The standard 6-string guitar might be every guitarists first love, but there comes a point for some where 6 strings just aren’t enough anymore. At some point, you want to go heavier, but you can only down tune your guitar so much.
Top 3 - 8 String Guitars
But with 8-string guitars, you can go even lower than any 6-string ever could. You can truly achieve those low and heavy chugs to create the djent breakdowns of your dreams.
Here are five 8-string guitars that have made starting your first djent band cheaper than ever.
5 Excellent Cheap 8 String Guitars
The Schecter Omen-8 is an incredible guitar, just like most Schecter guitars.
This is a super solid guitar. Tough as nails while still being comfortable and smooth to play.
Some 8-string guitars can take a bit of adjusting to get used to. You are dealing with a wider neck and two extra strings. The Omen-8 is pretty comfortable from the start. I think most people will be playing naturally within minutes of picking this guitar up.
The Omen-8 has a very thick and chunky sound. Which is exactly what you want when playing djent. There is an abundance of low end, while still sticking closely to the midrange to help it cut through the mix.
I do wish it was a bit cleaner, though. Solos can sound a bit dirty on the Omen-8. Doing some EQ does clean up the sound nicely, but there is always just a little bit of dirt left over.
This guitar actually isn’t what I would call versatile. The clean tone isn’t bad, but it isn’t the best either. The Omen-8 sounds the best with a ton of distortion.
You are likely buying an 8-string purely for metal, but I think versatility is important no matter the guitar. You don’t want a guitar that can only do one thing.
But if you just want a mean, chugging machine, the Omen-8 is excellent. It is one of those guitars I like to refer to as plug-and-chug. You just plug it into an amp, turn up the gain, and off you go.
2. Ibanez RGMS8
If anyone knows how to make an 8-string guitar, it is Ibanez. Even their lower end 8-strings, like the RGMS8, are absolutely fantastic.
Ibanez has really put everything that makes their higher end 8-strings great into this more budget friendly version. The RGMS8 is just fantastic. As far as build quality, this is pretty much Ibanez through and through. The RGMS8 is very well made, solid, and comfortable.
I like that Ibanez has also gone with fanned frets for this guitar. Fanned frets are something that has only really been seen on more premium guitars.
I am glad that we are starting to see this more on lower end guitars. This is especially important on these lower end 8 strings to get them sounding as good as possible.
The guitar is just overall a joy to play. Chords are easy to fret and faster runs are smooth.
The guitar also sounds as great as it plays. And it doesn’t just sound great playing 0’s and 1’s with a ton of distortion. On lower levels of gain, I managed to actually create a decent rock sound.
The cleans are also crisp and bright. This guitar isn’t just a djent machine, you can actually use it as a standard guitar. Of course, if you just want to chug, this guitar excels at that.
The guitar’s tone is more in the midrange. You can add a lot of low end when switching to the neck pickup if you are looking to get a fattier sound.
Another fanned fret 8-string, the Jackson X Series Dinky is guitar made by another company that knows what they are doing when it comes to metal oriented instruments.
The X Series Dinky is a fantastic guitar. It is super smooth and comfortable to play. I especially like the guitar’s body. It is nice and thin with a generous contour at the back. This makes the guitar sit snug against your body for improved playability.
On the sound side of things, the X Series is equally impressive. It has a very thick, aggressive distorted sound.
This guitar can chug with the best of them. But it also lets you do clean solos that aren’t too dirty when you have a lot of distortion. The clean tones are a bit of a let down. They aren’t bad, but aren’t as good as the distorted tones.
This was all only after a fairly extensive setup. While the other guitars on this list where pretty much ready out of the box, excluding tuning, this one wasn’t.
I had to adjust the action, the neck, the bridge, and even the pickup selector was loose.
That last issue might just have happened during shipping, but the others happen more often than not with Jackson guitars these days. But none of that makes me like the X Series less.
You should be doing a full check and setup on any new guitar anyway. I am just pointing it out so that you don’t pick this guitar up the first time and think it is bad.
4. Ibanez RG8
The Ibanez RG8 is another fantastic offering from Ibanez. But this guitar is especially great when you factor in just how affordable it is. It terms of comfort and playability, there isn’t much to say about this guitar. It is about on par with the RGMS8.
Of course, the big difference here is that the RG8 doesn’t have fanned frets. Even without this, the RG8 still manages to sound great. The guitar’s sound is especially impressive considering this is a budget Ibanez with stock pickups. I am not the biggest fan of Ibanez’s stock pickups in their lower end guitars.
They can sound a bit fuzzy and I usually replace them as soon as possible. But the IBZ-8 pickups in this guitar sound fantastic. These pickups are fat, angry, and loud. They are also clear, making notes stand out and sounding great.
