Guitar players employ various methods to coax darker tones from their instruments, like using heavy-gauge strings and tuning down a half step or more. Seven-string guitars provide yet another alternative, but their wide necks can be difficult to play. Besides, neither option provides players with an instrument that bridges the tonal gap between a standard guitar and a bass.
For these reasons, I'm surprised to see that it's taken so long for baritone guitars to gain a following. As it happens, more players are finally starting to realize the powerful tonal potential of these monster instruments and requesting baritone versions of their favorite guitars. Since Fernandes Guitars is known as an innovative company that listens to players' needs, it's only fitting that the company has introduced a baritone rocker. Built on the hot-selling Ravelle platform, the extremely limited (64 pieces) Ravelle Baritone delivers block-crushing power and a playing experience like no other guitar.
Fans of Velvet Revolver's Dave Kushner will recognize the Ravelle's wild sweeping body shape, which is proportionally larger to meet the baritone's size requirements. Fernandes is selecting only the finest 5A Canadian quilted maple for these guitars' tops, and the Wine Red finish on my test guitar beautifully highlighted the rippled curls of this stunning maple cap. I also liked the semitransparent dark sienna stain on the mahogany neck and body, which is a nice alternative to covering fine wood with black paint.
The Ravelle Limited Baritone uses heavy-gauge strings- .013 through .056. For maximum stability and support, the long, 27-inch-scale neck is set into the solid body. The bound rosewood fingerboard has 22 jumbo frets and real green abalone inlays that add a lot of flash to this already eye-catching guitar. The Gotoh hardware consists of a Tune- O-Matic bridge and a set of MH-24 tuners.
To electrify the Ravelle's beefy tones, Fernandes chose a special pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers. The Custom V in the bridge slot can drive an amp hard, while delivering all of the big strings' dynamics. A classic Duncan '59 in the neck position ensures buttery tones. Controls are standard, with one volume, one tone and a three-way switch.
From the moment I opened the Ravelle's case, I was dying to find out what kind of crunch tones I could create with this guitar. Plugging into my modified Marshall JCM800 half stack and hitting one chord answered that question. The Ravelle Baritone rang with thunderous authority and produced a menacing voice. After playing the guitar for only a few minutes, I could clearly see its potential as an earth-shaking rhythm weapon. Still, I wouldn't limit this guitar to rhythm duties: its focused and edgy delivery allowed me to also run through some very snappy riffs. Fingerpicked, the Ravelle produced clean tones that sounded inspiring through my Fender Vibro-King. Each note sounded with the same bold and round qualities that I generally associate with a dreadnought-sized acoustic guitar.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you're looking for an instrument with the power of a bass and the finesse of a guitar, a baritone may be for you. The Fernandes Ravelle Limited Baritone is visually striking, thanks to a 5A quilted Canadian maple top. More important, it sounds great, courtesy of slamming Duncan pickups that turn this big dog's hefty frequencies into searing distorted tones.
Fernandes marketing director Andres Jaramillo gives the lowdown on the Ravelle Limited Baritone.
Why is it appropriate for Fernandes to build a rocker's baritone at this time? Contemporary musicians, especially heavy rockers, are increasingly using tunings that are much lower than standard. But standard guitars have big limitations in terms of intonation and string tension, especially when tuning down one step or lower.
Is there anything special about the Ravelle's design that lends it to a baritone scale? The Ravelle is currently our most popular guitar. Its contour, solid set-neck construction and mahogany body turn out to be the ingredients for an excellent baritone. The transformation process was pretty simple: we just had to enlarge the body and scale of our Ravelle design accordingly to the desired specs.
Are there any other Fernandes baritones on the horizon? We plan to have a deluxe model of the Ravelle Baritone available, hopefully this year. It will feature a pair of EMG 81 pickups and be offered only in black.