Guitars with more than six strings have been around for centuries. For example, the lute - a bowl-backed instrument popular during Elizabethan times - sometimes had its 12-strings augmented by a further four bass strings. The mandolin traditionally offers eight strings, while Martin trumpeted the 000-12 harp guitar back in 1902 - probably the very first double-neck - that comprised a total of 18 strings!
In 1964 Rickenbacker presented a one-off 12-string version of the short-scale 325 to John Lennon - even though he rarely grabbed it from its case - and introduced the 450/12 later that same year. Lennon's bandmate George Harrison had earlier been given the second 360/12 ever made and, along with Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, he would go on to define the electric 12-string sound and style in the mid-to-late 1960s.
However, each instrument mentioned has one thing in common; their strings doubled the standard six, whether tuned to the same pitch or, in the case of a traditional 12, had the four bass strings an octave above their parent.
"About as extreme as it can get"
Here we’re concerned with guitars that have strings that have their own identity, as it were, and we reckon eight independent strings on a single neck is about as extreme as it can get, especially for mainstream guitars.
Seven-strings are familiar beasts these days - in fact arguably the most famous of all, Steve Vai’s Ibanez Universe, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. For all our searching and resource-scouring, production eights are few and far between. All three of these models are available for the mainstream market and subsequently neither command a custom-order price nor require you to wait months for it to be constructed.
For the purposes of this review, all three have been tuned to standard 8-string intervals - low to high, F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, E - although we should point out that the Ibanez has a factory tuning that’s down a further half step (F to Eb).
Each has its own slightly different scale length, which is certainly interesting, and all are fitted with a set of EMG-808 humbuckers, the only such pickup available prior to Winter NAMM 2010, when Seymour Duncan announced the 8-string version of its active Blackout pickups.
We’d assumed that the three guitars here would be much of a muchness, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Who knew that the world of the 8-string solidbody electric could be so diverse?