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 guitarists, 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 For Beginners
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 instrument 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 a longer scale length and proper string set. But keep in mind, the larger 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, they might be too tight.
So throughout this guide, we will also provide our recommended scale length with each tuning configuration.
7-String Tuning For Metal
Metal players have taken a liking to the many alternate tunings for seven-string guitars. This is because of the wide range of tones possible that just sound heavy! While b standard sounds great with the extra bass string, there is nothing like a drop tuned guitar.
A seven-string guitar adds an extended range to how low your tone can get. But many people are then unsure of the tuning arrangements with the added seventh string. One of the real easy ways to get a heavier sound is by down tuning to drop D. It is simply one string and your sound is that much heavier.
Some of the more complex seven string metal tunings are:
- A Standard
- G Standard
- Drop A
- Drop G
- Drop E
There are also additional tunings are you will see later in this article that can get very heavy sounding and are great for metal. At some point, however, some 7-string guitars will have issues with tuning so low, but it is always worth experimenting with.
B Standard Tuning
If you are familiar with a 6-string guitar, then you want to begin with B Standard tuning.
This will be the easiest way to get comfortable with your guitar. When tuned to B standard, you essentially have a 6-string model 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 and an extended range. The low B (your new 7th), is a fourth below the E which adds a wider 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.
This is your modern 7-string guitar tuning. It is very popular because the intervals between the lower digits of a seven, resemble that of a 6-string guitar. This allows you to play anything you normally would on a six, 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 because of a favorite artist, then you will be pleased. There are many well known players who play this type of 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: 25.5”- 26.5”
B Flat Standard
B standard tuning is great for players simply looking to add some extra range to the 6-string guitar. The extra digit 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 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 arrangement. But for most guitarists 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 this tuning: Periphery, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel, Behemoth
- Recommended Scale length for B flat Standard: 25.5”- 26.5”
7-String Guitar Tuning Drop D
For those of you who play drop D on a 6-string guitar, this is one of the more popular alternate tunings. 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! The And it’s so easy to tune while in B standard that it is well worth a try!
This makes it so easy to play power chords that sound full thanks to this drop tuning arrangement.
Getting your 7-string guitar down to A standard is a whole step from B. Begin in “B” and tune your instrument down a whole step. The first thing you will notice is the tension.
For some, this is borderline string tension, making it another one of the popular alternate tunings. This is where some players move up to a slightly heavier set, 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 set. 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 heavier string set. We suggest you try:
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”.
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 instruments. So when you’re looking for a dark tone, give it a try.
Bands that use or have used A Standard: Korn, Fear Factory, Divine Heresy
- Recommended Scale length for A Standard: 26.5”- 27”
7-String Guitar Tuning Drop A
This tuning is very similar to drop D on a 6-string. You want to begin in B standard with this one to accurately reach drop A. When you are in B standard, simply tune your lowest string down to A.
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 seven string, this is what is now available to you, making it incredibly easy to play power chords.
Except, the other 6 are still tuned to E standard. Just like a regular 6-string guitar!
This is a popular drop tuning arrangement with many 7-string players because of its 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: 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 a heavier set. But it is worth a try!
If the other tuning arrangements mentioned so far are still not low enough, then there are 2 choices. G standard or an 8-string guitar!
G standard is going to require a heavier set and possibly a longer scale length. We would recommend experimenting with a mix of string sets.
This might give you the best mix to prevent overly tight high strings.
G standard is a very low arrangement for a seven string guitar. With an 8 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 model.
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: 26.5”- 27”
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 tuning is very popular 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 sound 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 riffs.
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 string set change, you will only know by trying.
A heavier string also affects the sound, 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: 26.5”- 27”
Alternate 7-String Guitar Tuning
If you play your 6-string in drop C, you will want to try this tuning. This arrangement is so close to Drop G on the seven string, it’s worth a mention. This will absolutely make the Drop C on a 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.
Drop E 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, 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 seven 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: 26.5”- 27”
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 you are looking for and have fun doing it when playing with new seven-string guitar tuning.
Below, you can find some of the more frequently asked questions about tuning a seven-string guitar.
What is the Tuning for a 7-String Guitar?
While there are many alternative tunings, as we mentioned above, the seven-string guitar relies on B standard. This means the tuning arrangement will remain the same, except we add the additional B to give us:
Can You Play Drop D on a 7-String Guitar?
Absolutely, and it is very easy. In fact, you tune the same way you do on a 6-string guitar. Drop your E to D. Now you are ready to play your 7 string in drop-D. This is what that looks like:
This is one of the more popular alternate tunings.
What is 7 String Drop Tuning?
The seven-string guitar is tuned to standard B by default. Just like a six-string guitar, it is your regular tuning arrangement. Whenever you tune to a lower alternate arrangement, it is considered drop tuning. An example of this would be to change tuning from B Standard to Drop D.