The electric guitar is one of the most expressive instruments that you can find today. Sure, no one is downplaying the importance and qualities of other instruments. However, electric guitars come with all the amps, pedals, and other effects units and pieces of gear that enable us to get all the exciting and interesting tones that manage to fit any genre. But interestingly enough, there’s even more to this great instrument other than just the basic stuff that we know about. One of the most exciting aspects of this world are extended range guitars.
The ones that we’re interested in here are 7-string guitars. They have been on the market for a while and were mostly popularized by the 1990s and 2000s metal bands that pushed the boundaries and used these low-end territories for both riffs and lead sections. So with all this said, we’re going to look into some of the best 7-string guitars.
- 1 What Makes 7-String Guitars So Special?
- 2 7-String Guitar Buying Guide
- 3 Best 7-String Guitars Reviews
- 4 Conclusion
What Makes 7-String Guitars So Special?
But before we get into it, let’s see what’s so special about extended-range guitars, those with 7-strings in particular. Contrary to popular belief, electric hollow-body 7-string guitars go way back to the first half of the 20th century. The concept was improved over the years and we got solid-body 7-string guitars. The first mass-produced one was designed by Steve Vai. However, these guitars didn’t really lift off until the 1990s when guitarists from Korn began implementing the Ibanez Universe series in their music.
Aside from some other experimental examples, regular 7-string guitars come with an additional bottom B string. This way, musicians get the chance to cover those lower territories and make their riffs sound heavier and give a more extended range to their lead sections. These days, we also have commercially produced 8-string or 9-string guitars. However, 7-strings give us enough of an extended range with a neck that’s not as thick and as wide compared to these other instruments. In almost all cases, 7-string guitars will be more than enough. Additionally, restringing will take much less time.
While many musicians associate them with metal music, 7-string guitars find their use in plenty of other genres as well. It’s not uncommon to see them in jazz music, especially because it’s a style that requires a lot of room for soloing and improvisation.
7-String Guitar Buying Guide
Before deciding to go out there and purchase your first 7-string guitar, it’s also important to get acquainted with some of the most important traits and features that come with these guitars. One of the first that we’d like to get into is the scale length. For those who don’t know, it presents the length from the nut to the bridge. Since you need one thicker string and lower tuning, all while making it all feel comfortable, a scale of a 7-string guitar is noticeably longer. They usually go from 25.5 inches and up to 27 inches. In some cases, scale lengths of 7-string guitars are longer, even going up to 29 inches.
If you want to play in a regular standard B tuning, a shorter scale length of 25.5 inches will be enough. If you want to go to standard A or even lower tunings, it’s advisable to with longer scale lengths. In the end, the choice is up to you and what feels comfortable for your settings. The longer length of the neck might present an issue to some players, so it’s important to have what fits you.
One important thing to look into any guitar is the type of bridge and its quality. And that’s especially the case with 7-string guitars and in particular, those that have a Floyd Rose-styled bridge. These need to be stronger and sturdier compared to regular 6-string bridges as they keep more tension in there and they need to keep it all in tune all the time. Fixed bridges usually shouldn’t be that problematic, but you still need to have great saddles and other components that would make the setup and tuning process much easier and stable.
And just like with the bridge, tuners also need to be strong and sturdy enough to keep things in check. That’s especially the case if you’re going with lower tunings, like standard A or drop A, where things can get a little “flimsy” sometimes. In almost all cases, tuners will be designed in such a way to keep things in check, especially with the guitars that we mentioned here.
Pickups on 7-string guitars are designed not only to support one additional string but also to cover these bottom-end areas in the best possible way. They’re wired and voiced to help a guitar player bring the best out of their music and cover the low-ends. Of course, just like with regular conventional 6-string guitars, these pickups are designed for different styles of music and pronounce different parts of the spectrum in the best possible way. It’s up to you to know whether you want something for metal, like active EMGs, or something more versatile like those very innovative Fishman pickups.
