7 String Vs 6 String Baritone Guitar – Which to buy?Pedals At Dawn
I love Breaking Benjamin, so when I decided it was time to actually learn some more of their songs I realised that a bunch of them were in Drop A#. My guitars at this point in time only had scale lengths of 24.5″, 25″ or 25.5″. I know what you’re thinking, put some 12-60 on the 25.5″ and quit your bitching. But I have this thing about keeping guitars as stock as possible, so I don’t want to widen the nut slots to fit heavier strings as I want the original gauge strings to fit – this is probably because I’m fickle and like the option of selling gear down the line. So I knew I needed thicker strings, but I’d never played a 7 string or a 6 string with a longer scale length. So which one should I buy and what are the practical differences between a 7 String Vs 6 String Baritone Guitar?
I kinda liked the idea of a 7 string because you can have standard tuning plus the lower string. So I bought an Ibanez RGAIX7FM. Apart from the pickups, I loved this guitar but sadly had to return it because the ridiculously flat wizard neck gave me RSI. If this guitar had a C shape neck, I’d probably still have it, but I’m genuinely curious if the 6 string version would suit me any better because I do love how it looks. However, the Ibanez did give me hope that 7 strings weren’t too wide for my smaller sized hands. Update: I did buy the RGAIX6FM and the wizard neck is fine for me on the 6 string version.
So I bought a PRS SE SVN with the satin Stealth finish. Now this guitar I loved, the neck was awesome and still not too wide for my hands. But the 1st one received had some quality control issues, like grit in the finish on the neck, glue on the fretboard and the tone knob fell off. Fast-forward to not 1, not 2 but 3 different replacements ALL with quality issues, mostly grit on the back of the neck that I just couldn’t live with. So after this horrific experience where I returned all 4 guitars, I vowed never to buy another non-USA made PRS.
I already had a Schecter KM-6, so since I loved that guitar, I was bound to love its big brother, the KM-7, right? Well yes and no. I do love it but the neck is only comfortable on the lower frets and gets too wide and flat from about the 7th fret onwards for my hands. But its satin, with Seymour Duncan pickups, locking tuners, a 3 way toggle – everything I wanted except for how the neck feels in the higher register. Plus I really don’t like tuning the high E up to F. Update: I still can’t bring myself to sell the KM-7.
At this point, I was kinda pissed that I didn’t just buy the PRS SE 277 which I’d been too chicken to take a punt on because I was worried my hands couldn’t make the 3 to 7 fret stretch in Tool’s Lateralus. I know, it’s in Drop D so I shouldn’t be playing it on a bari in the first place. But this was (stupidly) the major reason I tried so many 7 strings – fear of the longer scale length being too hard for me to play. Plus the product shots on the PRS website of the SE 277 make it look damn ugly and it took ages for better photos to appear online.
Eventually, Xmas rolled around and the sales started. Lo and behold the PRS SE 277 in fire red burst was on sale. So naturally, I rationalized that PRS SE just can’t make a decent satin guitar and I’ve never had a problem with their gloss guitars in the past, so I bought the 277. Well, the neck is amazing, duh, this is why I have multiple PRS guitars because they fit my frame. And the Lateralus stretch is a little buzzy because of the string gauge and I can’t quite fret the notes properly, but its nothing a little practice and muscle memory won’t sort. So yeah, I should have saved myself a ton of time and money and just got the 6 string baritone in the first place. Also, it really is nice being able to play the songs I already know in a lower tuning which gives me time to learn new songs meant to be played that low. Warning: I doubt anything above a 68 gauge string will actually fit through the post hole of the 277 as it was a struggle to remove the rusty stock strings to replace with Elixir 12-68’s. Update: I’m seriously considering getting another 277 in the new Charcoal Burst finish.
So what did I learn? Thanks to this YouTube video, switching to 7 strings wasn’t quite as daunting as I expected. But for my hands, the wider necks of 7 strings with 26.5” scale lengths were much more of an issue than a 6 string with a 27.7” scale length. And while the 277 doesn’t feel big per se, to me, the size difference is more noticeable switching back to a regular guitar which then feels smaller.
I really can’t stress enough that for decisions like this you should go to a music store and compare side by side. But my closest music store is a 45min drive with hardly any parking and they don’t even sell the guitars I was looking at – so for those in the same boat, I’m sharing my experience as forewarned is forearmed.
If you’ve been through a similiar hell making the choice betwen a 7 String Vs 6 String Baritone Guitar for yourself, tell me about it in the comments.