But chunky djent riffs aren’t the only things that sound great. Solos and lead lines sound fantastic. They are sharp and crystal clear. I think if you are getting into 8-string guitars, the RG8 might be the ultimate entry point.
It is fairly affordable while still playing and sounding amazing. Of course, it isn’t quite as good as the RGMS8, but it close pretty close.
My only complaint would be that the strings did start to go out of tune a bit too quickly for an 8-string. I would definitely consider upgrading the tuning machines with a set of locking ones like the D’Addario Auto-Trim.
The second Jackson on this list, the JS32-8 is similar to the Ibanez RG8. It serves as a more affordable version of the X Series Dinky. Playability and build quality are fairly similar to the X Series.
Jackson has built a really solid budget 8-string. It doesn’t feature fanned frets like the X Series, just like the RG8 compared to the RGMS8. And like the RG8, the lack of fanned frets isn’t any real drawback.
It does take a bit more work to get the JS32-8 sounding great. The guitar’s natural tone is a bit too scooped for my liking. This is especially an issue on the lower strings. The sound can easily become muddy and messy. But otherwise the guitar has quite a great and chunky sound.
I would definitely do a lot of EQ tweaking with an amp or pedal to clean up the JS32-8s sound. I also found that it sounded best with the pickup selector either all the way to the bridge or all the way to the neck. The guitar also needed a decent setup to get it perfect.
Luckily, I didn’t need to do quite as much as the X Series and at least the pickup selector wasn’t loose. Which leads me to believe that isn’t a regular occurrence.
Overall, considering the price, I would say the JS32-8 is a great guitar. If you are looking to get into 8-string guitars, this is a great and inexpensive entry point.
Why Choose an 8-String?
The main reason why people play 7 and 8-string guitars is for the extended range. Since these guitars have extra low strings, you are able to play lower notes.
In terms of metal genres like djent, this extra low range allows you to achieve a much heavier sound. Of course, you can tune your strings lower to get a heavier sound.
The problem with this is that a standard six string can only go so low before it starts sounding messy. Since the extra low strings are already naturally heavier, you don’t need to tune as low to get a heavier sound.
Fanned vs Normal Frets
You might have noticed that some 8-string guitars have the normal “straight” frets, while others have frets that are angle. These are called fanned frets or multi-scale frets.
The reason for these angled frets is to increase the scale length of the lower strings compared to the higher ones. In other words, the lower strings travel a longer distance across the fretboard than the higher strings.
The longer the scale length, the more tension there is in the string. This is important because thicker strings need to have a higher tension to avoid them becoming slack.
This means that you can tune your strings lower without losing tension. This naturally higher tension also allows you to use a lighter gauge of strings.
It is important to remember that fanned frets have no effect on intonation.
The purpose of fanned frets is to give each string the optimal tension. This ensures the strings have the best tone and it gives the player the best playing experience.
An 8-string guitar with normal frets isn’t bad. But you will be able to notice fanned fret guitars are easier to play and sound a bit better. Fanned frets do take some getting used to at first. You have to adjust your finger positioning and adjust to the change in fret position moving from the low strings to the highs.
But once you get used to fanned frets, it will be hard for you to think how you never played with them before.
Because you are likely going to be playing very aggressively on your 8-string, I would highly recommend getting one with locking tuners. This is just to make sure your guitar stays in tune for longer.
Unfortunately, on lower end 8-strings, locking tuners aren’t a guarantee. Fortunately, though, a good set of locking tuners isn’t too expensive. If you notice your guitar going out of tune more than you feel it should, I would certainly invest in a set of locking tuners.
The D’Addario Auto-Trims and Grover 502C Roto-Grips are both excellent sets that aren’t too expensive. Being more affordable is especially important considering you are going to need to buy two sets. At least you will have spares then.
You might look at 7 and 8-string guitars and think that they are exclusively meant for metal. While this is the genre where they are most prominent and that popularized them, they are fairly versatile guitars.
Little Tybee guitarist, Josh Martin, uses an 8-string guitar to great effect to create the bands unique progressive folk rock sound. Robert Conti is an excellent jazz guitarist that uses an 8-string to play chords and lead melodies at the same time as bass.
Animals As Leaders, one of the most famous 8-string bands, own Javier Reyes has a side project called Mestis. Here he does a more jazz fusion style of music.
The 8-string guitar has arguably reshaped and defined the sound of modern metal. Some might also say that if it weren’t for 8-string guitars, Meshuggah would have never invented djent.
Regardless, 8-string guitars are fantastic instruments. They are also no longer limited to being premium guitars, only affordable by wealthier musicians. 8-string guitars are now as affordable and easy to come buy as any standard 6-string.