Extended Range Guitars are nothing new, but their popularity has soared in the past decade due to Modern Metal. Baritones used to be the most that any company offered, but now we have Multi-Scale, 7 String, and 8 String guitars that fill the gap, when we need it.
What are Extended Range Guitars?
Extended range is exactly what it sounds like, it’s any guitar that adds range in any direction. Usually, it adds range to go lower, and there are three ways that Extended range guitars do this.
Baritone Scale: Most guitars have a “standard” scale of 25.5”. This is usually called the “Fender Scale”. While other guitars use a slightly shorter scale of 24.75”. This shorter scale is called the “Gibson scale” since most Les Paul guitars feature this scale length.
Both of these above mentioned, more common scale lengths are made for Standard tuning, or maybe some drop tunings. But once you get to a certain point, the strings are just too floppy. This is where Baritone Scale comes in handy.
Baritone scale starts at 26.5” and goes all the way to 28.0”. This gives the string more length, and allows you to tune much lower without using giant bridge cables for guitar strings! Most traditional baritone Scale guitars come tuned B to B. But you can easily go lower.
- 7 and 8 String Guitars: The other way you can go lower, is by adding a string or two! This way, you still have your standard guitar, but with an added string.
- 7 String Guitars come with an added low B string. This works out perfectly in the concept of guitar tunings. The low B string is tuned to your same “perfect fourths” and it does not take long to get used to incorporating the lower string into your playing. 7 string guitars come in 25.5 scale length, and also baritone depending on the company.
- 8 String Guitars have the same low B string as a 7 string guitar. But keeping up with music theory and guitar tuning, the 8th string is F#. This is another perfect fourth. The 8 string really embodies what extended range guitars are all about. You have almost another full octave to play with by adding the lowest string.
Multi-Scale Guitars or “Fan Fret” are probably the newest addition to the concept of extended range guitars. These come in all kinds of variations. You can find them in 6 string, 7 string, and 8 string models depending on the manufacturer. The best way to explain them, is to show you a picture:
The frets are basically “fanned” to create a longer scale length on the bass side of the guitar, and a shorter scale length on the treble side. This allows for more equal tension across the whole fretboard. It’s an interesting idea, and solves a lot of problems that extended range players may have with string tension.
With all of that said, i hope we are all on the same page! Let’s take a look at the top 5 extended range guitars for 2021!
#5 Schecter Reaper 7MS
Schecter is known for making quality instruments at a budget-friendly price, and the Reaper is one of the newest models. The Reaper comes in a few different models, but the one we are looking at today is the 7 string multi scale. Schecter packs a ton of features into a budget minded guitar:
- 3 Finish Options
- Burl Top
- Lightweight Swamp Ash Body
- Hipshot Bridge
- Graphite Nut
- Set Neck Construction
- Decimator Pickups
- Ebony Fretboard
- 26.5 Scale to 25.5 Scale
The Schecter Reaper Series has been well reviewed so far, and would be an excellent introduction to extended range guitars. It helps that the Reaper comes with tons of high end features, like the name brand hardware. Being easy on the wallet is another reason it is a perfect intro!
You also get push/pull volume pots on this model, which allows you to coil split. So not only do you get crushing humbucker tones, but you can also get some nasty single coil tones as well.
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#4 Jackson Pro Misha Mansoor HT7
Jackson has been making some really cool guitars for Misha from Periphery for several years now. It’s pretty clear by listening to his playing style, that extended range guitars are necessary for the low tunings he uses. His 7 string model comes in many forms, but they all sport the same features in the Pro Series:
- 26.5 baritone Scale
- Basswood Body
- Dunlop Strap Locks
- Bolt On Neck
- Graphite Reinforcement Rods
- Jumbo Frets
- Oiled Finish Neck (Satin)
- MM1 Juggernaut Pickups
- 5 Position Blade Pickup Selector
It would seem that a lot of “budget priced” artist models are sketchy, and possibly snake oil, But Misha actually plays all of his signature models when recording, even the budget ones! This probably has a lot to do with how versatile the HT7 guitars really are.
