Baritone guitars have seen something of a renaissance over the past few years thanks to guitarists seeking out lower and lower guitar tunings – without having to resort to an extended range guitar like a 7, 8, or 9 string. The best baritone guitars offer the instant familiarity and playability of your traditional six-string, whilst allowing you to drop tune without compromising on intonation and string action.
Tuning lower than C on a regular scale guitar typically involves some serious setup work to get it playing correctly, and even then you may still run into issues with intonation and the dreaded ‘floppy’ string. Enter the baritone guitar, which utilizes a longer scale length to maintain tension at lower tunings. Typically tuned BEADF#B, you can take a baritone much lower if you want, or higher if you prefer, all the while keeping the familiarity of open chord shapes and scales that you learned on your regular guitar.
If you’re just getting into baritone guitars, make sure you take a look at our buying advice section so you know what you’re letting yourself in for before you make the plunge. If you’re just here to see the best baritone guitar available today, then keep scrolling…
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 fantastic guitar for the money.
If you’re not into metal but still want that low-end clout of a baritone, you’ll want to have a look at the Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone, a retro-cool axe with bags of attitude. The G5260 will reward you with vintage class and contemporary playability, making it an easy addition to our best baritone guitar bonanza.
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 Chapman ML1 Modern Baritone is a fantastic value riff machine, and arguably the easiest entryway for modern metal guitarists to get into the baritone sphere. It’s incredible value for money considering the spec, delivering everything the modern player needs.
Equipped with dual humbuckers and a coil tap switch, it’s perfect for crushingly heavy riffs, whilst still allowing for a lovely tone during clean-picked passages. The pickups are definitely voiced for modern, heavy music, there’s not much Duane Eddy or Brian Wilson action here.
The generous 28-inch scale length makes it perfect for dropping down to A or G, and we’ve had ours as low as E - one whole octave below a regular guitar tuning! Thanks to that scale length the strings never feel floppy, although you’ll need a chunky 13-72 set for it. For a modern player on a budget, you can’t get much better than this.
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 ABT60E 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 flat pickers. 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 ABT60E 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.
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.
The ESP LTD EC-1000 is one of the most popular metal guitars of all time, and this baritone version continues that trend, offering extra low tunings with the stability you need in heavy music.
You get a mix of Fishman Fluence pickups, with a ceramic one in the bridge position to deliver clarity and bite. In the neck position, it’s an Alnico pickup for a warmer and more personable tone, great for lead work and clean sounds.
The scale length isn’t the longest here, but we found it’s more than capable of dealing with lower tunings. The Macassar ebony fretboard feels wonderful, and extra jumbo frets ensure that string buzz is never an issue.
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
Which baritone guitar should I buy?
In the modern era of guitar, it seems like there are two main types of baritone guitar players. Heavy-inclined guitarists who want crushing tones without resorting to using an extended range guitar, and vintage tone lovers who are looking for that ‘Spaghetti Western’ or surf sound. We should note that there are also baritone acoustic guitar players too, and many duos utilize the different voices of a baritone and a regularly tuned acoustic to create an interesting timbre.
When choosing a baritone guitar, you should consider what it is you want to do with it. If it’s an experimental tool that’s used to add color to compositions or a new voice to your ensemble playing, then look for something with vintage spec pickups. On the other hand, if you’re after the heaviest tones imaginable, there’s a great selection of modern baritones with humbucking pickups that will let you down-tune whilst still retaining the articulation and string tension needed.
What is the best length for a baritone guitar?
Scale length is an important factor in all guitars, affecting the playability and determining just how low you can go with tuning. Most baritone guitars sit somewhere between a 27-inch and 30-inch scale length. Of course, the larger the scale length, the more spaced out the frets are, which also affects the playability of the instrument, particularly important to note if you’ve got small hands.
If you’re looking to drop-tune your instrument to the regions of G or F#, then a longer scale length means you won’t have to put such heavy gauge strings on, as it will retain a better string tension. If you’re more of the vintage baritone player, then a shorter scale length might suit you better, allowing for lighter strings whilst still unlocking that booming baritone voice.
Are baritone guitars harder to play?
When we got our first baritone guitar, we almost sent it back such was the shock at how different it felt initially. The frets were further apart than we were used to, making chords that were a breeze to us on the regular guitar a lot more difficult to play. Our hands got tired during fast playing as they were having to work harder and certain stretches were suddenly nigh on impossible.
So yes, baritone guitars are harder to play. But don’t let that stop you from getting one. Once we got over the initial adjustment period we found that playing a baritone has made us a better guitarist overall. Once you’ve played a baritone for a while, going back to a regular-sized guitar makes it feel like a toy! Your hands will be flying across the fretboard and you’ll wonder how you ever thought that regular six-string was difficult to play.
How are baritone guitars tuned?
A baritone guitar typically comes a perfect fourth lower than a regular guitar, which is B E A D F# B. However there’s nothing to stop you from going down to a perfect fifth, i.e. A D G C E A, or even going up to the major third which is C F Bb Eb G C - as famously used by Queens of the Stone Age.
Can baritone guitars be tuned to standard?
Yes, you can, but you’ll need some serious setup work and a light set of strings to make it work. If you’re not familiar with guitar setups, then we’d highly recommend taking it to a proper guitar tech or luthier to have your instrument set up if you’re going this route. The Buckethead Les Paul famously featured a 27-inch scale length but was tuned to standard, improving the intonation of chords and offering a unique timbre compared to the regular 24.75” scale LP.
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At Guitar World, our team of seasoned musicians has extensive experience playing and testing various guitar products, including many baritone guitars. As passionate guitar enthusiasts, we understand the importance of achieving the right sound and tone, and we draw on our knowledge gained from using these products in live performances, studio recordings, and rehearsals to identify the best products for our guides.
To create our list of top baritone guitars, we use a combination of practical experience, user reviews, and in-depth discussions with our editorial team to reach a consensus. We evaluate factors such as pricing, features, ease of use, and durability to ensure that we showcase the best baritone guitars currently available.
As guitar players ourselves, we appreciate the value of having the right equipment to deliver a memorable performance. Thus, we are committed to providing reliable and knowledgeable recommendations to help guitar players find the perfect product to suit their specific needs and preferences. Our ultimate aim is to help empower guitar players to unlock their full potential with the best gear on the market.
Find out more about how we make our recommendations and how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides.