For many decades now, we’ve seen the electric guitar evolve in so many different ways, creating one very diverse world. Although the basic concepts are still there, including the standard body and neck construction with magnetic pickups, there have been many things that were added, removed, or just altered over the past decades. However, arguably the most drastic change came with extended-range guitars. Although the concept of having more than 6 strings was present, these guitars were only available through expensive custom builders. But as the 1990s came, 7-string guitars came into the spotlight.
There have been some examples of 8-string guitars in the earlier decades, but the first mass-produced and commercially successful one came out in the mid-2000s, the RG2228 model by Ibanez (which was developed according to the company’s famous S and RG series). The modern version of an 8-string guitar has two additional strings below the 6th string. The 7th string is B and the 8th is F# that goes into some really deep territories. In this article, we will review top best 8-string guitars and answer some frequently asked questions for beginners.
- 1 Top 7 Best 8-String Guitars
- 2 Beginner’s Frequently Asked Questions
- 3 Conclusion
Top 7 Best 8-String Guitars
B.C. Rich Shredzilla SZ824SM
For many years now, B.C. Rich have been making some of the most popular guitars in metal music. However, it was somewhat unexpected to have them going into the 8-string guitars, especially because they’re mostly famous for classic old school 1980s metal guitars. Nonetheless, their 8-string model deserves our praise. Appropriately named Shredzilla and bearing the SZ824SM mark, this guitar comes with great aesthetics, amazing tone, and some very useful features.
First off, the guitar features a standard Super-Strat kind of body with two deep cutaways. The body is made out of mahogany and also has a spalted maple top. This is accompanied by a wonderful 5-piece neck made out of a maple and wenge wood combination. And the best part is that it forms a neck-through construction with the body, improving this instrument’s sustain, as well as comfort in the higher-fret areas.
While we’re at it, the guitar comes with 24 extra-jumbo frets. The scale length is relatively short, standing at 26.5 inches. Nonetheless, it still manages to have a very stable operation even in lower tunings. As far as the pickups go, we have active Fishman Fluence Alnico and Ceramichumbuckers with a standard 3-way switch. Some versatility is added with a killswitch and a voicing control as a “push and pull” feature on the volume control.
- Great build quality with a neck-through construction
- Very reliable instrument, keeps tuning very stable
- Amazing design
- Fishman pickups give it a great tone
- It doesn’t have a tone pot
When talking about extended-range guitars, there’s really no chance to avoid Ibanez. After all, they were the first ones to mass-produce both 7-string and 8-string guitars, with the 8-string model RG2228 entering the spotlight in 2007. The one that we have here is their RG8 which is a continuation of the company’s well-known RG series. Introduced back in 2012, this one still remains one of the company’s most popular extended-range models.
Aside from a very slick and sharp Super-Strat shape, we have a meranti wood body with a glossy finish. As for the neck, we have a wonderful Wizard II-8 design that’s a 5-piece maple and walnut combination. It not only provides you with comfort, but it also proves very reliable for lower tunings as its elongated size gives a total of 27 inches in scale length. The tuning is super-stable, mostly due to the amazing headstock design that keeps strings in an almost straight line after the nut. Aside from that, we have a fixed bridge, and a standard two humbucker combination with a 3-way switch, as well as volume and tone controls.
The best part about RG8 – it’s really cheap considering its qualities. There’s hardly any chance you’ll find a better combo of price and quality.
- Great deal for the cost
- Its special design keeps tuning very stable
- Great build quality
- Nothing for this price
GStyle 8-String Guitar
Of course, 8-string guitars got their reputation of being expensive. However, we’ve seen with the Ibanez RG8 how cheap things can get. And we have another very affordable example, the 8-string guitar made by GStyle. Yes, we know what you’re thinking – this is not exactly the best-known brand. However, we can assure you that this is an amazing instrument considering its ridiculously low price.
But despite its low cost, we have all the necessary features and qualities in there. The body is desiged pretty well, featuring a standard double-cutaway design and okoume wood as the main material. More versatility is added with a burl poplar top. It’s all followed by a maple neck with an ebony fretboard fitted on top of it. The guitar has 24 frets, with a total scale length of 26.5 inches. It’s fitted with two humbucking pickups and essential controls.
