Know From The Expert - What Is A Baritone Guitar?

Baritone guitar

What Is A Baritone Guitar?

A baritone guitar is a type of guitar that has a longer neck and can play lower notes than a regular guitar. It sounds deeper and is used to add a rich, low sound in music. It has thicker strings called baritone strings, which help it make those deep sounds. You can find baritone guitars that are electric or acoustic, just like normal guitars, but they're a little less common.

A Short History about Baritone Guitar

In the late 1950s, a company named Danelectro introduced the electric baritone guitar. This new type of guitar quickly caught on, especially in the world of film scores and the then-popular surf music. One of the pioneering musicians to bring the baritone guitar into the spotlight was Duane Eddy, a rockabilly musician. He showcased the guitar's unique sound in his 1960 album, "The Twang's the Thang," using its deep tones to create a signature sound that was rich and twangy. This sound was a product of the baritone guitar's deeper strings, and Eddy enhanced it with audio effects like reverb and slapback delay.

A significant milestone came when the first true electric baritone guitar, known as the Shark, was crafted around 1980 by luthiers Joe Veillette and Harvey Citron, with insights from John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful. The baritone guitar carved out its niche, offering a sound that filled the gap between the standard guitar and a bass guitar. Its distinct sound made it a favorite among songwriters, studio musicians, and rockers alike, becoming a tool for those who wanted to add a different flavor to their music. The instrument's versatility and unique tone have since made it a staple in various music genres, from rock to jazz.

Benefits of Baritone Guitars

Knowing what is a baritone guitar opens up new possibilities for musicians seeking a broader range of tones and sounds. Baritone guitars are not just regular guitars with a lower sound; they have several benefits that make them a unique and valuable addition to any guitarist's collection. Here’s why:

  • Versatile Sound Range: With a baritone guitar, musicians get an instrument that fills the sonic space between a standard guitar and a bass. This means you can hit those low notes for a fuller sound, perfect for genres like country, jazz, or metal.
  • Tuning Stability: Thanks to their longer neck and baritone strings, these guitars hold their tuning well, especially when playing in lower registers. This stability is a big plus for live performances and recording sessions, where consistent sound is crucial.
  • New Creative Possibilities: The unique tuning and deeper voice of the baritone open up new creative avenues for songwriting. It’s a fresh playground for guitarists accustomed to standard six-string models, like the Les Paul guitar or PRS SE McCarty 594.
  • Playability: For those who have larger hands or prefer more finger room, the extended fretboard of a baritone guitar provides a more comfortable playing experience.
  • Ideal for Down-Tuning: If you’re into styles that require down-tuning, like metal, a baritone is designed for this purpose. You won't need to worry about the flabbiness of strings you might get on a regular electric guitar for beginners when tuning down.
  • Better Integration with Other Instruments: In a band setting, a baritone guitar can blend seamlessly with other instruments, such as bass guitars and archtop guitars, without stepping on their sonic territory, making for a more cohesive group sound.
  • Useful for Different Skills Levels: Whether you’re a pro or just looking for an electric guitar for beginners, the baritone can be a great addition. It's as suitable for experienced players looking to expand their sound as it is for beginners wanting to start with something a bit different.

What Kind of Sound Does a Baritone Guitar Produce?

A baritone guitar produces a deep and rich sound that sits somewhere between the warm midrange of a regular acoustic guitar and the low end of a bass guitar. This sound is particularly favored in music where a fuller, resonant tone is desired, without the brightness of standard electric guitar.

The longer neck and baritone strings of these guitars allow for lower tunings, which give it a distinct, almost vocal quality that's both clear and powerful. It's this characteristic depth that makes the baritone guitar a popular choice for adding substance to a band's overall sound or for solo work where a guitar needs to carry more presence and weight.

