What Bands Use 8-String Guitars?

Many bands use 8-string guitars to get a deep and brutal sound including Meshuggah, Animals as Leaders, Periphery, and After The Burial.

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In the ever-evolving landscape of music, innovation often emerges from the hands of those who dare to push the boundaries of their instruments.

Enter the world of 8-string guitars—a realm where the traditional six strings are deemed a canvas too small for the grandeur of sonic artistry that bands like Meshuggah and Animals as Leaders seek to create.

Audio summary:

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With two additional strings expanding the tonal range, these pioneering artists have harnessed the extra breadth to sculpt a musical revolution that is as complex as it is heavy.

This article dives into the fascinating journey of how these extra strings are not mere additions, but powerful tools that have led to a redefinition of guitar music. We will explore how the 8-string guitar in metal has become the linchpin in the creation of entire subgenres and how it has allowed musicians to express themselves in unprecedented ways.

Whether you are a seasoned metal guitar enthusiast or new to the world of progressive rhythms, prepare to be enthralled by the seismic impact of eight strings under the masterful fingers of modern guitar virtuosos.

Key Takeaways

  • This instrument has breathed new life into music by offering a wide range of sound possibilities.
  • Even though it might not be to the liking of every band, those who have accepted it have formed distinctive sound and style traits.
  • This demonstrates the ongoing evolution of music, and it stirs up excitement to predict the upcoming contributions of imaginative musicians.

The Emergence of 8-String Guitars in Music

The 8-string guitar is a relatively modern development in the history of the guitar. Here’s a brief overview of its evolution:

  1. Early extended-range guitars: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, some guitarists began experimenting with extended-range guitars, such as the 7-string guitar used by jazz guitarist George Van Eps.
  2. Ibanez and Korn: In the 1990s, nu-metal band Korn popularized the use of 7-string guitars. In response, Ibanez introduced the first mass-produced 7-string guitar, the Universe series, in 1990.
  3. Meshuggah and the RG2228: Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah began using 8-string guitars in the early 2000s. In 2007, Ibanez introduced the RG2228, the first mass-produced 8-string guitar, designed in collaboration with Meshuggah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal.
  4. Popularization in metal and beyond: Following Meshuggah’s lead, many other metal bands and guitarists began incorporating 8-string guitars into their music, appreciating the extended range and heavier sound. Notable users include Animals As Leaders, Tosin Abasi, and Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter.
  5. Diversification of 8-string guitar designs: As the popularity of 8-string guitars grew, more manufacturers began offering their own models, with varying features, scale lengths, and pickup configurations to suit different playing styles and genres.
  6. Non-metal applications: While predominantly used in heavy metal, 8-string guitars have also found their way into other genres, such as progressive rock, experimental music, and even jazz, with players exploring the instrument’s extended range and unique tonal possibilities.

The 8-string guitar continues to evolve as luthiers and manufacturers refine designs and guitarists push the boundaries of what can be played on the instrument.

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Bands That Pioneered the Use of 8-String Guitars

Meshuggah and Animals as Leaders are prominent music groups known for their early use of 8-string guitars. This adoption significantly reshaped their song creation process and the general music scene.

Meshuggah

Meshuggah, a Swedish extreme metal band formed in 1987, has been instrumental in popularizing the use of 8-string guitars in heavy music. The band is known for their complex polyrhythmic compositions, low-tuned guitars, and innovative use of extended-range instruments.

Meshuggah’s guitarists, Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström, began experimenting with 8-string guitars in the early 2000s. They were seeking ways to create a heavier, more aggressive sound and to extend the range of their riffs and chord progressions. The band’s first album to feature 8-string guitars extensively was 2002’s “Nothing,” which showcased their signature sound characterized by low-end, palm-muted riffs, and intricate, polyrhythmic patterns.

The use of 8-string guitars allowed Meshuggah to explore lower tunings, often utilizing a half-step down tuning from standard 8-string tuning (F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E). This enabled them to create a massively heavy sound while maintaining clarity and definition in their complex riffs. The extended range also facilitated the creation of unconventional chord shapes and progressions, adding to their unique compositional style.

Meshuggah’s innovative use of 8-string guitars caught the attention of many guitarists and bands within the metal community. Their influence can be heard in the works of numerous modern metal acts, such as Animals As Leaders, Periphery, and Tesseract, among others.