Of course, it’s nothing that impressive, but it’s more than a great choice knowing its price and what you get for it. If you want the cheapest 8-string that gets the job done, then go with GStyle. The pickups could be a bit better, but at the end of the day, we can’t really complain that much about this instrument.
- Extremely cheap
- It’s reliable and has decent ergonomic qualities
- The pickups could be a bit better
ESP LTD SC-608
Known for their amazing metal-oriented guitars, ESP’s subsidiary LTD comes as one of the best brands in this particular category. As for 8-string guitars, they have their amazing SC-608. The model comes as a signature guitar of none other than Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter. It’s accompanied by a few other amazing models, all fitting his unique musical style.
The SC-608 model is not only one of the most stylish, but also one of the best-sounding 8-string guitars of all time. What’s more, the instrument is done in great detail, providing players with great comfort, no matter the area on the fretboard where they’re playing.
The body is made of mahogany, which is pretty common for metal-oriented guitars. At the same time, things are balanced out with a 3-piece maple neck with Macassar ebony fretboard and neck-through construction.
Additionally, we also have Fishman Fluence SRC Signature active pickups that provide you with some amazing tone-shaping possibilities. And the best part is that they’re positioned in a very unusual way, in the bridge and middle position. It’s pretty clear that the guitar gives some pretty unique tones.
- Amazing build quality
- Very unique tone and versatile tone-shaping possibilities
- Professional-level instrument that’s extremely reliable
- Unique design
- It might be a little expensive
Schecter Banshee Elite-8
Among the abundance of guitar brands, Schecter sometimes tends to get overlooked and underrated. Nonetheless, they have their following, especially within the community of metal-oriented musicians. So it came as no surprise when they entered the 8-string guitar market. And here we have their amazing twist on the Banshee series, the Banshee Elite-8.
The guitar is as mean and heavy as its name would suggest. What’s more, Shecter managed to keep the good qualities all while making it cheaper than most of the 8-string guitars at this quality level. The meticulously designed Super-Strat body is made of swamp ash wood and also features a flamed maple top.
This is all followed by an amazing “Thin-C” profile neck that’s made of walnut and maple and forms a neck-through construction with the body. We have a standard hardtail bridge with strings going through the body and two humbucker pickups with a 5-way selector switch. The total scale length is 28 inches, which is a bit longer compared to the standard.
Although the pickups could probably be a bit better, this guitar still delivers quite a punch. And knowing its price, we can’t really complain much about it.
- 28-inch scale length is useful for lower tuning
- Amazing ergonomic qualities
- Great deal for the price
- Pickups could be a bit better
Washburn PXM18EB Parallaxe PXM Series
Of course, Washburn is another company that decided to jump in on this 8-string game. Their impeccable qualities can be seen with a model like their PXM18EB which belongs to the Parallaxe series. The main idea here was to have a true metal shred machine while keeping things within the reasonable price levels.
We once again have a Super-Strat design with some very useful ergonomic features added to it. Although it features a bolt-on construction, it has cutouts and indents on the backside and on the bass-side cutaway. But it’s not only just these performance features, but also the active EMG 808 humbucker pickups that give a very heavy, rough, and defined tone. It’s all followed by this instrument’s amazing design. To be fully honest, it’s surprising to see such a guitar that’s way below the $1000 mark.
- Affordable and worth the price
- Very useful for metal music
- Great ergonomic features
- It’s not that versatile outside of metal music
Ibanez FTM33 Fredrik Thordendal Signature
Ibanez’s signature model for Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal is just something else. Compared to other instruments mentioned here, this one doesn’t come with a Super-Strat body but rather a classic “Firebird” shape. Yes, it’s noticeably more expesive compared to the standard stuff, but the instrument is really worth it.
Featuring neck-through construction, FTM33 has a maple and walnut neck as well as an ash body, giving it a unique sound and a prolonged sustain. This absolute metal beast and a chugging machine is equipped with Lundgren Model M8P pickups and FX Edge III-8 bridge for great stability in performance. It comes with a total scale length of 27 inches and it’s designed to go one semitone below the “standard” 8-string tuning.
- Best build quality that you can find on the market
- Amazing tone
- Great tuning stability and overall reliability
- Unique design
- It’s expensive
Beginner’s Frequently Asked Questions
What Are 8-String Guitars for and Why Are They So Special?
