Today I decided to pull out the ol' seven string guitar. As I slung the ever cheesy 'police line' strap over my shoulder, I thought to myself "wow it has been a while. I wonder if I should sell this guitar." The answer came to me seconds after I played my first chord. The huge sound seemed to swirl around my body, (thanks in part to the cold medicine that I am taking) and it came to me: of course I could never sell it, I still need it. The following argument with myself went something like this:
What For? Surely I trespass some of the Bassist's territory with that low B string. Not to mention that I haven't even come close to mastering the six string guitar so why would I even want a guitar with more strings that that? Plus any guitarist worth his salt should be able to make his six strings sound as huge as any seven string guitar.
Will the defence please rise.
For charges against trespassing on the bass territory:
Bands sound best when each player stays in their little pocket and don't try to carry over into someone else's place. If you are a rhythm player, be content playing a supporting rhythm to the bass and drums; something to fill in the sonic gap... but don't over fill! This can be done on a seven string. Just check your volume and don't play more than you should. If you are a lead player, you should try to come to grips with the fact that you may never be satisfied.
For the charge against needing to master six strings before attempting seven:
You don't need to master a six string before attempting a seven string. That is ridiculous. It is a different instrument and needs to be treated like it.
For the statement "any guitarist worth his salt should be able to make his six strings sound as huge as any seven string guitar.".
This is somewhat true! The simplest way to make a chord sound an octave lower is to simply drop a fifth on the bottom end of the chord. For example if you are playing the C chord (3rd fret A string) to make it sound bigger, crank the distortion and play the G (3rd fret low E string) on top of the C chord. Voila! ...but its just not the same. Also there is no real way (other than some pitch shifting pedals) to mask single notes as being lower than they are that I am aware of.
The Seven string also feels different, and not just because of the little wider neck, but because of its scale. My seven string has a slightly longer scale than my other guitars do. That means that the strings have to be pulled a little tighter to produce any given note than is necessary on a regular (not baratone) six string guitar. The result is a tight feeling, mean and deep sounding machine of sonic might and glory.
Verdict: I will keep and continue to love my seven string.