So… Six strings aren’t enough for you anymore.
Maybe you need that extended range in your next progressive metal song. Maybe you want to mimic bass lines while simultaneously playing jazz melodies and the higher strings.
Or maybe you have a curious mind and a traditional guitar is no longer scratching that musical itch. Whatever your reason for wanting a 7-string guitar may be, picking out the best instrument possible for your budget and needs is a must.
Snapshot: Top 5 Best 7 String Guitars
- Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FR
- Sterling by Music Man John Petrucci Signature Guitar, JP157
- Ibanez RG Series RG7421PB
- ESP LTD EC-257
- Dean C750X MRD Custom Series
The Best 7 String Guitars
Guitar players today truly are fortunate in that we are living in the golden age of guitar gear. The number of high-end guitar luthiers is growing every year and the long-standing companies continue to show an increase in quality at lower and lower prices. As a result, there countless variables to consider when making a list of “The Best” 7-string guitars.
It is important to remember that everyone’s needs will differ based on one’s music preferences, hand size, skill level, and individual needs. Because of that, I tried my best to compile a list that offered options for musicians on a budget, as well as a choice that has all the bells and whistles (with a heavier price tag).
Some instruments on this list may need alterations depending on your exact needs, but the stock hardware and specs are all good enough here to give you a reliable and fun playing experience.
1. Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FR
The Schecter Hellraiser takes the top spot because it has it all: versatility, looks, and build quality. Even though it’s the most expensive instrument on this list, it’s still affordable considering all that comes with it. Ready to raise some Hell?… I’m sorry, stick with me. This really is an awesome guitar.
Body and Neck
The Hellraiser sets itself apart from the other guitars on this list starting with its set neck design. You can expect to hear more resonance, warmth, and fullness as a result. It also features the Ultra-Access cutaway for easy access to all 24 jumbo frets. Moving around those frets is further eased by the 16″ radius, making this fretboard nearly as flat as possible for all the shredders out there.
The all mahogany body is in a familiar “S” shape but manages to be eye-catching with beautiful quilted maple top and abalone binding. The body has a thin design for lower weight and comfortability without sacrificing lush tone.
Electronics and Hardware
The pickups are a pair of EMG 707TW Active pickups, which are by far the best sounding stock pickups on this list. Two independent push/pull volume controls and 5-way tone selector give an array of tonal options.
While that is all well and good, everyone’s going to be noticing the Floyd Rose 1000 series bridge. With the accompanying Floyd Rose nut and Grover locking tuners, this thing will stay in tune even with the most aggressive playing. Your dive-bomb wish has been answered!
Whereas some stock pickups (especially active ones) only work well when distorted, these sound beautiful when clean too. The sustain is pretty unreal, almost to the point where a compressor will rarely be needed. The tonal range afforded to you from the coil splitting will let you go into blues, jazz, and alt genres in addition to the aggressive tones associated with 7 strings.
- Body Material: Mahogany w/ Quilted Maple Top
- Neck Material: 3 piece Mahogany (Thin C)
- Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
- Pickups: EMG 707TW
- Bridge: Floyd Rose 1000 Series
Final Thoughts on the Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FR
The only downside for some will be the price point, but I would argue that its “bang for buck” makes this guitar the most valuable option on the list. It’s so jam packed with high quality features and tone out the wazoo that few, if any, upgrades will ever be needed. The Schecter Hellraiser C-7 FR is a guitar that will last you a lifetime if you want it to.
2. Sterling by Music Man John Petrucci Signature Guitar, JP157
If the Hellraiser C-7 is simply out of your price range, but you still want an instrument of high quality and modern playability, look no further than the Sterling by Music Man JP 157. Based on the JP15, Music Man brings an iteration of the John Petrucci signature line with multiple premium features at a sub-premium price.
