Best Baritone Guitars of 2020 – Complete Round-up

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In this article, we will be detailing essential information on the topic of baritone guitars. In addition to general information, several specific models will be addressed in detail to help you decide which would most suit your needs. 

Comparison of the Best Baritone Guitars

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 30” scale length
  • Fender offset body shapes are always fashionable
  • Designed for an especially low tuning, standard down a 5th to A
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  • 27” scale length
  • Active EMG pickups
  • Especially good for heavy metal styles
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  • 28” scale length
  • Especially good for various heavy metal subgenres
  • Comes with a volume kill-switch for Rage Against the Machine/Radiohead effects
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  • Includes tuner and EQ built into the guitar
  • Can be used practically with or without amplification
  • Acoustic-electric variation on the baritone guitar theme
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  • Telecaster-style look
  • 7-string variation on the electric baritone guitar theme
  • Pickups have multiple voicings accessible by pushing or pulling the volume knob
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  • Semi-hollow body
  • 27.7” scale length
  • Versatile musical application from retro to modern metal styles
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What is a Baritone Guitar?

The baritone guitar is a member of the guitar family whose range lies between the bass guitar and standard guitar. In order to facilitate this lower tuning, they typically incorporate some characteristics of bass guitars such as a longer scale length and heavier strings than a standard guitar.

Baritone guitars are often used as a specialty instrument that can evoke the sounds of instrumental rock and Italian western soundtracks of the 1960s. When used creatively, however, there is really no limit to the ways you might incorporate a baritone guitar into your music. 

When considering baritone guitars, you’ll want to look for one that is easy to play, has a nice sound, and stays in tune reasonably well. 

What Size of Baritone Guitar Do I Need?

Which scale length you prefer for a baritone guitar will come down largely to personal preference and experience. If you are approaching a baritone guitar as somebody who is experienced on standard guitars, you might gravitate towards one with a shorter scale length around 27”, because that will be closer to what you’re used to. On the other hand, if you are coming to this from a bass guitar background, a longer scale length around 30” might be more familiar.

If you know how low you would like to tune your baritone guitar, that could also inform your decision, as longer scale lengths will be more naturally suited towards lower tunings, and vice-versa. Finally, if you are looking to recreate a particular recorded Baritone guitar sound, it might be helpful to find out what model may have been used, and look for one with similar specifications.

Why Are These The Best of The Year

The guitars in this roundup have been selected as the best because they have been designed and manufactured by reliable, long-standing companies who have mastered the fundamentals of making a great instrument. They also represent the diversity of possibilities and applications offered by this under-appreciated instrument.

Reliable Manufacturer

As a specialty instrument, baritone guitars are often produced by the big-name guitar companies who can afford to have some niche products in their catalog. The benefit to the consumer is that these are companies with a lot of experience in instrument design and manufacturing, which will make these easy to maintain and service when needed.

Solid Fundamentals

Any instrument has to pass a certain bar to be usable. They must produce a pleasant sound, be relatively easy to play, and stay in tune reasonably well. You can typically trust these companies to meet that threshold more than those that specialize in low-budget instruments.

Diversity of Style

There is a lot of variety to be found in the baritone guitar family, and this group of instruments does a really nice job of showcasing the many options to consider.

Review of the Best Baritone ​Guitars

In this section, we will do a deep dive into seven specific baritone guitars. You will get a sense of the pros and cons of each, and gain an understanding of the differences between some of the different types of guitars available in this size (electric, acoustic 7-string, semi-hollow).

PROS

  • 30” scale length
  • Classic Jazzmaster shape
  • Double cutaway for easy access to high frets
  • Designed to be tuned in standard tuning down a 5th to A
  • Fender has a long tradition of making baritone-type guitars

CONS

  • Limited color options
  • Long scale length might take getting used to for guitarists, less of an issue for bassists

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers offer positive reviews of this baritone guitar. They note that the long scale length can take some time to get used to for players used to standard guitars and enjoy both the basic clean sound and overdriven tones when used in conjunction with a pedal and amplifier.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This baritone guitar stands out for its longer scale length, and it’s intended tuning of the standard down a 5th to A. Most of the guitars we reviewed are intended to perform the best only tuned down to B. If that extra whole step is important to you, it’s worth taking a serious look at the Fender Squier.

