7 String Guitarcheology

Over the years I’ve gone through a bunch of guitars (purchased at MidAirMusic Store), playing them for a while, giving serious thought to modifying them for one reason or another, deciding against it, and then sending it on its way. I don’t regret any of the sales but one: my Ibanez RG7620.

For the uninitiated, Ibanez released a seven string Universe mode that had a fan in one James “Munky” Shaffer who would go on to be a founding member of Korn. Shaffer took all of the seven strings and tuned them down a whole step so the lowest note was an earth-rattling A. Earth-rattling at the time, I mean. Now it seems like there’s a war between bassists and guitarists for the low end of the sonic spectrum.

Anyhoo. Korn was immensely popular and took the metal world by storm, becoming the godfathers of “nu-metal.” With constant touring, Shaffer, accompanied by childhood best friend James “Head” Welch who also played an Ibanez Universe, the dual guitar onslaught caught on among the guitar community.

Ibanez saw a market and released the RG7620, which was basically a stripped-down Universe. It didn’t feature fancy inlays, binding, or a pickguard, but it had what it needed: seven strings.

I was a Korn devotee in the past, right up until the time they released their insanely popular album titled Follow The Leader (which included what is probably their most famous song “Freak on a Leash”). That album took forever to make and just didn’t do it for me for the most part. It struck me then that the lifespan of a band that is built on catharsis MAY be limited.

I was living in Hawaii at the time and would constantly haunt guitar stores – one specifically that had a wall of Ibanez guitars because my favorite band played Ibanez guitars and that was what I wanted. One day my dad and I saw that there was an upcoming swap meet in the store parking lot with lots of sales on the inside, too. I brought my crap amp and guitar down as trade bait, but before taking them out to mingle, I went inside and checked out the sales. On the wall were two black Ibanez RGs, but one was three hundred dollars more expensive. I looked at the fretboards and saw they both had rosewood and dot inlays. I looked at the pickups and saw that they looked the same. I thought “why the price difference?” I had never seen a seven string in person and in my research had come across not a single hint that there could be one on the island. Shop owners everywhere there said that they had never gotten one (but they could order it for me if I liked). I had zero reason to even think that this was a seven string.

I stepped toward it and, on a whim, counted the strings one by one. This sounds ridiculous now. How could anyone not immediately identify the glaring difference between a six and seven string, but imagine you came in contact with a dream, but in real life. You would also not know what it was and then, through methodical steps carefully chip away the reasons it wouldn’t be your dream with a growing sense of hope until the dust settled and you were left with your shining dream. That’s exactly what happened here. I literally put my finger on the high E and slowly counted out loud as I went down the strings. I paused between “6” and “7” and with nothing short of joy and relief at finally seeing something I had honestly never thought I would see, touched the last string and said in a low breath “seven.”

I looked at my dad and exclaimed that it’s a seven string! I then RIPPED it off the wall and practically ran to the amp room where I plugged into whatever was closest that had a mast volume knob and proceeded to fall in love with the wide-necked beast. I made deals with my dad, emptied my personal savings for college and bought the seven string. It came with no case and also came with no tremolo bar, though it did have a floyd-ish tremolo.

On the way home, I looked through the little paperwork that came with the Ibanez and saw that there was a registration card that said if I registered I would then receive, for free, a VHS tape called “7th Heaven.”

Intriguing.

When I got home, I put a strap on the guitar and about five months later took it off for the first time. I loved that guitar. It wasn’t my first real guitar, but it was my first NEW guitar and I loved that it was so… perfect. The finish was flawless, there were no scratches, the action was low, there weren’t repair marks or cracks in the wood.

It was a new guitar and it was all mine. Any mark that would come to it would come to it under my watch and by me. I cared for it like crazy. I also emailed Ibanez and asked about the tremolo bar, to which they responded positively and said that they would contact the store to make sure that there was a tremolo bar waiting for me. When I picked it up, the store apologized and blamed the craziness of the day – completely understandable.

