Thanks to their longer scale, the best baritone guitars can easily reach those low tunings you’ve been longing to explore. While you might occasionally get away with tuning a regular-scale guitar down to pitch, you can encounter all manner of setup issues there. Baritone guitars, on the other hand, are simply begging to be played in a lower register and will do so with ease.
If you attempt this malarky on a regular guitar, intonation can be a little shonky, and string gauge and playability can be prime issues. Not so with the best baritone guitars. Typically, they’ll ship tuned down to B-E-A-D-F#-B, a 4th lower than standard tuning, but you can tune them lower or higher still if you like.
You’ll find many of the best electric guitar brands, as well as some familiar acoustic guitar faces, popping up behind these down-tuned beauties. We’re talking six string masters such as Gretsch, PRS, Squier and ESP, which arguably makes the best baritone guitar for metal. Lowriders, let’s take a closer look below.
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Best baritone guitars: Guitar World’s choice
When it comes to picking the best baritone guitar overall, to us nothing really beats the stunning PRS SE 277, a guitar that amply covers all the bases as a standout baritone electric. The PRS 85/15 “S" humbuckers can shoulder the heaviest tones yet clean up nicely, with a coil-tap for single-coil twang once you tire of splitting the atom with high-gain madness. A fine guitar for the money.
A close second for us is the Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone, a retro cool axe with bags of attitude. Whether you choose the hard-tail or the licensed Bigsby-equipped model, the G5260 will reward you with vintage class and contemporary playability, making it an easy addition to our best baritone guitars bonanza. Gretsch’s Electromatic range presents tremendous value, and this one is no different. For everything but modern metal, the G5260 has your low end covered.
Best baritone guitars: Product guide
The PRS SE 277 is the perfect example of a baritone electric that can be used for metal, picking up where the Mike Mushok SE model left off. That said, it’s similarly at home in more relaxed settings, with your slippers on and the gain dialed back, picking through jazz chords or simply giving new range to your compositions.
This electric baritone guitar is very much what you make it. Tuned to B, with its 27.7” scale (hence the name), the PRS SE 277 will lean its slab mahogany and maple veneer shoulder into bruising riff-work you need it to.
That push/pull coil-split also enables you to open up the quite excellent PRS 85/15 S humbuckers to a wider world of musical potential. Yes, spaghetti western or old-time rock ’n’ roll twang is available as a side-order to down-tuned chug.
After considering the impeccable build and finish, its perfect balance, classy aesthetic and reasonable price, the PRS SE 277 makes a very convincing argument for being the best baritone guitar on the market.
Playing a Gretsch always offers welcome respite from modern life and the G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone Guitar is no different. It has the classic Jet silhouette, the G-Arrow chrome controls, the choice between V stop-tail or licensed Bigsby vibrato. And yet, this is Gretsch for playing gigs in the uncanny valley, for there is just so much guitar.
For some, the nigh-on 30” scale length and slab mahogany build makes the Gretsch G5260 is a considerable lump of wood to wrap your arms around, but that neck profile is very comfortable. Once you adjust to all that extra fretboard runway (really, it’s like a short-scale bass), the G5260 is a really fun ride.
Play it through a small Fender tube combo, generously sauce with spring reverb and you’ll be riding the waves of deep surf tone in no time. Dial in slapback and it’ll yield a sonorous rock ’n’ roll voice that’s so darn mean your only concern is that an authority figure will step in and confiscate it. Without question the best baritone guitar for surf rockers.
The Reverend Descent HC90 is a very cool contemporary take on a vintage Fender design that never existed in the first place. With its Jetsons-esque offset body shape, it has a rock ’n’ roll kitsch vibe, and yet the hardware – Wilkinson vibrato, pin-locking tuners – the Railhammer Humcutter pickup pairing and clever electronics makes it a deadly serious option.
The pickups on the Reverend Descent HC90 Electric Baritone Guitar are wired with your usual volume and tone knobs, with a bass contour control for dialing in your low end. You will be able to tease all kinds of tones out of the Descent, and for a baritone it is very approachable.
The scale is just over an inch of regular Fender length, and the roasted maple neck is carved into a welcoming oval C-profile neck neither too fat nor too thin. There’s some classic bolt-on snap to the tone, but with plenty of meat on the bones.
Choose this Stef Carpenter 7-string because your riffs are metal – or metal-adjacent – and you want to encamp them right there in the bass guitar’s register for maximum devastation. Unquestionably, that is achievable with the ESP LTD Stef Carpenter SC-607.
The Deftones’ guitarist’s long-standing collaboration with ESP has given us some of the finest state-of-the-art guitars for low-end riffing, but the SC-607 might just take the biscuit. It has the old-school 1980s silhouette, with the seven-in-line headstock and the heavily contoured double-cutaway body, and with a thin U-profile neck that balances blazing speed and night-long comfort.
The electronics are 21st-century tech, with push/pull active passive modes. These enable you to alternate between Modern Active for those occasions when you want to leave a crater in the earth when playing, and Modern Passive for a more traditional humbucker response, perfect for when you want to clean things up.
The ESP LTD Stef Carpenter SC-607’s build quality is excellent, the spec so well-thought out. And even though this is a signature guitar, there are no OTT graphics or flourishes to dissuade those looking to make this one their own. If you want to melt faces with colossal-sounding riffs, this is the best baritone guitar for you.
The Telecaster has always been a fine choice for the six-string rebel, but this budget Squier Paranormal Series Cabronita, with its 27” baritone scale, dressed in black with over-sized soapbar single-coil pickups, really takes it to the next level.
Its appeal lies in taking the simplicity and enduring appeal of the Telecaster design – rarely matched, never beaten – and offers a clever variation on a theme. And while the Cabronita baritone guitar looks achingly cool, everything here is designed with sheer practicality in mind.
