhythm guitar playing. This will balance things out, and keep your music more interesting.

If you would like to be more creative on 7 string guitar, it is essential that you understand and apply this concept. When I show my own guitar students how to compose songs, I train them how to master this idea of balance in their music. To find out more about balancing pitch range on 7 string guitar, check out this lesson for improving 7 string guitar playing.

Combine Rhythm Guitar Chords With Lead Guitar Melodies
One of the signs that you are becoming a truly great 7 string guitar player is when you are able to cleanly and accurately shift between rhythm and lead guitar parts while still playing in time. When playing 7 string guitar, this skill becomes more challenging due to the wider guitar neck that makes it harder to jump from lower range notes to higher range notes.

To get better at combining rhythm and lead guitar together, you will need to not only be able to play both parts flawlessly on their own, but you also must practice the specific moment of transition from one part to the next. To make quick improvement in this area of your guitar playing, focus on playing each part without mistakes (and with good timing), then slowly integrate the two. For additional help, record yourself playing these parts together. By recording yourself, you will be able to hear any mistakes you make with much more clarity.

Minimize All Unwanted String Noises

For most guitar players, it is very tough in the beginning to eliminate excess guitar noise coming from any strings that are not being played. This is due in part to the significant change in the physical feel of a 7 string guitar compared to 6 string guitar. This change comes not only from the additional string, but also from a wider guitar neck. This will take some time for you to get used to. If you want to make your guitar playing cleaner, you need to make it a priority to fix any string noise problems in your technique. Listen closely as you play guitar so that you can hear any extra noise that occurs. Then, use guitar string muting techniques to minimize the noise until only the notes you want to hear remain. To get more help with cleaning up your guitar playing, read this article on how to eliminate guitar string noise. If you have a lot of trouble playing guitar cleanly, seek out a great guitar teacher who can help you effectively solve this problem.

Final Thoughts
Most likely you have not found the ideas in this article to be too difficult to understand. Unfortunately, most 7 string guitar players do not take ACTION to use these ideas for improving their guitar playing. As a result, their progress is very slow. By simply focusing on mastering the ideas described above, you will be able to get much more from playing a 7 string guitar as well as greatly enhance your musical creativity in a shorter period of time.

Learn how to play 7 string guitar more creatively in this lesson about improving 7 string guitar playing.

Learn how to clean up your guitar playing in this article about how to eliminate guitar string noise.

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar player, composer and the guitarist of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He also trains musicians to reach their guitar playing goals in his rock guitar lessons online. Visit his website, tomhess.net to read more articles about guitar playing, get free guitar tips and guitar playing resources.

 

You might also like…
- Give Your Guitar Strings Some Love Today
- 10 Quick Guitar Exercises for the Busy Musician
- 5 Killer Tips for Mastering Guitar Chords

Photo by germanium.

 

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