Baritone guitar

This article is about guitars tuned B-b. For the Fender Jaguar six-string bass tuned E-e, see Fender Jaguar Baritone Custom.
Baritone guitar

Clifton Hyde with Mustapick Acoustic Baritone Guitar; Brooklyn, New York City 2007
String instrument

String instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 321.322
(Composite chordophone)
Playing range

(a standard tuned guitar)
Related instruments

The baritone guitar is a guitar with a longer scale length, typically a larger body, and heavier internal bracing, so it can be tuned to a lower pitch. Gretsch, Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, ESP Guitars, PRS Guitars, Music Man, Danelectro, Schecter, Jerry Jones Guitars, Burns London and many other companies have produced electric baritone guitars since the 1960s, although always in small numbers due to low popularity.[1] Tacoma, Santa Cruz, Taylor, Martin, Alvarez Guitars and others have made acoustic baritone guitars.


The baritone guitar first appeared in classical music. The Danelectro Company was the first to introduce an electric baritone guitar in the late 1950s, and the instrument began to appear in surf music and background music for many movie soundtracks, especially spaghetti westerns. More recently, the baritone guitar has appeared in rock, metal and improvised music. With appropriate strings, some baritone guitars can play in the bass guitar range.

"Tic-tac bass" is a method of playing, in which a muted baritone guitar doubles the part played by the bass guitar or double bass. The method is commonly used in country music.[2][3]

Tuning and string gauges

A standard guitar's standard tuning (from lowest string to highest) is E A D G B E. While no standard tuning has been established for baritone guitars, popular tunings for the instrument are: a perfect fifth (A D G C E A), a diminished fifth (B E A D F B), a perfect fourth (B E A D F B), or a major third lower (C F B E G C). The most common scale lengths on an electric baritone range from 25.5" to 28.7", With the latter more commonly being tuned lower than a common six-string. The average baritone scale on the market would be around the scale length of 27", with a tuning set to a perfect fourth, using at least 12 gauge strings or bigger stock.

Acoustic baritone guitars typically have larger bodies than standard guitars, and—like electric baritones—have longer scale lengths so the strings can be tuned lower while remaining at normal tension. On a standard, steel-string, acoustic guitar, the scale length (the distance from the nut or string guide to the saddle on the bridge) is typically 24.9" to 25.7", and the strings range in diameter from .012" to .054". The scale lengths of various baritone designs range from 27" to 30.5", and the string gauges range from the normal .012 - .054" set to sets as thick as .017 - .095". Shorter-scale baritone guitars are more like long-scale guitars, having more midrange volume, whereas the longer scale lengths and heavier string sets give more bass to the instrument's timbre. Shorter scale baritones tend to be tuned C-C or B-B, whereas longer ones are typically tuned A-A.[1]

Baritone guitarists

1960s early adopters

The Danelectro baritone was used by guitarist Duane Eddy in numerous recordings, including "Bonnie Came Back", "Because They're Young", "Kommotion", "My Blue Heaven", "Deep in the Heart of Texas", and "The Son of Rebel Rouser". The instrument was used almost exclusively on his best-selling 1960 album "The Twang's the Thang" and appears regularly on singles and albums throughout his career. The "twangy" sound of his guitars (which include Duane Eddy custom-builts by Guild, Grestch and Gibson) augmented the even deeper twangy sound made by the Danelectro baritone. Eddy used the familiar black model and an unusual gray "Longhorn" model.

Brian Wilson often included baritone guitars in his arrangements for The Beach Boys records, such as in "Dance, Dance, Dance" (1964) or "Caroline, No" (1966).

Singer Jimmie Rodgers also favored the baritone guitar, which can be heard in the opening bars of his recording of "Woman from Liberia" (1960).

Singer Glen Campbell used a baritone electric guitar on several of his big hit songs, most notably "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston", where he played a distinctive baritone solo following the melody in both songs.

In heavy metal

Baritone guitars became popular in heavy metal music during the late 1980s, as it became increasingly popular to employ lower guitar tunings and dropped tunings. Early examples include Carcass (using B standard) and Bolt Thrower (using A standard on Realm of Chaos).