The 5 Way Blade pickup selector allows you to have full humbucker modes on both pickups. The in between positions can give you an out of phase sound, or single coil sound. This means that the HT7 can do just about any sound you throw at it.
The baritone scale length will allow you to tune much lower than your standard 7 string. I believe Misha tunes his all the way down to Ab without any problems!
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#3 Strandberg Guitars
Strandberg started as a custom shop project by Ola Strandberg. But the guitars eventually got so much attention that they had to start mass production. They have been making extended range guitars for over a decade now!
You can now find all of the models, including the famous Boden, at your favorite retailer. These guitars are made in the Cort Factory in Indonesia, from what I can tell (Who also make excellent extended range guitars).
While the Boden was the original model of most Strandberg guitars, the company has expanded to several different models. These come in 6, 7, and even 8 string variants. The most outstanding feature of Strandberg Guitars is the neck.
Strandberg is famous for the EndurNeck profile. This is an very cool idea. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the flat part of the neck almost “twists”. This is to allow for easier playing, as it follows your natural thumb position. It may feel a little weird at first, but once you get used to it the neck may change your mind forever!
All Strandberg models come with special hardware, and different pickup selections, including Fishman Pickups. If you think Strandberg’s Ergonomic design is something that you may like, check out their Official Website for all models and designs!
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#2 Harley Benton Fan Fret
You probably know about Harley Benton. They show up on guitar review channels a lot, because they are rarely priced above $300. This sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
A $180 fan fret guitar?!
Harley Benton have been making extended range guitars for a few years now, and the brand is made and shipped exclusively by Thomann Music. These are definitely budget guitars, and the price shouldn’t scare you…too much.
The fact is, most of these guitars will show up with a few issues out of the box. But nothing that a setup and a little love can’t fix! If you don’t mind doing just a little bit of work, or paying a luthier to do a little work, then this is a great way to try out extended range guitars, without breaking the bank.
So if you are looking to just try out extended range guitars, or maybe you want a project guitar to mod…you can do worse than a Harley Benton!
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#1 Ibanez RGD71ALPA
Ibanez has been the leader of extended range guitars for years. Ibanez made the very first production 7 string guitar, as well as the first production 8 string model! This is quite a feat!
Ibanez has been a leader in extended range guitars, and it seems like every year brings new surprises! We already took a look at the newest Ibanez Models, earlier this year.
The RGD71ALPA is full of custom features, that make the Axion Series look amazing!
- Nitro Wizard-75pc Panga Panga/Walnut neck
- Poplar Burl topLayered Ash & Nyatoh body
- Macassar Ebony fretboard White Step off-set dot inlay
- Jumbo Sub Zero treated frets
- 24 Frets
- Mono-rail bridge
- 26.5 Scale
- Bare Knuckle Aftermath-7 (H) neck pickup Passive/Alnico
- Bare Knuckle Aftermath-7 (H) bridge pickup Passive/Ceramic
- D’Addario® EXL Strings
If all of that sounds expensive, you would be surprised to find out that while this is not a budget guitar, it may be in your budget. The Axion Series starts at around $1000 USD, and can get a little more pricey depending on the features. This one, with the Bare Knuckle pickups, will run you around $1400.
We have often spoke of the quality of Ibanez, and how they are trailblazers in the guitar pantheon.
But the RGD71ALPA is designed for more experienced extended range guitar enthusiasts. The Axion Label is built to be ready for the stage or studio. You will not need to upgrade anything!
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Are Extended Range Guitars for you?
That depends on your personal style, entirely! Everyone is different.
one way to look at extended range guitars is the way I view them: They are not just guitars with more room, or more strings. They are entirely different instruments. They are different tools for different jobs.
I know that personally, I enjoy extended range guitars. I write riffs differently on a 7 string than I would a 6 string. The same goes for 8 string guitars. They are great tools for unlocking creativity. But at the same time…
I have had many friends try out my guitars and absolutely hate the 7 string, baritone, or which ever extended range guitar of mine they tried. It all comes down to personal preference, and that can be said about all things in the guitar universe.
But it never hurts to try!