The band’s collaboration with Ibanez in developing the RG2228 model, one of the first mass-produced 8-string guitars, further solidified their role in the popularization of the instrument. This partnership made 8-string guitars more accessible to a wider audience of guitarists.

Throughout their career, Meshuggah has continued to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with 8-string guitars, incorporating new techniques, effects, and technologies into their music. Their 2012 album, “Koloss,” and 2016’s “The Violent Sleep of Reason” demonstrate the band’s ongoing evolution and mastery of the instrument.

Animals as Leaders

Animals as Leaders, an American progressive metal band formed in 2007, has been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of 8-string guitar playing. The band’s music is characterized by intricate, polyrhythmic compositions that blend elements of metal, jazz, electronic, and world music.

The band’s guitarist and primary composer, Tosin Abasi, is widely regarded as one of the most influential 8-string guitarists in modern music. Abasi’s playing style incorporates a wide range of techniques, including complex fingerpicking patterns, two-handed tapping, and creative use of effects and processing.

In Animals as Leaders’ music, 8-string guitars are used to create a rich, layered sound that encompasses both heavy, low-end riffs and intricate, melodic passages. Abasi often employs the instrument’s extended range to create wide-interval chords, arpeggios, and tapping sequences that would be impossible to perform on a standard 6-string guitar.

Abasi’s use of the 8-string guitar has been influential in shaping the progressive metal and “djent” scenes, inspiring countless guitarists to explore extended-range instruments and unconventional playing techniques. His signature model guitars, produced by Ibanez (the TAM100 and TAM10) and more recently by his own company, Abasi Concepts, have become popular choices among 8-string enthusiasts.

Throughout Animals as Leaders’ discography, the 8-string guitar has been a central element in shaping the band’s unique sound. Albums like their self-titled debut (2009), “Weightless” (2011), and “The Joy of Motion” (2014) showcase the instrument’s versatility and potential in the hands of skilled musicians.

In addition to his work with Animals as Leaders, Tosin Abasi has collaborated with various other artists and participated in instructional content, further spreading his knowledge and influence in the 8-string guitar community. His playing and innovative use of the instrument have inspired a new generation of guitarists to push the limits of extended-range playing and incorporate 8-string guitars into a wide range of musical genres.

Stephen Carpenter

Stephen Carpenter, the guitarist of the alternative metal band Deftones, has been using 8-string guitars since the early 2010s. His adoption of the instrument has brought a new dimension to the band’s sound and has influenced the way 8-string guitars are used in the context of alternative and experimental metal.

Carpenter began using 8-string guitars on the Deftones’ 2010 album, “Diamond Eyes.” The instrument allowed him to explore lower tunings and create a heavier, more atmospheric sound. Unlike many other 8-string guitarists who primarily use the instrument for complex riffs and solos, Carpenter’s approach is more textural and rhythmic, focusing on creating dense, layered soundscapes.

In Deftones’ music, Carpenter often uses the 8-string guitar’s extended range to create low, droning chords and heavy, down-tuned riffs that add depth and intensity to the band’s sound. He also incorporates effects like delay, reverb, and modulation to create lush, ethereal textures that complement the band’s dynamic shifts between heavy and melodic passages.

Carpenter’s use of the 8-string guitar is particularly notable on albums like “Koi No Yokan” (2012) and “Gore” (2016), where he employs the instrument to create a wide range of tones and textures, from crushing, distorted riffs to shimmering, atmospheric clean passages.

Carpenter’s approach to the 8-string guitar has been influential in showcasing the instrument’s potential beyond the realm of traditional metal. His ability to integrate the 8-string into Deftones’ genre-defying sound has inspired other guitarists to explore the instrument’s capabilities in the context of alternative, shoegaze, and experimental music.

In addition to his work with Deftones, Stephen Carpenter has collaborated with ESP Guitars to create his signature series of 8-string guitars, the SC-608B and SC-208B. These models have made his unique approach to the instrument more accessible to a wider range of players.

Overall, Stephen Carpenter’s use of the 8-string guitar has been crucial in expanding the instrument’s sonic palette and demonstrating its versatility across various subgenres of heavy music. His innovative approach has played a significant role in the continued evolution and popularity of the 8-string guitar.

