Baritone guitars are some interesting bunch of guitars that have some pretty distinct characteristics at creating that deep honky-tonk, overdubs, and special country music. However, in the last two decades, they are becoming more and more popular with more modern and contemporary genres such as hard rock, heavy metal, jazz, and funk. In the past baritone guitars were considered a little weird to be in a band, but nowadays they are nothing but welcome and appreciated. The reason behind appreciation is that they are a bit harder to play than regular guitars, thanks to their wider frets and thicker strings.
In most of the cases, baritone guitars are six-string instruments with a pretty long scale length that is a bit weird to see, on top of that the strings are thicker like I said and the frets wider. On top of that baritone guitars are tuned in a different way than your regular guitar. They have a standard tuning of B E A D F# B. This is done to deliver deeper tones that are perfect, and it is a perfect instrument that can bridge in bass and standard guitar. There are a lot of baritone guitar players in some of the most famous brands, such as Ian McKay, John Petrucci, James Hetfield, Pat O’Brien, Stephen Carpenter and so much more.
For that reason, I decided to devise a buying guide for the best baritone guitars. I have analyzed these guitars thoroughly, consulted some experts, researched the topic extensively, and have played these guitars myself. I will present to you the top picks out there, the fail-safe options. Apart from that, we will check out the things you need to be careful about before buying such a guitar and so much more. Now without further ado, let’s take a closer look.
Which Are The Best Baritone Guitars?
5. PRS Paul Reed Smith SE 277
To start this list we have an interesting guitar coming in from PRS, a brand that has released some of the most versatile and legendary guitars throughout history. The custom PRS Paul Reed Smith SE 277 is everything that you may want from a baritone guitar, without raising the price to something unbelievable.
The PRS Paul Reed Smith SE 277 has a 27.7-inch scale that makes it perfect for those who want to transition. It uses a great Mahogany body with flamed maple top and mahogany neck to give it some great mellow and warm tones. I should also mention that the fretboard is made out of rosewood which is incredible.
In terms of electronics, this guitar has a high-end PRS 85/15 pickup set, of which the bridge one rocks excellently with the mahogany and the neck one does its job to smooth out uneven edges to deliver a clean vintage sound.
4. Ibanez RGIB6 Iron Label RG
Ibanez is one of the most prominent guitar makers in the business, and its RG series has established itself as one of the most powerful guitars in the metal genre. The Ibanez RGIB6 Iron Label RG is the perfect baritone guitar for metalheads delivering everything that you want from such an instrument.
The Ibanez RGIB6 Iron Label RG has the classic RG body that is pretty attractive without being over the top flashy. Everything about the instrument looks pretty clean, simple, and streamlined.
It has a basswood body with a 3 ply nitro baritone Maple/Bubinga neck that is extremely playable. Moving on it has a pretty smooth rosewood fretboard. In terms of electronics, it is a proper metal one with two active humbuckers, an EMG 60H on the neck and an EMG 81H on the bridge.
3. Alvarez ABT60E
Next up we have an electro-acoustic model coming up, the Alvarez ABT60E. The delivers a proper baritone tone with the acoustic body and warmth. IT is powerful and rocks a great build quality, on top of all that the price is pretty competitive for what it offers.
The Alvarez ABT60E has a pretty good build quality on its body, and craftsmanship is over the top as well. It is packed with a solid Sitka spruce top, bone nut and saddle, scalloped bracing, and a nice binding that puts it in front of your eyes.
The tonality of the Alvarez ABT60Eis pretty much excellent delivering the classic baritone deep tones that make it amazing. The Alvarez ABT60E has also a B-Band pickup that uses the electret film technology that delivers a natural sound.
2. ESP LTD SCT-607
The runner up on this list is one of the most interesting guitars out there, the ESP LTD SCT-607. This guitar looks like your classic Telecaster with a metal edge to it. It has 7 strings and is made especially for the Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter.
This guitar looks nothing like other guitars in ESPs lineup that rock some pretty sharp edges and double cutaways. Instead, it has a Telecaster body with a soft single-cutaway body that is made from solid alder tonewood. It has a classic jet black finish and has the traditional white Tele pickguard.
In terms of electronics, the ESP LTD SCT-607 has active ones that come from EMG, the 81-7 active humbuckers. These are positioned on the bridge and right near the middle which is pretty interesting, but it works wonders for those powerful tones.
1. Schecter HELLRAISER C-VI
On top of the list, we have the absolute best baritone guitar in the market, the Schecter HELLRAISER C-VI. Like its name implies this guitar is designed to raise hell and to be shredded to infinity, definitely a beast.
The Schecter HELLRAISER C-VI looks pretty much like a larger Hellraiser C-1. It has a 30-inch scale and has a special TonePros stop tailpiece that works rather well overall with this body. It is made from mahogany on the back and quilt maple on the top and with the gloss finish and abalone binding it works wonders.
