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Complete 7 String Guitar Tuning Guide

Maybe you have been playing a 7 string guitar for a while now. Or perhaps you are just getting started. Whatever the case, the desire to experiment with different tuning arrangements is sure to come around at some point.

For some people it is because they have a favorite band or sound they are looking to find. For others it is because they are advancing in technique.

This guide will cover the 7 string guitar and the most popular tuning arrangements. So grab your tuner and let’s get started.

7 String Guitar Tuning Prerequisite

Before we dig into learning how to tune a 7 string, it’s important to consider your guitar. Depending on the tuning you are looking for, your guitar has to be able to support it.

If you are seeking some very low tuning, then the scale length of your guitar must be considered when you buy one.

The lower you go the “floppier” your strings will get with a short scale length. This can be remedied by a guitar designed with longer scale length and string gauge. But keep in mind, the thicker your strings, the more difficult it might become to play comfortably.

And if you like to change up your tuning frequently, then you want a guitar with the right scale length and fret design. A longer scale length will provide tighter strings when tuned lower.

But on the flip side of that, if you have a long scale length and play in standard tuning, your strings might be too tight.

So throughout this guide we will also provide our recommended scale length with each tuning configuration.

How To Tune 7 String Guitars To Standard B (B-E-A-D-G-B-E)

If you are familiar with a 6 string guitar then you want to begin tuning with B Standard. This will be the easiest way to get comfortable with your 7 string guitar. When tuned to B standard, you essentially have a 6 string guitar with an added low.

So not only can you still play anything you normally would on a 6 string guitar, but the low B adds so much more versatility. The low B (your new 7th string), is a fourth below the lowest E which adds a ton more range in frequency.

To begin, tune your lowest string to B, and then proceed with the rest like you would a 6. You will now end up with your guitar tuned like this diagram.

 

B Standard Tuning

This is your modern 7 string guitar tuning. It is very popular because the intervals between the lower digits of a 7 resemble that of a 6 string guitar. This allows you to play anything you normally would on a 6 string tuned to E standard.

So if you’re just learning to play a 7 string, this is the best tuning to start with.

If you have decided to learn to play a 7 string because of a favorite artist then you will be pleased. There are many well known players who play a 7 string guitar and in many genres. And a great deal of them use B standard as their tuning of choice. 

Bands that use or have used B Standard: Unearth, Trivium, Soulfly, Dream Theater

Recommended Scale length for B Standard Tuning: 25.5” – 26.5”

Non Standard Tuning Drop D (B-D-A-D-G-B-E)

For those of you who play drop D on a 6 string guitar, this can be a great tuning. Simply tune your 7 string guitar to B standard and drop the low E to D.

Now all the drop D techniques you are used to are available, plus the new low B string. This can be super beneficial and a ton of fun to play! And it’s so easy to tune while in B standard that it is well worth a try!

Drop D 7 String

7 String Bb Standard Tuning (Bb-Eb-Ab-Dd-Gb-Bb-Eb)

B standard tuning is great for players simply looking to add some extra range to the 6 string guitar. The extra string tuned to B adds some new notes and possibilities.

But what if you’re looking for something a bit deeper? Perhaps it’s not quite “heavy” sounding enough.

This is where you can find a slightly darker tone without radically changing your tuning. There are many players who don’t want to get too dark but B standard just doesn’t quite fit the need.

This is where we suggest Bb (B flat) standard tuning which is only a half step down. You can continue to play songs in the same way but get a darker sound as all strings get tuned down a half step.

This is a real simple way to get that slightly lower sound without changing your tuning a great deal. And to be honest is always overlooked!

It is worthwhile to note that your string tension will be decreased slightly in this tuning. But for most people it is negligible at best. But should this pose an issue, a heavier string set can solve this issue quickly.

Bands that use or have used Bb Standard: Periphery, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel, Behemoth

Recommended Scale length for Bb Standard Tuning: 25.5” – 26.5”

Drop A Tuning ( A-E-A-D-G-B-E)

This tuning is very similar to drop D on a 6 string. You want to begin in B standard with this tuning to accurately reach drop A. When your in B standard, simply tune your lowest string down to A.

Drop A 7 String

If you have ever tuned your 6 string guitar to drop D, you know how easy it is to bar a chord with one finger. Well in Drop A on a 7 string guitar, this is what is now available to you.

Except, the other 6 strings are still tuned to E standard. Just like a regular 6 string guitar! 

This is a popular tuning arrangement with many 7 string players because of the versatility. Not only can you play E standard songs on the first 6, but you have the added drop A for some great low notes.

And because you can bar a chord with one finger across the lowest strings, it is easy to get around quickly.

