So you’ve learned to play a 6-string guitar, impressed your friends with moving renditions of Comfortably Numb and rocked out to Aerosmith’s back catalog.
Then you moved on to a 7-string, gaining more confidence in your plucking skills… now where do you go?
Well, if you want a real challenge, then you might want to go grab yourself one of the best 8-string guitars on the market.
If you do fancy hammering on a wider neck with a few extra strings, you can explore a whole new sonic range, with a potentially infinite number of notes, chords and combinations.If you’re a metal-head, an 8-string guitar could become your favorite new instrument.
But like Frank Zappa said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture. We’ll leave it up to Meshuggah to show you the ear-splitting dynamics of an 8-string guitar.
Pretty hardcore, yeah?
With an 8-string guitar, you can explore those low notes and get that added deep chug to your metal, grindcore, or progressive metal music.
But growling distorted guitars aren’t your only option here. 8-stringed guitars are also useful for jazz players.
Listen to the smooth, laid back, but still very complex jazz fingerwork of Robert Conti, virtuoso jazz player.
Do you fancy the complex interplay of tones and chords that a jazz player has to offer? If the answer is yes, then keep reading, friend.
So does an 8-string guitar add anything? What exactly do you mean by ‘sonic qualities’ when it comes to an 8-string, and will you be able to tell the difference between that and your 6-string? How much can you be expected to shell out for an 8-stringed guitar?
Well, we’ve got a few answers to those questions, starting with our list of some of the best 8-string guitars currently available.
Then, just for you, we’ve got a buyer’s guide that will give you a better understanding of 8-stringed guitars and cover some frequently asked questions.
So grab your amp and your pedalboard, plug yourself in and let’s do a deep dive into some of the best 8-stringed guitars.
First up we have a guitar that comes very highly rated by guitar experts, aficionados and hobbyists alike, perfect for guitarists on a budget that might be starting and won’t want to spend a lot of cash - introducing the Ibanez RG8 8-String Electric Guitar.
This guitar is fashioned from a basswood body, with a thick maple and walnut neck, which again means that it has excellent value for money. It comes with the traditional 24 frets, meaning that standard players shouldn’t have a problem navigating the Ibanez.
The strings on this model have a decent sustain, meaning that you’ll be able to hold a chord for much longer, particularly cool if you want to use it for those sludgy metal riffs.
As a guitarist, what I like to do is rig this one up to a Big Muff distortion pedal which is then run through a delay pedal. You can then destroy your neighbor’s ears by playing those very, very drawn-out yet crunchy chords. Trust me, it will sound like you’re bringing about the end of the world.
But back to the RG8! In addition to the heavy-duty bridge that will contribute to the tonal quality of your guitar, you also have premium-quality pickups that are specifically designed to articulate the low growly notes on the bottom F# string.
The main draw of this guitar, however, is the affordable price tag. If you are someone who wants a good-looking guitar for a quarter of the price, then I'd recommend choosing this one.
The design is simple, the build quality is durable yet the tonal quality is expansive and very versatile, adapting itself easily to both metal and jazz.
- An affordable model with the necessities of volume and tone controls.
- The durable build quality will make sure that this is a guitar that will hold up - that is if you don’t try any Pete Townsend style stage antics!
- The tensile strength of the strings will allow you to hold notes for longer.
- The simple, stylish design will make you look awesome in most band setups. The plain body of the guitar can easily be customizable by adding your own designs.
- No whammy bar! This won’t be suitable for those who want to add that tremolo effect to their solos and chords.
TOP PICK OVERALL
Chances are if you’re still reading this article, you’re really looking for that perfect death-shredding, earth-shattering metal sound from your 8-string.
Well, this guitar, manufactured by the renowned guitar-maker Schecter, known primarily for their 6-string signature range, have now upped their shred capacity by two strings - introducing the Schecter Banshee Elite-8 8-String Guitar.
Let’s talk about bodies - the Schecter Banshee is made from solid basswood with a vintage-looking finish that will appeal to anyone looking for that classic rock vibe.
It also has a maple neck and a very sophisticated rosewood fretboard with custom Schecter inlays, these different shades and wood textures complement each other very nicely. We all know that a guitar’s appearance is just as important as its build quality.
However, the hardware really does match up with this guitar’s quality face.
The pickups have been described by guitar enthusiasts as a sibling to the EMG humbucker, a pickup that really can handle the lower tones of an 8-string, also driving the cost down by some margin.
This is also a very affordable 8-string guitar, and we would certainly recommend it for metal or jazz players whose ambitions slightly exceed their price range. Because, at the end of the day, the only way to get better is by going bigger!
- The design - when it comes to style, my preference is always looks over tonal quality, but with the Schecter Elite-8, you actually do get both.
- This guitar, like our previous model, is very reasonably priced. If you are looking for something to beef up your standard 6-string rig but don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars.
- The lightweight neck will make sit-down playing a lot easier.
- EMG humbucker pickups will have no problem with those lower F# notes, which is ideal if you want clarity when playing live.
- The passive EMG pickups might not excite players as much as a set of Fishman Fluences might, but they will be able to deliver that crunch when working on those low strings.
Now we’re going to move on to an 8-string beast that is actually a signature line from a band that we mentioned above.
If the distinctive bone-bending crunch of Meshuggah is one that you want to replicate, then you might want to look at the Ibanez Fredrik Thordendal Signature 8-String Electric Guitar a little more closely.
Sonically, you’ll be able to push the boundaries of your playing a lot further with this model. For example, the solid 7-piece walnut and maple body will allow for much longer sustain on those low notes.
You have plenty of aides on this guitar that make it specially adapted for live playing, such as luminous side-dot inlays that will much improve your noodling on a dark stage.