In rock

Rock guitarists also use down-tuned guitars. Benjamin Burnley, the guitarist/singer from Breaking Benjamin, uses custom- built PRS[4] and ESP baritone guitars for their songs in Drop A# tuning. Ko Melina of The Dirtbombs plays a Fender Jaguar Baritone Custom. Teppei Teranishi of Thrice plays a baritone on the "Fire" disc of The Alchemy Index and Major/Minor. Ian Mackaye plays a baritone guitar when playing with his band The Evens. Aerosmith's Joe Perry plays a six-string Fender baritone bass tuned down to a G (which was later stolen) on "Back in the Saddle" on the 1976 Rocks album, and currently uses a Music Man Silo Baritone.

Pete Loeffler, the guitarist/singer from Chevelle, uses a custom built PRS baritone and Fender Sub-Sonic baritone guitar for their songs in drop B tuning.

Mike Mushok of the band Staind has a signature model baritone guitar manufactured by PRS Guitars.[5] Prior to his PRS signature model, Mushok had a signature baritone guitar produced by Ibanez called the MMM1, and had a custom built fanned-fret baritone made by Novax called the Expression.

Dave Matthews plays a baritone on certain songs such as "The Space Between" and "Some Devil". Parker Lauzon of Evans Blue uses an Ibanez.

Robert Smith of The Cure has made the baritone guitar a major component of his dark and atmospheric tone since 1989's Disintegration. Schecter guitars have produced a Robert Smith signature model baritone guitar.[6]

English musician Alex Turner of the band Arctic Monkeys plays the baritone guitar on their song "If You Were There, Beware", and on a number of songs in concert with The Last Shadow Puppets.

In jazz

Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny used baritone guitars made by Linda Manzer on his 2003 solo album One Quiet Night and his 2011 solo album What's It All About. Ani DiFranco often plays a baritone guitar, including those by Alvarez, frequently employing alternate tunings. Clifton Hyde has had his acoustic baritone guitar featured in the music of Sigur Rós, Gato Loco, and Pape Armond Boye. Bob Lanzetti, guitarist for the modern fusion band Snarky Puppy, frequently employs an electric baritone guitar as well.

Fingerstyle players and others

Numerous fingerstyle guitarists use baritone guitars, including Andy McKee, Don Ross, Martin Simpson, Sergio Altamura, Iain Micah Weigert, and Dave Amato. Don Ross plays a baritone by Canadian Luthier Mark Beneteau, and Simpson has played baritones made by English luthier Ralph Bown. Andy McKee plays a baritone guitar made by another Canadian Luthier Michael Greenfield. Brian Setzer played the Gretsch/TV Jones Spectra-Sonic baritone on the song Mystery train during the Brian Setzer Orchestra tour.

Blues band MonkeyJunk features a baritone guitar instead of a bass guitar.

Australian musician Stu Thomas plays a Barracuda[7] baritone guitar by Burns London, tuned an octave lower than a regular guitar. He uses it as a bass when playing with Dave Graney & The mistLY, and as a "regular" guitar when he accompanies himself solo as The Stu Thomas Paradox.

Dave Gonzalez started playing a baritone with The Hacienda Brothers, consisting of a Fender Bass VI neck on a Fender Jazzmaster.[8]

Guitar Prodigy Sungha Jung plays original and cover instrumentals on Lakewood Acoustic Baritone Guitars.


See also


  1. 1 2 Gerken, Teja. (June 2003). "Acoustic Longnecks". Acoustic Guitar: 94–97.
  2. Pomeroy, Dave (February 2007). "1962 Supro Pocket Bass". Bass Player. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
  3. "Neptune Longhorn Bass6". Jerry Jones guitars. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
  4. "Ben Burnley Talks About His Baritone Guitar And Low Tunings". Fret 12. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  5. "Mike Mushok"."SE Mike Mushok Baritone". PRS Guitars. Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  6. Bigeard, Romain (February 17, 2010). "Guitarists: Robert Smith of the Cure". Guitar Tone Overload. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  8. Marx, Jr., Wally (June 2008). "Dave Gonzalez: Western Soul Brother". Vintage Guitar magazine. Vol. 22 no. 8. p. 28.
  9. "Gibson Les Paul Studio Baritone". Gibson Guitars. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
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