Photo of author

What is a Baritone Electric Guitar

A baritone electric guitar features a longer scale length and is tuned lower than standard electric guitars. It often ranges between B and A standard tunings.

Baritone electric guitars bridge the tonal gap between a bass and a standard guitar, offering a deep, resonant sound that’s rich in lower frequencies. They are the instrument of choice for musicians looking to explore the depths of alternative tunings without sacrificing the playability and feel of a guitar.

With a typical scale length of 27 to 30. 5 inches, they allow for heavier string gauges that maintain tension when tuned down. Their distinctive timbre and extended range make them versatile for various music genres, from metal to jazz, where the fullness of their sound can truly shine. Ensuring a seamless blend of depth and clarity, baritone electric guitars are a unique addition to any guitarist’s collection, unlocking new realms of sonic exploration.

Introduction To The Baritone Electric Guitar

Guitars come in a dazzling array of types, but for those looking to delve deeper into the sonic spectrum, the baritone electric guitar holds a special allure. Striking a chord with its deep and resonant timbre, this intriguing instrument expands the traditional guitar range, offering players new creative avenues. Its distinctive voice is a siren call to artists seeking a fresh sound capable of cutting through a mix with clarity and depth.

Defining The Baritone Electric Guitar

At its core, the baritone electric guitar is a marvel of musical engineering. It bridges the gap between a standard electric guitar and a bass, thus serving as an inspirational tool for songwriters and guitarists alike. Notable for extended scale lengths and lower tunings, baritone guitars are synonymous with deep, lush tones that bolster rhythm sections and underscore melodic lines.

Historical Evolution And Origins

The baritone electric guitar has roots tracing back to the mid-20th century, evolving from earlier attempts to give guitarists a range that sat comfortably between a bass and a traditional guitar. It gained a foothold in various music genres, particularly surf rock, country, and later, alternative rock and metal, where formidable sonic presence becomes paramount.

Physical Characteristics

The physical attributes of a baritone electric guitar are key to its performance. Long scale lengths, typically between 27 to 30.5 inches, allow for lower tunings while maintaining string tension. Often, baritones feature a solid body, though semi-hollow models exist. Components such as pickups are specially designed to enhance their frequency range. A culmination of these qualities yields a guitar that is robust, playable, and sonically diverse.

Typical String Gauges And Tunings

  • Gauge Variety: String gauges on baritone guitars are thicker to maintain tension at lower tunings. They generally range from .013 to .072 inches.
  • Tuning Options: Standard tunings span from B to B or A to A, yet some players customize tuning to fit their musical style.
What is a Baritone Electric Guitar


Distinctive Sound And Musical Applications

The baritone electric guitar is a unique instrument that straddles the sonic territories of both guitars and basses. Known for its deep, resonant tone, the baritone guitar is pitched between the standard guitar and the bass guitar, typically tuned B to B or A to A, extending the range and depth of the instrument. This distinctive sound opens up new musical applications, offering a bridge between rhythm and lead roles which can inspire new textures within the music.

The Baritone’s Unique Tone Explained

At the heart of the baritone guitar’s appeal is its unique tone. The longer scale length of the instrument, usually between 27 and 30 inches, means the strings are under higher tension when tuned to lower pitches. This results in a cleaner and more articulate sound, even with the extended low range. The baritone’s construction allows it to maintain a tight and controlled bass response, which is especially valuable for cleaner amp settings or complex effects.

Genres That Frequently Utilize Baritones

  • Surf Rock: Capitalizes on the baritone’s deep twang for a distinctive “wet” sound.
  • Metal: Employs the instrument’s extended range for down-tuned riffs and chugging rhythms.
  • Country: Uses the baritone’s warm tones for both lead licks and bass-like accompaniment.
  • Jazz: Appreciates the baritone’s rich harmonics and full-sounding chords.
  • Progressive Rock: Seeks the baritone’s versatility for both melodic and complex rhythmic structures.

Famous Songs And Albums Featuring Baritone Guitars

Song/Album Artist/Band Year
Morricone Themes Ennio Morricone 1960s
Custom Machine The Beach Boys 1964
Unchained Johnny Cash 1996
The Call of Ktulu Metallica 1984
Several Shades of Why J Mascis 2011

The baritone guitar has become a staple in the recording studio and stage performances, often serving as a secret weapon for artists looking to add depth and substance to their sound. From the spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone to the heavy riffs in Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu,” the baritone guitar leaves an indelible mark on music across various genres.

Playing Techniques And Equipment Considerations

The Baritone Electric Guitar, with its longer scale length and deeper tonal range, demands unique playing techniques and specific equipment considerations. From the pick you use to the amp settings you dial in, every choice impacts your sound. In this guide, we’ll explore the nuances of mastering the baritone guitar, optimizing amplification and effects, and maintaining or modifying your instrument to keep it sounding its best.

