So you’re in the music shop searching for a guitar to level up your skills. A baritone guitar can be the way to go. When shopping for one, it’s important to have a look at the quality, the build, and the brand behind the instrument. Read more to find out some of the best baritone guitars available today.
Overview (Best Baritone Guitar)
Let’s say that growing up, you’ve developed a certain fondness for playing stringed instruments. You may have even had certain guitar heroes you look up to, and you thought to yourself, “Someday, I’m going to rock the stage he or she once did, playing with the master volume all the way up”.
There’s just something about the guitar tone that can captivate the listener in an instant. Think of delays from The Edge of U2, or the grunge tone of Nirvana, or even the pop-punk vibe of Green Day. All of these bands rely on the guitar to help articulate and shape their band’s signature sound.
Because of the numerous icons that sling the said instrument, it’s normal to grow accustomed to musical tools such as the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar, and even a bass guitar.
But little do you know that some of your favorite tunes actually incorporate what is called a baritone guitar.
Is it a bass? Is it a different family of instruments?
Well, it’s perfectly understandable to be confused by all of this. After all, the baritone can be an acquired taste!
But what is in it that made certain artists like The Beach Boys and Metallica get into it?
In this feature, we are going to discover exactly just that, along with other best baritone guitars available out there today!
But before we proceed, let’s shed some light on those who are unfamiliar with this instrument. What is a baritone guitar??
What is a Baritone Guitar?
Widely considered as an underused instrument, the baritone guitar actually has a lot more to offer than you would think.
It’s still like any other regular guitar, only it has a much longer scale length and it’s perfect for lower tunings – the ideal baritone guitar sound. Baritone guitars also usually have a much larger body compared to standard guitars, and a heavier internal bracing. What this means is that it makes baritone guitars an ideal instrument for drop tuning your instrument to a lower pitch. It also provides a different playing experience to those who have shared a fair amount of time playing the usual guitar types.
The baritone guitar tuning goes B-E-A-D-F#-B, unlike most acoustic and electric guitars that are in standard guitar tuning, which is E – A – D – G – B – E.
The majority of these baritone guitars were produced in the 1960s. It has also played crucial roles in some of our favorite records, although oftentimes, these contributions go unnoticed.
Now, you may already want to be picking up a baritone guitar yourself! And we’re here to support you in doing exactly just that.
I’ve tried out some of these baritone guitar brands and units, and it feels that each of them has something different to offer to the table. It can even be a different feel to your standard acoustic guitars!
Here’s our roundup of some of the best electric baritone guitars.
PRS SE 277 Electric Baritone Guitar (Paul Reed Smith)
There’s a reason why big names such as Carlos Santana, John Mayer, and Mark Tremonti use PRS guitars.
The PRS SE277 baritone guitar is an overall great baritone guitar option for players seeking that down-tuned thump and oomph. One of its best features is that it offers SE 85/15 S humbucking pickups, which means you can simply split between humbucker tones and single-coil cleans. They sound great, and can offer a similar feel to other guitars, whether you use the bridge or the neck pickup.
If you’re into some signature surf-rock sounds from the 60s, this offering from PRS can have you covered with features you can easily identify as versatile. It can even cater to a musician aiming for that jack-of-all-trades label, as it can cover ground from metal, all the way to blues and jazz.
Its top material is made from flamed maple, with a gloss body finish. The maple neck material also can be a reason to help you play for hours. The SE 277 comes in a PRS Designed Plate Style String-through Body for the bridge/tailpiece, 1 x master volume, 1 x master tone for push/pull coil-split when you prefer a bright tone regardless of low tuning, with a classic 3-way toggle pickup switch. To top it all off, it comes with the PRS signature PRS birds for the fingerboard inlays with a Rosewood fingerboard.
If you’re into versatility and overall quality, this baritone guitar from PRS can be just the thing for you.
If you’re a fan of Nigel Hendroff and his tones, then you know what Gretsch guitars are capable of.
The Gretsch G5260 is a solid body electric baritone guitar with a mahogany body, a maple neck, a laurel fingerboard, and two mini humbucking pickups.
With its 29.75″ scale length, you can explore different ranges, from your bass parts all the way to keyboards! It can also offer decent clean tones when preferred, making it also one versatile option.
If comfort and response are factors you are looking for in a baritone guitar, then the G5260 should be able to do the trick for you, thanks to its thin U-neck shape profile and 22 nickel medium jumbo frets.
We get it. It’s not always easy letting go of your metal roots, especially if you’re using an Ibanez baritone guitar!
This is why metal music aficionados are more than happy to have the option to opt for an Ibanez RGIB2I Iron Label Baritone guitar!