A couple of months later, my VHS copy of 7th Heaven arrived in the mail. It was about 30 minutes of the who’s who of seven string guitar players talking about why they like the guitars, what drew them to them, and how they utilize them (the most interesting being Wes Borland who strung the bottom six string like a normal six string guitar, but added another high E, tuned the exact same as the string below it so he could do drone notes). Artists included Andy Timmons, Korn’s guitarists, Wes Borland, Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, Steve Vai, and others. It was about 30 minutes of pure awesomeness and I wore the tape out in my VCR, which eventually freaked out, ate and destroyed my tape, and then broke itself, never to turn on again.

I really wish that I still had that tape. I would have given it to a company to turn into a DVD so I could watch it as many times as I liked without any degradation. I wonder what it would take for Ibanez to release it again, perhaps this time on the Internet? 7+ string guitars are popular again, the video was free in the first place, and the Internet is MUCH more popular, so why not?

The RG7620 became my go-to guitar. It could do anything I wanted because now I could play six string stuff AND seven string stuff, an issue I was trying to skirt around previously by buying thicker strings and tuning down. That works like a champ until there’s a note on the missing high E.

The neck of the RG7620 was wider than any six string neck, but Ibanez reduced the amount of space from what they would normally have for any of their six string RGs, so the seventh string was less of a burden. This was a pretty smart move. Ibanez was in a position to make their own throne in the world of seven string guitars and it was up to them to ruin it for themselves if they did anything wrong. Keeping a normal string space might mean an even wider neck and who knew if players were going to accept that? The popular mentality at the time was that six strings was enough and seven was fairly unprecedented. If it was uncomfortable, who but the devout would look at it as a serious alternative to the standard six?

This isn’t to say that the fretboard was cramped by any means. The difference in spacing was negligible to me and the size of the neck was only as wide as it needed to be to feel like it was more substantial than a six string’s.

The RG7620 was a sleeper guitar, too. It didn’t look flashy at all. Originally it came in one color (black) until the last couple of years of production when they introduced other colors (gray, blues, red, and white) to the catalog. The special DiMarzio pickups made the basswood body sing and the guitar was just as happy doing jazz as it was doing metal. With the tremolo capability, everyone could be happy with this guitar and the extended range made for fun playing.

Most of what I did consisted of playing on the low strings with lots of power chords, focusing on rhythms and break-downs that were typical in nu-metal. The trem-bar stayed out of the guitar for the most part and I was terrified of breaking a string because of the Floyd and my lack of experience restringing them. People gave seven+ string players then (and now) a hard time lumping everyone into one category that just wants to “chug” away. Today they use the same slur but swapped out “chug” for “djent” because perhaps they were bored. I never understood the negativity. I’m still playing guitar so we still have that in common. Perhaps it was the dissatisfaction that came from watching simple music get so popular when true fretboard technicians slaved away for pennies in bars. Perhaps they were just compensating. Perhaps it was only a difference in attitudes and philosophies, but neither camp wanted to admit that, so they laid the blame on the guitar. Who knows?

What I do know is that the next big company to release a seven string was Schecter and where Ibanez had one body style at two price-points, Schecter had two different body styles and were less expensive (interestingly, they also later released a five-string guitar tuned like a cello for easy one-finger chords called the – what else – Cello Blaster. This guitar was short-lived though). Then more companies hopped on the bandwagon. Companies, realizing that most of the seven string market was coming from kids, enrolled themselves in a race to the bottom of price-points and the market was flooded as kids everywhere either stopped playing guitar, gave up playing seven string guitars specifically in favor of the trusty six, or perhaps they were just so satisfied they didn’t need to buy any more guitars.

The market was saturated and everywhere seven string guitars went on clearance. Prices plummeted to ridiculous levels and more than a few proprietors would say to me that they couldn’t even GIVE them away. They were, of course, being figurative as I would always offer to take them off their hands.

The market dried up and died. It didn’t help that nu-metal bands were also becoming less popular. Even the founders of new metal, Korn, were releasing self-indulgent tripe that was failing to have the same impact as their previous works. I guess the catharsis that was playing out their tragedies on a worldwide stage worked and they were finally happy. Or completely stoned and unable to write to the same level.

With the lack of popularity, the negative connotations from more seasoned players, the fact that all the seven strings were on clearance at the shops (clearly indicating that they were not wanted by the playing public or the store) the Ibanez RG7620, what I considered to be the best bang for your buck of that generation, was discontinued in 2002 and other guitars fell around the same time.

