Best 7-String Guitars for Metal
If you are into extreme metal you might be thinking a 7-string guitar is exactly what you need to achieve the bone-crushing sounds you are imagining in your head. You might be right, and you can find some great 7-strings for the money if you look around a bit. No matter what your skill or budget level there is an option out there for you.
However, at the risk of sounding like the crazy dude who hangs around the guitar shop and babbles on about the olden days, I’m not sure everybody who wants a 7-string actually needs one. An extra string, longer scale length and wider fretboard add some challenges you may be able to do without. There have been, and still are, some pretty brutal death and thrash metal bands that get by just fine with detuned 6-strings.
How do you know if you need a 7-string? In my opinion, if the low B (or lower) is going to be a key part of your sound, go for the seven. If not, you might be better off sticking with a six-string and experimenting with alternative tunings. There are some amazing affordable metal guitars on the market these days, and you’ll have a wider array of choices.
But, if you have your mind set on wall-crumbling, brain-rattling, low-end mayhem this article can help. Here you’ll get some advice on the best 7-string guitars for metal. I’ll break it down by skill level, tell you what I think and you can take it from there. Remember this is all my opinion, so be sure to do your own research. But this should give you a solid starting point.
Let’s check out some gear!
Seven-String Guitars for Beginners
I’m not so sure beginners should start out on a 7-string guitar. It’s tough enough learning theory, technique and basic scales and chords on a standard guitar. Throw in another string and things can get downright confusing. I’d rather see a newbie choose one of the great metal guitars for beginners out there.
But there are a couple of reasons for a beginner to choose the seven. If you are absolutely, positively sure you are going to want to play a seven there is no reason to start with a six and have to upgrade sooner than you should. You may as well save your cash and your time and go with what you really want to begin with.
The second reason is if you are not new to guitar necessarily, but new to the 7-string thing. You may not want to drop a lot of cash on a guitar you aren’t sure of, or on one that you may just want to experiment with. In this case, you might prefer to go with a 7-string guitar under $200.
Jackson JS22-7 Dinky
The Jackson JS22-7 Dinky gets my top spot for beginners. Jackson is one of the premier names in metal guitar, and the Dinky is a legendary instrument used by the pros. In the JS Series Jackson gives us affordable versions of some of those pro-level guitars such as the Dinky as well as the Rhoads, King V, Kelly and Warrior.
Jackson has also included some seven and eight-string models in the JS lineup, and that’s good for fledgling metalheads.
The JS22-7 features a basswood body and bolt-on maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard with 24 jumbo frets. The pickups are a pair of Jackson high-output 7-string humbuckers controlled by a 3-way switch plus a single each volume and tone control. This is a guitar that sticks close to its shredder heritage, but the satin-black paintjob hints at something a little darker.
The JS22-7 comes in around $200 as of this writing, and that’s the price range I typically recommend for beginner electric guitars. Again, you may be better off going with a basic 6-string, but if you are a newbie with your heart set on a seven this guitar is a great choice.
If you have few extra bucks in your pocket you may consider the JS32-7 instead. In addition to a sturdier 3-piece neck you’ll get a guitar with a mahogany body, which I personally prefer for metal. It’s a little deeper and more resonant than basswood with a tighter low-end.
Jackson JS-Series 7 and 8-String Guitars
Under $500 for Intermediate Players
An intermediate guitarist may be looking for an upgrade to a lower-quality seven, or for their first guitar that will take them into the world of the low-B. In either case I think $500 is a good budget, and in this price range you’ll find some of the best 7-string guitars for the money.
You’ll also have more options. Ibanez in particular has several instruments at this price point, so choose carefully.
Ibanez is the penultimate brand name when it comes to seven-strings, and the RG7421 gets my #1 spot in the under $500 category. Ibanez kicked off the whole low-B thing decades ago, and today they remain at the forefront of innovation when it comes to extended-range electric guitars. Like Jackson, they are one of the premier names when it comes to metal, and their RG and S Series guitars have earned a place among the elite instruments of the genre.
It only makes sense that serious metal guitarists would choose an Ibanez 7-string as their main instrument, and once you get around the $500 price point you can start to consider yourself serious.