Who Will Use This Most

This baritone guitar will appeal to players who want a versatile guitar with a classic and tasteful look, from one of the most trusted electric guitar and amplifier manufacturers. Bass players looking to add a baritone guitar to their arsenal may find this one to feel a little more familiar due to the slightly lower tuning and longer scale length.

Bottom Line

This is an excellent baritone guitar option at an affordable price. Fender has been making baritone and Bass VI style guitars for decades, and this is a great addition to their catalog.

PROS

  • 2 EMG pickups are great for heavy rock styles
  • Standard pickup selector, with one knob each for volume and tone
  • 24 frets and double-cutaway for a usable two-octave range on each string
  • 27” scale length will be most familiar to players used to standard electric guitars
  • Body shape references the Baritone guitars 60s heritage and modern metal applications in a smart and tasteful way

CONS

  • Visually strongly implies a metal musical application that may not appeal to everybody
  • Users used to passive pickups will have to keep in mind that active pickups require batteries

What Recent Buyers Report

Overall, recent buyers are very happy with this guitar. They are generally using this guitar for various heavy metal styles and find it to be a great choice for that context.

Why it Stands Out to Us

With its metal-friendly electronics, this guitar offers a modern take on the 6-string baritone guitar concept. The body shape does a great job communicating the philosophy at work behind this instrument, pairing SG-like “devil horns” with a Fender offset style body that harkens back to the iconic 1960s applications of a baritone guitar to surf rock and film soundtracks.

Who Will Use This Most

There are a few standard ways to achieve a lower tuning on guitar for heavy metal music. One way is to get a 7-string model that adds an additional lower string. Another is to stick with 6 strings and tune them all down. This 6-string baritone is great for players who want to use the latter method.

Bottom Line

This baritone guitar is a great option for metalheads looking to achieve a lower overall tuning, with industry-standard metal pickups, from a company known for making instruments specially suited for heavy music. Rock on!

PROS

  • Black color goes with everything
  • 2 EMG pickups are great for heavy rock styles
  • Designed and set up for standardizing tuning down a 4th to B
  • A less retro and more contemporary and edgy look than the ESP
  • Comes with a kill switch for Rage Against the Machine and Radiohead-style effects

CONS

  • No tone knob
  • 28” scale length is moving closer to bass guitar territory than the ESP

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers are generally very happy with this instrument, but note that if you are coming from a standard guitar background, it may take time to become accustomed to the larger size of the body and neck. Players involved in various hard rock and metal subgenres are finding the sounds they’re looking for out of this guitar.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The inclusion of a kill switch is a very unique feature. This allows you to rhythmically change your instrument’s volume from zero to full, as can be heard in the playing of guitarists like Tom Morello and Jonny Greenwood. It’s strange that this feature seems to have come at the price of a tone knob, but this may not be an issue for certain players.

Who Will Use This Most

This guitar is similar to the ESP, in that it will be used for modern heavy musical styles, and has similar pickups. The longer scale length will appeal to players looking to tune down that much lower and have a slightly more bass-like sound.

Bottom Line

This is a very comparable guitar to the ESP and shares many of its strengths. The big differences to be aware of are that this has a longer scale length, exchanges a tone knob for a volume killswitch, and has a more aggressive modern look.

PROS

  • Designed to be tuned in standard down a 4th to B
  • Acoustic-electric design is unique among this batch
  • Loud enough acoustically to not require amplification in every setting
  • Offers players a lower-tuned take on the iconic acoustic steel-string guitar
  • Onboard electronics include various EQ controls, a tuner, and a phase switch

CONS

  • Acoustic design will not recreate electric baritone tones as readily as the electric models
  • The electronics may require a small learning curve for players new to this kind of hybrid guitar

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers are very happy with this baritone guitar, especially at its affordable price point. They appreciate the flexibility of the built-in electronics, allowing this guitar to be used easily in loud performance situations.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is fundamentally a different kind of baritone guitar than the others collected here. The difference between this and the others is analogous to the difference between standard electric guitars and standard acoustic steel-string guitars. This will fit right into situations that call for an acoustic steel-string (folk and country styles, acoustic and unplugged rock music) while allowing for a lower tuning that sits in between bass and standard guitars.