It was a good time though and the seven string made a lot of sense. Those that could fully utilize the neck would never move back to six strings and a cult following grew under the mainstream. Eventually more and more guitarists came out of the woodwork, this time playing harder music that was less “whaa!” and more “rar!” with most sighting the band Meshuggah as a primary influence. Seven string guitars worked, but Meshuggah had moved on to EIGHT strings and a few people followed. These few people were influential and Ibanez was again at the forefront with their own octo-offerings.

After a few years of dedicated Ibanez attention, I reverted back to six strings as well. I moved from Hawaii to Mississippi and in the move my guitar was damaged when it was dropped on to tile and resulted in a few chips and cracks along the side – a tragedy. As I began to play more and more with six string guitars, the Ibanez only remained visible because it just LOOKED so cool to me. The Ibanez headstock is PERFECT for seven strings. With six, it looks to small, and the fact that their eight string has four to a side makes it look strange. But seven strings with that design is perfect. It looked awesome.

Eventually though, I needed money. I was going to go to college and I was paying my own way through, so I sold it to a coworker before moving away. He seemed to really enjoy playing with seven strings so I was happy to see it go to him, and I was certainly happy to get money for classes or food. I was happy with the sale and didn’t start regretting it until the low-end resurgence of late. I tried an eight string LTD and can safely say I’ve found my absolute limit of strings is seven, but when I sat down recently with Ibanez’s Iron Label seven string, it felt really nice in my hands and the low B string was still fun to chug on.

I’ve been trying to find the guy who bought my Ibanez. The Internet is a wonderful thing for research like this and I’m pretty sure I’ve found him, but from what our mutual acquaintance’s say, he drifts in and out of actually getting on the Internet (which just seems crazy), so he may respond to my emails in a few months. Maybe.

It’s not that I want to buy back that guitar or anything either, though that would certainly be cool (like when Dimebag sold his favorite guitar to a guy who modified the crap out of it and then at a chance meeting Dimebag said it was awesome and they guy said “it’s yours!” meaning that it was his guitar before and also that it’s his guitar now, too), but it’s the only guitar that I ever sold to a private party and it meant a lot to me and it would be cool to know what happened to it, where it is right now, and maybe get some pictures. Guitarcheaology as Deke Dickerson would call it.

Buy your guitars at MidAirMusic Store online…

Russia and the European Union (EU)


The European Union (former EEC) has been expanding ever since its inception in 1957. Formerly a an exclusive club of only six West European nations, now it includes many formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe, among them three ex-Soviet republics. More former Soviet republics, in particular Ukraine and Georgia, have also expressed interest in joining. Considering the power of attraction with which European Union draws its Eastern neighbors into its fold, it is remarkable that neither Russia nor EU have ever expressed any significant interest in Russia’s inclusion in the EU. One is left wondering about the reason why Russia is not part of the united Europe. The answer lies on Russia’s greatness, which is disproportional when compared to the current EU states.  Russia is the largest country in the world; it has the largest population of all European countries, and is a super strong military power. In addition, the processes of democratization and economic dependency have made these two regions essentially distinct and kept them from melting in a same bloc.

The reason why some ex Soviet states were now able to join the EU is rooted in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which indirectly resulted in bringing the ex Soviet republics Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia much closer to the political and cultural ideologies of the EU. Namely, they won independence from USSR during the Bolshevik Revolution and kept it until WWII.  During this interwar period, as well as throughout their earlier history, they maintained close ties with Western neighbors, especially Finland, Poland, and Germany.  Therefore, they are also more westernized than Russia. They are mostly Catholic or Protestant Christians like most other Europeans, not Eastern Orthodox like the Russians, and were also able to maintain a much lower level of corruption than the one found in Russia. Just as importantly, these countries are small in area and population. Because of their modest size, they do not impose any kind of threat to the EU. These are all relevant aspects that I believe made it easier for those ex-Soviet Countries to be absorbed in the EU without major obstacles.

