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So, I'm looking to add an Ibanez 7 or 8 string to my guitar zoo, but although I have looked into various standard tunings I am trying to figure out practical tunings so I can rapidly add the new string(s) into my existing songs without spending ages practicing (don't have enough time between gigs, and as guitars with more than 6 strings aren't standard I guess I can tune them how I like:-)

I tend to run a drop-D tuning on my main gigging guitars (we have a heavy rock sound) so was thinking about just adding a low A for the 7 string, which will make general riffing very straightforward but does anyone have experience of tunings which work better?

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Ended up with a 7 string Ibanez RF Prestige, and have been trying AEADGBE, ADADGBE and DEADGBE. Still not sure which works best but will report back once I settle on one. –  Dr Mayhem Jun 24 '11 at 21:25
    
B-E-A-D-G-B-E-A...............This gives you a high A on top and a low B on the bottom. –  user3419 Dec 23 '12 at 10:55
    
@Ken I've heard there's also a variation with G at the top, used by IIRC John Pizzarelli. –  luser droog Dec 24 '12 at 8:36

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Adding a low A on standard (AEADGBE) is very fun. it's possible to get a very fat metal sound out of it. I have also seen (EAEADGBE) for 8-string guitars. Since the options you are going to consider for the low strings are very close to each other (a whole step apart), you should also be able to toggle between them easily to figure out what you like best.

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Just to note - B gives you the forth, but dropping it to an A has the same effect as dropping your E to D on a 6 string (one finger power chords, easy 9ths etc). –  DRL Jun 15 '11 at 2:37
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Yeah, the repeat of the EAEA on the lower strings is really powerful for chords because it lets you barre and get an extended power chord. It's also useful for soloing and improvisation because you are adding two strings that you should already be familiar with (strings 7 and 8 mirror 5 and 6 as A and E). –  Umi Jun 17 '11 at 20:16
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Have been gigging using ADADGBE, and this setup seems to work very well. Seriously considering taking the drop D back up to an E now I don't need it any more, but I'll then need to put in the effort to change round the songs we do in drop D tuning :-) –  Dr Mayhem Nov 12 '11 at 9:44

I've played 8-string classical guitar for close to forty years (mine was built by John Gilbert*), using it for my own compositions and for lute music. Since the 7th string of lutes was often tuned to a low B, and the low B continues standard fingering (including barring) into the low notes, that seemed natural. I dropped it to a low A for some pieces in that key as well, for great effect. And since you've got electrics here, and are not finger-picking, I'd think that a low B would go well with standard bar chords there as well.

So what about the 8th string, then? Anything lower than the low B I found overbalanced the guitar on the bass side (even though the Gilbert has incredible trebles). But after seeing the Brazilian guitarist Egberto Gismonti play an 8th string with the 8th tuned to a treble note (getting a "fine-string banjo" effect, with a high note under the thumb) I settled on tuning the 8th to a C just above the B of the second string. This gave me some incredible effects in the key of C when I dropped the 6th string to C as well, so I got some good music out of that. The only hitch was that I couldn't be sloppy with my thumb on the low strings - if I missed the 7th string and got the 8th, I got a wrong note way out of register.

All this is more or less in the past, since I play mostly flamenco now (my luthier just built a 7-string flamenco guitar, however - hmmm...). As for Gismonti, he went on to a ten-string guitar, oh well.

Have fun, and good luck with your experiments!

(Here's John Gilbert, who built a number of 8-string classicals - http://www.guitarfoundation.org/blogpost/754189/139600/Remembering-John-Gilbert)

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This seems to be highly connected to what you want to do with it.

Harp guitars have many bass strings, where you hold down the low end with big bass strings but the melody occurs on the high strings, and it strikes me that drop-D-influenced 7-and-8-string tunings go like that, where you're just going to be doing simple chord shapes on the 6, 7 and 8th strings.

If it was me, though, I'd likely use the low strings as a way to play higher on the neck where my reach is better, so, given an 8-string, I'd probably want F#BEADGBE, maybe dropped to EADGCFAE but maybe not. I might even drop the minor third between the 2nd and 3rd string and go F#BEADGCF.

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Yeah - I tend to use it entirely as a normal guitar, just with some extra low reach, and the tuning I currently use (ADADGBE) lets me pack some low powerchords in there as needed. I do think I may take the bottom two back up to BE though and just tweak my current drop-D style to fit. In the long run I think it will help me avoid losing my muscle memory on a normal E-tuned 6 string –  Dr Mayhem Oct 18 '12 at 14:38

I recently added an 8 string to my collection, and I've been using standard 8 string tuning. You can still use bar chords or power chords, such as F# B EADGBE.

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The Traditional Russian 7-string guitar is tuned D-G-B-D-G-B-D.

While it doesn't extend the range in either direction, it offers many more possibilities for chord voicings.

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I can't speak for 7 string guitars, but I've always tuned my 8 string classical guitars to 7=D and 8=A. (ADEADGBE) If I had an 8 string electric, I'd tune it this way too.

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Interesting - hadn't thought of that. –  Dr Mayhem Jun 15 '11 at 13:51

protected by Matthew Read Dec 25 '12 at 7:52

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