Baritone Guitar

How to Tune a Baritone Guitar

Tuning a baritone guitar is similar to tuning a standard guitar, but with a few differences due to its longer scale length and heavier guitar strings. Here's how to get your baritone guitar sounding just right:

  • Use a Tuner: Start with a reliable tuner or metronome that has a guitar tuning feature. This will ensure accuracy, which is important for the baritone's lower range.
  • Standard Baritone Tuning: The most common tuning for a baritone guitar is B-E-A-D-F#-B, which is like standard guitar tuning, but pitched down a perfect fourth or a fifth. Some players might refer to this as baritone tuning.
  • String Gauge Matters: Because of the lower tuning, baritone guitar strings are thicker, which helps maintain tension and tone. Make sure you're using strings designed for baritone guitars.
  • Alternate Tunings: Just like with other guitars, you can experiment with alternate tunings. However, the baritone's range allows for more bass-heavy and moody tunings that might not be practical on a standard electric guitar or acoustic guitar.
  • Adjusting for Playability: If the strings feel too tight or too loose, you might need to adjust your tuning slightly. Remember, the goal is a comfortable tension that still gives you that deep baritone sound.
  • Check Intonation: Once in tune, play each string at the 12th fret and check with your tuner to ensure the intonation is correct. Adjust the guitar's bridge if necessary, or consult a professional if you're not comfortable doing it yourself.

Tips for Playing a Baritone Guitar Effectively

Playing a baritone guitar can be a thrilling experience because of its unique sound. To make the most out of this instrument, here are some practical tips:

  • Familiarize with the Feel: The baritone guitar has a longer neck and thicker guitar strings than standard guitars. Spend time getting used to the spacing and tension, which can help with hand positioning and comfort.
  • Choose the Right Gear: Use a good guitar amp that can handle low frequencies well to ensure your baritone's deep tones are clear and not muddied. Additionally, investing in quality guitar cables can preserve the sound integrity from guitar to amp.
  • Play to Its Strengths: Leverage the baritone guitar's deep tones in your playing. Its range works great for creating atmospheric and moody pieces, as well as providing a solid foundation in a band's mix.
  • Mind Your Technique: If you're transitioning from a regular electric guitar or acoustic guitar, you may need to adjust your technique. The baritone's scale length can affect the way bends, vibrato, and even fretting work.
  • Experiment with Effects: Effects like reverb, delay, and chorus can enhance the baritone guitar's natural resonance. Consider using guitar pedals to explore different sounds.
  • Regular Maintenance: Keep your baritone in top condition with regular guitar care. This includes cleaning, string changes with the right baritone strings, and occasional check-ups on hardware like strap buttons and straplocks.
  • Secure Handling: To ensure secure handling of a baritone guitar, given its larger size and weight, it is advisable to use Hiscox cases or guitar stands designed for larger instruments. This will help protect the guitar when it's not in use.
  • Adjust Playing Style: You may find that lighter picking or strumming can bring out the best in a baritone guitar, as heavy-handed techniques can sometimes cause the sound to become muddy.

Maintenance and Care Of Baritone Guitars

Looking after a baritone guitar isn't much different from caring for any other type of guitar, but it's important because of its unique build and sound. Here's how you can keep your baritone in great shape:

  • Proper Storage: Always store your baritone guitar in a stable environment. Use a sturdy guitar stand or keep it in a protective case like a Hixon case to safeguard it from dust and damage.
  • Regular Cleaning: Dust and grime can affect your baritone's sound. Wipe down the body and strings after each use with a soft cloth. For a more thorough clean, use specialized guitar care products.
  • String Care: Change the baritone strings regularly to maintain sound quality. Since these are thicker, they can collect more oil and dirt, which dampens the rich tone of the baritone.
  • Humidity Control: Too much or too little humidity can warp the wood of your baritone guitar. Use a room humidifier or dehumidifier as needed, especially if you store your guitar out of its case.
  • Hardware Check: Inspect strap buttons and straplocks to ensure they’re tight and secure. This is crucial to prevent accidents while playing or moving the guitar.
  • Tuning and Intonation: Regularly check the tuning and intonation. Use a good guitar tuner or metronome to ensure your baritone guitar is pitch-perfect, which also helps in maintaining string tension.
  • Professional Set-Up: Have a professional guitar technician check your baritone guitar occasionally. They can adjust the guitar's bridge, neck, and pickups as needed for optimal performance.
  • Fretboard Maintenance: Treat the fretboard with the appropriate oils to keep it from drying out, which can lead to cracks or warping over time.

