Eight-string guitar

Last updated
Agile Intrepid Agile Intrepid Dual Charcoal.jpg
Agile Intrepid
Homemade fretless guitar based on Jackson Rhoads Fretless-8string-guitar.JPG
Homemade fretless guitar based on Jackson Rhoads
Eight-string multi-scale acoustic guitar by luthier Patrick Hawley of Ottawa, Ontario Eight String Acoustic Guitar by Patrick Hawley.jpg
Eight-string multi-scale acoustic guitar by luthier Patrick Hawley of Ottawa, Ontario

An eight-string guitar is a guitar with two more strings than the usual six, or one more than the Russian guitar's seven. Eight-string guitars are less common than six- and seven-string guitars, but they are used by a few classical, jazz, and metal guitarists. The eight-string guitar allows a wider tonal range, or non-standard tunings (such as major-thirds tuning), or both.

Guitar fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the finger(s)/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.

Russian guitar musical instrument

The Russian guitar (sometimes referred to as a "Gypsy guitar") is an acoustic seven-string guitar that was developed in Russia toward the end of the 18th century: it shares most of its organological features with the Spanish guitar, although some historians insist on English guitar ascendancy. It is known in Russian as the semistrunnaya gitara (семиструнная гитара), or affectionately as the semistrunka (семиструнка), which translates to "seven-stringer". These guitars are most commonly tuned to an open G chord as follows: D2 G2 B2 D3 G3 B3 D4. In classical literature, the lowest string (D) occasionally is tuned down to the C.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".


Various non-standard guitars were made in the 19th century, including eight-string guitars played by Italians Giulio Regondi and Luigi Legnani. [1]

Giulio Regondi Italian composer

Giulio Regondi was a Swiss-born classical guitarist, concertinist and composer active in France and (mainly) the United Kingdom.

Luigi Rinaldo Legnani was an Italian guitarist, singer, composer and luthier.

Eight-string guitars gained popularity among metal bands, largely inspired by Swedish progressive metal band Meshuggah (formed in 1987).

Progressive metal is a fusion genre melding heavy metal and progressive rock that combines the loud "aggression" and amplified guitar-driven sound of the former with the more experimental, cerebral or "pseudo-classical" compositions of the latter.

Meshuggah Swedish heavy metal band

Meshuggah is a Swedish extreme metal band from Umeå, formed in 1987. Meshuggah's line-up consists of founding members vocalist Jens Kidman and lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, drummer Tomas Haake, who joined in 1990, rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström, who joined in 1993 and bassist Dick Lövgren since 2004.


Semi-acoustic guitar (hollow-body guitar)

Seeking a guitar tuning that would facilitate jazz improvisation, Ralph Patt invented major-thirds tuning in 1963. [2] [3] [4] Patt's tuning is a regular tuning, in the sense that all of the intervals between its successive open strings are major thirds; in contrast, standard guitar tuning has one major-third amid four fourths. [5]

Improvisation is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found.. Improvisation, in the performing arts is a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation. The skills of improvisation can apply to many different faculties, across all artistic, scientific, physical, cognitive, academic, and non-academic disciplines; see Applied improvisation.

Ralph Patt United States jazz-guitarist, inventor of major-thirds tuning; geologist specializing in hydrology and consulting on Hanford Site

Ralph Oliver Patt was an American jazz-guitarist who introduced major-thirds tuning. Patt's tuning simplified the learning of the fretboard and chords by beginners and improvisation by advanced guitarists. He invented major-thirds tuning under the inspiration of first the atonal music of Arnold Schoenberg and second the jazz of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.

In music theory, an interval is the difference in pitch between two sounds. An interval may be described as horizontal, linear, or melodic if it refers to successively sounding tones, such as two adjacent pitches in a melody, and vertical or harmonic if it pertains to simultaneously sounding tones, such as in a chord.

Seven-string guitars are needed for major-thirds tuning to have the E-e' range of the standard tuning. [5] [6] Having an eight-string instrument allowed Patt's guitar to have G (equivalently A) as its open note. [6] Patt purchased six-string archtop hollow-body guitars that were then modified by luthiers to have wider necks, wider pickups, and eight strings. Patt's Gibson ES-150 was modified by Vincent "Jimmy" DiSerio c. 1965. [4] [6] Luthier Saul Koll modified a sequence of guitars: a 1938 Gibson Cromwell, a Sears Silvertone, a c. 1922 Mango archtop, a 1951 Gibson L-50, and a 1932 Epiphone Broadway; for Koll's modifications, custom pick-ups accommodated Patt's wide necks and high G (equivalently A); [6] custom pick-ups were manufactured by Seymour Duncan [6] and by Bill Lawrence. [4]

Seven-string guitar musical instrument

The seven-string guitar adds one additional string to the more common six-string guitar, commonly used to extend the bass range or also to extend the treble range.