Who Will Use This Most

This guitar will appeal to folk and country players, as well as rock and session guitarists who need an acoustic with an extended low range. As an acoustic, it will also function well as a campfire guitar or for any spontaneous sing-a-long situation.

Bottom Line

There is a long tradition going back at least to Maybelle Carter of tuning an acoustic guitar down and using a capo when higher keys are necessary. This guitar will perform very well in that capacity, with the added bonus of it being designed to be tuned down in the first place.

PROS

  • Designed for very low tunings
  • Pickup selector switch with one knob each for volume and tone
  • Neck pickup replaced by a middle pickup is another unique touch
  • Both pickups have multiple settings accessible by pushing or pulling the volume knob
  • 7-string Baritone with Telecaster-style body and green sparkle finish make for a totally unique design concept

CONS

  • No fret markers
  • Active pickups require batteries

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers are generally very happy with this guitar and its ability to achieve a variety of sounds suitable to various heavy metal genres. Like the other metal-focused baritones featured here, the high-gain EMG style pickups indicate that this may not be the baritone guitar for you if you are after a primarily vintage/classic/retro application of the instrument.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This guitar stands out from the pack in a number of respects. First, it is a signature model designed in collaboration with Stephen Carpenter of Deftones. It is also a 7-string/baritone hybrid, meaning that both adds a lower 7th string to the basic 6-string guitar design, but the whole instrument is then made to be tuned down to sit in between the bass and guitar ranges.

Who Will Use This Most

Fans of Deftones and the sounds Stephen Carpenter achieves with that band will certainly find a use for this guitar. However, anybody looking for a 7-string baritone, in general, will find a lot to like here, as long as they like the classic Telecaster-style body shape and unique green sparkle finish.

Bottom Line

If you need a hybrid 7-string/baritone guitar for modern heavy music, this will be a good option for you. The vintage looks might mislead some consumers into thinking this will be good for Glen Campbell “Fender Bass VI” type sounds, but for those, you may want to keep looking.

PROS

  • Designed for standard tuning down a 4th to B
  • Semi-hollow body takes some weight off of the guitar
  • Intended for versatile application: 60s surf music through contemporary metal
  • Unique finish and bird-shaped fretboard inlays will hold strong appeal for some
  • 27.7” scale length puts it towards the “guitarist-friendly” end of the baritone guitar spectrum

CONS

  • Potentially expensive
  • PRS guitars can be an acquired taste for some

What Recent Buyers Report

This guitar has received rave reviews. They are very satisfied with the overall playability and sound of the guitar, the unique appointments including bird-shaped inlays, and the versatile range of styles it can fit into. A standard set of electronic features including a 3-way pickup selector, volume knob, and tone knob are familiar and natural to employ for most electric guitarists.

Why it Stands Out to Us :

This is a versatile 6-string baritone featuring a semi-hollow body type. The lighter weight, (relatively) short scale length, and versatile pickups should make this accessible to electric guitarists interested in playing a baritone for the first time. The primary downsides for some consumers are going to be the visuals (some will find them gorgeous, others won’t) and the price.

Who Will Use This Most

PRS guitars historically have appealed to both alternative rock/nu-metal musicians as well as blues-rock soloists looking for a high-end instrument. Players from either of these camps looking for a versatile electric baritone will find a lot to like here, especially with the semi-hollow body that makes the guitar a little lighter than it would be otherwise.

Bottom Line

This is a versatile and high-quality electric baritone guitar that will satisfy the needs of many guitarists! Enjoy the lovely finish, PRS signature bird-shaped inlays, and highly playable neck. For a very similar feature set in a more retro look, check out the Danelectro above.

