The Ultimate Guide To 7-String Guitar Tuning

7-string guitars seem to be everywhere these days, becoming especially popular in recent years. Entire genres have been built around this particular type of guitar. You can really dive into the deep, deep rabbit hole that is extended-range guitars, but we’ll keep it simple here. 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play a 7-string guitar? (If so, check out our guide to Budget 7-String Guitars or our Best 7-String list.) Or do you already have one and are just curious about different 7-string guitar tunings? Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re going to walk you through some of the most popular and interesting tunings for seven-string guitars.

7-String Crash Course

For those unaware, a seven-string guitar is exactly what it says: a guitar with a seventh string. This string is usually tuned lower than the 6th string, giving it an extended range.

The history of the seven-string guitar might surprise you. We all know that lower tunings are very popular in modern metal. Ever since the mid-1990s, bands have experimented with lower and lower tunings. Down-tuning is not new at all, but tuning so low was an experimental concept. However, 7-string guitars have been around since the 1800s. They were primarily played by solo classical guitarists. The point was to be still able to play chords and melodies the way they’re used to whilst being able to simultaneously accompany yourself in the bass register. This essentially removed the need for a bass player. Seven-string guitars were used in a variety of styles, from Russian folk music to orchestral solo pieces. They’re still fairly common in countries like Mexico, where 7-string guitars prove popular with mariachi groups.

Why use a seven-string? Some players want to be able to play lower notes while still having the full treble range of a six-string guitar. Some want to be able to play a bassline along with a melody, a very popular style of playing these days (think of artists like Polyphia or Ichika Nito). And some just want to use crazy alternative tunings to open themselves to a wider range of songwriting flavors.

Why tune down? Tuning down gives the music a darker feel, which in turn can enhance the particular feel a song is trying to convey. Whereas tuning up (or using a capo) is very popular with acoustic guitarists to create a brighter feel, tuning down does the opposite. That’s why it’s so popular in the darker genres of music. As I said, entire genres have been built around this concept. One such genre is Djent. Djent is an extreme form of metal, often played with 8-9 string guitars tuned down to drop E (1 octave down) or even lower. The dark sounds give a very ominous and alerting sound that conveys certain emotions very well.

But enough of that, let’s dive right into some of the most popular, and fun, 7-string guitar tunings…

7-String Guitar Tuning – B Standard Tuning (B-E-A-D-G-b-e)

  • Minimum scale length: 25.5” (26.5″ recommended)
  • Used by: Trivium (Shogun), Haken (The Virus), Dream Theatre (many different songs)

This is the standard tuning of the modern 7-string guitar. It’s the same as E standard, but the 7th string is tuned a fourth down from the low E, making it a low B. This 7-string guitar tuning is so popular because the intervals between the lowest strings are the same as on a six-string guitar. It also allows you to play in E standard as if the guitar has 6 strings. A popular variation of this tuning is when the G string is tuned up a semitone to G#. This makes the shifts the major 3rd interval up one string, allowing the player to play familiar chord shapes one strong lower. Other popular variations are tuning all the strings down to A# standard or A standard, for instance. B standard is very popular with all sorts of metal bands, with styles ranging from thrash-metal to complicated prog-groups.

Artists who use B standard include Trivium, Haken, Dream Theatre, Alien Weaponry, Crowbar, etc.

7-String Guitar Tuning – Drop A Tuning (A-E-A-D-G-B-e)

  • Minimum scale length: 25.5″ (26.5-27” recommended)
  • Used by: Slipknot (certain songs on All Hope Is Gone), Amon Amarth (many different songs), Nile (most songs)

This 7-string tuning basically takes the Drop D concept, but tuned down a fourth. This once again allows the player to play in E standard. The only difference between Drop A and B standard is that the low B is tuned down to an A. This makes the interval between the 6th and 7th string a fifth, which makes it easier to play power chords. It also makes it easier to play inverted major or minor 3rds and suspended chords. These sorts of tunings are popular with metal bands who play fast power chord sequences or modern metal bands who play with a lot of complex chords.

Popular variations of this tuning are Drop G#, Drop G, or even lower. This once again involves tuning all the strings down from Drop A, giving it an even darker sound. An even more popular tuning is Drop B (B-F#-B-E-A-C#-f#). Drop A is very popular with alternative metal bands that like to riff hard. Fast and relatively simple riffs are usually the way to go with Drop A. Just play any Drop D riffs in Drop A, and you’ll feel super mighty.

Artists who often use Drop A include Slipknot, Amon Amarth, Nile, Suicide Silence, and Impending Doom.

