Keeping Your Ego Out Of The Song’s Way

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Octave4Plus A4 – .007 String Review

When I started playing 8 string (all 6 weeks ago or so) – I knew from the get go – that I was looking to have a full range instrument that went from a low B (below the 6th string E) and a high A (above the 1st string E).  When I checked out the Marshall Harrison video, he mentioned that he was using a .005 for the A – which was a little too high for me – but I decided to investigate the Octave 4 Plus string brand he was using.

Octave4Plus – are handmade strings for extended range instruments (up to 40 inches!).   Since there’s really no way to try before you buy – I figured I’d take the plunge and put an order in.



When ordering individual strings, the minimum purchase number is 5 strings.  Additionally, there is an online form you will need to complete which goes over some specifics of information needed to make your string (scale length of the instrument, whether the string is front or top loading in the bridge, etc.).  There is a several day time limit that you need to complete the form in – or your money gets refunded.  This might seem a little draconian, but given the small batches that the strings are made in – I imagine that hunting down people for information is a case of diminishing returns financially, so I understand it at least.

When I made my order, I got the strings with a “Type 2” thread wrap. While this is recommended for guitars with a string tree, I found that it’s also recommended if your guitar “… loads the string through the back, has a steep break angle, a sharp edge on the nut or tuner, or a string tree.”

The website does a good job of explaining a number of specific for string ordering – but as an FYI – if your scale length is 26.5” – you’ll need to order the 28” scale strings.

Payment is made on the website via PayPal and is a relatively painless process.



Here is the pricing for the order I made:

“Guitar  .007 plain steel    ( 28” )    $4.75 each   A440

5 strings @ $23.75

Type 2 strings – $10

Shipping and Handling – $10

Sales Tax $3.17

$46.92 (or about $8.20 a string including the test string [see below])


Shipping And Delivery

My order was put in on Thanksgiving day and came on Christmas eve.  The time frame for delivery is somewhat vague on the website – but 4-8 weeks seem to be a reasonable time frame.

The package was shipped priority mail.  The contents were well packaged and included a copy of the order form, photocopied directions for installation, and 6 individually sealed strings (5 strings and a test string which was a nice touch).


The Ball End

I’ve never used a handmade string before.  I was particularly intrigued with the allen wrench nut that serves as a proprietary ball end.

Ball end close up

There are specific instructions for installation, but it’s a very clever design that works well.


String Installation

The installation instructions are clear and well written, but reading and doing are two very different things.  Right off the bat – you will probably notice that getting the string through the bridge can be tricky as it’s sooo thin.  (I can’t imagine trying this with a .005!)

While the Schecter Omen I installed this on didn’t have a string tree – I used the thread winding as an entry point for the string to go into the tuner, with the idea that it may help with any potential burrs.

In installing the string, the directions state that bringing the string up to pitch too quickly will result in the string breaking at the ball end.

Given the general instability inherent in attempting to get a string to stay at a pitch of high A over a 26.5” scale – this seems reasonable.

You should expect to spend 2-3 hours getting the string to pitch if you follow the directions verbatim.

Needless to say – this path isn’t for everyone.  If you break one of these on stage mid set – you’re not going to be replacing it between songs.  But this is a generality that applies to the circumstance – and is not specific to the Octave4plus string.

Since I started with a test string – I used the directions I outlined in my Omen review for bringing the string up to pitch – which worked fine – and took about 45 mins to an hour.

As a bonus tip: I also let it stay a ½ step below pitch overnight before playing it – and that seemed to help a lot with stability.


In Use

I didn’t have a lot of time to get into it as almost immediately I got a call from Mike Reagan to see if I could add some high adrenaline lead playing to an X-box track he was working on.  I decided to bring the Omen and my FNH and see what happened.

While I don’t know about the material of the string, it definitely seemed more stable than the D’Addario .007s I was using.  In bending I easily got ½ step bends with no issue.  From the 12th fret on – I got whole step bends – which made me pretty nervous – but he was so excited by the pitches on the high A string that he wanted me to play a lot of bent melodies on that string.  The string finally broke after about the hour mark and (having broken one of them in getting it to pitch) – I finished the session with the D’Addario.


Final thoughts

From an economic standpoint, it’s easy to balk as you could get 60 D’addario  .007 strings from just strings for $42 with shipping.  And if you don’t follow the instructions – those 6 strings are going to break pretty quickly.

If you’re playing something like an Agile – with an even longer scale length – this is pretty much the only game in town.  But even on the 26.5” scale, I liked this string a lot.  The construction quality is certainly there, and I really admire what they’re doing.

I’ve been pretty delicate with the D’Addario – so it hasn’t broken since the session – but when it does – I’ll give the Octave plus4 more of a chance than the few days it had before.

Thanks for reading!

Schecter Omen 8 String Review Part 2 – String Observations And Sound Clips

Some observations about strings

I mentioned a lot of the issues I had with the  low F# string in part one of this review, as well as some specifics of getting an .007 up to pitch as the high A string.  I still haven’t has a change to get the guitar properly set up, so everything I’m posting here should be taken with a grain of salt.

