Is a 7 String Guitar Good for a Beginner?

Is having a 7-string as your first guitar comparable to having a Mack Truck as your first car?

A 7-string guitar can absolutely be the right fit for the right beginner player. Especially if it helps them play the songs that inspire them. There are, though, a few hurdles that potentially can stand in their way. Mostly the lack of literature for beginners that is aimed at 7-string players.

Let’s answer some questions for all the seven-string starters. 

Are 7-string guitars harder to play?

7 String guitars are not inherently difficult or complex.

In fact, they become very easy to navigate once you understand that the 7th string is simply another B string (2nd string) just two octaves down.

This means the relationship between the 7th and 6th strings is exactly the same as the relationship between the 6th and 5th strings. Thus, most of your regular chords will be the same.

A 7-string guitar’s biggest hurdle only occurs once you are already established and familiar with six strings. 

Your visual markers are thrown off and the intervals between the lowest string and the 3rd and 2nd string differ by a semi-tone (due to the major 3rd interval jump between the G and B strings).

The secret to overcoming this is to avoid learning the fretboard from the lowest string down. Try to not view all scales and chords as beginning low and climbing high, find different starting points and explore the neck dynamically.

What are the differences between a 6 and a 7-string guitar?

Besides the glaringly obvious differences, 6 and 7 string guitars differ mostly in ethos. 

What this means is that 7-strings are mostly designed for heavier and more modern music, namely Metal/Djent/Prog/Hardcore, etc… 

Often you’ll find that 7-string guitars have:

  • Thinner neck profiles: As many modern guitars do, many 7 strings aim to be sleek high-performance beasts that beg to be shredded upon (like a good cheddar), all whilst having taller fretboards to accommodate the 7th string. 
  • Much hotter pickups: Modern voiced pickups are geared towards the cultivation of savage tones.
  • Less classic designs: There are very few 7-string Les Pauls or classic Telecasters. Though, they do exist (check out the Matt Heafy Signature Epiphone or the Chapman ML-7).
  • Longer scale lengths: One of the most common scale lengths for a 7 string is 26.5 inches versus a regular 6-string with a maximum of 25.5, this assists with lower tunings. 

If you desire to dive headfirst into a deluge of more in-depth details dedicated to down tuning and 7-string guitar, be sure to read Gear Aficionado’s “7-Strings Vs Drop Tuned 6-string”:

Should a beginner start with a 7-string guitar?

As a guitar teacher who has taught many beginners, this question has two very different answers. Firstly, we need to ask why?

If the music that inspires you to pick up the guitar is demonically delicious down-tuned death metal, then yes it can help to start with the extended access to the lower register. 

This will save you from having to wrap your head around drop tuning and just allow you the luxury of learning brutal glory.

Inspiration is a huge (and very undersung) factor in your formative guitar years. The sooner you can play a song you like the better, enjoying what you learn and being driven by your inspirations will make it infinitely more likely that you will keep playing.  

If you are an adult or in your late teens, beginning with a 7 string will be fine. You’ve most likely made an active choice to pursue 7-string and thus a specific type of music. 

Though, if you are 100% set on starting your string-slinging quest with seven strings, I highly (HIGHLY!) recommend going to a guitar teacher, especially one that has experience in 7 strings and heavier music.

This is due to the fact that the vast majority (in fact nearly 100%) of information for new players will be dedicated to 6 string guitars. Learning how to read tabs or analyze written music is a complex task at first. Let a guitar guru guide you through this minefield.

Are 7 string guitars more expensive?

7 string guitars are not more expensive in any meaningful way. If you find a 6-string and a 7-string, two glorious guitars that are exactly the same (brand, model, range, condition), the 7 might be $100 – $200 more, but when you are looking for a quality instrument that is not a big difference. 

Especially when you consider that the 7 string grants you everything that a 6 string will offer and more. You can always play 6 string songs on 7 string guitars, the other way around, however, is not so easy.

Once you have made up your mind to explicitly explore axes armed with extra strings, the additional cost of strings and parts will not stand in your way. It is too small a difference to be a factor.

Why would someone not recommend starting with a 7-string?

The major complications that occur when beginning with 7 strings can be boiled down to one factor: all of the accessible information for a starter strings slinger is designed for 6-string guitars. 

As stated above, a guitar teacher will be crucial in this regard. Someone to help you understand that you have chosen a slightly different path, one that requires a bit of finesse.

All that being said, if you are even considering beginning on a 7 string instead of a 6 string, you most likely have already researched the differences and are fully aware of why you have made this choice.

You might even be here reading this article.

In which case…

Hello, there you brilliantly ambitious being! May your journey to discover the wonders of the low B string be glorious and brutal.  

Can you play music other than metal with a 7-string?

Whilst 7 string guitars are predominantly used for worshipping at the altar of distortion, there is absolutely no reason you can not use them for a host of other genres.

Country music has had a long-standing love of baritone guitars, giving room for lower singers to move around. 

While the 7 string has some slightly different intervals between the 3rd and 2nd string when compared to a baritone guitar, with some slight work you could access those chords.

The ever-brilliant and wildly diverse world of Jazz has a neat little spot for the 7-string guitar to flourish. With artists like:

  • George Van Eps (listen to the album Soliloquy on YouTube)
  • Ron Escheté
  • Steve Herberman
  • Steve Masakowski

The issue you’ll face here is that affordable 7 strings will, by and large, be dedicated to the cruel and unyielding pursuit of metal.

Though, this should not deter you. Feel free to be inspired to fully utilize and discover the range of seven strings.