What are the guitars with most strings? Guitars with more than 6 strings and one neck are not unheard of. Some of the guitars with the most number of strings than normal include the 30-string Emerald Chimaera Triocha doubleneck, the 36-string Hamer 5-neck guitar, and the incredible 49-string guitar invented by an Italian luthier Carlos Roberto Michelutti.
It is common knowledge that guitars are used across different genres. Pop, jazz, blues, country, thrash, metal, you name it, and there will be a specialized guitar designed for it.
The size of the body, the thickness of the strings, or the acoustic of the guitar’s interior are modified for each genre.
But did you know that the number of strings is also altered, and some guitars do not come with the traditional 6 strings? Some have less and some have exceedingly more than our fingers could count.
A Guitar Does Not Always Have 6 Strings
When asked to draw or think of a guitar, most answers would include an instrument with six strings, unless you’re a bass head that fancies the typical bass guitar with four strings. This is not always the case, though.
As people longed for custom guitars that produced a particular sound, the number of guitars in the market with different string configurations has expanded.
A guitar is typically divided into three main categories: acoustic, bass, or electric. In the past, acoustics and electrics were made to have six strings while basses had four. Now, variations of these exist in the music industry.
Acoustic guitars, the ones we see our favorite pop stars play on stage, now come with 7 and up to 12 strings.
● 7-string acoustics
Guitars with seven strings are considered more versatile and are currently preferred by many guitarists due to an extension of the notes that could be played in it. Basically, a 7-string guitar is the six strings of a traditional guitar with a low B string added at the bottom. The additional string allows more low notes to be played and the wider fret board gives guitarists more possible hand placements when pressing chords.
● 8-string acoustics
Addition of a string to the 7-string guitar, led to the birth of the baritone. Eight-string acoustic guitars are referred to as baritones, cause just like the voice, it lies in a safe spot between the low pitch of a bass guitar and high pitch of a classical guitar. With that one extra string, more notes, more chords, and more arrangements could be played.
● 9-,10-,11-string acoustics
With one string added after another, musicians have created acoustic guitars with nine, ten, or even, eleven strings. Most of the guitars in this category are customized. Depending on the range of notes they want, a lower- or higher-tuned string is added.
● 12-string acoustics
Of course, a special mention goes to an acoustic guitar with same body shape but with twice the number of strings than the conventional guitar—the 12-string acoustic guitar. Explicitly, due to its string count, a 12-string guitar emulates the sound of two six-string guitars playing simultaneously. The strings are tuned as that of its 6-string counterparts but witch each string doubled up. To fit these strings in a standard size of a fretboard, the spacing between each string is narrower which requires more precision when plucking or fretting individual strings. However, in exchange for that learning curve, a beautiful, full, and resonant tone is produced which a standard 6-string falls short of.
Now let’s talk about bass guitars. The low signature sound and iconic four strings are prominent features of bass guitars. However, just like acoustic guitars, some have strings more than the usual four.
● 5-string basses
Bass guitars, those with four strings, are tuned E, A, D, G with E being the thickest string while G the thinnest. In 5-string basses, a lower B is added above the E string. This gives access to notes unplayable in 4 strings, hence preferred in heavier, lower genres.
● 6-string basses
The 6-string bass guitar is basically the configuration of the 5-string but with a high C added below the G string. The availability of higher notes lessens dilemma of bassists to move too far down the fretboard. Also, thanks to the two extra strings, you can play some of the acoustic guitar chords in a bass guitar. Isn’t it interesting that two guitars (acoustic and bass) with the same number of strings sound differently?
● 7-string basses
I guess you’re getting how this works, the succeeding guitar retains the string setup of the previous one and adds either a high- or low-tuned string to its layout. 7-string basses is a 6-string bass with a high F placed below C. Most guitarists find seven strings on a bass guitar eerie and unnecessary, but when placed in the right hands, could be a wild instrument to use.
● 8-,9-, and 12-string basses
This is where it starts to get out of hand, like literally. Basses already have wider necks than acoustics to begin with, adding more strings just widens the neck even further. When built poorly, the very wide neck could break under the tension of the strings. However, these basses exist for a reason. These produce full, loud music with crazy lows and soothing highs, nearly resembling a guitar.
Last but definitely not the least, are electric guitars. Similar to acoustics, these bad boys conventionally have six strings, and as you expected, they come in different variants as well.
● 7-string electrics (and beyond)
Beyond six strings, a low-tune string is added every single time. Hence, 7-string electrics have access to more lows than 6-strings, yet 8-strings have more access than 7, and the same principle applies up to nth number of strings. Basically, as each string is added, a guitar-bass hybrid instrument is formed.
● 12-string electrics
However, one of the exceptions to the convention is the 12-string electrics. These sound very similar to its six-string counterpart but with a thicker overall tone.
Some Guitars with Crazy Number of Strings
It’s unusual to hear or see a guitar with 7, 8, or 12 strings, such as the ones mentioned previously.
But have you heard of Emerald 30-string Chimaera Triocha doubleneck? If you think the name is crazy, the number of strings it has is crazier; in fact, the Emerald-30 has a hand-wrenching 30 strings! Just like the Greek monster, chimera, it has two-necks, with 18 and 12 strings. It might be monstrous, but to the recipient of this custom-made beast, he described it as comfortable and playable. Despite the humongous size, he stated that the guitar provides equal access to all possible registers.
Rick Nielsen believed that two necks for a guitar wasn’t enough, so he made one with five necks. The Hamer 5-neck is a guitar with one 12-string neck, three 6-string necks, and one six-string neck with no frets, with 5 necks and 36 strings in total. He thought that using one guitar with five necks is more practical than stacking five guitars just to perform his intense solo on stage.
If 36 strings are too many for you already, fret not until you hear about the invention of Carlos Roberto Michelutti, a guitar with a whopping 49 strings! His craft has three necks, two of which are fretted. It has movable bridges on specific portions of the strings and has the capability to choose which parts of the string to vibrate. It is akin to the guitar of John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, but instead of a harp-guitar, it is a classic guitar.
Here’s a video of the unbelievable 49-string guitar, because we know you’re probably curious:
Defying the Convention: Final Thoughts
Guitar, by definition, is not limited to only the conventional six strings. As desire for musical innovation intensifies, new customized guitars with varying string configurations are invented. Whether for convenience to play notes easier or for the mere jaw-dropping glamor, it brings, as long as the number of strings works for you, there is no issue. From 4 to 49, wield the instrument that you feel is destined to be held by you.
Joyce Ann graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies at New Era University. She especially enjoyed her journalism class and was nominated for Photojournalist of the Year. Joyce Anne loves music; she is a self-taught piano player. When she's not writing (or baking or watching documentaries), she's probably playing songs on the piano, mostly by ear.