Seven Deadly Strings

Brian Welch and James Shaffer
Rescued from a generation of guitar geeks, KoRn have transformed the trusty seven-string into nu-metal's weapon of choice.

A decade ago the seven string guitar was played only by nerds. These days, thanks solely to the patronage of KoRn's dynamic duo Munky and Head, the seven-string is the weapon of choice for the discerning nu-metal "shredder".

A self-confessed teenage guitar geek, Munky bought his first seven-string Ibanez Universe (UV7) guitar in the early '90's, after hearing guitar maestro Steve Vai use the model on his 1990 album "Passion and Warfare". More impressed with Vai's dedication to pushing the boundaries of guitar expression than his fleet-fingered technical dexterity. Munky recognised the seven-string's potential to create an entirely new vocabulary. With his long-time friend Head also making the transition from six-string to seven, the pair developed a new arsenal of sounds combining low-end crunch (a result of tuning down to A, D, G, C, F, A, D instead of B, E, A, D, G, B, E standard tuning) and biting, high-toned harmonics. KoRn's trademark sound was born.

By the time KoRn entered rock's premier league with "Life is Peachy," Ibanez had discontinued the Universe model. The company swiftly reconsidered their decision when guitar shops across the world were inundated with requests for "KoRn's guitar", and they were soon shifting 500 Universe guitars each month. In appreciation of the KoRn duo's "contribution to rock guitar" (and presumably the company's share value), Ibanez rewarded the influential pair with their own signature model.

The Ibanez K7, a 24-fret seven-string with DiMarzio humbucker pick-ups and a "revolutionary" U-Bar tremelo system, was launched in January 2001. retailing for a tidy 1799.99, and available in Firespeak Blue and Blade Grey finishes, the guitar is already one of Ibanez's most successful models.

No longer seen as gimmicky, the seven-string is now every bit as iconic as Jimi Hendrix's Stratocaster, James Hetfield's Gibson Explorer and Angus Young's Gibson SG. Those five extra notes on the fretboard might not seem like a big deal to non-guitarists, but the nu-metal world, they're as vital as capacious shorts and exotic "facial furniture".

"When I play a six-string now it feels like a little kid's toy guitar," admits Head. "It feels so tiny. We still use six string guitars on out albums, but KoRn's sound will always owe a huge debt to seven-string."

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