Body and Neck
My favorite feature on this instrument is the neck. Roasted maple is being used on more and more boutique guitars. Roasting of a maple neck extracts impurities and creates a deeper tone with added stability. To see this on a mid-range priced guitar is very impressive. It also features 24 jumbo frets, giving players the range they expect from a 7 string. One potential downside is that the custom JP inlays are difficult to see against the roasted maple fretboard.
While most guitars on this list have a 26.5″ scale, the JP 157 features a 25.5″ scale, which means smaller fret length. This may be great for players with smaller hands, but I’ll chalk this one up to personal preference. The body features rounded edges and arm/tummy contours, making it comfortable to play.
Electronics and Hardware
Two Sterling by Music Man humbuckers come stock, but they can be switched out for your favorite set if they aren’t your cup of tea. It’s nice seeing a 7 string with passive electronics (no batteries needed!). A Sterling 2-point modern tremolo, much like the roasted maple neck, is a modern feature rarely seen on mid guitars at this price point. Combine this with locking tuners gives you plenty of trem action with minimal tuning needed afterward.
No need for a boost pedal with this guitar in your hands. The JP 157 also comes with a push/push 12 dB volume boost for solos.
This guitar has surprisingly woody tones, especially on the neck pickup with the boost on. This may be partially due to the roasted maple neck and mahogany body. The bridge pickup sounds phenomenal with overdrives, without every sounding harsh like some of its competitors within this price range can be. It may lack the versatility of coil splitting, but the tones that are available make this guitar stand alone.
- Body Material: Mahogany – Quilted or Flame Maple Veneer Top
- Neck Material: Roasted Maple
- Fingerboard Material: Roasted Maple
- Pickups: Sterling by Music Man Humbuckers
- Bridge: Sterling by Music Man Modern Tremolo
Final Thoughts on the Sterling by Music Man John Petrucci Signature Guitar, JP157
Whether you want the tones of Petrucci himself, or are looking to establish your own sound, the JP157 offers great playability with compromises only the most detail-oriented players will notice. The neck, bridge and boost features alone make this guitar worth having.
3. Ibanez RG Series RG7421PB
This guitar not only makes it to this list, but it also landed a spot in the 9 Best Intermediate Electric Guitars. The Ibanez RG Series RG7421PB ranks high because it has versatility and quality of build at a competitive price point. Not to mention, the available finishes (hello Sapphire Blue!) over a poplar burl top are eye-catching.
Body and Neck
As I was saying before the poplar burl top is a standout feature, but this guitar isn’t just eye candy. Behind the poplar burl top is a body of rich mahogany (did you read that in Ron Burgandy’s voice too?) that brings a warm punch to the tone that lets the mid range speak clearly.
The 2.67″ neck width (at its largest) may seem intimidating at first, but it comes with the territory on 7 strings. Contrary to the intimidatingly sharp edges on its horns, this guitar is still comfortable to play with a tummy contour and a super thin Wizard II-7 neck and an almost 16″ rosewood fretboard radius. 7 strings and 24 frets gives you some serious range and are easy to cover with those specs.
Electronics & Hardware
The RG7421PB comes stock with a fixed bridge, so no dive bombs here. But, with a pair of Quantum (H) pickups capable of coil splitting there’s still plenty of room for versatility. The jumbo frets make for easy movement and bends. Last, but not least, the all black locking tuners make for easy string changes and increase stability. It keeps things simple with one volume and tone control, but allows for some flexibility with its 5 way pickup switch.
Upgrading the pickups certainly wouldn’t hurt as the low end can come across somewhat muddy, but the stock Quantum (H) pickups will get you by with some creative EQ work if that isn’t in your budget. The guitar has a punchy mid range because the Mahogany body, without sounding honky. It shines when distorted, yet is capable of getting warm, compressed, “Chon”-esque clean tones too.