Techniques For Mastering The Baritone Guitar

Harnessing the full potential of a baritone guitar involves adapting to its extended range and string tension. Guitarists should focus on the following techniques:

  • Alternate picking: Essential for navigating the thicker strings quickly and efficiently.
  • Fingerpicking: Allows for delicate articulation and nuanced dynamics, enhancing the baritone’s deep voice.
  • Chord inversions: Experiment with chord shapes to exploit the lower register and create rich harmonic textures.
  • Slide guitar: The baritone’s sustain becomes even more expressive with the use of a slide.

Incorporate these techniques regularly to develop a fluid playing style that complements the baritone’s distinctive character.

Amplification And Effects: Getting The Best Sound

Amplification and effects are crucial to unlocking the sonic capabilities of a baritone. Begin with the following steps:

  • Choose the right amp: An amp with ample headroom ensures clarity when playing at lower frequencies.
  • EQ settings: Adjust the low-mid frequencies to prevent muddiness and bring out the best in your baritone.
  • Effects pedals: Opt for pedals that complement lower registers, such as octavers or bass-specific overdrives.

Testing different combinations in a live or studio setting will help to find the sweet spot for your sound.

Upkeep And Modifying Baritone Guitars

Regular maintenance and considered upgrades can greatly improve playability and tone. Focus on:

  1. String selection: Higher gauge strings maintain tension and improve resonance at lower tunings.
  2. Setup and action: A professional setup ensures your guitar is comfortable to play and free of intonation issues.
  3. Hardware upgrades: High-quality bridges and locking tuners can enhance tuning stability and sustain.

Personalizing your baritone guitar allows you to tailor it to your playing style and tonal preferences.

What is a Baritone Electric Guitar


Prominent Baritone Manufacturers And Models

Within the realm of electric guitars, the baritone guitar stands out with its distinct tone and extended range. Manufacturers specializing in these instruments offer models that cater to the unique needs of musicians seeking lower tunings and richer sounds. Explore the leading brands and their popular models to find a baritone electric guitar that resonates with your musical aspirations.

Leading Brands In Baritone Guitar Manufacturing

  • PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Guitars – Renowned for exceptional craftsmanship and tone.
  • Fender – Offers a blend of classic design with modern features.
  • ESP – Known for their aggressive styling and tone, favored in metal genres.
  • Ibanez – A go-to brand for players seeking versatility and innovation.
  • Schecter – Delivers guitars that are both visually striking and sonically robust.
  • Danelectro – Appeals to players looking for retro vibes and unique sounds.
  • Music Man – Combines top-notch materials with precision engineering.

Review Of Popular Baritone Guitar Models

Each brand brings something special to the table with their baritone models. Here’s a brief overview:

Brand Model Key Features
PRS SE 277 27” scale, Soapbar pickups, beveled maple top with flame maple veneer
Fender Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster 30″ scale, Antiquity II Jazzmaster pickups, classic Jazzmaster tremolo
ESP LTD Viper-400B 27” scale, EMG 81/85 pickups, mahogany body
Ibanez RGIB21 28” scale, active EMG pickups, kill switch feature
Schecter Hellraiser C-VI 30” scale, EMG 81/89R pickups, abalone binding
Danelectro 56 Baritone 29.75” scale, high output Lipstick pickups, lightweight masonite body
Music Man John Petrucci Majesty Baritone 27.5” scale, DiMarzio pickups, piezo bridge system

Each model mentioned above brings its signature features to the table. The PRS SE 277 impresses with its aesthetic appeal and diverse tonal options, making it a favorite for both performance and recording. Fender’s Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster is a nod to the past with its vintage looks and sounds, yet it delivers a modern playability. ESP’s LTD Viper-400B is a rugged performer with an aggressive edge perfect for heavier music styles. The Ibanez RGIB21 is designed for high-speed playability and precision, suitable for technical players. Schecter’s Hellraiser C-VI combines a sleek design with powerful output, a dream for the discerning metal and rock guitarist. The Danelectro 56 Baritone stands out for its quirky style and distinctive tone. Lastly, the Music Man John Petrucci Majesty Baritone is a testament to fine engineering and attention to detail, offering a luxurious playing experience.

Each of these baritone electric guitar models offers a unique set of attributes that cater to various genres and playing styles. Prospective buyers must consider playability, tonal versatility, and overall aesthetics to align with their musical journey.

Choosing And Purchasing A Baritone Electric Guitar

Choosing and Purchasing a Baritone Electric Guitar brings together the thrill of musical exploration with the practicality of informed decision-making. With their extended range and rich, deep tones, baritone electric guitars offer a distinctive voice in the guitar world. This type of guitar is ideal for players looking to delve into lower registers, perfect for genres like metal, jazz, or country. Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist or venturing into new sonic territories, getting the right baritone electric guitar can elevate your playing experience. Let’s break down the key considerations to help you find the perfect match.

How To Choose The Right Baritone For Your Style

Considering playability, tonewood, and electronics is central in finding a baritone electric guitar that complements your musical style. If you’re into heavy riffs or chugging rhythm parts, you’ll want a guitar that can handle high-gain settings while maintaining clarity. Jazz players, on the other hand, might prioritize a warm, resonate wood that enhances clean tones. Here are a few tips:

  • Neck Profile: Ensure the neck feels comfortable in your hand. A thicker neck can provide better resonance for lower tunings.
  • Pickups: Consider active pickups for metal or passive pickups for more natural, nuanced tones.
  • Scale Length: Longer scale lengths—a defining feature of baritone guitars—keep the tension higher for better tuning stability at lower pitches.
  • Bridge Type: Fixed bridges offer reliable tuning stability; tremolo bridges can add versatility to your playing.

