The baritone guitar
Limited information about Baritone Guitars on the World Wide Web means this page is one of hago.org.uk's most visited. Welcome!
The Baritone is tuned lower than the guitar, but with the same relative tuning. Music is read as if it were tuned normally - read more in our transposition FAQ.
The baritone is usually steel strung (principally electric, but sometimes acoustic). That's not to say that there aren't proponents of the rarer classical baritone guitar.
The baritone isn't part of the Niibori set up - it's almost always lower in pitch than the Niibori Bass and Baritones aren't allowed to do that !
- The few baritones around today are custom built, and generally tuned A D G C E A five notes below the classical. This fits the baritone naturally in with the soprano, treble and contra guitars.
There are a number of baritone guitars on sale, but the market is small and the prices high.
There's no general concensus on how a steel-strung baritone should be tuned...
- On the low end, the tuning can be A D G C E A five notes below the guitar, the same as the quint bass.
- Most afficionados of the baritone tune it to B E A D F# B, the same as the quart bass and the Niibori bass.
- Other tunings exist too, notably C# F# B E G# C# (a tone and a half below standard), which can also be achieved on a standard-scale guitar with heavier gauge strings. This tuning condemns the baritone player to play in 3 more flats, or 3 less sharps than the other guitars in the ensemble, something which sends shivers down the spine of most novice and intermediate players!
Although different pitches can be achieved on an ordinary guitar simply by changing the gauge and/or tension of the string, the lower tunings really require a longer scale length so that the string is not too slack or too thick.
There's more on our String FAQ page
Commercially available baritone guitars tend to have a scale length between 680 and 760mm.
For a 700mm scale, the top string of a baritone is approximately the same gauge as the second string of a normal guitar with the same string type (ie nylon, acoustic or electric).