Famous Guitarists Who Play Baritone Guitars

Several renowned guitarists have made the baritone guitar their instrument of choice, using its deep tones to create unique and memorable music. Here are some of the most notable players:

  • Stephen Carpenter (Deftones): Carpenter uses the baritone guitar to produce the heavy, atmospheric sounds that Deftones are known for. His use of the instrument has influenced many in the metal and alternative scenes.
  • John Petrucci (Dream Theater): Known for his technical proficiency and complex compositions, Petrucci often incorporates the baritone guitar into Dream Theater's music, adding depth and richness to their progressive metal sound.
  • Devin Townsend: Townsend's eclectic and expansive musical style makes full use of the baritone guitar's range. Devin Townsend leverages its deep tones for both his heavy metal and ambient projects.
  • Brian Welch (Korn): Welch's use of the baritone guitar has been pivotal in shaping Korn's signature nu-metal sound. The lower tuning complements their rhythm-heavy music and adds to the band's sonic intensity.
  • Robb Flynn (Machine Head): Flynn integrates the baritone guitar into Machine Head's aggressive and dynamic metal sound. Its deep tones help create the band's impactful and heavy musical atmosphere.

Baritone Guitar Vs 7 String Vs 6 String Standard Guitar


Baritone Guitar

7-String Guitar

6-String Standard Guitar


Typically B-E-A-D-F#-B, lower than standard

Standard E tuning with an additional low B

Standard E-A-D-G-B-E

Scale Length

Longer, usually around 27" to 30.5"

Varies, but typically around 25.5" to 27"

Typically 24.75" to 25.5"

String Gauge

Thicker strings for lower tuning

Similar to standard but includes a thicker 7th string for the low B

Standard gauges vary based on player preference


Deep, resonant tones ideal for filling lower registers without reaching bass guitar depth

Extended range allows for deeper bass notes and more versatility in genres like metal

Versatile, suitable for a wide range of music styles

Popular Genres

Country, jazz, metal, and experimental

Metal, progressive rock, and jazz fusion

All genres, most versatile

Notable Players

Stephen Carpenter (Deftones), John Petrucci (Dream Theater)

John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Misha Mansoor (Periphery)

Countless across all genres, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton


To offer a guitar with a lower register than standard while still being distinct from a bass guitar

To provide a wider range of notes, especially useful for complex chords and solos

General use in a wide array of musical styles, most common type of guitar

Brands That Offer Baritone Guitars

Several renowned brands offer baritone guitars, each bringing its unique take to this versatile instrument. These guitars are known for their deep, rich tones and are a favorite among players looking for something beyond the standard guitar range. Here are some of the top brands:

  • PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Guitars: PRS is well-known for its high-quality instruments, and their PRS SE Baritone 277 is a popular choice for those seeking a versatile baritone guitar that can handle everything from heavy metal to mellow jazz.
  • Fender: A giant in the guitar world, Fender offers models like the Squier Paranormal Baritone Cabronita Telecaster, which blends classic Telecaster style with the deeper baritone sound, making it ideal for surf rock, country, and more.
  • Ibanez: Ibanez caters to players looking for modern features and aesthetics. Their baritone models are often favored by metal and progressive musicians for their playability and cutting-edge designs.
  • Schecter: Schecter Guitar Research has a solid reputation in the rock and metal scenes. Their baritone guitars are known for durability, sleek designs, and a sound that stands out in heavy music genres.
  • Danelectro: As one of the pioneers of the baritone guitar, Danelectro's models are celebrated for their vintage looks and unique sounds that hark back to the origins of the baritone guitar in surf and rockabilly music.
  • Gibson: While more famous for models like the Les Paul guitar, Gibson also offers baritone options through its subsidiary, Epiphone, providing that classic Gibson quality with the deeper range of the baritone.
  • ESP: Known for their heavy metal pedigree, ESP guitars, including their LTD line, offer baritone guitars that are both aggressive in sound and appearance, perfect for genres that demand a powerful sonic presence.