Price Range And What To Expect

Baritone electric guitars come in a wide price range, and what you spend often correlates with the instrument’s quality and features. Entry-level baritones can be found in the $300-$500 range, offering good quality for casual play or beginners.

Price Range Expectations
$300 – $500 Basic models, suitable for beginners or as a secondary instrument.
$500 – $1,000 Mid-range quality, with better electronics and wood materials.
$1,000 – $2,000 High-quality instruments, often with premium components and features.
$2,000+ Professional level, offering the best materials, craftsmanship, and performance.

Invest according to your commitment level and needs. Higher-priced guitars often feature superior tonewoods, electronics, and construction, which can be essential for professionals or serious hobbyists.

Where To Buy: Stores And Online Markets

Local music stores and online marketplaces are both valid options when searching for a baritone electric guitar. Try out different models at a local store to get a feel for the instrument. If you prefer online shopping, consider reputable sites like Sweetwater, Musician’s Friend, or Thomann for new guitars. For used options, eBay and Reverb can offer some excellent deals.

  • In-Store: Great for hands-on testing, advice from store staff, and immediate availability.
  • Online New: Broader selection, often with detailed specifications and reviews to guide your choice.
  • Online Used: Potential for finding unique or discontinued models at a lower price point.

No matter where you decide to buy, ensure there’s a return policy. This can be a lifesaver if the guitar doesn’t meet your expectations after playing it at home.

What is a Baritone Electric Guitar


Conclusion: The Role Of The Baritone In Modern Music

The baritone electric guitar, with its deep, resonant tones, continues to be a treasure trove for musicians seeking to enrich their sound palette. A versatile instrument, the baritone guitar has found its way into the limelight in various music scenes, infusing genres with its distinctive character and broadening the horizons of guitar music.

The Continuing Appeal Of The Baritone Guitar

The baritone guitar’s appeal lies in its unique sound, offering a lower range that standard guitars simply cannot reach. This captivating quality keeps the instrument at the forefront of experimentation, thriving in a landscape where musical boundaries are constantly being pushed. The baritone has become a stalwart in genres where depth and texture play a critical role, from the transformative blues and haunting folk songs to the gritty corners of rock and the experimental realms of ambient music.

Key factors contributing to the baritone’s appeal include:

  • Extended Range: Provides a deeper sonic spectrum for composers and players.
  • Versatility: Suits a variety of genres, lending a unique edge to each.
  • Tonal Depth: Enhances musical arrangements with rich, warm overtones.

The Future Of The Baritone In Various Music Genres

As musical landscapes evolve, the baritone guitar stands poised to venture along. Many modern artists across genres are already showcasing its potential, tapping into its deep tones to create music that resonates with a wide audience. In genres like metal, the baritone’s growling presence is indispensable, often serving as the backbone of a heavy riff. Its prevalence in indie and alternative circles hints at a broader acceptance and inventiveness, signaling an encouraging future peppered with innovation.

Prospects for the baritone guitar span:

  1. Rock and Metal: Continuing to cement its status as a dominant force for low-end power.
  2. Experimental Music: Breaking conventions with its sprawling range, creating atmospheric soundscapes.
  3. Cross-genre Collaborations: Setting the stage for thrilling new fusions and sonic possibilities.

The baritone guitar’s ongoing relevance in contemporary music is a testament to its potential for creativity and innovation. Artists continue to explore and embrace the depth and dimension it adds to their work, assuring its place both on stage and in the studio. As tastes shift and new genres emerge, the baritone’s role will undoubtedly expand, underscoring its importance as an integral instrument in the music industry.

Frequently Asked Questions On What Is A Baritone Electric Guitar

What Is The Difference Between A Baritone And A Standard Electric Guitar?

A baritone electric guitar typically has a longer scale length and lower tuning than a standard electric guitar, producing deeper tones.

What Is A Baritone Guitar Good For?

A baritone guitar is great for achieving lower register tones, offering a deeper sound for various music genres like metal, jazz, and country. Its extended scale length allows for comfortable tuning in lower pitches, adding richness to guitar arrangements.

What Makes An Electric Guitar A Baritone?

A baritone electric guitar has a longer scale length and is tuned to a lower range, typically a perfect fourth or fifth below standard tuning.

Can A Normal Guitar Be A Baritone Guitar?

A normal guitar cannot be a baritone guitar due to differences in scale length and string tension requirements. Baritone guitars typically have longer necks to accommodate lower tunings.


Exploring the baritone electric guitar reveals an instrument of deep resonance and versatility. Perfect for a range of genres, its unique sound fills a musical void. Passionate guitarists keen on expanding their sonic palette should consider this distinctive option. Embrace the lower register; let the baritone’s rich tones inspire your creativity.

Leave a Comment