Archtop guitar type of steel-stringed acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar

An "archtop guitar" is a hollow steel-stringed acoustic or semiacoustic guitar with a full body and a distinctive arched top, whose sound is particularly popular with jazz, blues, rockabilly, and psychobilly guitarists.

Semi-acoustic guitar instrument

A semi-acoustic guitar or hollow-body electric is a type of electric guitar that originates from the 1930s. It has both a sound box and one or more electric pickups. This is not the same as an acoustic-electric guitar, which is an acoustic guitar with the addition of pickups or other means of amplification, added by either the manufacturer or the player.


Solid-body eight string guitars are also used by many bands today. The construction of a solid-body eight-string guitar is comparable to that of seven- and six-string variants. The standard tuning (from low to high) is F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E. [7] Many prefer to tune the F# to a low E (E1), the same note as the lowest string on a four-string electric bass in standard tuning, and providing the guitar with a fuller sound by having three different E strings. [ citation needed ]

Like the seven-string, the first mass-produced eight-string guitar was made by Ibanez guitars in Japan; the RG2228. [ citation needed ]

Scale length

The main design issue faced with an eight-string guitar is tuning stability with the lower strings. This is due to the neck being constructed too short, bridge problems such as improper intonation, uneven spacing for floating bridges, or the use of wrong string gauges. Other problems associated with tuning stability rely on proper set up of the guitar.

Extended range eight string guitars sometimes will have a multi-scale design where the bass strings will be longer than the treble strings(fanned fret design). This helps with proper intonation of the lower strings, improves string tension balance across the strings, improves harmonic overtones, overtone series, and improves inharmonicity. (See also inharmonicity in pianos). The bass strings on an 8 string typically require the saddle to be pulled back a bit more than the other strings to properly set the intonation. Some bridge designs accommodate this by offsetting back the 7th and 8th strings or providing a bit extra room for adjustment. Longer scale lengths require less offset for proper intonation. [ citation needed ]

Notable players


Paul Galbraith began using an eight string guitar in 1994 when in collaboration with luthier David Rubio they designed the Brahms guitar. Galbraith generally tunes (B)EADGBEA. Egberto Gismonti (born 1947) is a Brazilian guitarist and pianist who favors the 8-string classical guitar.


Jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter plays a hybrid eight-string guitar made by Ralph Novak of Novax Guitars. Five of the strings are tuned to the standard guitar's upper five (A, D, G, B, E), while three of the strings are tuned to the standard bass guitar's three lowest (E, A, D). The bass and treble sections have separate pickups and are sent to separate amplifiers. Hunter also has a ten-string guitar based on the same principle—a combination of standard six-string guitar and standard four-string bass. [8]


The eight-string guitar is used by modern heavy metal guitarists such as Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström of Meshuggah, Dino Cazares of Fear Factory, Stephen Carpenter of Deftones, Greg Burgess of Allegaeon, Simon Girard and Kevin Chartré of Beyond Creation, Justin Lowe and Trent Hafdahl of After the Burial, Josh Travis of Emmure (ex-The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza and ex-Glass Cloud), Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry and others. The instrument is particularly associated with the “djent” sound popularized by Meshuggah, Vildhjarta and other contemporary metal artists.

Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes of Animals as Leaders tune their eighth strings to the same low E as the lowest string on a standard four-string bass guitar, and use the instrument's versatility to incorporate bass guitar techniques—such as string thumping (on "Earth Departure, An Infinite Regression") á la funk bassist Larry Graham and the double thumping technique pioneered by Victor Wooten — as well as harp-like arpeggios.

Ihsahn of the black metal band Emperor began playing seven-string guitar in 1999 and first played eight-string guitar on his 2010 album After .

Rusty Cooley tunes his eight-string guitar like a standard six-string expanded in both directions. This tuning offers both deeper bass tones than a conventional guitar and extended range in the higher register for lead melodies.

Guitarist Justin Broadrick of the English industrial metal band Godflesh introduced his eight-string playing on the 2014 Godflesh EP Decline & Fall .

Guitarist Lucas Mann and Miles Dimitri Baker from the technical deathcore band Rings Of Saturn also using eight-string guitar, as well as their former member, Joel Omans.

Other modern artists utilizing eight-string guitars include progressive metal band Animals As Leaders (formed in 2007), progressive metal band After The Burial, Dino Cazares of Fear Factory (he played an Ibanez LACS eight-string in his band Asesino c. 2005), Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry, and various new age progressive metal and djent artists.