While an .007 D’Addario can be stretched up to pitch on the 26.5″ scale neck and the strings can be bent a 1/2 step or so from the 12th fret up – it is pretty tempermental (I snapped the 5 strings I ordered from over the course of a couple of days).  Since the Octave4Plus strings may take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to get shipped, I’ve ordered 30 sets of the .007s in the meantime (about $.50 a string versus about $6 a string for the Ocatve4plus – but if those strings don’t snap when you look at them the wrong way – it’s a good investment).

I like the D’addario .010 7 string pack set a lot for this guitar.  With the extra scale length – the tension is a little closer to an .011.  While I can’t really bend on the .007 – I can dig in on the other strings and be a little more aggressive with the bending.

Because I ran out of .007s (and none of the local music stores stock them) I found place that carried single .008s.  Those strings will not handle being tuned to high A (apparently Octave4Plus .008s can handle this tension at this scale – FYI) – so I’ve been playing the guitar tuned down a 1/2 step to acomodate the high Ab.


Some modifications you may want to make / Design Recommendations


  • The tuners really can’t handle the strings at this pitch.  Since the guitar has 4 tuners on a side – you would need to purchase two 6 string sets to replace them.  While I like Steinberger tuners – I’d have to think quite a bit before I sank $200 into tuners on any guitar.  I’d recommend using the highest gear ratio you can get.

  • While the pickups are better than what you’d expect on a budget guitar, they are a little lackluster.  Here is the sound of a B minor scale played with the neck, middle and bridge pickup settings on a clean amp setting in AU lab with PodFarm.

(Note – if you have a problem hearing the mps3 just refresh your browser window – it’s a little glitchy in Safari but seems to work fine in other browsers.)

Also – while I could have edited the clips a little tighter – the hum from the CRT is present in the clips so this should be a realistic testing environment of what some one would get just pluging this into their laptop.

Here is the sound of a B minor scale played with the neck, middle and bridge pickup settings on a dirty amp setting.

Here is the sound of a dirge type of riff played with the neck pickup.

Here is the sound of a dirge type of riff played with the middle pickup settings.

Here is the sound of a dirge type of riff played with the bridge pickup.

I plan on swaping these out with Bare Knuckle Pickups at some point.  While you could spend $200 more and get a Damien Elite – with better tuners and an EMG set – I’m not really psyched about the EMG tones.  I’d rather have $200 to spend on pickups I like rather than spend $200 more on a guitar and still have to swap out the pickups.



Since this initial post – I’ve had a Bare Knuckle cold sweat put into the neck position.  Info, pics and mp3’s here.

  • I like the belly cut a lot – but I plan on getting a wrist cut added to the body to cut down on the slab feeling when playing it.
  • As I mentioned before – the 24th fret on anything other than the highest string is pretty much just for show.  If you really wanted to access those frets, you need to modify the bout.

Final Thoughts

When I play a chord like this C major 9 #11 (if you listen under headphones – you can hear all the harmonics ringing out at the end like a piano with the sustain pedal on) I’m surprised that more people don’t go this route.  Eight string guitars may not be for everyone – but for those of you who are feeling adventurous this is not only most inexpensive entry point for exploration, it also gets you a guitar that is very similar in features to the model that’s $200 more – and stand up to other eight strings costing more than twice as much.

Thanks for reading!


Schecter Omen 8 String Review

Another guitar?

With the sale of a couple of guitars –  I decided I wanted to experiment with an extended range instrument – but didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  I had been looking at the Damien Elite 8 – which I saw in this video. I liked what I heard of the instrument – but then found the 2011 Omen 8 was released and $200 cheaper than the Elite (with free shipping from Amazon) so I bit the bullet and gave it a try.

I haven’t bought a new instrument in a while so I while I had played a couple of Schecter 6 strings (well made but not my thing) I was curious about what would come in the mail.  Given that a hipshot guitar bridge alone would run me $114 – I couldn’t build a guitar for $399.  My logic in the process was that even if the guitar was sub-par that I could part it out and have FNH Guitars build me a custom model (I can hear FNH’s John Harper’s eyes rolling back into his head with that!)

The Schecter Omen 8 – is a South Korean built guitar that is set up and shipped in the states.  Frankly, it’s a lot of guitar at this price point.

Guitar Stats

The guitar has a basswood body with 2 Schecter brand pickups and eight string bridge.

In comparison, the Damien Elite has a mahogany bodywith a quilted maple top , multi-ply binding and active EMG-808 pickups.  The body itself is surprisingly contoured.  While I was surprised to see a belly cut, a wrist cut would benefit the model as well.  The routing for the electronics is clean, and the finish is top notch.

The string through body bridge works well.  The pickups are functional but a little lackluster.  (Part of this could be the basswood body – Another reason I like bolt on necks vs. neck though body.  In a bolt on neck if you hate the neck but like the body (or vice versa) you can just switch it out. With a neck through body – you buy a new guitar).  I’m not a fan of active pickups so I would probably plan on replacing them even if I sprung the extra money for the Elite.