Fanned or Regular Frets
The so-called “fanned” frets are a useful solution that helps the guitar extend its range in the bass-side. These might look a little weird but are very useful for keeping the tension. It takes some getting used to and many players still prefer conventional straight frets. It’s a personal preference, but these guitars with fanned frets usually cost noticeably more compared to those with regular straight frets.
Best 7-String Guitars Reviews
Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK2 HT7
We decided to start this list off with a fairly affordable one for this category. The guitar in question is Jackson’s Pro Series Dinky DK2 HT7, which comes as an improved version of Jackson’s regular 6-string Dinky. This one comes with an ash body and a 3-piece maple neck and they feature a graphite-reinforced bolt-on construction. Although it has a fixed bridge, it’s a fairly well-made one by Hipshot. It’s all accompanied by amazing Gotoh locking tuners that manage to keep things in check. There’s hardly any chance that this guitar will go out of tune, even after heavy use.
But what we see as an important highlight of this fine instrument are its Fishman Fluence Open Core PRF-CO7 pickups. These are pretty much “universal” kinds of pickups as they manage to cover both bright and crunchy stuff, rough metal territories, as well as those smooth mellow tones. It’s a pretty great deal for the price, and we’d recommend it to anyone who’s just getting into 7-strings and is looking for a “safe choice.” However, we would like to see a tremolo bridge on such a guitar.
- Great deal for the price
- Fishman Fluence pickups give it an amazing abundance of tones for a variety of styles
- Great sustain
- Really comfortable neck
- It could use some kind of a tremolo bridge
Ibanez Premium Steve Vai Universe UV70
When it comes to innovative guitars in pretty much any price category, Ibanez is one of the first brands that comes to mind. And, of course, they’re also famous for Steve Vai and his 7-string models. Here we’d like to have the legendary virtuoso’s signature model, UV70 from the Universe series. Aside from an obviously unconventional yet stylish choice of colors and classic Ibanez design, it comes as a full-on shred machine.
First off, we have an amazing and very ergonomic 5-piece maple and walnut neck with the company’s famous Wizard design adjusted specially for 7-string guitars. The body is made of American basswood and it comes with a glossy finish. This instrument comes with a very versatile and powerful combination of two humbuckers and one single-coil pickup in the middle, made by DiMarzio. Additionally, we also have an amazing Floyd Rose bridge.
- Amazing feel with its Wizard 7 5-piece maple/walnut neck
- Three DiMarzio pickups give it a lot of versatility
- Very reliable instrument, it stays it tune even with heavy tremolo use
- Nothing for this price level
Schecter Hellraiser C-7
We could easily say that Schecter is one of the most underrated brands out there. And they’re also pretty great with their 7-string guitar inventory, like the Hellraiser C-7 model. We can’t help but notice its very peculiar design. Although it comes in a few different color patterns, we also have abalone binding on the body, which is accompanied by great-looking Gothic cross inlays on the fretboard.
The body here is made of mahogany and it comes with an amazing C-profile mahogany neck with set-neck construction. The C-7 also comes with 24 jumbo frets and fairly easy and comfortable access to these higher frets. It has a great TonePros tune-o-matic bridge without a stopbar, with strings going through the body. As for the pickups, it comes with active EMG 707tw models that are amazing for those high-gain heavy tones.
- Very stylish design
- Pickups and body material make it a great choice for metal music
- Great for the price
- Comfortable neck
- It’s not as versatile compared to some other 7-strings on here
Knowing how great Ibanez stuff is, it’s hard not to mention at least another model here on this list. This time, we’re looking at the GRG7221, which is a very cheap and simple version of the company’s more advanced instruments. It’s a “stripped-down” 7-string guitar that doesn’t have any flashy features or high-end materials, but it does more than a great job for its price.
Poplar body and maple neck with a pine fingerboard make a fairly decent combination. We have a standard Fender-style fixed bridge that does the job right. We would argue that the bridge could be better, but it’s not like you’d expect more for this price. It’s somewhat of a “stock” guitar and a fairly cheap alternative for anyone looking to get into 7-strings on a budget. It has two humbuckers, simple controls for volume and tone, as well as a simple 3-way switch. What more do you need for a great metal guitar?