See also


  1. Noonan, Jeffrey (2008). The Guitar in America: Victorian Era to Jazz Age. American Made Music. University Press of Mississippi. p. 205. ISBN   1934110183.
  2. Griewank (2010 , p. 1)
  3. Kirkeby, Ole (1 March 2012). "Major thirds tuning". m3guitar.com. cited by Sethares (2011) and (Griewank 2010, p. 1). Archived from the original on 11 April 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 Patt, Ralph (14 April 2008). "The major 3rd tuning". Ralph Patt's jazz web page. ralphpatt.com. cited by Sethares (2011) and Griewank (2010, p. 1). Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  5. 1 2 Sethares (2001)
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Peterson (2002 , p. 37): Peterson, Jonathon (Winter 2002). "Tuning in thirds: A new approach to playing leads to a new kind of guitar". American Lutherie: The Quarterly Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers. 8222 South Park Avenue, Tacoma WA 98408: USA.: The Guild of American Luthiers. 72: 36–43. ISSN   1041-7176. Archived from the original on 21 October 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  7. http://www.guitarcasa.com/2014/02/17/8-string-guitar-tuning/
  8. Alexander, Charles (2003). Masters of Jazz Guitar: The Story of the Players and Their Music. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 180. ISBN   0879307285.

Related Research Articles

Bass guitar Electric bass instrument

The bass guitar is a stringed instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric guitar, except with a longer neck and scale length, and four to six strings or courses. The four-string bass is usually tuned the same as the double bass, which corresponds to pitches one octave lower than the four lowest pitched strings of a guitar. The bass guitar is a transposing instrument, as it is notated in bass clef an octave higher than it sounds. It is played primarily with the fingers or thumb, by plucking, slapping, popping, strumming, tapping, thumping, or picking with a plectrum, often known as a pick. The electric bass guitar has pickups and must be connected to an amplifier and speaker, to be loud enough to compete with other instruments.

Jazz guitar

The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.

Fredrik Thordendal Swedish musician

Fredrik Thordendal is a Swedish musician, best known as the lead guitarist and backing vocalist for the Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah, of which he is a founding member. Along with Meshuggah's rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström, Thordendal was rated No. 35 by Guitar World in the top 100 greatest heavy metal guitarists of all-time.

Guitar chord

In music, a guitar chord is a set of notes played on a guitar. A chord's notes are often played simultaneously, but they can be played sequentially in an arpeggio. The implementation of guitar chords depends on the guitar tuning. Most guitars used in popular music have six strings with the "standard" tuning of the Spanish classical-guitar, namely E-A-D-G-B-E' ; in standard tuning, the intervals present among adjacent strings are perfect fourths except for the major third (G,B). Standard tuning requires four chord-shapes for the major triads.

Guitar tunings

Guitar tunings assign pitches to the open strings of guitars, including acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and classical guitars. Tunings are described by the particular pitches denoted by notes in Western music. By convention, the notes are ordered from lowest-pitched string to highest-pitched.

Outline of guitars Wikimedia list article

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:

John D’Angelico (1905–1964) was a luthier from New York City, noted for his handmade archtop guitars and mandolins.

An augmented tuning is a tuning system for musical instruments that is associated with augmented triads, that is a root note, a major third, and an augmented fifth. The augmented fifth is constructed by stacking the major third with another major third. Consequently, all of the intervals are major thirds.

Nine-string guitar

A nine-string guitar is a guitar with nine strings instead of the commonly used six strings. Such guitars are not as common as the six-string variety, but are used by guitarists to modify the sound or expand the range of their instrument.

Djent is a subgenre of progressive metal, named for an onomatopoeia for the distinctive high-gain, distorted, palm-muted, low-pitch guitar sound first employed by Meshuggah.

Major thirds tuning

Among alternative tunings for guitar, a major-thirds tuning is a regular tuning in which each interval between successive open strings is a major third. Other names for major-thirds tuning include major-third tuning, M3 tuning, all-thirds tuning, and augmented tuning. By definition, a major-third interval separates two notes that differ by exactly four semitones.

Regular tuning

Among alternative guitar-tunings, regular tunings have equal musical intervals between the paired notes of their successive open strings.

Repetitive tuning

Repetitive tunings are alternative tunings for the guitar. A repetitive tuning begins with a list of notes that is duplicated, either at unison or at higher octaves.

Overtones tuning

Among alternative tunings for the guitar, an overtones tuning selects its open-string notes from the overtone sequence of a fundamental note. An example is the open tuning constituted by the first six overtones of the fundamental note C, namely C2-C3-G3-C4-E4-G4.