The 24 Jumbo fret bolt-on maple neck has a rosewood fingerboard and a 26.5″ scale to accommodate the extended tuning of the instrument.  Note: you could make the tuning whatever you wanted – but it’s strung with what appears to be a D’Addario stings (update I’ve been informed  on the forum that Schecter’s standard 8-string set is: .10 .13 .17 .30 .42 .54 .64 .74 – thank you sir!) for a low to high tuning of F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E.  The  Schecter tuners are functional (you get Grovers on the Damien Elite) and the inlay is a simple dot inlay (instead of the more elaborate “stained cross” inlay on the Elite).

In many of the forums I researched, people complained about the “baseball bat necks” of the bolt on Schecters.  I didn’t find that to be the case at all.  While there is a heel cut in the body to help access the upper frets:

The joint itself is a little chunky.

Given the amount of string tension on the neck – this isn’t that surprising but it does mean that in performance the top two frets are basically for show.

Setup wasn’t bad but needed a little more tweaking.  In addition to the F# intonation being off the nut action was pretty high for some of the strings.

I know the lowest string needs extra room to vibrate – but it was really high on the E, A and D strings as well. Especially on the higher frets.

In use

The guitar sustains well acoustically without amplification but – the shipped string (I believe a.074) on  26.5″ scale is really too small for the low F#.  At that pitch the string just flops on the fretboard.  Also in terms of timbre – the F# is a little strange to me.  It seems to fight between wanting to be a bass and a guitar. I could get some nice sounds with clean tones – but I had a really hard time integrating it with any kind of distorted tone.  Part of that could be the pickups as well.  The high gain tones that sounds best for single pitches turn to mush on chords so there’s a balancing act there.  Going up to a .08 would probably tighten it up and I may got that route eventually but for now I wanted to go more well rounded.

Having said that – the scale length is workable by getting rid of the F#.  The tuning I’m using right now is (low to high) B-E-A-D-G-C-E-A.  This uses the above mentioned D’Addario 7 string pack with a .007 for the high A.  I’ve also swapped out the .059 for a .062 for the B which seems to feel better.

Tech Tips

Here are a couple of suggestions that will help if you use the high A tuning.

  • You’ll have to adjust the intonation when using a different string.  Start by removing the lowest string (in this case F#).  Before you put the new string in – move the saddle so the front edge is in line with the saddle on the low B string. (Do not adjust the height screws! All you’re doing is adjusting the string length so that the string intonates properly.  Since the other strings are already intonated – this will cut down on time adjusting it substantially).  Leave the top string (the High A) where it is and adjust accordingly.
  • I’ve tuned the B string up to C.  This keeps a 4th between the E and high A string (top 2 strings) and a 3rd between the C & E strings.  This way all of my 3 note per string scale patterns stay the same.
  • There’s a company that sells strings specifically for high pitches on extended range instruments called Octave4Plus.  While I may look into their strings in the future – while I was waiting for the guitar to come – I put an order into Just Strings and ordered 2 sets of the D’Addario 7 string packs and 5 single .007 strings to see if I could do it on my own.  (Update – you can read an Octave4plus review here) – What I wanted to see was if the string would snap near the nut or at the bridge.  When I tuned the first string up – I tried to get it to pitch and it snapped at the tuner.

What I recommend you do is tune the string up to F# or G and let it sit for a while.  Tune the other strings.  Every 3-5  minutes or so – try to bring it up another 1/2 step and repeat until you get it to pitch.  By letting the string stretch at various points – it becomes more stable under pressure.

In using this tuning – I wonder how it would work in a 25.5″ scale.  The advantage of that to me is that I could use .011s (or .012s!) for the 6 strings and then fill in the top and bottom appropriately.  I can’t help but think that heavier gauge strings would drive the pickup more and result in better tone.  The issue there would be the floppy low B. Every variation is a series of compromises – just something to consider.

  • In moving the strings – you will probably have to adjust the nut slots.  I’d recommend having a qualified guitar tech do this if you’re not sure what you’re doing.

Overall Thoughts

I am constantly amazed at the cost point versus quality of work that is coming out of South Korea these days.  If Amazon is selling this guitar at $400 (I rounded up for convenience), that means that it’s probably leaving South Korea at a cost of $150-$200 shipped – which is pretty mind boggling if you think about it.

Count on spending some additional cash on setup right out of the gate.  Further on down the line – you will probably want to put money into pickups and perhaps tuners as well.  If you like active pickups, or want a really nice looking figured top- this is a no brainer – save up an additional $200 and get a Damien Elite 8.  Otherwise – minus the top and the pickups – this is basically the same guitar for 1/3 less money.

I’m still sorting out how to play this!!  In the meantime, you can read more and hear some mp3s here.

If you’re looking for a gig bag for one of these – the Gator Viper is the best deal out there right now.

In the meantime – If you have any questions – please feel free to drop me a line @ !

Happy Thanksgiving!