The RG7421 features a mahogany body with an Ibanez Wizard II-7 3-piece neck and a pair of hot Ibanez Quantum ceramic pickups. The 5-way pickup selector switch gives players the option of activating the neck pickup in parallel and the inner coils of both humbuckers in addition to normal pickup functions.
The RG7421 has a fixed bridge for rock-solid tuning, but if you feel like your need a whammy bar go with the RG7420 instead. This is essentially the same guitar with the addition of a double-locking tremolo. Both the RG7421 and RG7420 will fit under your $500 budget, so the choice is yours.
Dawsons Checks Out the Ibanez RG7421
Under $1000 for Advanced Players
The best 7-string guitars under $1000 are instruments you can count on for recording, band rehearsal and on stage. Of course you can spend more if you really want to, but I always consider this price point to be the line where we starting talking about pro-level gear.
Schecter Hellraiser C7
Schecter is another great metal guitar brand, and the Hellraiser Series in particular has earned its metal cred over the years. Here we see a couple of awesome 7-string guitars under $1000 that will get the job done for serious players and pros.
The Hellraiser C7 Passive features a mahogany arched-top body with a quilted maple top and a set 3-piece mahogany neck with a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard. I really like all-mahogany guitars for metal and the C7 has the chassis for some serious low-end. I also like the string-thru body design, which allows for better sustain.
The pickups are a pair of Schecter USA Brimstone-Sevens. These are passive pickups, controlled via a 3-way switch, a pair of volume controls and a single tone control with push-pull coil tap.
If you’d rather go with something with active pickups, consider the Hellraiser C7 Hybrid. There are a few differences here, most notably a pair of active EMG pickups and an ebony fingerboard. Whichever you choose, you get an amazing 7-string from one of the best metal guitar builders on the planet.
Both guitars include high-end features like a Graph Tech XL Black Tusq nut, TonePros 7-String Tune-o-matic bridge and thin C-shape necks. They are also visually stunning instruments, with attractive bindings, body colors and cool Gothic cross inlays.
The Schecter Hellraiser Hybrid Series
More 7-String Guitars for Metal
You’ve read about my top picks in each category, but of course you have many more options. Here are my runner-ups in each category. Remember my choices are based on my own personal opinion and experience with these guitars and brands. Do your own research and make your own decision. Here are a few more guitars to consider.
- ESP LTD M-17: This is my alternate choice in the beginner category. It features a basswood body, thin neck and hot humbuckers. I gave the Jackson the slight edge due to its 24 frets and 26.5” scale length. Still, the M-17 could be the perfect option for you and its worth checking out.
- Schecter Demon 7: I think it’s tough to beat the Ibanez RG7421, but this Schecter comes darn close. In fact, if you’d rather active humbuckers it may be a better choice. In addition to the Duncan Designed HB-105 pickup set you’ll see a basswood arched-top body, 24-fret rosewood fingerboard and Schecter hardtail bridge with string-thru body.
- Ibanez Iron Label RGIX27FESM: I can’t write about 7-string and not mention the Ibanez Iron Label Series. This is the classic Ibanez RG metal design somehow made even more metal. Here you’re looking at basswood-bodied guitars with an Ibanez Gibraltar Standard II-7 bridge and EMG pickups. The only negative here is simply that Ibanez already does metal and extended-range guitars really, really well, so the Iron Label thing seems almost superfluous. I’d suggest checking out the series and deciding for yourself.
- Keisel: Finally, I also suggest checking out Kiesel guitars. They have a range of custom-built 7-strings and you can get a guitar made exactly how you want it. Certainly these are instruments more in the advanced category, but I think worth mentioning.
Choose Your Seven
Do you need a 7-string guitar for metal? In my opinion, not necessarily. In fact, 15 years ago or so, when nu-metal bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were making a mess of the metal world, my answer would have been hell no. I would have told you to cowboy up and learn to handle your six-string.
But times have changed, and I do think a 7-string is the right choice for some metal players. Guys like Jeff Loomis and Chris Broderick have done some impressive things with extended-range instruments. As for whether or not it is the right choice for you, that’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
I’ve tried to give you a good starting point. The rest is up to you!