Also, just because you’re playing metal, doesn’t mean that it has to be uncomfortable. The FX Edge III-8 bridge makes tuning much easier, giving you that stability and low profile, meaning that holding the neck and body will feel much more relaxed.
- The fretboard is easy to use and, for our money, probably the easiest guitar to actually play on this list.
- The design of this is thoroughly metal, with a black curved body and white embellishment, you can rest assured that you’ll have the menacing style to match the menacing sound.
- An 8-string isn’t the easiest instrument to adapt to. However, Ibanez has gone to great lengths to ensure that you’ll get to grips with the new chord sequences and fingering as quickly as possible.
- The price - this is our most expensive option on the list, so perhaps only the most die-hard metalheads will want to shell out for this one.
Finally, we have a guitar that you could legit lay claim to being a weapon.
It has a sleek, no-nonsense black body and a bridge you can slice cheese with.
With a high string that runs at 25.5-inches to a baritone 27.2-inch low string, this guitar is built for those who prefer speedier playing - introducing the Ibanez Prestige RG5328 8-String Guitar.
Using a 5-piece maple and walnut neck combined with a tapering design for easier playing, this is a fretboard you can run smoothly up and down on.
When it comes to necks, I always find that the tapering ones are much more accommodating.
For example, when I’m struggling to reach the high notes on my 6-string, the solid block of the neck makes it much more difficult to reach.
Whereas the tapering neck of my bass guitar allows me to reach those high notes with no problem!
The 5-way pickups will allow you to switch between numerous different points on the guitar, resulting in a much cleaner and crisper sound, which might be useful if you’re planning on running it through a distortion pedal that might muddy the notes.
- With a sturdy mahogany body, this guitar, if maintained correctly, should last you many years, if not decades.
- The price - this 8-string lies slap bang in the middle of our list, so if you don’t mind shelling out a little extra for the improved sound quality, then you should certainly consider this Ibanez model.
- The neck comes in the Ibanez Wizard III-8 profile, which is much more comfortable for the faster player.
- The 5-way switching pickups will guarantee that the low notes will be captured and amplified with crystal clarity.
- This one lacks luxury extras such as a whammy bar and built-in delay control, which might leave certain guitarists feeling short-changed.
Best 8 String Guitars Buying Guide
There are a few things you need to think about before you start shredding on your 8-stringed riff-maker - and, no, it’s not the height of your Guns ‘N Roses style top hat.
Apart from the 8-strings, these types of guitars have other distinctive features to cope with, such as their wider fretboards and sonic range.
Scale That Fretboard!
A scale length is the distance between the nut and the saddle (or body) of the guitar. Although the saddle is a bit further along than the scale for it to actually be fixed to the base of the guitar.
Here you can find more info about saddles and what the they do.
Most 8-string guitars have a scale length of 27-inches, whilst some, like the Meshuggah guitarist, have a whopping 29.5-Inches.
However, these heftier scales have far more sonic advantages than a regular guitar, allowing you to tune down the low string or even the entire guitar to get that serious chug when it comes to playing riffs.
It’s All About Necks
As we’ve briefly discussed above, 7-string and 8-string guitars have a wider fretboard, so for it to not feel so chunky and clumsy to hold, the profile or thickness will be a lot thinner to help you to be able to shred a lot easier.
However, you might be able to play faster with a skinnier neck.
The tone of what you’re playing might not be as rich as that on a 6-string, that does come with a larger profile.
So you’ll have to weigh it up - would you prefer to play more notes faster, or less notes but with that bigger sound?
Another thing worth considering is how much the neck will bend while you’re playing.
The materials of your neck might not be solid enough to handle all those extra strings. Try playing open strings and gently bending the neck of your guitar.
If the pitch altered significantly from slight pressure, you might want to downgrade to a sturdier 7-string instrument.
The Capital Of China - Tuning
An 8-string guitar is commonly tuned F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E.
A lot of 8-string guitar players like to tune the low B string down a step to an A to get that real crunchy sound.
These instruments might be fitted out with heavier gauge strings to play baritone things like chords and riffs - again, this will appeal to the devout metalhead who wants to tear it up on the stage but isn't fussed on solos.
My advice would be to carry a tuner on you at all times, because if you don’t have perfect pitch, then you run the risk of your 8-stringer not being in the correct tuning.
We’ve covered some of the basics of 8-stringed guitars here, but there are a lot more features to it. The link below will hopefully help get you started with the basic 8-string guitar chord shapes, so you can get the best out of your riff-wraith.
8 String Guitar Chord Shapes:
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s better: a 7-string or an 8-string guitar?
That all depends on what you’re planning on playing - are you a metalhead who only plans on playing chords and chunky riffs? Or are you a softer, more jazz-oriented player who will appreciate the tonal range of an 8-string guitar?
Remember: 8-string guitars have thinner profiles generally, and this will affect the tone of your guitar.
What’s The Difference Between An Active And A Passive Pickup?
Ultimately, it’s all a matter of preference, you need to ask yourself the fundamental question - what sounds do you want to come out of your guitar?
Here are some extra tips and tricks for getting the best guitar tone.
Active pickups are called so because they have an onboard battery-powered preamp, which makes them ideal for high-output metal performances, giving each note that brightness with a dash of compression to even out the sound.
In truth, as long as your pickups articulate each note on your 8-string clearly, it doesn’t matter whether they are active or passive.
Many high-output passive pickups suit 8-string playing just fine and come with the added bonus of not having to worry about changing the battery.
Our Final Say: To Shred Or Not To Shred, That Is The Question
So, riff-masters big and small, we hope that our guide to the Best 8 String Guitars has made the decision of picking out your next axe slightly easier for you.
But, in case you're still sitting on the fence, below is an even more in-depth guide that will show you the entire spectrum of possibilities that an 8-string guitar has to offer.