“It’s not that I feel I’ve exhausted all the possibilities of a standard guitar,” says renowned shred maestro Rusty Cooley of his decision to play an 8-stringed Conklin Sidewinder. “But the added versatility of an 8-string suits my style better. I’ve always been an aficionado of classical piano and violin, and the additional low-B and high-A strings allow me to explore the range of those instruments.”
Additionally, Cooley notes that an 8-string guitar offers the possibility of accessing multiple octaves without major fretboard gymnastics. “If you want to play a three-octave G major arpeggio on a 6-string, you have to travel from the 3rd fret of low-E all the way up to the 15th fret of high-E. On the Sidewinder you can nail it all in the eighth position! This is particularly advantageous to me because I play a lot of sweep-picked arpeggios that lay nicely across the fretboard.”
Cooley’s instrument sports a swamp ash body, a combination lacewood/wenge/figured-maple top, an ebony fretboard; and a combination of EMG and piezo pickups. Its most striking feature, however, is a multi-scaled neck—2½" on top and 23½" on the bottom—that simultaneously accommodates the long .058 low-B string and shorter .008 high-A string. (Cooley uses a standard .009-.042 GHS Boomers set for the middle strings.)
Because of this multi-scale arrangement, the Sidewinder’s frets lie in an outwardly fanning angular configuration—something Cooley says looks far more imposing than it actually is. “People see the fanned frets and assume it must be torturous to play. In truth, you don’t have to alter your technique at all. It’s misleading, because when you actually hold the guitar and look down the neck, the angle of the frets is hardly noticeable, and when you play, it feels no different than a regular neck.”
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