If you’re curious about the difference between the 8 string vs 6 string guitar, this post is for you.
For context, I’ve been a guitar player since 2003 and have messed around with all sorts of instruments since then.
From guitar hybrids to banjos, mandolins, and more, I’m a multi-instrumentalist with some experience in this domain.
I don’t have it all figured out, especially when it comes to the 8 string guitar, but I’m happy to share my research on these instruments here on the blog.
The 8 string guitar has become more and more popular today.
You can see this especially in all kinds of metal genres and subgenres.
By adding two additional low strings, guitar players now have the chance to create all sorts of interesting music.
So, is it THAT different from a regular 6 string guitar?
To answer this question, let’s have a quick look at each instrument first:
- 6 String Guitar: An instrument consisting of 6 strings tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E. This is the industry’s standard instrument. When someone says “guitar,” you can know that they’re referring to a 6 string guitar. These can be acoustic (classical, folk) or electric.
- 8 String Guitar: A guitar to which two additional low strings have been added. These new strings are tuned in F# and B, respectively. So, the tuning of this instrument is F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E. The instrument comes mostly as a variation of an electric guitar, but you can find a few acoustic models out there too.
In short, we can see that they are pretty similar, except for the additional strings, right?
Well, yes and no. Yes, both instruments are guitars and you can play some of the same music in them. But no, both instruments are used for vastly different purposes due to the different sounds they produce.
How the 8 String and 6 String Guitar Differ and How This Plays Into Which Instrument You Should Learn
The first thing you should consider is which sound you like the most. As simple as it seems, the first thing you fall in love with when it comes to a musical instrument is its sound.
However, there are other elements to consider too. Here’s a list of some of the differences between the 8 string and the 6 string guitar:
8 String Guitar
6 String Guitar
Has 8 strings
Has 6 strings
Focused on the low register
Balanced low, mid, and high registers
Ideal for intermediate or advanced guitar players
Ideal for beginners
Comes as an electric guitar almost exclusively
Can be found as acoustic, electro-acoustic, and electric instruments
Added complexity regarding chord and scale positions
Average complexity regarding chords & scales
Played mostly in metal genres
Played in most genres
Few learning materials available that consider the additional strings
Abundant learning materials
8 String Guitars Have More Sounds To Explore
The 8 string guitar and its additional low F# and B strings provide experienced guitar players with a whole new register.
The extended low register allows you to explore playing bass, melody, and harmony in a richer way than a regular guitar. This is because you now have access to lower notes that can serve as a bass line.
As a result, you can say the instrument adds new layers of complexity to your guitar playing.
6 String Guitars Are More Versatile
The 6 string guitar has on its side being the most common guitar. This means that there is plenty of music to learn on a standard 6 string guitar. You can recognize the sound and register of the guitar everywhere.
Most of your average blues, rock, metal, and pop bands include a 6 string guitar.
Thus, the industry is already set to suit the needs of 6 string guitar players.
For example, you can easily find strings, tuners, guitar parts, guitar books, and gig bags for a 6 string guitar.
On the other hand, these accessories are hard to find for the 8 string guitar.
What can you play with a 6 string guitar?
As one of the most popular musical instruments out there, the 6 string guitar is everywhere in today’s music.
With this instrument, you can play in nearly any genre.
As a consequence, most of the songs you know and love are written with an easy to play version on the standard guitar.
However, if you want to play extreme metal genres like mathcore, death metal, and djent, you may find yourself limited with a 6 string guitar.
What can you play on an 8 string guitar?
The role of the 8 string guitar is quite versatile.
The additional low F# and B strings give you the opportunity to play heavier riffs.
Genres like djent, progressive, and mathcore are making good use of the instrument because of the melodic and harmonic possibilities.
Since the low F# and B strings are also tuned in 4ths, you can still play the same riffs and power chords you play on your regular guitar.
Of course, you can still play 6 string repertoire on an 8 string by totally ignoring the additional strings. However, this isn’t taking full advantage of the instrument’s capabilities.
Interestingly, the low F# and B strings are pretty close to the register of the low strings of a bass guitar. This means that you can also play bass lines here!
The 8 string guitar will give you the opportunity to explore bass lines, harmony, and melody all at once.
You can see Tosin Abasi demonstrate some of what’s possible with the 8 string in the video below:
Learning Materials Available
The 8 String Guitar
Although 8 string guitars have been available since 2007, there aren’t many dedicated learning resources for this instrument.
The reason is that the 8 string guitar is still considered more of a specialty instrument.
As a result, I recommend learning the basics of the standard 6 string guitar before jumping into the 8 string model.
But don’t worry.
You will still find several interesting YouTube videos showing you how to play things on the 8 string guitar.
Most of them, however, are aimed at the intermediate guitar player trying a new instrument.
Therefore, keep in mind that 8 string guitar learning materials typically assume a solid foundation of knowledge with the standard guitar.
The 6 String Guitar
The 6 string guitar as we know it has been around for almost 200 years, so you can count on having plenty of learning resources available for this instrument.
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced guitarist, you will find learning resources tailor-made for you and your situation.
8 String Guitar Vs 6 String Guitar: The Final Verdict
You might want to pursue an 8 string guitar if you are:
- already an intermediate guitar player
- into extreme metal genres
- willing to pay what might be a kind of expensive instrument
- willing to learn without many dedicated learning materials
You might want to pursue a 6 string guitar instead if you:
- Are choosing your first musical instrument
- Want to have plenty of learning resources regardless of your level
- Are interested in having the flexibility of playing in several different musical genres
What’s the point of an 8 string guitar?
An 8 string guitar’s two additional strings allow you to play closer to the tonal range of the bass without sacrificing your ability to play in the tonal range of a standard guitar. This is helpful if you are into djent, extreme metal, or another genre that makes use of the 8 string guitar.