Have you ever wanted...
If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, than you are in the right place. The baritone guitar could be the musical key to unlocking your full potential and we've lined up five reasons for you to get your hands on a baritone guitar.
The baritone guitar has been a production-model option for over half a century. Still, a tragically low number guitarists have ever explored this non-standard instrument.
But before we dive into our five reasons to own a baritone, let's first take a look at what makes a baritone guitar unique from a standard guitar.
First things first: what is a baritone guitar?
The baritone guitar has been in mass production since the 1950’s, when Danelectro and other manufactures begin cranking out electric models to meet demand from guitarists playing western music, rockabilly, and early surf sounds. Over the next 50 years, the baritone guitar found its way into every genre of music (if you want to hear examples, check out our essential baritone tracks post).
Today, most baritones will still feature the following specs which distinguish them from standard guitars:
With that lesson on history and distinctive features aside, let's dive into the five reasons you should own and play baritone guitar.
Reason One: Playing baritone is the easiest way to add a distinct instrument to your arsenal without learning a truly new instrument.
Yes, a baritone is still a guitar. Like your standard six string, it has frets and is typically tuned with the same intervals between strings as a standard guitar. However, the baritone has a distinct sound and feel.
This combination of easy learning curve and distinct sound is what makes the baritone so appealing. You can think of it as offering accessible uniqueness - and this uniqueness gets noticed. When I play my baritone for an audience, even non musicians will compliment my instrument’s unique voice and ask “what’s different about your guitar?”
Though a baritone is still a guitar, you will experience a slight learning curve. You will need to strengthen your fret hand to accommodate the larger strings. You will also need to make some nuanced adjustments to your strumming and finger picking.
On the other end of that simple learning curve, however, is a wonderful payoff. In the same way that a multi instrumentalist might ask if a part is better suited for guitar or piano, you will have the delightful option of choosing between your baritone and your standard guitar - a distinct choice that will offer distinct and amazing results.
Reason Two: Playing baritone will breathe new life in your original works (and covers too).
Played on a baritone, that original song you dismissed as being too simple suddenly becomes gripping and soulful. The baritone could also be the ultimate sonic weapon for finding the perfect hook for your band’s latest creation. Regardless of its application, there is something enveloping about the baritone sound. Whether played subtly or in the most hard-hitting of musical genres, you will find that a baritone’s tone connects at a primal and gripping level.
It is also worth noting that the baritone guitar can also be used to breathe new life into your favorite covers. Check out this artful rendition of Comfortably Numb by Thomas Leeb.
Reason Three: The baritone will help you standout as a solo act.
Picture this scene: it's open mic night at a bar in your neighborhood and you have brought in some new material for a test run with the local crowd. You step up to the mic and introduce yourself. For a brief moment you have most of the bar’s fleeting attention. If you are going to have any chance of holding that attention, you need to stand out and you need to do so fast.
Solution: You dive into a soulful number on your baritone in double drop B tuning (which you know how to achieve in three seconds flat because you read part two of my ultimate guide alternative tuning for baritone). The expansive sound of your acoustic baritone and the ringing open notes facilitated by double drop tuning grip the gathered patrons. Your sound is different from that of the last nine guitar-slinging lookalikes. The crowd gets quiet. You hold the room's attention for your 10 minute set.
You crush it.
With a little bit of songwriting skill, it’s easy to stand out with a baritone. As a singer songwriter, I have enjoyed writing and performing with Alvarez ABT60 so much that I have made it my primary guitar.
In addition to providing nearly instant distinctiveness, playing baritone can have the following benefits for solo acts:
Reason Four: Playing baritone will strengthen your chops.
When it comes to expanding and applying your virtuoso guitar skills, playing baritone can be helpful on several fronts. First, playing on 13 to 70 gauge strings can serve as strength training for your fret hand. Just take your favorite shred drill and attempt it on a baritone.
In the same way that soloing on an acoustic takes more fret hand strength than soloing on an electric, soloing on a baritone demands more strength and dexterity. While it can be taxing, incorporating a baritone into your practice routine will pay dividends in your playing.
Second, the baritone guitar provides an amazing opportunity to apply your skills in new and challenging ways. Indeed, may of the baritone's most ardent supporters are masters of the standard six string.
Reason Five: Playing baritone will allow you to rock heavier and harder without the hassle of adapting to a seven string.
So, you want to deliver low-down distorted power chords like an MMA fighter delivering body blows? The quickest and most hassle-free way to transform you rock or metal playing into an extended-range onslaught of tone is by picking up a electric baritone.
Similarly, if have visions of transforming your band’s sound through deep alternative tunings such as dropped B or dropped A tuning, you need a baritone.
While you could pick up a seven string, doing so comes with a definite learning curve and some added hassle as you will be forced to account for the extra string in your playing. Think about it for a moment: What if you want to play an open G chord shape on your seven string? Do you attempt to mute the first (highest) string or do you incorporate it into the chord and, if so, how? While musical riddles such as these are far from impossible to crack, they should figure into your thinking.
For these reasons, may artists opt for a baritone when they want rock harder and lower. Many builders are now designing electric baritones with metal and rock players in mind.
Your next steps toward baritone bliss...
Now that you understand what a baritone is and what playing one can do for you as a musician, take a moment to read our baritone buyer's guide. It is the number one ranked baritone guitar buyer's guide on google for a reason: it unpacks everything you need to know about buying a hard-to-find baritone guitar risk free and also includes tips on adjusting your playing style for baritone and making adjustments to your baritone (AKA, setting up the guitar).
You can also check out our electric baritone and acoustic baritone reviews.
As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated. Your choice to click on any advertising banners or affiliate links is also appreciated (they help baritoneguitar.org stay up and running). Finally, you can also check us out and like us on social media using the links below.