Why do you need a guitar with more than six strings, like the 11 string guitar or else?
Is it worth the “headache” of learning almost a new instrument?
Is it because some guitarist wants to show off and to prove they can go beyond
what are most people use to seeing?
In recent years, the phenomenon of guitarists of all genres with guitars with more than six strings has been growing
The first time I met “face to face” with this kind of multi strings guitar was in Spain, on me and my wife honeymoon
back in 2011 while I was thinking of indulging myself in a new 6-string guitar.
And then, we went into the guitars’ place of Rafael Moreno Rodriguez and as we speak with him, I saw a crazy guitar of 11 strings hanging in a glass wall cabinet.
I tried it, and all I remember was that the fingers couldn’t find their place on the fingerboard. After a few months, I had the opportunity to get my current guitar. Gradually I decided to incorporate it into my concert and music.
Is the 11 string guitar it worth it?
Let’s start with the question:
Why does the default guitars have six strings?
The guitar has evolved over hundreds of years and many iterations.
It began in Spain with a four-stringed guitar called vihuela.
Then, to increase the ease with which more notes the artist could play.
The default became a five courses guitar called the baroque guitar.
To increase the volume of the guitar the guitarist could play more notes with more ease,
and a six-string became the standard guitar.
The six strings guitar seemed to offer a delicate balance between ease and being overwhelmed
by the number of strings.
A question many guitarists ask is:
How long should I play a six string guitar before starting
on a multi strings guitar?
In my opinion, the difficulty of playing the guitar with many strings is not because it has many strings,
but because you are technically and cognitively accustomed to a six-string guitar.
Therefore, hypothetically if someone would start playing guitar for the first time on a guitar with more than six strings and without experiencing a standard guitar,
he would get decent control of the instrument in a relatively short time.
It took me more than a year to achieve orientation in my right hand and left hand with the 11 string guitar.
And I’m still investigating it.
Another thing regarding a technical aspect:
A guitar with more strings will ease your left hand so you can play an open bass
rather than press it uncomfortably with your finger.
I recommend that you try the extended range guitar when you feel that you limit yourself and your musical ideas
with the standard guitar.
11 String Guitar – Some Advantages And Disadvantages
- Extra string or more help the realization of a fluid bass line with the reduced use of fingers so you’ll enjoy less effort in playing with your left hand.
- Providing warmer and more vibrant sounds.
- It can be a practical substitute so you won’t need to alternate the tuning of your guitar.
- More strings allow you to reach new tonal zones to which you are not accustomed to with a standard guitar.
In my case, for example, I can play a Cm chord in the form of a simple Am chord in the first position.
- You can avoid the strings from flopping around as lowering the tone cause them to buzz on the frets. An extra built-in string would sound tight and clean.
- The bass strings might sound muddy and with the wrong gauge tend to be flabby.
- You need to put more efforts and with higher consciousness and concentration to control the unwanted resonance of the additional strings.
You should have a sensitive ear for this and to find technical solutions for blocking the strings with both hands.
A Tip For You
From my own experience, the more esoteric your guitar is, the less likely your guitar technician will be able to handle it professionally.
Find someone experienced or creative enough that can solve problems that arise or your specific requirements.
11 Strings Guitar- What Can I tell After spending 7 years with it?
- Sometimes it makes people remember you first because of the guitar and then because of your music.
- Just the same as the 11 string guitar inspired me to write works that I did not think I would have come to write without it, you can expect it to open up new horizons, and your unique technique for you,
besides new possibilities for musical collaborations and more.
- You can play Bach’s music as is without the need for transcribing.Haven’t done it yet personally except for the choral prelude “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ.”
- If you’re thinking of playing an 11-string or 10-string guitar and you’re a classical guitarist playing a standard guitar, You will feel that Heaven opens up to you as you can play a profound repertoire
like Dowland, Bach, Weiss to Debussy and Egbarto Gismonti.
- I would recommend a guitar with a wide neck where you can play on the frets of the lower strings and less on the guitar where the lower strings “float in the air.”
Although if you intend to play baroque works alone, it will be fine.
Why?I found it very useful if you plan to write original music, play some bass groove to some extent, control articulation in low tones, adding elements of tapping and more.
- The downside is that a thick neck adds to the weight of the general guitar and produces an imbalance of light body and heavy neck.
Because of this, it is best to sit in a classical posture and to avoid the guitar to be tilted down.
- Organic monitor – if possible ask your luthier to make a hole in the upper bout above the guitar neck.
With this “monitor” under my chin, I hear the sound directly and yet not too close at the moment I pluck the string.
I believe that this synergy of sound event and your response to it will improve your playing and you will enjoy a richer sound and experience.
- The original tunning of the guitar, if we compare Lute as a reference to this guitar, is like this (from the high string to the bottom):
G, D, A, F, C, G, Eb, D, C, Bb.As a guitarist rather than a lute player, I recommend you practically to tune the third string to Bb.
That way you’ll keep the hand positions that you use frequently.
Also, I tune the 11th string to G.
I believe that any extended range guitar will make you a better musician and a guitarist with a lot more vocabulary to “talk” with. Your music is beyond one instrument or another, and you use it only as a tool to express it.
So if I were you instead of overthinking, I’d say to myself:
“Actually, why not?” It will be your chance to know yourself better.
If only for that, it’s worth it.