Eight-string guitar

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Agile Intrepid
Homemade Fretless Jackson Rhoads
Eight-string multi-scale acoustic guitar by luthier Patrick Hawley of Ottawa, Ontario

An eight-string guitar is a guitar with two more strings than the usual six, or one more than the Russian guitar's seven. Eight-string guitars are less common than six and seven string guitars, but they are used by a few classical, jazz, and metal guitarists. However, eight strings is the standard for lap steel and pedal steel guitars. The eight-string guitar allows a wider range, or non-standard tunings (such as major-thirds tuning), or both.

Various non-standard guitars were made in the 19th century, including eight-string guitars played by Italians Giulio Regondi and Luigi Legnani.

In the 1940s, American lap steel guitars generally standardized with eight strings. Tuning was usually based on either the E9 chord for "Nashville" style or the C6 chord for jazz configurations.


Semi-acoustic guitar (hollow-body guitar)

Seeking a guitar-tuning that would facilitate jazz improvisation, Ralph Patt invented major-thirds tuning in 1963. Patt's tuning is a regular tuning, in the sense that all of the intervals between its successive open strings are major thirds; in contrast, the standard guitar-tuning has one major-third amid four fourths.

Seven-string guitars are needed for major-thirds tuning to have the E-e' range of the standard tuning. Eight-strings enabled Patt's highest string to have G (equivalently A) for its open note. Patt purchased six-string archtop hollow-body guitars that were then modified by luthiers to have wider necks, wider pickups, and eight strings. Patt's Gibson ES-150 was modified by Vincent "Jimmy" DiSerio circa 1965. Luthier Saul Koll modified a sequence of guitars: a 1938 Gibson Cromwell, a Sears Silvertone, a circa 1922 Mango archtop, a 1951 Gibson L-50, and a 1932 Epiphone Broadway; for Koll's modifications, custom pick-ups accommodated Patt's wide necks and high G (equivalently A); custom pick-ups were manufactured by Seymour Duncan and by Bill Lawrence.


The solid-body eight string guitar is also used in many modern bands today. The construction of a solid-body eight-string guitar is identical to seven and six-string variants. The standard tuning (from low to high, top down) is F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E. The tuning can always be changed. Many prefer to tune the F# to a low E (the same E on a bass guitar), providing the guitar with a fuller sound by having three different E strings. By doing this, octaves and fifths are accessed easily.

Like the seven-string, the first commercially produced eight-string guitar is made by Ibanez guitars in Japan; the RG2228

Scale Length

The main design issue faced with an eight-string guitar is tuning stability with the lower strings. This is due to the neck being constructed too short, bridge problems such as improper intonation, uneven spacing for floating bridges, or the use of wrong string gauges. Other problems associated with tuning stability rely on proper set up of the guitar.

Extended range eight string guitars sometimes will have a multi-scale design where the bass strings will be longer than the treble strings. This helps with proper intonation of the lower strings, improves string tension balance across the strings, improves harmonic overtones, overtone series, and improves inharmonicity. (See also inharmonicity in pianos).

A point of clarity, inharmonicity is not Intonation. Pressing a string against a fret — aside from raising the string's pitch by shortening the string — also causes a slight secondary raise in pitch because pressing the string increases its tension. The bass strings on an 8 string typically require the saddle to be pulled back a bit more than the other strings to properly set the intonation. Some bridge designs accommodate this by offsetting back the 7th and 8th strings or providing a bit extra room for adjustment. Longer scale lengths require less offset for proper intonation.

Notable Players


Paul Galbraith began using an eight string guitar in 1994 when in collaboration with luthier David Rubio they designed the Brahms guitar. Galbraith generally tunes (B)EADGBEA.

Alexander Vynograd tunes AEADGCEA

Egberto Gismonti (born 1947) is a Brazilian guitarist and pianist who favors the 8-string classical guitar.

Raphael Rabello


Jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter is known for playing a hybrid eight-string guitar made by Ralph Novak of Novax Guitars. Five of the strings are tuned to the standard guitar's upper five (A, D, G, B, E), while three of the strings are tuned to the standard bass guitar's three lowest (E, A, D). The bass and treble sections have separate pickups and are sent to separate amplifiers. Hunter also has a ten-string guitar based on the same principle—a combination of standard six-string guitar and standard four-string bass.

Heavy metal

The eight-string guitar is used by modern heavy metal guitarists such as Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström of Meshuggah, Dino Cazares of Fear Factory, Stephen Carpenter of Deftones and Henry Flury of Butcher Babies and others.

One notable guitarist, Tosin Abasi (from Animals as Leaders), tunes his guitar with the low E, and utilizes all the features of the eight-string guitar. He incorporates bass guitar techniques such as string thumping made famous by Victor Wooten (which is heard mostly on "Earth Departure, An Infinite Regression"), and harp like techniques by combining sweep-picking with hybrid-picking.

Archspire - Technical death metal.

Beyond Creation - Progressive death metal on multi scale 8 string guitars.

Ihsahn of the black metal band Emperor began using 7 strings in 1999 and his album After released January 2010 is the first to use 8 strings.

Rusty Cooley tunes his guitar higher with an A above the high E string(B,E,A,D,G,B,E,A), allowing more range on the higher end making his lead work stand out more.

The instrument is also associated with the 'djent' sound used by more modern metal artists.

See also


  1. Noonan, Jeffrey (2008). The Guitar in America: Victorian Era to Jazz Age. American Made Music. University Press of Mississippi. p. 205. ISBN 1934110183. 
  2. Madsen, Pete (2005). Slide Guitar: Know the Players, Play the Music. Fretmaster. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 57. ISBN 0879308524. 
  3. Griewank (2010, p. 1)
  4. Kirkeby, Ole (1 March 2012). "Major thirds tuning". cited by Sethares (2011) and (Griewank 2010, p. 1). Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Patt, Ralph (14 April 2008). "The major 3rd tuning". Ralph Patt's jazz web page. cited by Sethares (2011) and Griewank (2010, p. 1). Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Sethares (2001)
  7. ^ Peterson (2002, p. 37): Peterson, Jonathon (Winter 2002). "Tuning in thirds: A new approach to playing leads to a new kind of guitar". American Lutherie: The Quarterly Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers (8222 South Park Avenue, Tacoma WA 98408: USA.: The Guild of American Luthiers) 72: 36–43. ISSN 1041-7176. 
  9. Alexander, Charles (2003). Masters of Jazz Guitar: The Story of the Players and Their Music. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 180. ISBN 0879307285. 

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