7-String Guitar Tuning – Drop G Tuning (G-D-G-C-F-A-d)

  • Minimum scale length: 26.5” (27” recommended)
  • Used by: Periphery (certain songs on most albums), Born of Osiris (many different songs)

Now we’re getting into the extremes. I know this is similar to Drop A, but it’s just so popular that I have to talk about it. For many people, Drop G is considered the best drop tuning for 7-string guitars, as it combines a slightly darker sound than E standard on the 6 higher strings, while still having the lowest string be audible enough to clearly hear what’s being played.

Whether that’s true is debatable, but you have to agree that this tuning is certainly a blast to play and hear. That’s why lots of bands use it, such as Periphery, Born of Osiris, Whitechapel, and Wage War. Even Pantera technically used Drop G. But Dimebag played it on a six-string guitar tuned to G-G-C-F-A-D, where the lowest G is an octave below the higher G.

7-String Guitar Tuning – Open C Tuning (G-C-G-C-G-C-E)

  • Minimum scale length 26.5” (27” recommended)
  • Used by Devin Townsend (many different songs)

This is a very interesting tuning, as all the strings are tuned to the notes in a C major triad. This opens up lots of possibilities for interesting chord voicings. This tuning is more popular on six-string guitars, where a variety of open chords are being used as tunings. Tunings like Open G and Open D are very popular in genres with slide guitar, like blues and country. These tunings are also popular with acoustic guitarists who want to take their basic chords to the next level. These tunings are fun to experiment with and are a great songwriting tool for discovering new sounds that you wouldn’t get on a more standard tuning.

An example of an artist who uses open tunings on seven-string guitars is Devin Townsend.

7-String Guitar Tuning – G-C-G-C-F-A-D Tuning

  • Minimum scale length 26.5” (27” recommended)
  • Used by Killswitch Engage, Periphery

This is a great tuning for if you want to play chords that sound huge. This tuning is basically Drop C but with a low G. This enables you to play simple power chords over 4 strings and 2 octaves. This tuning can also be used to add flavor by primarily playing in Drop C, while using the low G to accentuate certain chords. There’s a lot of fun that can be had with this tuning. Even forgetting all the interesting flavors, just playing simple power chords over two octaves will sound absolutely massive!

I couldn’t find any bands that play in G-C-G-C-F-A-D, but there are lots of bands that play in Drop C, and this tuning can be used in unison with G-C-G-C-F-A-D.

Some bands that play in Drop C are As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage, Papa Roach, and Periphery. 

7-String Guitar Tuning – Drop E Tuning (E-B-E-A-D-G-B)

  • Minimum scale length 27” (28-28.5” recommended)
  • Used by Meshuggah (all albums)

This is where it gets really crazy. Stepping fully into bass guitar territory (yes, this means you can finally fire your bass player), this tuning gets pretty extreme. The point of this tuning is not the same as B standard, though. B standard is meant more for the same sorts of riffs you’d play in E standard but lower. Whereas, Drop E morphs into a completely different style of playing, where low open strings, high chords, and melodies are rapidly alternated.

Drop E is usually played on 8-string guitars, but it’s absolutely achievable on a 7-string. Drop E is often used in the more extreme styles of progressive metal, like Djent, for instance. This tuning is so crazy that if a band that plays in Drop E has a bass player, the bass player usually tunes UP to be in the same register (From E-A-D-G to E-B-E-A). Tuning an octave down is nearly impossible on a bass guitar, and what’s the point? As long as the guitars and bass are mixed well, the bass player doesn’t even have to play lower than the guitarist(s) for the mix to sound full. If you’re going to experiment with some of the more extreme tunings like this, you’ll need to use the best quality strings to help preserve your tuning stability.

Bands that often play in Drop E include Meshuggah, Born of Osiris, and Loathe.

Final Thoughts on 7 String Guitar Tuning

We hope our 7-String Guitar Tuning Guide was useful to you and that you stick around to see more (like our full guide to different types of guitars)! We depend on you spreading the word about KillerGuitarRigs in order to keep making these free guides and resources, so feel free to share this article with your friends.

Main image courtesy of wikipedia.
  • Martin Holland

    Growing up in rural Australia, there wasn't much to do but play guitar and stare at the red dirt. When things broke, the only person to fix them was fifty miles away, and eventually fixing gave way to building, giving me my career as a luthier. I wouldn't have it any other way.

5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To 7-String Guitar Tuning

  • Some interesting tunings but no ADGCFAD? Love it on my 7 string.

  • I wonder what string manufacturer and gauge to use as a 1st string in DGCFAD+G since the EADGBE+A will break the 1st string.
    barbwirex at hotmail if you have any ideas.

  • Very impressive 7 strings guitar on the first picture

  • What first made me want a seven string is to play drop A for Korn and drop B for Slipknot! Good times!

  • You mention tuning the G up in the Standard tuning. This actually should be tuned DOWN half a step: B-E-A-D-F#-B-E. Baritone tuning with an extra high E string.


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