Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.
You can pick up any month's edition of Guitar World or Guitar Player magazines and see how there are very many seven string solid body guitar products available across the world. Seven string solid body guitars aren't exactly a new thing at all, but demand for them and corresponding production have certainly accelerated in recent decades. Gibson guitars, as one of the foremost brands of guitar in the world simply must participate in this.
As a matter of fact, guitars with more than seven strings are also becoming more in demand, and thus in production. The primary mover in these developments are the many genres of newfangled heavy metal music. There are now more sub-genres of metal music than I can name. You'll simply have to pardon me should I simply think of them all as metal.
The very first guitarist who I recall playing a seven string solid body guitar was Steve Vai. Vai had by then been many years into being known for extreme guitar playing, ten hour practice routines, and rampant virtuosity. The impression you had was Steve Vai was so technically skilled a mere six strings wouldn't cut it for him any more. He needed more to work with.
Rise of the 7 string Gibson solid body guitar
Even before there was a term for it, Les Paul himself played rock and roll music. He played a lot more genres of music too, but the Gibson Les Paul was associated quite closely with heavy rock from its beginning.By 1965, when the British invasion guitarists, persons such as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, started playing Gibson Les Paul guitars, their popularity took off.
Gibson discontinued production of the 50s era Les Paul guitars in 1960 due to poor sales. In 1958 they launched the radical, aggressively shaped Gibson Explorer guitar, and also the Flying V. In 1961 they debuted what would become the Gibson SG.
In 1968 Gibson re-introduced the single cutaway, dual humbucker, maple and mahogany Les Paul. Along with the SG, Explorer, and Flying V these four models of guitar by Gibson were the gold standard in heavy rock and metal music. This situation remains intact today. Gibson has lots of competitors, but in heavy rock and metal Gibson set the benchmark for guitars.
The idea of the seven string, solid body electric guitar can be attributed to the late Lenny Breau. But Lenny Breau's idea wasn't the same as what was popularized by Steve Vai. The 'low B,' or seventh string to accommodate an extended bass range of tonality, was popularized by Vai, Reb Beach, and John Petrucci. Ibanez made the first 'Ibanez Universe' guitars for Vai, but soon Gibson's subsidiary, Epiphone, put a seven string solid body electric guitar into production.
1. Epiphone Limited Edition Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom-7 seven-string guitar
For the purposes of this article we will only address the most recent of the seven string solid body guitars put out by Gibson, and also, its subsidiary, Epiphone. I spend a lot of time on the web and so I come into contact with all sorts of characters. There are elitist types who think lowly of Epiphone, but this is only because they've become affluent enough to own premium Gibson guitars. Epiphone, as a brand, will give you more guitar for your dollars spent than Gibson ever will.
Yes, the most of the Epiphone line is now built in Korea, where the labor costs are much lower than in the USA. But this hasn't always been the case. And there is also Epiphone of Japan where you have guitars produced under the Epiphone name which may very well be even better than Gibson USA. The Japanese are no slouches in manufacturing. The Koreans don't make junk these days either.
Matt Heafy is a Japanese-American heavy metal dude who sings and plays guitar. Most people will associate Matt with Trivium, but Trivium isn't his only musical outlet. Matt became a professional musician at a very young age, and he's a vocalist as well. His guitar playing is closely associated with Gibson style guitars, and his Epiphone signature Les Paul guitars come in both six string and seven string versions. For your purposes here we'll be discussing the Epiphone Matt Heafy signature Les Paul Custom 7 String Electric Guitar with EMG-81/85 Pickups.
Done all in black, these guitars visually show you the sort of music they are designed to create. And EMG pickups are known too for their high output, making them ideal for the heavy metal guitarist. But as with any guitar, the guitar can be used to make any kind of music the musician can imagine.
With Epiphone Les Paul guitars you aren't usually getting a real maple top on them. The maple is generally a veneer, and so has no effect your ears will detect on the guitar's tone. When the guitar is done in a dark black or ebony finish one would wonder why they bother with the maple veneer at all, but in any event, it is there.
