Magnificent Seven: The 10 Greatest Seven-String Guitar Songs of All Time
Why ain’t six strings enough? This was the question we posed to one of guitar's all-time greats in a recent Guitar World cover story.
Steve Vai, in his infinite, sage-like wisdom, responded, "Six is enough, and eight is enough too. Whatever you want. Four can be enough. One can be enough, if you’ve got the imagination for it."
And that's really what it came down to when whittling down our list of the 10 greatest seven-string guitar songs of all time. Who had the imagination to take that extra string and do something with it that couldn't be replicated simply by down-tuning or pitch-shifting?
It would have been very easy for the seven-string guitar to now be sitting in a museum somewhere as a one-off novelty item, a Spinal Tap-ish relic of someone who wanted a guitar that went "one lower." But these 10 songs are a testament to the myriad ways in which the seven-string guitar has evolved over the years, in ways that even its modern progenitor couldn't have foreseen.
"When I was [playing seven-strings], I had a feeling there was going to be a group of kids who were really gonna take that low string and do something with it that I wasn’t doing," Vai said in that same interview. "And I also felt that maybe some jazz and classical players would take it up. I had no idea that they were going to do what they did."
10. Deftones — "Hexagram" (Deftones, 2003)
Whether utilizing seven strings or eight, Deftones have packed some serious subsonics into their music over the years. "Hexagram" off the band's 2003 self-titled effort is the epitome of their haunting take on alternative metal, with Chino Moreno screaming maniacally over Stephen Carpenter's off-kilter seven-string riffing.
09. Morbid Angel — "God of Emptiness" (Covenant, 1993)
Trey Azagthoth can be credited as the man who took the seven-string to the world of extreme metal, bringing in some added low-end heft for Morbid Angel's landmark 1993 album, Covenant. The result? One of the best-selling death metal albums of the SoundScan era.
08. Animals as Leaders — "CAFO" (Animals as Leaders, 2009)
When Tosin Abasi recorded what was essentially a solo album under the name Animals as Leaders, his goal was to expand the pallet of heavy, progressive music into something that was more compositionally challenging for him and more accessible to linsteners. “I wanted to make music that was more universal,” he told Guitar World in 2009. Tosin may be better known for rocking the eight-string these days, but "CAFO" from Animals as Leaders' eponymous debut is as fine an example of seven-string mastery as you'll come across in the modern metal-scape.
07. Nevermore — "Born" (The Godless Endeavor, 2005)
Few guitarists have developed such an integral bond with the seven-string guitar like former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis. On the opening track from 2005's The Godless Endeavor, Loomis and fellow guitarist Steve Smyth put on a seven-string show that kicks off with a blast-beat-backed rhythmic flurry and doesn't let up for five solid minutes.
06. Emperor — "The Prophet" (Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise, 2001)
For Emperor's final album, 2001's Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise, guitarist Ihsahn began toying with the sonic and compositional possibilities of the seven-string guitar. While Ihsahn would continue down this path in his solo career (eventually deciding seven wasn't enough and opting for an eight-string guitar), Prometheus may still be his crowning achievement, representing a high-water mark for technical prowess in the black metal genre that few have approached since.