Danelectro Vintage Baritone Electric Guitar - Dark Aqua

PROS

  • 2 single-coil pickups
  • Cutaway for easy access to high notes
  • Pickup switch, one-knob each for volume and tone
  • Semi-hollow body takes some weight off of the guitar
  • Unique and delightful look and color reminiscent of vintage cars

CONS

  • 29.75” scale length will take getting used to for guitarists
  • Sonics and visuals keep this from being a go-to choice for death metal players

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers are generally very happy with this guitar, finding it surprisingly comfortable to play given the long scale length. They are happy with the variety of tones it can produce, making it flexible and at home in any genre, despite its retro appearance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This design does a really nice job helping players combat some of the challenges of playing a baritone guitar. The semi-hollow body reduces the overall weight of the instrument, which helps make up for the fact that the scale length is on the long end of the spectrum.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great all-purpose baritone guitar that will appeal to players outside of heavy metal styles. If you want to evoke the music of Duane Eddy or Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks, this will put you in that direction.

Bottom Line

Danelectro has been making baritone guitars for decades, and this model continues its legacy of fun, great-sounding, and easy to play instruments with a lot of personalities. The lighter weight is a great user-friendly touch, too.

Baritone vs. Regular Guitar

In this section, we will be comparing baritone guitars and regular guitars.

Differences

Below are the main differences:

Size

Baritone guitars will often have a larger body than regular guitars, and always have a longer scale length to facilitate the heavier strings tuned to lower pitches.

Tuning

While all guitars can be tuned to any tuning the player wants, baritone guitars are specifically intended to be tuned lower than typical standard guitar tunings. The most common tuning for baritone guitars maintains the same intervals as standard guitar tuning but brings the whole guitar down either a perfect 4th (5 half steps on each string) or a perfect 5th (7 half steps on each string).

Similarities

Below is the primary similarity:

Number of strings 

Both baritone guitars and regular guitars typically have 6 strings. There are also 7 string variations available for each, that adds an additional string that becomes the lowest in pitch.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a baritone guitar, consider your needs as you look over the reviews above. Do you want a baritone that is geared towards the retro sounds of the 1960s, or one equipped for contemporary high-gain tones? Do you want a scale length that is closer to the scale length of a guitar, or are you flexible enough to try out a longer scale length? And finally, does the guitar inspire you and make you excited to play it? 

People Also Ask

Finally, there are a few frequently asked questions regarding baritone guitars, which will be specifically addressed in this section.

How to Tell if a Guitar is a Baritone

Baritone guitars look essentially like any other guitar, but you can be sure they will be advertised and labeled as being “Baritone”. The key difference is not easy to see, but it is easy to hear: Baritone guitars are tuned lower than standard guitars and as such, have a more prominent low end to their timbre and can reach some low notes that you won’t typically hear on a standard electric guitar.

Alvarez Artist Series Baritone Shadowburst Acoustic Electric Guitar

Why Would I Need a Baritone Guitar?

You would need a baritone guitar if you are inspired by the sound and want to incorporate it into your music. Even though it’s a type of guitar, because it’s range sits lower, it is essentially another instrument. You would also need a baritone guitar if you are trying to perform music that uses it in an authentic way.

Can Any Guitar Be a Baritone?

Theoretically, you could try to tune any guitar as low as a baritone guitar, but the sound will not be quite the same. If you do this, you can expect the strings to be relatively floppy and they may not hold their tuning very well at that low pitch. If you like how it sounds, that’s great and you should explore this option! Baritone guitars, however, are designed to not have these issues.

Can Baritone Guitar Replace Bass?

In theory, yes. While they do not sound exactly like bass guitars, there are only a few pitches available on a bass that a regularly tuned baritone guitar will not reach. If this is something you’re thinking about doing, take a look at an interesting instrument called the Fender Bass VI, as well.

How Low Can You Tune a Baritone Guitar?

Theoretically, you can tune it as low as you want, but baritone guitars are typically designed to be tuned either a perfect 4th or a perfect 5th below standard guitar tuning.