This guitar has an access heel or contour on it. This is something which is a very real improvement over the original Les Paul designs, and allows the player much more ease in accessing the upper frets. The modern metal guitarist would do better with this particular guitar than a Gibson for that reason alone. An additional string an improved access to upper frets, along with the high output EMG pickups make this one of the single best offerings in the Epiphone line.
- Body Material: Mahogany
- Top Material: Plain Maple Veneer
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Neck Shape: 1960's SlimTaper; D profile
- Neck Joint: Glued In; Deep-Set Neck Joint with "Axcess" heel
- Truss Rod: Adjustable
- Truss Rod Cover: 2-ply (Black/White); "MKH Les Paul Custom" in white silkprint
- Scale Length: 24.75"
- Fingerboard Material: Ebony with pearloid Block inlays
- Neck Pickup: EMG-707
- Knobs: Black Speed Knobs
- Bridge Pickup: EMG-81-7
- Epiphone All-metal 3-way Pickup Selector; White toggle cap
- Neck Pickup Tone and Volume
- Bridge Pickup Tone and Volume
- (Active) 9V battery compartment in back
- Bridge: LockTone tune-o-matic/Stopbar
- Binding Body Top - 7-ply (White/Black)
- Headstock - 5-ply (White/Black)
- Fingerboard - 1-ply (White)
- Fingerboard Radius: 12"
- Frets 22; medium-jumbo
- Nut Width: 1-7/8"
- Hardware: Black
- Machine Heads: Deluxe Die-cast with metal Tulip Buttons 14:1 ratio
- Output Jack: Epiphone Heavy-Duty with metal output jack plate
- Color: Ebony (gloss)
- Includes Epiphone StrapLocks
- Case sold separately
2. Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 string guitar
There is talk elsewhere on the web about this new Gibson Les Paul Classic 7 string guitar, and how it will fail as a product. Well, it is true Gibson has in past years made a 7 string Les Paul and then discontinued its production. Testing the waters with a product is a pretty good strategy in and of itself.
The theorizing as to why the 7 string Les Paul is a bad idea is centered around two things. The first thing is the Gibson scale length for a Les Paul is too short for the seventh string to have enough tension to intonate well. While that is a legitimate concern, people have been down tuning Gibson solid body guitars for a long while, and managed to cope with it.
The second idea is that when people want a Les Paul, they want the classic guitar with six strings, and not seven. That idea seems ludicrous, as anyone wanting a seven string guitar is likely to want it on a format of guitar they are already familiar with. Whether the new Gibson Les Paul Classic seven string guitar stays in regular production, or not, is something we'll be waiting to find out like everyone else who's not privy to Gibson insider information.
This is a Les Paul Classic, and you should know that means you're going to pay over two thousand dollars for one of these. You should also know this guitar is not like other Les Paul Classics in more ways than just having an additional string. This guitar has Seymour Duncan pickups and an an onboard 15dB Turbo Boost when you really need to blow the house down.
- Les Paul Classic 7 string
- Body Type: Les Paul
- Body Species: Maple / mahogany
- Neck profile: Asymmetrical Slim Taper .800 -.875
- Fingerboard: Rosewood 22 fret
- FGBD binding/inlay: Cream , Trapezoid
- Finish: Ebony
- Hardware: Chrome Tune-o-Matic
- Chrome Grover tuners
- Electronics: Seymour Duncan 59+ JB with 15 db boost and push/pull coil splitting
- Plastics: Cream rings w/ gold speed knobs
- Case: Vintage Brown Hardshell
3. Gibson Flying V 7-String
The Gibson 7 string Flying V is ridiculously beautiful. When the Gibson 7 string Flying V was a senior in high school, the guitar won 'most photogenic.' Holy wow, the thing is just damned fine to look at. I mean, black and gold really go together with a V shape guitar which happens to be flying.
If you are looking to be noticed, then it would be hard to find a most distinctive guitar than a 7 string Gibson Flying V. These guitars were very ahead of their time, debuting in 1958. At the time folks likely thought of these as sales gimmicks. Well, one thing for sure, you need to be in the habit of playing while standing to play one of these. Even when you're practicing alone you'll likely have to stand. It's the price you pay for having such a distinct heavy metal guitar.