Russia may not be quite as Westernized as the three Baltic States, but it is also culturally part of Europe and shares the same history. Russian elite culture became an integral part of European culture during the reign of Emperor Peter the Great, who ruled from 1682 to 1725. In order to make Russian elite culture more similar to West European elite culture, he moved the capital city of Russia from Moscow to St. Petersburg, which remained Russia’s capital until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. But unlike in most West European countries, the development of capitalism in Russia was delayed because of the weak Russian bourgeoisie, the effects of competition from much more developed West, and the capacity of pre-capitalist structures to survive.  During the communist era, relations with the rest of Europe were mostly hostile. The exception was WWII, when Russian people paid a very heavy price of over 20 million people died out of 60 million worldwide, when attempting to defeat the Nazis. This figure refers to the whole former USSR, not only Russia. Russia and the EU share Christianity as a common religious faith, and the fact that in both places a large proportion of people seldom or never go to church is yet another similarity in the way people in both places practice religion. It is true that most Russian citizens are Orthodox Christians while most people in the EU countries are either Catholic or Protestant, but three EU member countries are also mostly Orthodox Christian: Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania. Furthermore, since the 18th century, Russia has eagerly been taking European ideas of every kind. This went to such extremes that Russian aristocracy spoke French more than Russian, meaning that they were culturally closer to France and therefore to Western Europe. Also, the idea of Communism was not originally Russian. It was developed by Karl Marx, a German 19th century economist and philosopher, and his ideas, known as Marxism, spread rapidly throughout Europe, including the tsarist Russia. Therefore, even Marxism, which gave rise to the Soviet Bolshevik Revolution, was an import from Germany, a current member of the EU. Cultural influences between Western Europe and Russia never traveled only one way. Many people in West European countries appreciate Russia’s famous authors of the 19th century literature, such as Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, and the poet Pushkin. They also share the same appreciation for Russian ballet, classical music, including the opera “Boris Godunov”, and pop culture. In 2008 Russia even won the Eurovision song contest.

Economic dependence had pushed EU and Russia far from each other. EU is a core economy where advanced economic activities are located, such as manufacturing, banking, and the process of primary products, and others. This has been the case for long time, while Russia as a semi-periphery economy still maintains an important position in the world’s economy standing in between core and those periphery economies that are more restricted to the production of primary products. Russia trades with both core and periphery economies and consequently generates mid-level profits and wages margins.

Based on Walt Whitman Rostow’s theory of economic growth, Kaya Ford states Rostow’s five economic stages of achievability, of which I perceive Russia economic achievement behind of that one in western European countries that primary formed the EU. The first stage is the traditional society characterized by subsistence activity in which agriculture sector predominates. The second stage is a transitional phase that works as a precondition for the economy to take off; in this stage trade had began, also transportation had improved to facilitate trade, income has risen, and people could have savings. The third stage is when the take off is reached and heavy industrialization prevailed; the previous agrarian workers now work in factories, there are more profits and also demand for workers, services, and industries keep attracting more industries. The fourth stage is the drive to maturity that after a relatively long time had passed; the economy becomes diverse and complex, with considerable achievements in the technology sector, making the economy less dependence on imports. The fifth stage is the prevalence of mass consumption characterized by strong service sector, high income per capita income, and consumer durable industries growth.

By following this theory of growth, I believe that Western European countries had passes through all the Rostow’s economic growth stages and are located in the fifth stage of high mass consumption because high real income per head had risen in those countries. All the while, Russia had passed three economic growth stages and is now stranded in the forth stage struggling on the drive for economic maturity to rise real income per head. However, this is an understandable scenario if one takes into consideration that Russia is still a semi-periphery country and had its economic take off later than the western European countries. In sum, Russia depends on EU more than the other way around. Russia exports mostly oil and gas and imports high-end products. But West Europe has almost no natural resources and therefore they also depend on Russia that sometimes decides to blackmails Europe. The Big EU member states lost colonial possessions, so they had to band together in order to play the role of world power. Russia still has Siberia and very large territory, so it is more confident about its great power status. Furthermore, Russia has gained more international autonomy because of its military power status, which helps them from suffering external pressure.

