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Hello fellow 7 string players. I primarily play jazz and have recently added the 7 string to my studies. It seems that most jazzers tune the extra string to A below the low E string. This is a curious choice as it brackets the low E string with a pair of A's an octave apart.
Rock players typically tune the added low string to B, a 1/4th below the low E. This make it symmetrical with the spacing of all the other string intervals (except of course the G to B string interval) This means you can pick up a chord with a 6th string root and simply move everything over a string and you will have a chord a fourth below the one you started out with (compensating of course if you are moving a finger off of or onto the B string) This seems to be a much more reasonable approach than the asymmetric low A arrangement in which you just have another copy of whatever was happening on the other A string.
Can someone explain to me the reasoning behind why jazz players prefer the low A tuning and not the low B arrangement?

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Replies to This Discussion

The most obvious reason to me is that with 7th - low A, you can take chords with root notes on the 5th string and drop the root an octave lower without a huge change to chord fingering. Plus you can play the 5th of the chord on the 6th string with the same finger, ideal for bossa nova bass lines.
Thanks for the reply. What you say is certainly true. Having the low A does give you the choice of playing the root of a 5th string root chord an octave lower and easy access to the 5th of a 6th string root chord. I guess what the low A tuning folks are after is a way of getting some bass lines under the chords.

With the low B tuning you can't easily grab these bass notes as you have to spread your index finger another two frets from the chord position. I suppose the answer depends on whether you are after access to a bass line to put under your chords as in solo finger style chord melody jazz or are you wanting to open up the range of the guitar with another set of lower chords, scales, and arps for general purposes. Admittedly, playing chords on the bottom strings when using the low B tuning can produce some muddy sounding chords. I guess the reason the low B looked so appealing to me is that I play a lot of gypsy jazz and 30's-40's Freddie Green type chords. The option of having a whole new set of them using the lower string was very appealing to me. Additionally, with the low B all my scales and arps extend seamlessly onto the symmetrically spaced B string which is great for single note soling purposes.

I will try to use both tunings each for the advantage it provides.


Perfecto De Castro said:
The most obvious reason to me is that with 7th - low A, you can take chords with root notes on the 5th string and drop the root an octave lower without a huge change to chord fingering. Plus you can play the 5th of the chord on the 6th string with the same finger, ideal for bossa nova bass lines.

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