- Very cheap and outperforms its price range
- Really simple to use, a great choice for beginners or those on a budget
- The bridge could be a little better
ESP LTD EC-257
ESP’s subsidiary LTD is known for some very innovative guitars, especially for metal music. Their Eclipse series are especially interesting, which is also the case with the EC-257 model. What really makes it stand out is the fact that this is a Les Paul-shaped guitar with 7 strings, which you don’t see that often. While we’re at it, its design is both aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic. The access to higher frets is made easier with its special cutouts on the backside.
Just like the rest of the guitars in the series, it comes with a mahogany body and a 3-piece mahogany neck, all put together with set-neck construction. The guitar has stock ESP pickups specially designed for 7-string guitars. There’s not much to say other than that it’s an amazing guitar for the value, bringing great tone, great performance, reliability, and amazing design all in one.
- Great design that brings both aesthetics and ergonomic features
- Great tone
- Probably the best deal for the price
- Nothing for this price
ESP LTD SCT-607
Of course, there’s no way not to include at least one more ESP LTD guitar here. However, SCT-607 is a special one, being a signature instrument of Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter. And just like his music, this guitar is out of this world as well. Bearing a classic Telecaster shape, it brings both vintage and modern elements into one. With a scale length of 27 inches, many refer to it as a baritone guitar.
Aside from a wacky-looking green sparkle finish and other aesthetic features, this instrument is made to be a real shred and riffing machine. With a Thin U neck profile and some other design features, the guitar feels pretty great on the fretting hand. The highlight of this instrument comes with its Fishman Fluence SRC pickups. Really crispy and pronouncing the higher mids and high-ends, the guitar sounds really “fresh” and is very adaptable to different musical styles. And it’s even not that expensive.
- Really innovative design
- The guitar feels comfortable for the fretting hand
- Fishman pickups bring a really great tone
- Some players might not like the overall aesthetics since they’re very specific
Charvel Angel Vivaldi Signature DK24-7
Angel Vivaldi is one of the biggest guitar heroes of modern times, so it’s no wonder that his signature 7-string is an awesome instrument. Charvel’s DK24-7 comes with a basswood body and a bolt-on maple neck, which is shaped according to Angel Vivaldi’s own preferences. We also have very useful cutouts on the treble-side cutaway, making it much easier to access higher frets.
The aesthetics are really unique, but they might not fit everyone’s tastes. Other than that, this guitar not only plays well but also sounds amazing. That’s all thanks to its DiMarzio pickups and a very tight and stable Gotoh tremolo bridge. And despite two humbuckers on it, the guitar comes with a 5-way switch, making it very versatile.
- Ergonomic design makes it easy to play
- 5 pickup selection combinations make it really versatile
- Great value for the price
- Some may not like the guitar’s specific design
Epiphone Matt Heafy Signature Les Paul 7-String
Lastly, we’d like to take a closer look at one of Epiphone’s great instruments, Trivium’s Matt Heafy signature Les Paul. Now, it’s really unusual to have a 7-string Les Paul, but this one both looks great and works great. The guitar has classic EMG 81 and 85 active pickups which are adapted for 7-string guitars. The tone is just insanely heavy and can cover pretty much any modern subcategory of metal music.
This LP mimics the old stuff with its mahogany body and some really stylish binding on both its body and neck. We also have some other useful features, like a killswitch and two volume and two tone pots. And, to be fair, if you’re looking for a great 7-string guitar for metal music, you just can’t go wrong with this one. Sure, it doesn’t have a tremolo bridge, but it’s reliable and keeps things in tune all the time.
- Very reliable
- Has a great metal tone
- Comfortable ergonomic design of both body and neck
- It could use a tremolo bridge
- It’s not as versatile and mostly works well for metal music
7-string guitars are not uncommon these days. But at the same time, you should really take care when buying your first one. First and foremost, it comes down to musical styles that you want to play. You should also look at the features and see whether the set budget covers what you need. After all, it’s always a better idea to save up a little more and get something that would serve you well, rather than to go as cheap as possible. That’s especially the case with instruments like 7-string guitars.