In spite of their common or at least closely related ideas, religion, and culture, Russia and the EU are not part of the same economic bloc. If they were, I believe more Russians would be seeking jobs in the Western markets, both in high-end and low-end jobs, while Russia would be flooded with Western investors and CEOs who would be bossing the Russians around and causing distress. Even though, today Russia enjoys a well-educated society with high levels of literacy, the best universities are still located in the western European countries and therefore competitiveness for the best jobs could be tougher for Russians. Nevertheless, Russia’s citizens could benefit from the freedom to seek desirable job opportunities in Western Europe. But those well-educated western Europeans folks could also be very competitive for the desirable jobs in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Hypothetically, if Russia is to join, trade would be easier due to lower import and export customs barriers. The EU could benefit from bringing into its fold a country which could otherwise become an important economic, political, or even military rival in the future. EU would be able to secure a more reliable access to Russia’s large reserves of oil, gas and other natural resources and expand its territory all the way to the fast growing markets of China.

Nonetheless, Russia’s power structures are known for being too corrupt for EU standards. Russia’s war in Chechnya and its aggressive stance to the neighboring Georgia and Ukraine is also a weak factor for their union. Human rights violations and instability in the Caucasus region, especially Chechnya also counts to Russia’s weakness in a possible candidacy. After the extreme economic liberalism of President Boris Yeltsin, who ruled Russia in the 1990s, Russia became subjected to almost dictatorial power of its former president and now prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Russia still maintains a fragile democracy coupled with unstable financial institutions. In addition, due to Russia’s great population of just over 140 million, and Russia’s extremely large territory, along with mighty military power that in fact brought Russia into the G8 economic forum, of the seven richest countries in the world, plus Russia due to its military power. All this greatness of Russia could direct the EU into unwanted directions and therefore the EU in general prefers to keep Russia outside of its bloc. Furthermore, some existing EU member states, especially Poland and the three former Soviet countries, hold a strong distrust and historical resentment on Russia, and they would most likely reject Russia’s candidacy.

It is not that Russia has shown much interest in joining Europe either. Russia sees itself as a great power paring with the US and China, and is not much attracted to becoming a mere member of the Brussels club. Russia’s military power is still a potential threat, and Russia often seems to prefer to keep distance from most Western alliance organizations. I believe that Russia’s elites and ordinary citizens are willing to sacrifice some of their incomes, quality of life, and freedoms for the sake of Russia’s greatness and importance on the global stage. In EU, only Germany is economically larger than Russia when it comes to measure in purchasing power parity. Similarly to Russia, Germany was also previously seen as an intimidating economic and military power and is currently the most populous country in the EU. But unlike Russia, Germany received immense western influence from the United States, along with German’s geographic location in West Europe that gave that country no other destiny other than belonging to the same political and socioeconomic bloc of EU. Unlike Germany after WWII, Russia was the communist superpower that competed with the United States for ideological and economic dominance worldwide throughout the Cold War and therefore worked on blocking out any western influence into Russia’s society.

These two regions, despite their location as neighboring countries, have always dealt with democracy in different ways, which historically drew them apart from each other, and will continue to do so in the future. According to Dahl, there had been in history three significant waves in the development of democracy. It follows that the “First, that of incorporation, when mass of citizenry was gradually admitted into political society; second, that of representation, when the right to organize parties was accepted; and the third, that of organized opposition, when citizens won the right to appeal for votes against the government” (Caramani 117). In Russia, there was no democracy until 1991 and the level of incorporation of their citizens in politics remains low. As for representation, many parties exist, but only one party holds almost dictatorial power, The United Russia party of Prime Minister Putin. In contrast, most of the EU countries possess strong multi-party systems with high levels of freedom and public participation of people in public affairs.

Also, remarked by Dahl, the process of democratization had two different dimensions. The liberalization characterized by the right to be represented and rally opposition. Also, the inclusiveness dimension representing the participation and voting process. These two dimensions of democracy would be enough to compare paths towards mass democracy. Most of the nondemocratic countries liberalized without becoming more inclusive. These competitive oligarchies, by Dahl, include the “parliamentary regimes with restricted suffrage in the UK and France prior to the First World War. Non-democratic regimes that became more inclusive without liberalizing was classified as inclusive hegemonies” (Caramani 123). These also included the totalitarian fascist and communist regimes in the Nazi Germany and the Soviet bloc that normally worked the means for much less competitiveness on mass electoral methods. Even where democracy was more efficiently established, liberalized and became more inclusive, either simultaneously or in stages. “The regimes in question and others in the similar post-communist circumstances have usually not failed, or fallen back from democracy, there is increasing concern about the quality of the democracy they maintain”(Caramani 123).