As you might assume by now, 8-string guitars became quite popular among metal musicians. Most specifically, they’re fairly popular in the progressive metal circles and were mostly promoted by bands like Meshuggah or Animals as Leaders with Tosin Abasi pushing the boundaries of this instrument. Over the years came the term “djent” which marked a new movement in metal that’s characterized by low-pitched heavy guitar riffs and rhythmic complexity. And this particular subgenre just wouldn’t work without extended-range guitars, most notably the 8-string ones.
With two additional strings in the lower register, there’s a lot of heavy stuff going on in there. But aside from extreme or progressive metal bands, these guitars also found use in other genres, especially those who wanted to experiment with jazz. Nonetheless, they’re still best-known in modern progressive metal music. Aside from the aforementioned Animals as Leaders and Meshuggah, we have Leprous, Periphery, and many others that implement these fine instruments. The low-end riffs just sound really heavy, and when combined with intricate and complex rhythmic patterns, they create a really unique style that’s been gaining a lot of attention these past years. And 8-string guitars are an essential part of it.
What You Need to Know Before Buying 8-String Guitars?
But in case you’re planning to get one yourself, you can’t really jump into this world without informing yourself on the matter first. After all, these guitars are significantly different compared to the standard 6-string stuff, and even the 7-string guitars. But we’ll get to all the details below.
What’s the 8-String Guitar Tuning?
8-string guitars come with regular 6 strings and two lower strings added below it. Although there are no longer “standards” with 8-string guitars, the most common tuning is F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E from the lowest to the highest string. In some cases, the bottom 8th string is dropped one step below, down to E. Of course, there are also other ways how you can tune it, but this is just the most common one.
We also have different variants on string gauges. The first six strings are pretty much the same as what you’d find with 6-string guitars. The bottom two strings can be 0.064 and 0.080 inches. We also have other sets that have 0.060 or 0.062 for the 7th string. And in some extra-light cases, the 7th string is 0.054 while the 8th string is at 0.065.
Do 8-String Guitars Have Bigger Necks?
With more strings comes more responsibility. And bigger and longer necks. The standard 6-string scale length is usually between 24 and 25.5 inches. When it comes to 8-string guitars, we have scale lengths usually around 27 inches. In some cases, they might be shorter, going down to 26.5 inches. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for the scale length to go up to 28 inches or even above that, similar to what we have on some baritone 6-string guitars.
Having more strings than “conventional” guitars (these days, we’re not certain what “conventional” even means in the world of the guitar), it’s expected to have wider necks. The distance between the strings is roughly the same as with 6-string guitars, thus their necks are not only longer but wider as well. The thickness, on the other hand, might not be that bigger.
Are 8-String Guitars Hard to Play?
Look, every instrument comes with its challenges. But looking from the technical perspective, 8-string guitars can get a lot trickier compared to 6- or 7-string ones. Performing any lead section can be a challenge since you cannot wrap your entire hand around the neck and put the thumb above it when bending a string. At the same time, reaching the two bottom strings can also pose a challenge at your fretting hand’s wrist will have to be in a completely different position compared to what you’re used to. It’s far from an impossible task to perform as well as on other guitars, but you’ll need some practice to get a hang of it all.
What Kind of Pickups Do We Have on 8-String Guitars?
The pickups on 8-string guitars are made based on the same principles that we see on 6-string pickups. However, knowing that they need to cover some low-end territories without blowing up an average guitar amp, they’re designed in such a way to work with those low-end frequencies and make it all sound balanced. Some companies, like Fishman, have perfected this craft and are now famous for their very diverse 8-string guitar pickups that can even add a lot of brightness to the tone. Of course, other guitar manufacturing companies have done a great job at making good 8-string pickups, but Fishman are currently the most popular ones.
You might also like: 7 Best Pickups for Metal
As you can see, the 8-string guitars are really special. Although you have the same principles as with conventional 6-strings, they come with elongated and larger necks. This also requires quality components, including well-made bridges and tuning machines. One of the first things that you’ll need to think of is tuning stability and ergonomic features. As for other traits, they’re usually all in check, even with cheaper 8-string guitars.