The mahogany neck with the thin-C profile is great as well in terms of playability, combined with the rosewood fretboard. The Schecter HELLRAISER C-VI rocks EMG 71TW active humbucker at the bridge and the EMG 89R active humbucker on the neck to deliver its amazing performance.
Why Do I Need a Baritone Guitar?
The real question is why don’t I already have a baritone guitar by now? They are amazing instruments and everyone should try playing them. But let’s talk about what makes them so good shall we?
First, off you should know that baritone guitars are tuned lower than your standard guitar, and to be honest for the untrained ear they might sound a little strange at first. I said this in the beginning but the standard tuning for such an instrument is B E A D F# B, and sometimes you may even see them tuned lower by a fifth or even a full octave, which is pretty rad. The notes might be a little different as might have expected but the chords and fingering are pretty much the same as on a standard guitar making the transition process seamless.
The most distinctive and my favorite type or model in the baritone guitar spectrum are surf or cowboy models. However, every day you see different models popping up and coming in different shapes and sizes so there is a lot to choose from. Like standard electric guitars, baritone guitars come with different qualities such as different body types, tonewoods, sizes, pickups and configurations, genres and so much more. So it is not very hard to find a baritone model that will suit your style of music and playing.
You can spot a baritone guitar in a band frequently, but it goes so well while accompanying high vocal parts, one such example is “You Shook Me All Night Long” by ACDC. They are the perfect instruments for constructing riff-based driven melodies, think a contemporary hard rock riff. One of the most interesting qualities of baritone guitars is the 27-inch scale that goes on with the strings that are at least 12 gauge. Each guitarist has its selection for strings depending on their needs though. I should also mention that in heavy metal baritone guitars are immensely popular, as guitarists often drop B and C to deliver a pretty immense effect that is a characteristic of some bands.
Features to Consider Before Buying a Baritone Guitar
There are some qualities that make a baritone guitar better than the others and vice versa. Learning about them can give you a better idea of how to choose a better model for your needs, and nobody wants an instrument that doesn’t fit their style. So let’s see.
As you might have expected baritone guitars are for guitarists that want to experiment with lower tunings and with bassists that want to play a bit higher, so it is the middle ground between those instruments. The 6 string setup and the chord fingerings are the same though as on your regular guitar. The scale length is the biggest thing that differentiates baritones from others. While on a regular guitar the scale length is around 25 inches give or take, on a baritone that ranges from 27 to 30.5-inches, which is pretty close to the bass scale length. You can choose between that range depending on what intonation you need, feel, comfort, and how comfortable you are with longer necks.
Also, be sure to check out the strings of the guitar you want to buy, it is no the most important thing as you might swap them out later, but it is good to have the setup you want. There are different string sets out there ranging from 10 to 46, and like I said baritone guitars use 12 gauge strings at the very least, and higher.
Acoustic or Electric
Like normal guitars, these come with and without electronics. Naturally acoustic models are pretty cheap in comparison with electric models. I should also mention that the premium baritone models out there have some excellent qualities and are mostly electric models. You might already know which one you need by now, but if you don’t it is better to determine that beforehand.
There are three popular body types when it comes to baritone guitars, hollow body, semi-hollow, and solid body guitars. After that, you will see that the body is made from different materials or tonewoods such as maple, mahogany, spruce, rosewood, Sapele, and much more.
Hollow body baritone guitars are great acoustic options and are mostly collector’s items and for enthusiasts. They deliver some great sound and tons of volume, but on top of all that the smoothness and naturality are pretty much perfect. I should also mention that these guitars provide amazing warmth and depth with the rich tonality and characteristic sounds. One notable player is John Lennon.
Semi-Hollow baritones, on the other hand, have been made popular in the 60s by rock and roll musicians and are famous for their amazing output and mellow tones which I am a fan of. These days, semi-hollow baritone guitars are used by jazz musicians mostly and are ideal for live performances.
Solid-body baritones, on the other hand, have come much later than the other two but are the most prominent these days. This is mostly due to their great response to power, control, and a great range of pickups available for them.
Tonewoods and Fretboards
Be sure to check out the tonewood of the baritone guitar you want to buy, however, make sure to not get anything that has a high freq response to not contradict with the lower baritone pitch. Woods such as oak, walnut, and koa are excellent in this regard, but then again some great baritone guitar tones come from brighter tonewoods.
The fretboard on a baritone guitar is also very important, check the fretboard out and the frets individually as well. Rosewood is one of the most frequent materials used in guitar fretboards, which is pretty smooth for better playability. Check the number of frets, mostly it should be about 24, but it may differ in different models.
Like electric guitars, different baritone guitars use different pickups or pickup configurations. Check them out before buying and see if that works out for you, or if you can swap them without extensive work with a set that you like.
As you have seen it is not very hard choosing the best baritone guitar for your needs, but still, there are some things you need to be careful about. If you stick to a plan and know what you want, you will know which baritone guitar is better for you now and in the future. Top picks section is also a great starting point in your search as those are the very best models in the market that will deliver you immense performance and great value for your price. Good hunting!