Ibanez is considered by most to be the brand of guitars that are best built for speed and playability. They are also one of the leaders of the industry when it comes to constantly pushing the envelope of what can be done on high-production guitars. Ibanez builds everything ranging from "speed/shred sticks" to hollowbody jazz machines; and they are all outstanding.
Ibanez also happens to be one of the purveyors of extended range guitars- aka, guitars that can REALLY handle the low tunings that are so popular in today’s music. If it has more than six strings, you can bet your bottom dollar that it very likely is an Ibanez. The company now builds production nine (!!!) string guitars that you can buy off the shelf, ready to roll through the lowest of low tunings. They got the late Justin Lowe to do a demo of this insane machine:
So how does one improve on this design? After all, guitars with more than six strings begin to have such a broad tone voice, it’s hard for normal guitar pickups to cope with extreme lows. The range grows to be more similar to a piano, where you have bass notes along with the usual treble. These extra strings can allow bands like Animals as Leaders to even get by without a bass player! But when you are dealing with such low notes, it is even harder for the neck and strings to give the player a solid feeling instrument or a good sounding solid fundamental note.
If you have never tried a tuning like drop A# on your normal 25” scale 6 string, you owe it to yourself to do so, and see how the strings feel. Unless you play 12s or heavier, it’s going to feel very loose and likely will not stay in tune that well. So you could go buy a baritone to handle the lows, but then all the strings must be tuned lower for the baritone tuning (and the baritone 27” scale). What the hell do you do if you have a guitar that is pretty much a baritone AND a regular guitar built into one like these new 7, 8, and 9 strings?
Well, in case you are not in the know, there is a brilliant concept called fanned frets.
Check THOSE out.
These extreme looking frets have made appearances on everything from normal six strings,
to bass guitars.
(Dingwall /\ is one of the companies to really take advantage of these frets, as they build bass guitars built for extremely low tunings.)
The gist of the fanned concept is that this epic looking fret layout gives you two different scale lengths on the top and bottom of the neck, allowing the high strings to have a correct scale of ~25" and the low strings having THEIR correct scale of ~27". This is the exact same concept that is utilized in pianos everywhere. The low strings are way long scale, while the high-pitched ones are short scale. It's all about doing it right, and not compromising. This is exactly what Ibanez has done on two of their newest guitars:
and the RGIF8BKS;
only instead of being a small run boutique luthier, Ibanez is allowing casual guitarists to obtain this amazing technology for far cheaper than it is to go buy a boutique instrument with the same frets.
So Ibanez released these two guitars at NAMM this year as prototypes, but the guitars are now (thankfully) in full production mode, allowing all of us mortals to get our paws on these purpose-built machines. Featuring a simple 2 knob and 1 switch layout, these guitars come stock with a pair of EMG 808x and 909x active humbuckers. Wait 8 and 9? On a 7 and 8 string? Well this is because you NEED the extra width and spacing of these pickups to truly pick up the full range of string that is passing over the pickup’s magnetic field. Talk about purpose built. This isn’t just attempting to do low tunings, this is doing it right.
The guitar comes finished in a STUNNING black stained finish over an ash body paired with a nitro wizard 7/8 fanned fret 5 piece maple and bubinga neck. A rosewood fretboard and jumbo frets gives you all the good shreddy feel you crave while a brilliant and resonant mono-rail bridge allows the guitar to communicate fully from bridge to wood top; giving players maximum sustain and tone. Hardware is also blacked out in Ibanez’ sexy “Cosmo Black” finish.
How the hell do you tune these beasts?
Here’s how the 8 strings come tuned: 1D#, 2A#, 3F#, 4C#, 5G#, 6D#, 7A#, 8F
Best news of all? Ibanez was able to get one of prog’s finest players to demo this new machine! Check out this amazing video featuring Robby Baca of The Contortionist!
Robby puts this guitar through its paces, featuring riffs out of their tune “Primordial Sound”, along with explaining the guitar’s benefits. Perhaps one of the other hidden benefits of the fanned frets, besides more stable tuning and intonation comes in the form of easier to play chords. Chords that once required a huge reach are now far easier thanks the fanned frets.
Want to learn more?