There was just a limited edition run of these guitars. I know of one person online who has one. You can be sure he loves to upload the photos of he and it on his Facebook page at every opportunity. I can't say I blame him.
These guitars again depart from using Gibson pickups. These are sporting EMG active pickups designed specifically for use with a seven string guitar. EMG active pickups are at their best when played loud and over-driven. The neck pickup has two alnico magnets, and the bridge pickup has a ceramic magnet. Gibson engineers put a lot of thought into these things.
- Mahogany body
- Ebony nitrocellulose lacquer finish
- Mahogany neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
- 22 frets
- Corian nut
- EMG-707 active neck humbucker with alnico magnets
- EMG-81-7 active bridge humbucker with ceramic magnet
- 2 volume, 1 tone
- 3-way pickup switch
- Top hat knobs
- Gold hardware
- 7-string Tune-O-Matic bridge with string-thru
- Steinberger 40:1 gearless tuners
- 5-ply pickguard
4. Gibson 7-String Explorer
If you are starting to think this is another situation where you may have any color you like, so long as it is black, you might be onto something. Gibson does realize what sorts of musicians are most likely to be interested in a seven string solid body electric guitar, and it isn't jazz guys.
The lightning bolt shape of the Gibson explorer guitars has always been attractive to metal and thrash guitarists.James Hetfield was the first person I remember ever seeing play a Gibson explorer. But of course he was never the only one. Today's new metal players, persons such as the two 'nameless ghouls' in Ghost both play Gibson explorers behind their demon masks.
The 7 string explorer isn't in production at present. There had been a limited edition run on them. One thing which needs to be said regarding any Gibson explorer or other manufacturers explorer style guitar is the large all mahogany body with long horns at the treble and bass ends has to affect the tone of the guitar. The dual horned lightning bolt body is also very well balanced.
Again Gibson used active EMG pickups on this guitar. The 7-String Gibson Explorer is fitted with an EMG 707 (neck position), features and an Alnico V magnet loaded wide aperture coils that beef up that low B tone and at the same time provide a more responsive super tight overall sound. The EMG 81-7 (bridge position) is its perfect compliment, working best for high volume overdrive and amps with a master volume and producing a razor sharp attack with incredible sustain for brilliant soloing.
- Body style: 7-string explorer
- Body species: Mahogany
- Plating finish: Chrome
- Tailpiece: Gibson stopbar
- Bridge: Gibson Tune-O-Matic
- Tuners: Mini Grovers
- Neck pickup: EMG 707 active humbucker
- Bridge pickup: EMG 7-81 active humbucker
- Controls: Volume, volume, tone - 3-way toggle
- Control knobs: Black speed
- Control pocket cover: Black plastic
- Profile: Explorer
- Nut: Corian
- Nut width: 1.69"
- Headstock inlay: Gibson logo
- Truss rod: Adjustable truss rod
- Truss rod cover: Bell-shaped cover
- Fingerboard species: Rosewood
- Inlays: none
- Number of frets: 22
- Scale length 24-¾"
- Case: Gibson hardshell
5. Gibson's new SG 7 string guitars come in black and white
There are exactly six hundred of these guitars available on this planet of Earth. Three hundred white ones and three hundred black ones. But be certain you know Gibson isn't calling these 'black ones' and 'white ones.' These are officially and respectively the Gibson SG Dark 7 and the Gibson SG Light 7 guitars.
These guitars are pretty inexpensive at present. But I won't be surprised if well kept ones bring more than what was paid for them very soon. Rather than EMG pickups we've got Seymour Duncan pups on both of these in both positions.
These guitars both sport Richlite fingerboards. Richlite isn't even wood. It is a synthetic material and performs much the same as ebony, but is likely more durable than ebony. Welcome to the modern age, folks. Some of these new materials will soon cause us to wonder how we could have ever cut down trees for guitar fingerboards or piano keys.
These guitars are brand new and available for sale right now. I think what Gibson is doing is testing the waters to see if demand is high to make a steady production 7 string solid body guitar available in standard production, and if so, with which body style and with which pickups. We shall see. Thanks for reading.
© 2016 Wesman Todd Shaw