For the director and writer, see Stephen Carpenter (writer). For the limnologist, see Stephen R. Carpenter.

Stephen "Stef" Carpenter (born August 3, 1970) is an American musician, known as the co-founder and lead guitarist of the rock band Deftones.

His guitar technique makes use of both ringing open strings and dissonant chord voicings, as well as stock power chords in poly-rhythms. Carpenter began his musical career with Deftones playing the traditional 6 string guitar. After becoming influenced by such bands as Fear Factory and Meshuggah, he began playing seven-string guitar in the late 90's. After Deftones' third album White Pony, subsequent releases would be written with seven strings; up until 2010's Diamond Eyes and 2012's Koi No Yokan, which were written with an eight-string guitar.


Early life

Stephen Carpenter was born on August 3, 1970 in Sacramento, California to an American father and a Mexican mother. He has a sister named Marci. He grew up in the Sacramento area and pursued many hobbies, including skateboarding.

When Carpenter was 15 years old, he was hit by a car while skateboarding. He used a wheelchair for several months. It was at this point that he began teaching himself guitar by playing along with bands such as Anthrax, Stormtroopers of Death and Metallica. It has been reported that the driver paid Carpenter a cash settlement that allowed the band to purchase equipment, but drummer Abe Cunningham commented in an interview that this was "a myth about how our band was started."

Carpenter attended McClatchy High School with future band mates Chino Moreno and Abe Cunningham. They were childhood friends and remained friends through the skateboarding scene in Sacramento. When Moreno found out Carpenter played guitar, he set up a jam session with Cunningham and the three began playing regularly in Carpenter's garage circa 1989. After playing with several bassists, the band settled on Chi Cheng and within two years the band began playing club shows and later expanded their playing territory to San Francisco and Los Angeles where they played shows alongside bands such as Korn.

His relationship with Deftones lead singer and band mate Chino Moreno has been recorded as being fraught at times. Apparently, recording of Saturday Night Wrist was protracted due to their "warfare". With regards to musical tastes, Saturday Night Wrist being described as "more aggressive" equated to it being "more aggressive for him [Chino]"; Carpenter said he'd "definitely be glad to take it to the next level, but that's asking too much right now."

Musical influences

Carpenter has stated that he mostly listens to hip hop, but outside of hip hop, Meshuggah, Fear Factory, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Faith No More are some of his influences. He has also stated that his favorite album of all time is Chaosphere by Meshuggah, saying: "The most brutal record I've heard, from second one to second last. It left me wondering where the hell I'd been the whole time." While recording Deftones' Diamond Eyes, he claimed that the only artist he listened to was American rapper Tech N9ne.

Other Projects

Carpenter is a member of the electronic music project Sol Invicto, led by producer Richie Londres and featuring drummer Eric "Bobo" Correa of Cypress Hill. The band released its debut EP, Initium in 2011 for free. The band's second EP, Initium II was released in 2013 via the band's official Soundcloud page.

Carpenter was involved the rap metal band Kush, featuring Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera of Fear Factory and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The band's debut album, which was set to be released in 2003, was never released.

Stephen also plays drums. In an interview with he reported that he likes drums more than he likes guitars, "as far as when it comes to creating the ideas." Also on his drumming abilities, he said:

"I do play drums. But I play drums like a guitar player, if that makes any sense. I don't play drums like a drummer would, where a drummer has the ability to somehow manipulate that kit into different dimensions. I can't do that. I play to the riffs and I'm pretty straight forward. I could pull off playing drums in a little jam session, but when it comes to really writing songs as a drummer, I don't have it. To me, a tempo could be the same beat in every song, when it comes down to it. Really, you're just changing the tempos to back the riff."


Carpenter currently endorses ESP Guitars, Marshall Amplifiers, GuitarRig and EMG pickups. He has been a major endorser of ESP since the mid-1990s with a number of signature six (now discontinued), seven, eight string and baritone models in production.

Carpenter currently uses Dunlop .011-.069 gauge strings. He also uses Dunlop 1 mm Tortex picks which are black with a custom logo. For Koi No Yokan, he utilized a .080 gauge string for the low F# string, since he claims his guitars couldn't handle the .069 gauge, due to the string being de-tuned to drop E.

On tour, Carpenter carries 14 guitars using 7 main guitars, with the rest being used as back ups in different tunings. He used six string guitars in E standard/drop D for Adrenaline, drop D♭/C# for Around The Fur and drop C for White Pony. Carpenter then switched to using seven-string guitars, using G#/A♭ standard for the self-titled album and drop F#/G♭ for Saturday Night Wrist. On the album Diamond Eyes, he used an 8-string in F#/G♭ standard tuning, while on Koi No Yokan Carpenter used Drop E tuning on some songs such as "Poltergeist" and "Gauze" and half-step down tuning (standard F) on songs "Tempest" and "Rosemary" in addition to F#/G♭ standard.

Since transitioning from a 6-string to a seven-string guitar in late 2000, in live performances Carpenter plays the songs originally played on a six-string guitar on a 7-string with the two highest strings tuned to the same note (ex. EADGBEE for Adrenaline), after discovering that Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland did this to some of his seven-string guitars. Carpenter does this because it was harder for him to play a regular 6-string after getting used to the wider neck and longer scale length of his signature 7-strings. The song "Rocket Skates" from Diamond Eyes is played on an 8-string, although Carpenter does not make use of the low F# string. In order to prevent confusion between rigs while touring, he has two identical rigs, one for U.S. tours and the other for foreign countries.

All of Carpenter's guitars feature a middle pickup, but he claims he rarely uses them. Carpenter claims the inspiration for this was from seeing Vivian Campbell with his Buddy Blaze Shredder guitars, which feature a similar pickup scheme.

Carpenter is also a former user of Native Instruments' Guitar Rig, a software program designed to emulate amplifier and effect set ups.

Carpenter's current rig consists of only a Fractal Audio Axe-FX II running straight into the venue's PA system. He also uses an Electro-Harmonix .22 Caliber pedal power amp for powering his monitors.


  • ESP Stef SRC-7
  • ESP Stef B-7
  • ESP Stef T-7
  • ESP Stef T-7B
  • ESP Stef B-8
  • ESP Custom 8-string Telecaster Baritone (with fixed bridges and Floyd Rose systems)
  • ESP SC-600
  • LTD SC-608B
  • LTD SC-607B
  • LTD SCT-607B
  • LTD SC-500 (discontinued)
  • LTD SC-208
  • LTD SC-207
  • LTD SC-200 (discontinued)

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