Check out the string-through-body bridge design with its individually adjustable saddles so that you can fine-tune the intonation. The pickups are Fender designs and do an excellent job of articulating that low end without losing detail and mushing out.
You could use this for downtuned punk and grunge, but through a clean amp with a little spring reverb and slapback echo, you’ll find this is the best baritone guitar if you want a rock ’n’ roll machine with a nigh-on oceanic depth to its voice.
There’s a lot to like about Alvarez, most notably the company’s ability to assemble stage-ready, high-quality strummers that sit comfortably in the mid-priced bracket. This electro-acoustic baritone guitar is no exception, but it is quite different from the typical Alvarez electro-acoustic.
On the Alvarez ABT60ESHB Artist Series we have an extended scale, measuring a hair over 27” and with a nut width of 1.75” positioning it in the comfort zone for fingerstyle players without alienating any flatpickers. With a lower bout measuring over 17” at its widest, the proportions might dwarf some players, but this helps project the extra bass from being tuned down to B.
The Alvarez ABT60ESHB really fills out a mix, making a wonderful counterpoint to an acoustic in standard E A D G B E tuning, and we would imagine doubly so with a 12-string where there would be so much harmonic potential. The LR Baggs StagePro Element is an excellent feature at this price, with a 3-band EQ, notch and phase control making it a cinch to dial in a live mix.
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A semi-hollow ES-style baritone guitar? Why not. The Viking Baritone would make for an excellent head-to-head with the Gretsch G5260. Both are notable for how well they endow a larger-format guitar with all their traditional brand flourishes.
Blindfolded, you could grab the Viking Baritone Guitar by the neck and instantly recognize that slimline Hagström profile, with the Resonator fingerboard persuasively ebony-esque and pleasant to the touch. The inside is semi-hollow but metaphorically it’s solid. It has the long-travel tune-o-matic bridge and stop-tail and 18:1 die-cast tuners keeping the tuning honest, with the H-Expander truss-rod making the Hagstrom neck good and sturdy.
Best of all is the pickup combo, with a humbucker-sized P-Urified P-90 offering warmth with a vinegar-sharp aftertaste of twang, and the bridge position’s Custom 58C, a semi-open coiled humbucker with a vintage-voiced Alnico V magnet. It gives you some of that classic 70s Hagström jazz vibe, plus a clean tone to die for.
So here is where the baritone guitar plays to type, with the Iron Label baritone purpose built for the speed-freak shredder, the djent-curious, and the metal player whose regular guitar just isn’t coming through with anywhere near enough chug.
Much of the Ibanez RGIB21 Iron Label Baritone’s DNA dates back to the 1980s, when the RG series blossomed alongside rivals from Jackson and Charvel as the state-of-the-art S-style of the decade. That body shape, with the sharp-pointed horns, the headstock… It’s a dead giveaway. Elsewhere we have a slim-profile maple and purpleheart (aka amaranth) neck, affixed to the body with four bolts on a tastefully sculpted heel.
But the RGIB21 is quite a different instrument; it’s larger, for a start, with a more than generous 28” scale to accommodate the lowest tunings. The EMG 60/81 active humbucker pairing might be a little less exotic in the era of Fluence Modern pickups and Bare Knuckle’s boutique winds but it is an industry standard for a reason, at home with molten levels of saturated gain. Little details such as the luminescent side dot fret markers are a nice touch – a rare moment of light on a guitar with a dark heart.
And now for something completely different. Maybe this speaks to the early radicalism of guitar design, but it feels significant that the most out-there design on the list dates back to Semie Mosely and his Mosrite designs. A back-to-front doublecut offset with a dual-lipstick humbucker in the bridge position and an over-sized single-coil at the neck, the Danelectro 66BT has pawnshop chic by the ton.
Look past the eccentricity and you have one of the best baritone guitars for a range of styles – it should stop any indie, alternative or punk players in their tracks. This is yet another baritone that performs a neat trick in having a scale length of just under 30”, but with its C-profile neck and alchemic balance from the reversed body shape it feels manageable and, above all, fun.
The Danelectro 66BT is also a real tone machine. It has a coil-tap for single-coil twang at the bridge, with a respectable degree of power when in full humbucker mode, while the neck pickup has got a distinctly P-90 character, open and dynamic, and a fine complement to the semi-hollow build.
Best baritone guitars: Buying advice
While it remains a niche instrument, the best baritone guitars market offers plenty of choice no matter what style you’re looking to play – they’ve even found favor among metal-heads looking to add some tonnage to their riffs.
The electric baritone guitar was a pop-culture staple way back in the late 1950s and 1960s when rock ’n’ roll and surf rock players used them to put a more rounded thump on their twang. Baritone acoustics, on the other hand, have been around forever.
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For an early example of the baritone electric, check out Duane Eddy’s performance of Henry Mancini’s theme for the Peter Gunn TV show. It’s a mean rock ’n’ roll riff no matter what key it’s played in, but on Eddy’s 1959 chart-topper the baritone guitar lent it a sense of danger that standard tuning just can’t provide. Vinnie Bell’s guitar playing on the Twin Peaks theme is another iconic example of the kind of tone you can achieve with a baritone guitar without stomping on a distortion pedal.
When choosing from among the best baritone guitars, think about what you are going to use your baritone for and how much of your budget you want to dedicate to it. There are options at all price points, so there’s something for everyone. While we’ve resisted the urge to fill our list with electric baritone guitars voiced for high-gain playing, we should note that this is where the action is with regards to baritone development. ESP/LTD in particular is leading the charge here. Indeed, it was inevitable that one of its Stef Carpenter Signature Series sluggers made our best baritone guitars guide.