Arguably one of the most distinctive features of this offering is the EMG 80 active humbucker (bridge) and EMG 60 active humbucker (neck) on this tone-filled instrument.
It can easily appeal to those seeking a much deeper and darker tonal output from their baritone, and can still be used for other styles, too. Ibanez offers a smooth and resonant basswood RG body, to go along with a Nitro baritone neck.
What makes this offering from Ibanez extra special is that it offers the Gibraltar Standard II fixed bridge, which claims to add impressive sustain and precise intonation – perfect for metal music.
Coming in at number four we have the SC-607.
If this baritone guitar offering from ESP LTD is enough for Deftones guitarist Stef Carpenter to have it as his signature baritone, then it already must be that good, to begin with!
This 7-stringed beast offers a balance of tone and performance to the player. Speaking of tone, you are almost guaranteed to get superior sounds from this beauty, as it comes with a pair of Fishman Fluence Stephen Carpenter Signature pickups. These pickups are unique because it allows you to push and pull the configuration to switch between active and passive voices.
This baritone guitar also boasts an all-mahogany body, making it bearable to play during long practice sessions and performances. It also comes with LTD locking tuners, so you can play confidently and play in tune at the same time!
To top it all off, ESP LTD offers the SC-607 with a TonePros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge with a String-thru body for support and sustain.
Now here’s something unique from Danelectro!
The ’56 Baritone guitar is noticeable right off the bat because of its lipstick pickups. Don’t let it fool you though, as it is highly capable of producing a punchy and high-output tone!
This baritone comes in a chambered spruce body and is capped with a hardboard top and hardboard back.
The ’56 highlights a 29.75 in. short-scale neck, a Pau Ferro fingerboard, and is perfect for the player looking for a vintage feel and vibe.
Completing our roundup is a versatile baritone guitar offering from Reverend Guitars!
Reverend is known to incorporate their own proprietary custom pickups, and they made no difference to the Descent RA. They take pride in managing to balance tone and volume when switching thanks to these said custom pickups. Railhammer Chisels for both neck and bridge make this model shine.
For players looking for that consistent quality, then you must know that the Descent boasts Korina body – a medium-light wood known for its resonance.
What makes these instruments extra appealing to players is that the feels are not too far off your usual guitars. If you’re a transitioning aficionado, then you can have a fun time switching between two instruments!
Custom dome knobs are also appealing to players who don’t want to accidentally tweak their tone settings while playing.
With an extended scale, low-end lovers will instantly feel right at home with the Reverend Descent RA.
Difference Between a Baritone Guitar and Normal Guitar
In a nutshell, a baritone is like your usual guitar – it just so happens that it’s in a lower register or a lower voicing.
But the good news is anyone who is already into electric or acoustic guitar can equally be as good at a baritone.
Yep. You read that right.
The same chord patterns can be applied to baritone guitars.
We’ve also already established that baritone guitars are turned differently.
Now I know what you’re thinking.
Yes. You do have the option to just drop-tune your electric guitar.
But you can always notice that the tension starts to loosen up a bit every time you do so, making you feel less of the attack every time you hit the last three strings of your guitar.
Thanks to a baritone’s extended scale length, you don’t have to compensate for the loose strings.
Buying Guide (Baritone Electric Guitars)
Just like anything related to the musical instrument world, the first thing you’re going to want to consider when looking for the best baritone guitar is your budget or a baritone guitar with an affordable price. Exactly how much are you willing to spend on it? In what areas are you willing to compromise? What are you going to use it for? How long are you willing to study and get better at the instrument? Considering all of this can indeed give you a fair idea of how much you want to spend on your first (or next) budget baritone guitar. Again, a good baritone guitar with an affordable price is ideal – especially for beginners.
Body shape can also be a factor you should look for. For metal players, you can opt for baritone guitars with an edgier look. After all, the body shape can help with the attitude of the performance! Modern metal can fit perfectly well for this. Add thicker strings to go along with it.
Next up is the sort of pickups the baritone has. Each pickup type has its unique tonal characteristic, meaning they are able to excel at one sound and can have opportunities for improvement on the other. Single-coils produce thinner and brighter tones (known as the single coil twang), while humbucker pickups (especially active pickups) produce a much more deep and darker sound – whether in the neck or bridge position.
The Wrap Up (Best Baritone Guitars)
As a musician, it’s always fun to learn and explore new things as our journey progresses. For some of us, it may be almost second nature to play the strings on a usual electric and acoustic guitar.
But if you’re the sort of individual who thrives on learning something new, then the baritone is definitely something you should look into!
It has all the feels of a traditional six-string instrument and normal guitars, and who knows? You might even discover a new playing style!
The only way to find out is to try it.