While most guitarists start learning on a 6 string guitar, you might wonder how it compares to a 7 string guitar.
7 string guitars have become incredibly popular (as well as 8 string guitars) and many guitarists now prefer to play 7 string guitars due to the extra range and versatility.
In this guide, I’ll compare 6 and 7 string guitars so you can find out which one is right for you.
I’ll look at how they compare in playability, styles of music, difficulty, and anything else you need to know.
If you want to get a 7 string guitar, read this Guide on the Best 7 String Guitars to find one right for you.
If you buy a 7 string guitar, check out these 7 String Guitar Exercises to get started.
Difference Between 6 and 7 String Guitars
The main difference between 6 and 7 string guitars is that a 7 string guitar adds an extra string on the low end. So a 7 string guitar is a normal six-string guitar with an extra low string added in.
The below diagram compares the standard tuning for 6 and 7 string guitars:
You can see that the 7 string guitar has the same E A D G B E tuning on the higher six strings, but it also includes a low B string.
The low B string on a 7 string guitar makes a big difference in the range of notes you can play, possible chord shapes, and playing style.
In the below fretboard diagram for a 7 string guitar, have a look at the extra low notes you can access compared to a 6 string guitar:
On the low B string, you can see that the 5th fret is the same note as the low E string on a 6 string guitar (highlighted in red).
You then have four extra fretted notes and the low open B string that extend far below the normal 6 string range (highlighted in blue).
At first, it might not seem like an extra five notes makes much of a difference, but it does as I’ll explain below.
Is a 7 String Guitar Harder to Play?
A 7 string guitar isn’t harder to play than a 6 string guitar. It only feels different due to the wider fretboard and extra string. You can learn and play a 7 string guitar in the same way as you would play a 6 string guitar.
If you’re a beginner, a 7 string guitar might feel intimidating to play at first.
You may find it awkward to reach your fingers over the wider fretboard or you may become confused by the extra string.
But this initial confusion quickly passes as you learn to feel comfortable with a 7 string guitar.
The key point to remember is that 7 string guitars are not harder to play than 6 string guitars.
They will probably feel weird and confusing at first, but that passes as you get used to it. Eventually, a 7 string guitar will feel just as normal to you as a 6 string guitar does now.
Can You Play 6 String Songs on a 7 String Guitar?
Yes, you can play any 6 string guitar songs on a 7 string guitar. The higher 6 strings on a 7 string guitar are exactly the same as a normal 6 string guitar. This means you can ignore the low B string and play a 7 string guitar just like a normal 6 string guitar.
Take a look at the below fretboard diagram for a 7 string guitar and notice that it’s basically a 6 string guitar with an extra string added (highlighted in blue):
This means you can play any song you want on the higher 6 strings. You can basically ignore the low B string and play your guitar just like a normal 6 string guitar.
While you can play any 6 string song on a 7 string guitar, it will feel different. While the strings and notes are the same on those upper six strings, it won’t feel like you’re playing a normal guitar.
The wider fretboard and the extra string makes it feel different. The most obvious example is when you’re used to strumming chords on a 6 string guitar.
Normally, when you strum chords on a 6 string guitar, you can use a wide strumming motion and hit all six strings with ease.
If you try to do this on a 7 string guitar, you will probably accidentally strum the low 7th string, which won’t work with most chords.
That doesn’t mean you can’t play normal chords on a 7 string guitar, it only means you need to slightly adjust your strumming technique to watch out for the low 7th string.
What’s the Point of a 7 String Guitar?
The point of a 7 string guitar is to extend the range of notes you can play, without changing the tuning on a 6 string guitar. A 7 string guitar also gives you more choices for chord shapes and finger placement.
The obvious use of a 7 string guitar is to play low-pitched notes for heavier styles of music.
7 string guitars became popular in the 90s with bands like Korn as a way of playing extremely low pitched riffs, while still having the higher-pitched notes available.
Other bands at that time would use 6 string guitars and tune them down. For example, Slipknot usually tune their 6 string guitars down to Drop-B. This allows them to play the same low notes as you would normally only get on a 7 string guitar. If a guitarist only cared about low-ranged notes, tuning down a 6 string guitar is easier.
So the big difference between tuning a 6 string guitar down and playing a 7 string guitar is that a 7 string guitar still lets you play higher notes.
Today, countless guitarists use 7, 8, and 9 string guitars to access a wider range of notes. It’s the main reason why some guitarists prefer 7+ string guitars.
Should I Buy a 6 or 7 String Guitar?
Whether you should buy a 6 or 7 string guitar depends on the music you want to play. Buy the type of guitar that matches the music you listen to.
If you listen to a lot of music that is usually played on 7 string guitars, you should consider buying a 7 string. If most of the music you listen to is played on a 6 string guitar, you might prefer starting by learning on a 6 string guitar.
As almost any guitarist will tell you, you can always buy another guitar later on.
For most beginners just starting out with guitar, I suggest getting a 6 string. Having one less string to worry about does make the learning process easier.
The only time I would suggest buying a 7 string guitar to a complete beginner is when most of the music you listen to is usually played on a 7 string.
Note: wondering why some 7 string guitars have fanned frets like in the above photo? Read this guide on fanned frets to learn why all about them. I highly recommend learning about fanned frets before you buy a 7 string guitar.
If you listen to mainly 7 string guitar music, it’s going to suck if you can’t play any of it because you bought a 6 string guitar. I remember being frustrated in my early guitar years whenever I would find out a song was played on a 7 string guitar because I didn’t have one.
To find out whether the music you listen to is usually played on a 6 or 7 string guitar, search for the songs on any free Guitar TAB website.
You’ll be able to see in the Guitar TAB whether the guitar uses 6, 7, or 8 strings. Find out how to read Guitar TAB in this guide.
What 7 String Guitar Should I Get?
In the past, there weren’t many 7 string guitar models to choose from. Today, you have a massive range of excellent quality 7 string guitars at every budget level.
There are decent budget-level 7 string guitars all the way up to high-end signature models for many guitar brands.
Check out my Guide to the Best 7 String Guitars to find out what to look for in a 7 string guitar.
You’ll be able to use the advice in the guide to find the right type of 7 string guitar for you.
If you do decide to get a 7 string guitar, use these exercises to help feel comfortable with the extra string and wider fretboard.
Check out these useful guides for 7 string guitars
- 7 String Guitar Tunings
- 7 String Guitar Exercises
- Best 7 String Guitars
- 7 String Guitar Songs Worth Learning (With TAB)