- Body Material: Poplar burl top / mahogany body
- Neck Material: 3 piece maple
- Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
- Pickups: Quantum (H)
- Bridge: Fixed
Final Thoughts on the Ibanez RG Series RG7421PB
Ibanez has created a guitar that could arguably be considered the prototypical 7 string guitar. It shares enough qualities of its artist series guitars, while maintaining an approachable price point. Some of the hardware could be modified for more versatility, but overall the design is perfectly suitable for someone new to the world of 7 strings.
And let us not forget, it looks stellar!
4. ESP LTD EC-257
While the big brother to this guitar, the ESP LTD EC-407, could have easily made this list too, the EC-257 is a phenomenal option for those who aren’t sure if 7 strings are right for them and don’t want to break the bank in figuring it out. ESP is also the only guitar on this list that takes after an Les-Paul-like design, so it stands out amongst the crowd.
Body and Neck
As I mentioned before, the first thing anyone will notice is the body shape. While most 7 strings tend to lean towards a Strat-syle body shape, the EC-257 leans towards a Les-Paul-like body shape. This will either make you want to keep reading or move right on immediately. If you decide it’s the right shape of guitar for you, you will be getting solid mahogany with a beautifully bound black satin finish.
The neck is roasted jatoba, giving it added stability while saving you some cash. The Thin U design will make fast runs a breeze for all the shredders out there. The neck is also like a traditional design in that it sports 22 jumbo frets on a 25.5″ scale. This means you are losing 2 extra notes, which for those who are looking into extended range guitars may seem backwards.
Electronics and Hardware
The stock LH-150 pickups are passive, meaning no need for batteries here. the 48 mm molded nut gets the job done, but isn’t top of the line by any means.
It comes with a fixed Tune-O-Matic & Tailpiece bridge, which means great sustain, but no potential for tremolo action. One of the things I really like about this guitar is the pickup configuration. Two independently voiced volume controls means you can set two different volumes to switch between. The tone control also features a push/pull for coil splitting. This design offers great versatility while maintaining a simple design.
Like the EC-256, the EC-257 comes stock with LH-150 pickups. These babies may be quite dark, but are capable of brightening up with some creative EQing. They would even work well in a classic rock or modern jazz project. That being said, if you play the heaviest of the heavy, it might be worth upgrading to the EC-407 equipped with active pickups.
While it won’t sound nearly as rich as a guitar double its price point, it manages to be convincing for what you are paying for. Some simple upgrades to the pickups can let the mahogany body and roasted neck shine brighter.
- Воdу Маtеrіаl: Маhоgаnу
- Nесk Маtеrіаl: 3 piece Маhоgаnу
- Fingerboard Material: Roasted Jatoba
- Pickups: ESP Designed LH-150 Humbuckers
- Bridge: Тunе-О-Маtіс w/Таіlріесе
Final Thoughts on the ESP LTD EC-257
The ESP LTD EC-257 is a great choice for someone who is either new to 7 strings, is on a budget, or enjoys Les-Paul style guitars. It has its shortcomings, but the electronics configuration and unique design make it stand out in its class. If you find that you want to make upgrades beyond the pickups, I would consider ESP’s higher end designs like the ESP LTD EC-407.
5. Dean C750X MRD Custom Series
All the guitars on this list sound nice but you still cannot justify dropping the money needed to get any of them?
The Dean C750X MRD Custom Series is here to the rescue. At around $375 online, this guitar has earned the Amazon’s Choice title and for good reason. You will be hard-pressed to find a guitar any cheaper while still getting an instrument worth keeping for years to come.
Body and Neck
Dean is known for making some pretty wild guitar designs. This one manages to look classic, but that certainly doesn’t mean its boring. Underneath the sharp and classy metallic red finish is a body of basswood. Though it may not be as rich of a tone wood as mahogany, it manages to keep the guitar nice and light (in your hands and in your wallet). The C750X MRD has a 25.5″ scale, multi ply binding, and a V-shaped string through design that looks killer!
The neck is bolt-on maple with a C-shape, so grabbing chords lower on the neck will be easier, though quick solos might be a little more challenging. The fretboards features rosewood with pearl custom inlays for some extra flare.
