5 Uncommon Approaches That Will Improve Your 7 String Guitar Playing
If you treat 7 string guitar just like a ‘6 string guitar with an added string’, you are missing out on a world of creative opportunity! You may think that you have run out of ideas, but it’s more likely that you have not yet fully explored the creative advantages of your instrument.
On the other hand, advanced guitar players with more experience understand how to use 7 string guitar in order to gain many additional creative options in their guitar playing.
I have previously covered information for playing 7 string guitar ideas in an instructional guitar column I wrote on this subject. In that column I discussed how to start playing 7 string guitar after spending the majority of your time exclusively playing 6 string guitar. If you have not already read through that article, check it out first, then come back to learn some more unique and creative ways to improve as a guitarist.
Implement these five concepts into your regular guitar practice routine in order to become much better and more creative in your 7 string guitar playing:
Use String Skipping To Enhance The Intensity Of Your Guitar Riffs
One of the first things that guitar players are drawn to with 7 string guitar is playing rhythm patterns on the low B string. The expanded pitch range of this string gives you the opportunity to use string skipping as a tool to make really intense and killer rhythm guitar riffs. In many cases, string skipping would normally be used as a lead guitar technique. However, on 7 string guitar the low B string allows you to use string skipping while still remaining in the lower pitch range normally associated with rhythm guitar.
When you begin skipping strings from the low B string, you give yourself more options to be creative as well as improve your ability to pick with a much higher degree of accuracy. Why is this? While playing on 7 string guitar, not only must you adjust for the wider neck, but you must overcome these two obstacles as well:
1. Your pick has to move further to get to the next string.
2. It is easier to play sloppy because the added string can ring out, causing undesired noise in your guitar playing as you skip strings.
To learn more about eliminating sloppy string skipping technique while playing 7 string guitar, study this 7 string guitar riff mini course.
Use Creativity In Your Palm Muting Technique
Even though palm muting is considered by many to be a basic guitar technique, there is much more to it than you might think. Becoming truly skilled with palm muting takes a lot of practice and determination. A good demonstration of this can be observed in my guitar player recording guide where I show how to solve frequent rhythm guitar recording errors that people commit (without even being aware of it). For the most part, guitar players do not really understand how to play with consistent palm muting technique. If you do not learn how to do this for yourself, it may end up costing you a great deal of time and money to fix your mistakes in the studio.
With this in mind, you know you have truly mastered palm muting when you have the ability to consciously adjust the precise amount of muting you apply while playing rhythm guitar ideas. A good illustration of this is when you use palm muting technique while playing a power chord and slowly decrease the pressure of your palm on the strings to allow them to ring out openly. This technique can sound really intense when applied on the low B string due to the natural ‘heaviness’ of the lower register. Applying this technique consistently and accurately requires practice, especially if you are going to ‘record’ a double tracked rhythm guitar part that uses it. This palm muting application is not at all the same as playing guitar with inconsistent muting without being aware of what you are doing.
Hear how this palm muting technique sounds by listening to the example in this 7 string guitar riff mini course.
Utilize The Low 7th String To Enhance Your Picking Hand Accuracy
One unique way to develop your picking hand accuracy is to take advantage of the thickness of the low B string. Here’s how to do this: First, think of several licks, scale patterns or riffs that only use the lowest two strings. Then take your time and develop the ability to play them fast with an emphasis on perfect accuracy for each note (use palm muting as well to improve your muting technique).
To really push your limits and force yourself to get better, turn down/off the distortion settings on your amp to make it more challenging to play clean. By practicing in this manner, your picking hand articulation will drastically improve. You can observe this by switching back to your normal distortion settings afterwards (you’ll notice that it then becomes MUCH easier to articulate the notes than before).
Build Up Intensity In Your Music Using Irregular Rhythms
Playing guitar using irregular rhythms is not the same as playing using irregular meter. Irregular meter refers to the actual meter being used (for example: 7/8 instead of 6/8) and irregular rhythm refers to the way the notes are divided within the meter itself. As a general rule, irregular rhythm will refer to organizing rhythms in a way that is unusual for the meter by using syncopation, unique note groupings and many other musical techniques.
Playing with irregular rhythms is not exclusive to the 7 string guitar (you can do this on a standard guitar as well of course). However, by combining the tension created from irregular rhythm with the tension created by the ‘heaviness’ of the low B string, you can play very powerful and intense guitar riffs that could never be played with only 6 strings. One of my favorite ways to take advantage of this is to replace notes in the middle of a measure with ‘silence’. This creates an imbalance in the flow of the music that builds up additional tension to compliment the aggressive feel of playing on the low B string.
You can listen to an example of how this sounds by checking out this resource on how to play 7 string guitar.
Play Using A Higher Register By Stringing Your Guitar With A High “A” String
It is overwhelmingly common for 7 string guitar players to use a low B string. After all, this is how most 7 string guitars are sold at guitar shops. However, this does not mean that you are limited to only playing with this string. It is perfectly acceptable to use a high “A” string (in standard tuning) that expands the higher register rather than a low B string. When you do this, you will open the door to creative lead guitar possibilities that are totally unavailable in both 6 string guitar and typical 7 string guitar set ups.
Warning: Just like with the low B string, it is very easy to over-emphasize the high A string and cause your guitar playing to lose a sense of variety. Keep this in mind and use a balanced approach to keep your guitar playing fresh.
After reading this article, you now have a much better understanding of how to play 7 string guitar using creative ideas that are unavailable in standard 6 string guitar playing. Don’t limit yourself to the ideas in this article alone. Fact is, there are still MANY creative possibilities out there to explore… and with some creative thinking on your part, you will discover them and take your 7 string guitar playing to a whole new level!
Get help to apply the ideas in this article into your guitar playing by checking out the mp3 examples in this 7 string guitar riff mini course.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional touring musician and the guitarist for the epic metal band Rhapsody Of Fire. After teaching thousands of guitar students internationally through his online guitar lessons website, he has become the leader in online guitar instruction. Check out his lead guitar tips, free video lessons on guitar, and guitar practice videos to make fast progress in your guitar playing.