In this sense, EU is most likely to be concerned about the quality of democracy in Russia, due to the weakness of its political party system, which is “an equally unworkable combination of decayed Soviet-era institutions and fledgling and fragile democratic practices” (Kort 230). There is also concern regarding Russia’s courts obedience to the executive government along with their low levels of public participation in politics. It follows that Russian citizens in general seem to prefer staying away from politics in exchange for more stability and growing living standards, which they could not enjoy in the previous decade under President Yeltsin.

Russia also skipped the waves of democratization, mentioned by Huntington. The first wave of democracy which “lasted from 1826 to 1926, and was then reversed in part by the rise of fascism and authoritarianism in the 1920s and 1930s; the second wave came after the Second World War and was reserved in the 1960s and 1970s; and the third was initiated by Portugal in 1974 and reached explosive levels after 1989” (Caramani 111). It was not until the 1990s Russia had finally embraced democracy, while the western European countries that today are part of EU had gone through these waves of democratization and this situation plays a role when it comes to Russia’s candidacy to join the EU.

Curious would be for some that the EU and Russia are naturally linked by land and near to each other, sharing much of common history, but are still apart far from being in the same economic bloc. But the EU could not invite Russia to join the EU bloc, because Russia may want to take over and rule the EU. Russia is way too great in territory, population, and military power, and furthermore has way too much ambition in the world affairs. The ex-Soviet countries that are now part of EU, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, were able to join the EU because they never represented any kind of threat to the EU, while other ex-Soviet countries that also do not represent any threat or greatness that Russia does, also have expressed interest to join.

The economic dependency between Russia and EU has proven to be unequal and shall keep them apart; a core and semi periphery, while Russia has aspirations to become a future core economy, today it is a good market for the core EU to sell their products. Further, Russia maintains a troublesome democratic regime, while the EU stands for an efficient democracy, a necessary political model for any serious EU candidacy. In addition, the idea of world domination through the communist system from the time when the USSR was a superpower in the 20th century, still seems to linger in Russian minds, also because the same communist ideology is about to bring China, along with their one-party rule, into the same position for the 21st century. Consequently, there are signs that a possible authoritarian wave may play a role in the world affairs in the future, and Russia undoubtedly and traditionally would like to strengthen its international leadership position and be part of it, instead of being part of the EU – unless another emerging superpower, such as China, begins to represent an unavoidable threat to Russia.

Work Cited

Caramani, Daniele. Comparative Politics. First edition publicized by Oxford University Press 2008: New York.

Ford, Kaya V. P. “Walt Whitman Rostow (1916- 2003).” Rostow’s Stages of Development, (1916- 2003). April 22, 2004.

Kort, Michael. A Brief History of Russia. Ed. Boston University 2008: New York.

Developing Your Songwriting Skills

With the advent of technology, there has been a rapid increase in the number of contests taking place online. The songwriting contest is an online platform that provides opportunity to both aspiring and professional songwriters to exhibit their talent. The key idea of the songwriting contest is to nurture the musical talent of songwriters and encourage excellence in the art of songwriting. These music contests give equal opportunity to amateur and professional songwriters. These music contests are judged by the most prestigious panel of judges from the music fraternity. By participating in these contests, you are offering exposure and opportunity to have your songs heard by the most leading decision-makers in the music world.

Often these budding songwriters struggle hard and wait for one single opportunity for a lifetime. They put in a lot of effort to come up with their own masterpieces. An authentic music contest in California offers opportunity to the most deserving candidates. If you are planning to take part in a song contest, given below are some useful tips to enhance your songwriting skills:

Firstly, choose a theme that is close to your heart. A song reflects the soul and emotion of a songwriter. If you cannot put your heart and soul to the song, you will not be able to come up with a song worthy of people