Extended Range Guitars for Beginners and the ones who dare
Hallo guitar fans. Most of you are already familiar with a term extended range guitar. Most people would define extended range guitar as any guitar that has broader range of a frequency spectrum, or it's tuned higher and/or lower than the usual standard low E to high E tuning. What is standard today? For example, Russians have 7 string classical guitar since 18th century. Some of these guitars had up to 11 or 12 strings, with 7 fretted strings and 4-5 unfretted bass strings. They considered 7 string standard by their criteria back in the day...
Daddo - "The Lightworker"
The very basic form of the extended range guitar would probably be a drop tuning and a baritone tuning of a 6-string guitar. These tunings are very popular in today's modern heavy music. In drop tuning, guitarist tune the low E string down to D or below. The baritone tuning idea is to ditch a high E string, shift all the strings down and add an extra low B string.
My extended range quest
For me, there are pros and cons for drop tunings, versus baritone tuning. When I retune low E down to D or B just to play one song for example, the low E string becomes very loose and sounds twangy. This happens naturally, because the lower tone requires a bigger string gauge, unless one has 30" scale length guitar for example. 90% of my guitars have 25.5” scale length. I have solved this problem with baritone tuning. With extra low B string I almost never tune down any lower. However, I did miss the high E string, so back in 1997 I ordered my Ibanez Universe Custom Shop 7 string. High E string is very important to me because of the chord voicing and lead range. Most players who are oriented towards rhythm playing are OK with the baritone tuning though. I just wanted something different.
Two years ago I came up across an 8 string guitar in the local music shop. This guitar had the low B and low F# string. I did like this idea about further tonal range, but as we all have a different taste in everything, something wasn't "quite there" for me. Low F# sounded great in heavy metal music. I like that extra low bottom range and I do play very heavy music :-), but I also play other styles as well.
When I got my own Q.Rich 8 string signature model "Dorian 8", I decided to ditch the low F# string, shift all the strings and add extra high A string. With this setup, I have “the best of both worlds” – extended low end for the rhythm works and extended high range for soloing. With the high A, I also gained totally new chord voicings with totally new sonic quality. I demonstrate this in my video “Extended Range Guitar Part 1-8 string” (see below). This video is one of the first independent video-documentaries in the world about this subject. I strongly recommend you invest 13 minutes of your time and watch it.
Today, when people hear term "8 string" guitar, they usually hear/visualize chung-chung djent playing. That is OK, because 95% of 8 stringers play heavy music. What about the other 5% of guitar players out there? These cats are rare to find, but they are out there for sure, believe me. Just Google or search 8 string guitar with high A on YouTube, you will find some people using this tuning.
Different is a dangerous territory for many people. It is in human nature that we are sometimes afraid of unknown, unexplored and sometimes we are going bananas when we are moving out of our "comfort zones". It is no different in Musical Universe. Most guitar players are comfortable with good old 6-string “E to E” guitars. There is nothing wrong with that. There is also nothing wrong with us who want to explore unknown territories. The good news is that everyone can afford to experiment with his/her own instrument and go that extra mile to try a different sound.
What are all the options to taste extended range sound?
The drop tuning is the first answer. You don't have to invest anything. All you have to do is tune down your low E string to any lower note. I suggest low D to start with. It can be any note you have in mind and feel comfortable with. You can also try with low B and low A.
Second option is called baritone guitar. You might want to bring your axe to your guitar repair specialist. The reason I suggest this is because when you change the string gauge, the action and thrus rod have to be adjusted accordingly.
More expensive option would be to buy a 7 string guitar. They are very cheap to get in many online music stores, or check your local music shops – they might have one or two in stock. One of the most popular ones are Ibanez and Schecter. You got more options here, because you have more freedom to choose the best tuning that suits your musical style and expression. You could go with traditional tuning with low B and/or drop tune it down to whatever, or you can use something like baritone 7 string tuning – by removing the high E string, shifting all the strings down and adding an extra low F# for example. For all djent players – you don’t have to buy an 8 string guitar if you already have the 7 string ;-)
The last option for this column would be to buy the 8 string instrument. There are pros and cons for this option. Pros: you have more tonal choice and more freedom. Cons: you have “lots” of strings, so depending on the tuning you want to use, playing the 8 string can be quite confusing.
95% of the players out there will be happy with the 8 string factory tuning. You can visualize this tuning as; 6 string guitar with two extra low notes.
Other option would be to remove the low F# string, shift all the strings and install the high A string. For the high A option you need low scale length instrument – for example, if your guitar has the scale length higher than 26.5”, high A tuning will be next to impossible to achieve. The lower the scale length, the greater the chance for this tuning to work out for you.
And the last but not least, if you’re a hard core metal head, and if you want to djent your butt off, use baritone 8 string tuning with low A or low E string.
There you go. Hopefully I gave you some cool tips and ideas to try out. Do not be afraid to experiment. If you like any “8 string high A licks” in my videos, let me know and I will transcribe them and post some TABs here.
If you have any questions about 8 string/7 string technique, guitar brands, or anything related to an extended range Universe, feel free to ask.
Extend your guitar expression.