Electronics and Hardware
All of the hardware is black, making the red finish and custom inlays stand out more. The C 750X MRD comes with a pair of DMT design humbucker pickups. The tuners are non-locking, so string changes may be a pain compared to guitars with locking tuners, but they get the job done. The Tune-O-Matic bridge offers sufficient sustain and helps the instrument stay in tune. The V-shape string-through design is more flash than anything, but I must admit I’m into it.
The electronics here are rather straight forward. One volume, one tone (which allows for coil splitting) and a 3-Way toggle switch. Those looking for a simple design will be pleased. It isn’t the most versatile, but sometimes a simple design allows for creativity to flow with ease.
The DMT pickups create a sound that is surprising for a guitar in this price range. The low end is tight and responsive while allowing for the high end to sing. They will certainly cut through a mix, especially in a heavy metal setting, but they aren’t the most uniquely voiced pickups by any means. The guitar sounds a bit thin when clean, but the voicing of the pickups lends itself well to high gain tones.
- Воdу Маtеrіаl: Basswood
- Nесk Маtеrіаl: Maple
- Fіngеrbоаrd Маtеrіаl: Rosewood
- Рісkuрѕ: DMT Design
- Вrіdgе: Тunе-О-Маtіс String Thru
Final Thoughts on the Dean C750X MRD Custom Series
If I were blindfolded, I would be hard-pressed to pick this guitar out from its competitors. This is good in that you get a high quality sound at a low budget, but you certainly aren’t getting the most unique sounding guitar. All that being said, it’s the best possible value for anyone on a shoestring budget.
Do I need a 7 String Guitar?
Depends! Are you playing in a metal band and are tired of tuning your entire guitar down 2 whole steps? In this case a 7 string is a great alternative.
Do you want to play two musical lines that sound convincingly like two instruments? 7 strings can take care of this for you too.
Guitars are one of the most versatile instruments out there and most will be more than happy with a traditional 6 string guitar. Yet, certain genres or playing style certainly can benefit from extended range instruments.
If you aren’t sure if a 7 string guitar is right for you, hopefully this article helps you see what some cost-effective choices are. I would also recommend that you watch videos of your favorite heroes in your genre to see if they use 7 strings.
What’s the Point of 7 String Guitars?
It all comes down to personal taste, but I think it’s safe to say that for most the appeal of a 7 string guitar is to have extended range, typically by adding an extra low string. Combine this with 24 frets and you are getting much more mileage for note choices.
Who makes the best 7 String Guitars?
It’s my honest opinion that boutique builders and custom-made guitars are the absolute best choice for advanced 7 String guitar players. Because the options available are so great, more expensive, and likely need direct contact with the builders for ordering, custom/boutique guitars are not included in this list.
What makes builders like Ibanez, Schecter, and Ernie Ball so great is that they manage to create instruments that reach for a high quality with the fewest compromises they can to make more attainable instruments.
What bands use 7 String Guitars?
Animals As Leaders, Deftones, Joe Satriani, Slipknot, and Korn are just a few examples. 7 String guitars are not just for heavy music though. Muse, Charlie Hunter, and Steve Vai are all non-metal artists who keep 7 strings in their musical tool boxes too.
Extra Range Doesn’t Mean Extra Cash
7-string guitars really can be for anyone. While they are typically associated with metal or other heavy gain tones, the options on this list have proven to be great options for more traditional sounds.
It’s often because of their typical use in metal that they are crafted so well, because playing demanding music requires a comfortable and easy to play instrument. The companies I mentioned above have all done an incredible job of creating an offering for players of any level or style, at a price that is extremely affordable.
Even if you are just considering trying a 7 string guitar out, there are options that won’t break the bank and are more than likely to convince you of their worth. And if they don’t, they will be easy to sell to someone who is specifically looking for a 7 string sound and design.