This is great for fast changes of complex and powerful chords making it a no brain-er for modern metal.

And let’s face it, the way the deep frequencies resonate on the fretboard just feels great! So if you play metal, this is one tuning you must try!

Bands that use or have used Drop A: Chimaira, Slip Knot, Nile

Recommended Scale length for Drop A Tuning: 25.5” – 26.5”

If Drop A isn’t quite dark enough, you can always tune down a half a step. With all strings tuned down a half step, the sound will be slightly darker.

But keep in mind, your strings will become less tense. Depending on your guitar this might be the lowest you can go without heavier strings. But it is worth a try!

A Standard Tuning ( A-D-G-C-F-A-D)

Getting your 7 string guitar down to A standard is a whole step from B. Begin in B standard and tune your guitar down a whole step. The first thing you will notice is your string tension.

A Standard 7 String

For some this is border line string tension. This is where some players move up to a slightly heavier string gauge, or learn to live with it.

If you normally play in a higher tuning like B standard, then we suggest you keep a regular string gauge. But this also depends on whether your guitar can handle it or not.

But if you will remain in A standard, you may consider a thicker string gauge. We suggest you try:

Dunlop Heavy Core Strings 10-60

When it comes to sound, “A” standard is just a much darker B. While the notes on the fretboard are different for sure, you can now play a much darker B standard. 

One of the most well known bands for this is Korn. They have acquired their dark guitar tone courtesy of A standard. There are a number of black metal bands who also use A standard before moving to 8 string guitars. So when you’re looking for a dark tone, give A standard a try.

Bands that use or have used A Standard: Korn, Fear Factory, Divine Heresy

Recommended Scale length for A Standard Tuning: 26.5” – 27”

Drop G Tuning ( G-D-G-C-F-A-D)

Just like Drop A tuning, G is very similar. The difference here is that we start out with A standard and drop our lowest to G. Also, if we consider this from the position of drop A tuning on the other hand, we have lowered all strings a whole step.

Drop G 7 String

Drop G tuning is a very popular tuning because of its dark sound and versatility. If you enjoyed Drop A but wanted something darker then this is worth a try.

You get the benefit of a darker tone but just like drop A, you can also bar a chord with one finger. And because the other 6 strings are a darker E standard, you have the speed capability to move between chords.

This is a very enjoyable tuning for high gain guitar and modern metal is monstrous!

Again you will need to consider that your string tension will decrease. While it is possible with some scale lengths to negate a gauge change, you will only know by trying.

A thicker gauge string also affects the tone which can be an added benefit. So experimentation is key.

Bands that use or have used Drop G: Whitechapel, Evolve, Born Of Osiris

Recommended Scale length for Drop G Tuning: 26.5” – 27”

Alternate Tuning G-C-G-C-F-A-D

If you play your 6 string in drop C, you will want to try this tuning. This tuning is so close to Drop G on the 7 string it’s worth a mention. This will absolutely make the Drop C – 6 string sound like child’s play!

And I like the drop C arrangement!

Getting massive sounding chords thanks to the low G is easy mode. Give it a try while you’re tuned to Drop G.

G Standard Tuning ( G-C-F-Bb-Eb-G-C)

If the other tuning arrangements mentioned so far are still not low enough, then there are 2 choices. G standard tuning or an 8 string guitar!

G standard is going to require a thicker string set and possibly a longer scale length. We would recommend experimenting with a mix of string gauges.

This might give you the best mix of gauges to prevent overly tight high strings.

G Standard 7 String

G standard is a very low tuning for a 7 string guitar. With an 8 string guitar you will have the benefit of the broader range and the extra digit. If you try this tuning and like it, you may want to consider an 8 string guitar.

That being said, G standard is more than possible with a 7 string. But explore different guitars for the best performer if you decide to stay with this tuning.

Bands that use or have used G Standard: Vildhjarta, Cannibal Corpse

Recommended Scale length for G standard Tuning: 26.5” – 27” +

Drop E Tuning ( E-B-E-A-D-G-B)

Drop E tuning could possibly require modifications to your guitar but we do want to mention it. While dropping your tuning this low is basically bass territory, it does get used. Bands like Meshuggah and Currents use this tuning among others.

What most players do to use this tuning is to buy strings for an 8 and retire the high E. Trouble is, most 7 string guitar nuts will require modification to support them. So if you do experiment with the tuning, it is for keeps.

Our suggestion would be to buy an 8 string guitar for anything this low.

Recommended Scale length for G standard Tuning: 26.5” – 27” +

Drop E 7 String

Conclusion

There are many tuning arrangements that we did not touch on in this guide. But these are a great place to start, each one with its own vibe and sounds. We are sure you will find what your looking for and have fun doing it.

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