Here’s a complete beginner friendly guide on how to tune a 7-string guitar, covering everything from Standard Tuning for 7-string guitars to more exotic, lower tunings you can try…
- Standard 7-string guitar tuning includes an additional low B string, extending the instrument’s sonic range and making it ideal for genres like metal and progressive rock.
- Despite the added string, all familiar chords, scales, and modes apply (in Standard Tuning), with the lower B string adding depth and heaviness to your playing.
- Power chords on a 7-string guitar are played similarly to a 6-stringer, with the B string enhancing their sound.
- Popular 7-string guitar tunings include Drop A, B Standard, and variations like Drop A with G tuned to F#, Drop Ab, Bb Standard, and Drop G#, each offering unique sound profiles and characteristics.
- Some less common tunings like A Standard and GDADGBE provide intriguing tonal options for experimentation and creativity.
Whether you’ve just bought a 7-string guitar or you’re seriously considering getting one, the most important you need to get your head around is 7 string guitar tuning.
The addition of an extra string brings more tonal possibilities but also a new batch of tunings to work worth. And if you’re used to 6-string guitars, adding an extra string into the mix can be confusing.
I say “can” because once you understand a few basics things, switching from EADGBE to BEADGBE is actually really simple.
And we’re gonna cover everything you need to know about 7 string guitar tuning below. Let’s dive in…
How To Tune A 7-String Guitar
Standard 7-String Guitar Tuning: A Deep Dive
From the beefiest string to the slickest, the standard tuning for a 7-string guitar rolls out as:
But here’s the kicker: This isn’t just about adding another string. It’s about diving deeper into the sonic spectrum.
By introducing a low B string beneath the conventional 6-string setup, the range is extended meaning you can get A LOT lower than you can with a 6-string.
And for genres like metal and progressive rock? That’s just what the doctor ordered.
Why This Tuning Makes Sense
Think of the low B string as your guitar’s secret weapon. With it you can add a much deeper, heavier sound to your riffs. But once you move past the B string, your back into 6-string territory, so you should feel right at home.
All of the same chords, scales and modes apply here. But you now have an extra, lower B string up top for getting down and dirty.
Plus, power chords work in EXACTLY the same way on a 7-string guitar as they do on a 6-stringer. You play them the same, only with the B string adding loads of extra depth and heaviness.
Still unsure? Here’s some pointers on playing power chords on a 7-string guitar:
Playing Power Chords on the Low B String:
- Position your fingers: Place your index finger on the B string (the thickest string) at any fret. This is your root note.
- Add the fifth: Press down on the E string (the next string) two frets higher than your root note with your ring finger.
- Strum: Play these two strings together to produce a power chord. For instance, if you start on the 3rd fret of the B string, you’re playing a B power chord.
Expanding the Power Chord:
For a fuller sound, you can add the octave:
- Add the octave: Using your pinky, press down on the A string (the third string from the top) on the same fret as your ring finger.
- Strum: Play the three strings together for a richer power chord.
Popular 7-String Guitar Tunings
Once you get the basics down in Standard Tuning on your 7-string guitar and you’re used to playing with that extra string, you can then start messing around with alternate tunings.
As with 6-string guitars, the possibilities for alternative tunings on a 7-string guitar are extremely varied. You can basically tune your guitar however you like (if you REALLY know what you’re doing).
Again, though, if you’re a beginner or just getting started it is probably best to stick to the most popular 7-string guitar tunings.
These tunings – broken down below – are tried and tested, so you don’t have to worry about anything. They all sound good and they all have their own, unique nuances.
Alternate 7-String Guitar Tunings
Drop A (AEADGBE)
- Characteristics and Sound Profile: Drop A tuning provides a deep, resonant sound, emphasizing the lower frequencies. The dropped A string allows for heavier riffs and easier power chord formations, especially on the lower strings.
- Genres and Artists: This tuning is a favorite among metal and progressive rock musicians. Bands like Periphery, Animals as Leaders, and Meshuggah have tracks that utilize this tuning to its full potential.
B Standard (BEADGBE)
- Characteristics and Sound Profile: B Standard is the most common tuning for 7-string guitars. It maintains the standard tuning of a 6-string guitar while adding a low B, offering a seamless transition for those familiar with 6-string configurations.
- Famous Songs and Bands: Dream Theater’s John Petrucci and Steve Vai are known to use B Standard tuning in some of their compositions. Songs like “The Mirror” by Dream Theater showcase the depth this tuning can provide.
Drop A with the G tuned to F#
- Why Some Guitarists Prefer This Variation: Tuning the G to F# in Drop A provides a more symmetrical feel across the strings, especially for those who play scales and solos. It offers a unique tonal palette and can make certain chord voicings and transitions smoother.
- The Unique Sound and Its Applications: Drop Ab offers a slightly higher pitch than Drop A, yet still maintains a heavy and robust sound. It’s a middle ground for those looking for depth without going too low.
- Overview and Its Popularity: Bb Standard tuning is a half-step down from B Standard. It’s favored by guitarists looking for a slightly darker and warmer tone. It’s less common than B Standard but offers a unique sonic character.
- Characteristics and Its Niche: Drop G# takes the heaviness a notch further. It’s particularly favored by djent and progressive metal guitarists for its ultra-low tonality. It’s niche, but for those seeking a truly deep sound, it’s a go-to.
A Standard and GDADGBE
- Exploring These Less Common But Intriguing Tunings: A Standard is a full step down from B Standard, providing a warm and rich tonality. GDADGbe, on the other hand, is an open tuning that offers unique chord voicings and is great for slide guitar techniques and ambient soundscapes.
The Influence of Genre on Tuning
Metal and Its Many Faces
Here’s the deal: When it comes to the world of metal and its myriad sub-genres, two tunings reign supreme – Drop A and B Standard.
Why? They pack a punch. The depth and heaviness they bring to the table are unmatched, making them the go-to for metalheads worldwide.
Whether you’re chugging out riffs or diving into intricate solos, these tunings are the backbone of the metal sound.
Rock and Progressive: A Deep Dive
Rock has its legends, and when it comes to 7-string mastery, Dream Theater stands tall.
But here’s a nugget of gold: Dream Theater’s iconic sound, especially in tracks like “The Mirror”, owes a lot to the B Standard tuning (BEADGBE) which helps create its powerful and melodious tone.
For rock and progressive enthusiasts, this tuning is a treasure trove of sonic possibilities.
Experimental and Alternative: The Road Less Traveled
For those who like to tread off the beaten path, tunings like GDADGbe beckon. It’s not mainstream, and that’s the beauty of it.
This open tuning offers a fresh palette of sounds, perfect for creating ambient landscapes and ethereal melodies.
Whether you’re into slide guitar techniques or crafting unique chord progressions, this tuning is a gateway to uncharted territories.
Bottom line? Your tuning sets the stage for your sound. Interesting fact: this is why Dillinger Escape Plan opted to play in Standard Tuning – everybody else was down-tuning, so the tonal qualities of Standard Tuning gave the band’s sound a distinct edge.
And Dillinger ain’t alone, either. Plenty of metal bands play in Standard Tuning and they all sound properly heavy. Think early OPETH, Metallica, and Black Sabbath.
Still on the fence? Check out our beginner’s guide to 7-string guitars – it covers the history and evolution of 7-string guitars and covers off all the key things you need to know before you buy one.
7-String Guitar Reviews
And if you’re interested in making the switch, here’s some reviews of my favorite 7-string guitars that I have either bought or tested during the last 12-18 months:
RichardRichard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.
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