Each of these brands brings something special to the baritone guitar market, from vintage vibes to modern metal machines. When choosing a baritone guitar, consider what music you'll be playing, as each brand offers something that could be perfect for your style, whether it's acoustic baritone sounds or heavy electric riffs.

Why Choose MusicStreet for Baritone Guitars

MusicStreet has become a go-to destination for musicians seeking quality instruments, including a diverse range of baritone guitars. Here's why you should consider MusicStreet for your next baritone guitar purchase:

  • Wide Selection: MusicStreet offers a vast array of baritone guitars from top brands like PRS, Fender, and Schecter. Whether you're looking for an electric baritone guitar or an acoustic baritone, you'll find options to suit your style and budget.
  • Expert Advice: The staff at MusicStreet are not just salespeople; they're musicians who understand the nuances of different guitars. They can guide you through the features of PRS SE Baritone 277, Squier Paranormal Baritone Cabronita Telecaster, and more, ensuring you make an informed decision.
  • Quality Instruments: Every guitar at MusicStreet, from second hand guitars to brand new guitars, is inspected and set up by experienced technicians. This ensures your baritone guitar will play beautifully right out of the box.
  • Competitive Pricing: Whether you're eyeing a Les Paul guitar for its iconic sound or a baritone electric guitar for its deep tones, MusicStreet offers competitive pricing across all ranges, including electric guitar for beginners.
  • After-Sales Support: Purchasing from MusicStreet means you get ongoing support, including maintenance tips and advice on guitar accessories like guitar strings, guitar stands, and guitar cables Hixon cases.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What is the difference between a baritone guitar and a regular guitar?

A baritone guitar differs from a regular guitar mainly in scale length and tuning. The baritone guitar has a longer neck, allowing for lower tuning baritone guitar settings such as B-E-A-D-F#-B, which is deeper than the standard E-A-D-G-B-E of a regular guitar. This baritone tuning gives the baritone guitar a richer, deeper sound, perfect for specific music styles.

2. Is it worth getting a baritone guitar?

Yes, getting a baritone guitar is worth it if you're looking to explore a wider range of tones and sounds. It's especially beneficial for music that benefits from deeper, resonant tones, such as metal, jazz, and country. The unique baritone tune can add a new layer of depth to your music.

3. What genres of music are baritone guitars commonly used in?

Baritone guitars are commonly used in genres like metal, country, jazz, and blues. Their deep, resonant tuning is perfect for music that requires a broader sonic palette, making them a favourite for acoustic baritone and baritone electric guitar players alike.

4. Can I use regular guitar strings on a baritone guitar?

Regular guitar strings are not recommended for use on a baritone guitar due to its longer scale length and typically lower tuning. Baritone guitars require thicker strings to accommodate their tuning and ensure proper tension, which is crucial for optimal sound and playability.

5. Are all 7 string guitars baritone?

No, not all 7 string guitars are baritone guitars. While some 7 string guitars offer a lower range similar to baritone guitars, they are distinct instruments. Baritone guitars have a specific baritone tuning and scale length that differentiates them from standard 7 string models.

6. What is the best baritone guitar?

The "best" baritone guitar varies based on personal preference and playing style. Brands like PRS, Ibanez & Fender guitars like the Squier Paranormal Baritone Cabronita Telecaster are highly regarded for their quality and sound. Consider your musical needs and budget when choosing.

7. Do baritone guitars need special strings?

Yes, baritone guitars need special baritone strings designed to accommodate their longer scale length and lower tuning. These guitar strings ensure the instrument plays correctly and sounds its best.

8. Are baritone guitars suitable for beginners?

Yes, Baritone guitars are suitable for beginners, especially those interested in genres that utilize their deep tones, like metal or jazz. However, the transition might require some adjustment due to the different baritone guitar tuning and playing feel.

9. What are the recommended string gauges for optimal performance of Baritone Guitars?

The recommended string gauges for baritone guitars typically range from .013 to .062 for optimal performance. This allows for the correct tension and resonance when using baritone tuning, ensuring the guitar sounds its best across all notes.