If you’re a guitar enthusiast looking to expand your musical horizons, you might have come across the term “baritone guitar.”
But what exactly is a baritone guitar, and how does it differ from your standard six-string?
In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of baritone guitars, exploring their history, tuning, sound, playability, and more.
What Exactly is The Baritone Guitar
A baritone guitar is a unique instrument that features a longer scale length and heavier strings compared to a standard guitar. This design adapts lower notes, giving you access to a rich and distinctive range of sounds.
The baritone guitar can be an electric or acoustic guitar.
The standard tuning for a baritone guitar is B to B, which is a perfect fourth lower than the tuning of a standard six-string guitar.
This innovative instrument has found its way into various music genres, from funk and metal to pop and more.
A Brief History Of The Baritone Guitar
The history of the baritone guitar dates back over a century to its German acoustic guitar roots. However, it truly came into its own during the 1950s and 60s when it was adapted for the electric guitar market by manufacturers like Fender and Danelectro.
Pioneers like rockabilly legend Duane Eddy helped popularize the instrument, and it made its mark in various music styles, from 60s surf rock to country music and even spaghetti western soundtracks by Ennio Morricone.
Baritone Guitars Scale Length
The longer scale length is one of the key features of a baritone guitar – it ranges from 27 to 30.5 inches.
This extended scale length is crucial to maintain proper string tension when tuning the guitar to lower pitches.
Unlike regular guitars that can sound muddy when tuned too low due to loose strings, baritone guitars can handle lower tuning without compromising string tension.
This makes them versatile for genres ranging from rock and metal to alternative tunings.
Baritone Guitar String Gauge
The baritone guitar string gauge typically ranges from .012 to .014, although it can go even heavier if desired, such as .016. The choice of string gauge depends on your preferred style and the sounds you aim to achieve.
Interestingly, using regular guitar strings on a baritone guitar is also common, with some players using a wound 3rd string for smoother bending.
The Sound of A Baritone Guitar?
Describing the sound of a baritone guitar is best done by listening to it. Imagine a deeper, more resonant guitar tone, and you’re on the right track. For example, to feel the true power of the baritone guitar, you can listen to the iconic theme of Twin Peaks.
How To Play A Baritone Guitar?
Playing baritone guitar is not that different than playing a standard guitar.
The techniques largely remain the same.
The crucial aspect to consider is the key signature. For instance, if you’re used to playing in the key of E on a standard guitar, on a baritone guitar tuned to B, you’d actually be playing in the key of B.
This can impact your bandmates, vocals, and overall musical arrangement, so it’s essential to understand theory and technique before diving into playing a baritone guitar.
How Do You Tune A Baritone Guitar?
The most common tuning for baritone guitars is a perfect fourth below standard tuning, known as “B standard” or B to B (BEADF#B). However, there’s no fixed standard tuning for baritone guitars.
Some players prefer different tunings, such as A to A (lower by a perfect fifth) or C to C (lower by a major third).
In the past, certain models like the Fender Bass VI and Danelectros were tuned E to E.
The choice of tuning allows you diverse creative options.
What are The Differences Between Baritone Guitar And Regular Guitar?
Actually, we already mention the differences between baritone and regular guitar, but let’s summarize them:
- Tuning: Baritone guitar usually uses “B standard” (BEADF#B), while regular guitar follows Standard tuning (EADGBE).
- String Gauge: Baritone guitars typically use heavier strings.
- String Tension: The altered tuning of baritone guitars requires higher string tension to achieve proper pitch, affecting playability and feel.
- Neck Length: Baritone guitars feature a longer neck (from 27 to 30.5 inches) to accommodate the lower tunings and maintain proper intonation. We have a full guide on how to measure your guitar length, so you can take a look here.
- Body Size: Baritone guitars may have a larger body size compared to standard guitars.
- Versatility: Baritone guitars come in various styles, including acoustic and electric versions, as well as single-coil and humbucking pickups, catering to different musical preferences.
- Pitch Range: Baritone guitars offer a lower pitch range due to their altered tuning and longer scale length, suitable for achieving deeper tones and extended chords.
- Fretboard Alignment: Notes on the baritone guitar’s fretboard line up with different frets than standard guitars.
- Musical Styles: Baritone guitars are often associated with genres like heavy metal and certain alternative styles due to their deeper tones and extended range.
- Intonation: The longer neck of the baritone guitar contributes to improved intonation for lower notes, which can sometimes be a challenge on standard guitars.
Brands That Make Baritone Guitars
There are several famous guitar brands that make baritone guitars:
- Music Man
- Burns London
- PRS Guitars
- Jerry Jones Guitars
- ESP Guitars
Feel free to explore these brands to find the perfect baritone guitar for your musical needs and preferences.
Famous Baritone Guitar Songs
- Invisible Kid (Metallica)
- Primary (The Cure)
- Mudshovel (Staind)
- Here Comes Your Man(The Pixies)
- Spanked (Van Halen)
- Back in the Saddle (Aerosmith)
- These Walls (Dream Theater)
- Minerva (Deftones)
- Chain of Fools (Aretha Franklin)
- The World We Knew (Frank Sinatra)
In conclusion, the baritone guitar offers a new world of musical possibilities.
With its unique tuning, longer neck, and rich tones, it’s a perfect choice for those seeking new sounds. Whether you’re into rock or want to experiment, this guitar invites you to explore and create.
Embrace the baritone guitar and unleash your musical potential like never before.
To explore more unique guitar types, we advise you to read this article.