How To Play 7 String Guitar To Maximize Your Musical Creativity
By Tom Hess
Do you want to know how to play a 7 string guitar more creatively? Many guitar players, especially those who have played a 6 string guitar for years and are new to 7 string guitar playing do not know how to get the most from their new instrument. 7 string guitar is essentially the same instrument as the 6 string guitar in many ways. However, with the addition of the extra string, you will come across several new physical and musical challenges as well as new opportunities for making your guitar playing more creative and expressive.
To master playing 7 string guitar and become a more creative musician, you need to learn the best ways to approach the new challenges that come along with playing this instrument. You also need to discover how to take advantage of the new creative tools you have at your disposal. In this article, I will give you several ideas to help you maximize your musical creativity using a 7 string guitar.
Control The Pitch Range
When most guitar players first buy a 7 string guitar they spend a lot of their time experimenting with ‘heavy’ riffs on the low B string. Although this aspect of the instrument is very cool, it can become very boring after a while if you constantly use ‘only’ (or mostly) the lower notes on the lowest string during your rhythm guitar playing. In order to make your guitar playing more interesting, it is important to use the full range of the instrument. Here is an example to illustrate my point:
The piano is an instrument that consists of a full range of pitches going from very low to very high. When you think of piano music in your head, I’m sure that you hear a full sound with many high notes and many low notes. Now, imagine yourself playing a 10 minute piano piece using ONLY the very lowest range. How long does it take before you get bored and try to add in higher notes? My guess is not too long. This same concept applies for your 7 string guitar playing. If you focus too much on the low B string, you are not taking advantage of the full range of the instrument and you make your guitar playing sound ‘one dimensional’. Using the higher range of the guitar in a more balanced manner with the lower pitches will make your guitar playing sound much more interesting overall.
This idea of balance in pitch range is especially important if you are planning on writing your own music. When I teach songwriting techniques to my guitar students, this is one of the areas I help them to master. To learn more details about how to use this idea in your music, check out this free lesson on how to play 7 string guitar.
Extend Your Lead Guitar Ideas Into The New Pitch Range
Most guitar players think of a 7 string guitar as primarily a “rhythm instrument” because of its extra bass string. As a result, they don’t take the time to extend their lead guitar scale and arpeggio fingerings to accommodate the wider pitch range on the additional string. This is a big mistake because it limits you from taking advantage of the unique sound of the instrument and holds you back from coming up with new guitar phrases that you may not have considered to play on a regular 6 string guitar.
If you are unsure about how to do this, seek out a more experienced guitarist or find a great guitar teacher who can show you how to master these aspects of 7 string guitar playing.
Explore New Guitar Chord Possibilities
In addition to its unique lead guitar capabilities, you can also use a 7 string guitar to create some very cool chords. Although 7 string electric guitar is typically only associated with playing music in the “Metal” style, as you will see below, it is actually quite a versatile instrument for many different genres of music outside of Metal and can also be used in styles such as Rock, Jazz, Country, Classical and others. By using the low B string, you can achieve a unique sound even on the basic chords that you are already used to playing on a 6 string guitar. This extra bass note gives you the chance to play both guitar and bass guitar at the same time! In order to get the most out of this exercise, turn off your distortion and play on a clean setting through your amp. Get ready to experiment with some of the guitar chords you already know from 6 string guitar playing by adding the low B string (Note: you will have a much easier time doing this well if you know what notes go into what chords). Try combining first the low B string (both by playing it open or by fretting some notes on it in the right key) with different chords played on the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings. Next, play notes using the low B string together with chords played on the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings.
As you experiment with the exercise above, take note of the difference in feel that occurs when you leave a lot of space between the highest notes of the chord and the low B string (such as when playing chords on strings 3, 2 and 1) vs. when the chords are played on strings 5 4 and 3. Which one sounds better, when the notes are closer together or further apart? Decide on the answer for yourself and begin to use these new sounds in your music.
Eliminate Excess String Noise
One of the physical challenges that new 7 string guitar players struggle with is controlling the extra noise coming from the strings that are not being played. Because this instrument has an extra string, it can be harder to eliminate excessive guitar string noise while you are playing. Additionally, the feel of a 7 string guitar is much different than that of the 6 string due to its wider guitar neck. Getting used to this difference will take time and practice. In order to quickly solve these issues, you need to pay attention to this specific element of your guitar playing as you practice. LISTEN carefully to how your guitar playing sounds and use the appropriate techniques to mute this excess string noise. To learn more about how to do this, read this article about fixing unwanted guitar string noise. If you struggle with making your guitar playing clean, I recommend that you find a guitar teacher who has experience helping others with this same issue.
Transition Between Rhythm And Lead Guitar
In order to become a more creative guitar player (whether you play 6 string or 7 string guitar), you must work on your ability to transition seamlessly, cleanly and in time between rhythm and lead guitar parts. This is especially important to practice for 7 string guitar playing, since it is more difficult (physically) to jump across more strings as you shift from a lower range rhythm section to a higher range lead guitar part.
In order to practice this, try coming up with two separate rhythm and lead guitar parts (make them simple to start with). Then, focus on connecting both parts smoothly together while staying “in time”. To get the most from this exercise, work on it using a metronome (or a drum track) and record your guitar playing so that you can then listen back without the guitar in your hands to analyze how well (cleanly, accurately and in time) you played.
Although the points in this article are not particularly difficult to understand or do, most guitarists do not actually “apply” them into their 7 string guitar playing. Once you implement the ideas discussed above, you will be on your way to becoming a much more creative guitar player. The result will be great sounding music that takes advantage of the full range of possibilities offered by the 7 string guitar.
To learn more about how to maximize the creativity potential of this instrument, get this free lesson about 7 string guitar playing.
In addition, to learn how to make your guitar playing cleaner, read this article on cleaning up unwanted guitar string noise.
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