Impact of 8-String Guitars on Sound and Style

An 8-string guitar offers several advantages for bands, particularly those in the metal, progressive, and experimental genres:

  1. Extended range: The additional two strings (typically a low F# and a low B) extend the guitar’s range, allowing for lower tunings and the ability to play bass-like lines. This can add depth and heaviness to a band’s sound without needing a separate bass player.
  2. Wider chord voicings: The extra strings enable guitarists to play wider chord voicings and more complex harmonies, which can add richness and texture to a band’s music. This is particularly useful for bands that incorporate elements of jazz, fusion, or progressive rock.
  3. Unconventional song structures: The extended range and additional harmonic possibilities of an 8-string guitar can inspire bands to write more unconventional song structures and experiment with new compositional techniques.
  4. Versatility: An 8-string guitar can cover a wide range of tones and styles, from heavy, low-end riffs to intricate, melodic passages. This versatility can help bands create a more diverse and dynamic sound, allowing them to explore different musical territories within the same instrument.
  5. Stand-out factor: Incorporating an 8-string guitar can help a band stand out in a crowded musical landscape, as the instrument’s unique sound and visual appearance can be a distinguishing factor.
  6. Streamlined live setups: For bands that rely heavily on low-tuned guitars, an 8-string can eliminate the need for multiple guitars in different tunings, simplifying live setups and ensuring consistent tone across songs.
  7. Creative inspiration: The unique challenges and possibilities presented by an 8-string guitar can inspire guitarists to develop new playing techniques, explore unconventional chord shapes, and push the boundaries of their creativity.

While an 8-string guitar may not be suitable for all bands or genres, it can be a powerful tool for those seeking to expand their sonic palette, push creative boundaries, and create a distinctive sound in the world of heavy and experimental music.

More Bands That Use 8-String Guitars

There are literally hundreds of bands that use 8-string guitars today. Instead of attempting to list them all out, I’ll point you to some forums that do a good job of that already:

Best 8-String Guitar

The Schecter Omen Elite Multiscale 8 is my pick for the best 8-string guitar if you’re thinking about switching to use an 8-string. I currently own this instrument and have had no issues with it. You can’t go wrong with value for the money with Schecter.

Below, you can see a video of me using this guitar to play some metal-jazz fusion with Meshuggah’s Bleed rhythm and Giant Steps:

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8-String Bands: Conclusion

The impact of 8-string guitars on music has been significant, with both early and contemporary bands utilizing them.

The instrument has revitalized music by providing a broad spectrum of tonal options.

While it may not suit every band’s taste, those who’ve embraced it have developed unique sound and style characteristics.

This reflects the constant progression of music, and it’s exciting to anticipate the future contributions of creative musicians.

8-String Guitars: FAQ

Below are a few frequently asked questions about bands using 8-string guitars.

What Are the Technical Differences Between 6-String and 8-String Guitars?”

An 8-string guitar presents a broader range and adaptability than its 6-string counterpart. With two additional lower strings, it enhances the scope of your music. This instrumental innovation has significantly transformed the realm of guitar playing.

How Difficult Is It to Learn How to Play an 8-String Guitar Compared to a 6-String Guitar?

Mastering an 8-string guitar could be demanding due to its distinct design features. Moving from a 6-string involves comprehending its broader neck and two additional strings. This process requires enduring patience, consistent practice, and a thorough understanding of musical theory.

Are There Specific Genres of Music That Are More Suited to the Use of 8-String Guitars?

The use of 8-string guitar tuning is particularly effective in creating distinctive compositions in genres such as progressive metal and jazz. While it is not exclusive to these genres, they frequently utilize the extended range of the guitar to produce more intricate musical pieces.

What Is the Price Range for 8-String Guitars and Are They More Expensive Than 6-String Guitars?

The cost of 8-string guitars can fluctuate significantly, ranging from $200 to over $2000. This price variation is often higher than that of 6-string guitars, a fact attributable to their intricate designs and potential for personalization. It’s important to keep in mind that when purchasing these instruments, a substantial portion of the cost is for the expertise involved in their creation and the diversity in sound they offer.

Further Reading