by Lincoln Smith
Eastwood is proud to have manufactured and maintained a wide selection of baritone guitars over the course of our history, so it's about time we did a comprehensive guide! Find out why you should play a baritone guitar, who plays baritone, and much more...
The baritone guitar, though less known than it's cousin the standard guitar (defined by its standard tuning), has been a staple of popular music since the rockabilly and surfing scenes of the 1950s and 60s, and it's been popping up more recently in almost all genres of music as artists push their creative and tonal limits.
Eastwood Guitars has a wide variety of baritone electric guitars that both look amazing and sound fantastic - offering a way to make your unique style stand out. Long gone are the days when baritone guitars were associated only with 60's imitation acts!
WHAT IS A BARITONE GUITAR?
A baritone guitar is a 6-string, long-scale guitar, sporting heavier strings and meant to accommodate a lower range of notes. The standard baritone is typically tuned B to B - a perfect fourth lower than a standard 6-string guitar. Since its invention, the baritone has allowed guitar players to explore a whole new sonic range with familiar chord and scale shapes. Today, you'll find the baritone electric guitar put to use pushing the boundaries of expression in funk, metal, pop, and a huge range of other genres and styles.
Picture: Sidejack Baritone DLX
WHY PLAY A BARITONE GUITAR?
If you're an electric guitar player with years of experience, you'll be all too familiar with creative slumps. If you're caught in a cycle of playing the same riffs, getting the same sounds, and wanting more; a baritone electric guitar can be the perfect tool to help your music brain think along newly inspired lines, regardless of your preferred genres or styles of play.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BARITONE GUITAR
The baritone guitar was initially a German acoustic guitar innovation over 100 years ago. When adapted for the early electric guitar market of the 1950s and 60s by manufacturers such as Fender and Danelectro, the instrument found its first popular footing in the hands of rockabilly forefather Duane Eddy. From that point, the scene expanded into 60s surf rock, the popular sounds of Glen Campbell and other country music contemporaries, and perhaps even more iconically, the spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone.
Picture: An Early '60s Guyatone Baritone Guitar
While this was a defining era for the instrument, the 6-string baritone electric guitar found new life in the 90s, with an emerging hard rock scene and a particularly bright spotlight in the theme to popular television series Twin Peaks.
Today, you'll find baritone guitars in use throughout nearly all genres - from the blistering funk of Vulfpeck side-project The Fearless Flyers to the metal stylings of Metallica and Cannibal Corpse. Today, Eastwood has a wide-ranging palette of baritone electric guitar options with a broad range of styles and design features for a guitarist of any skill level to explore.
WHO PLAYS BARITONE GUITARS?
In the past 20 years, there has been a marked increase in baritone electric guitar use and interest. The baritone guitar is often used by musicians of all stylistic backgrounds looking to replace or augment sounds produced by more conventional instruments or simply to add a new sound that is both familiar and strikingly fresh.
In the early days of the electric baritone guitar, Nashville names like Duane Eddy, and Glen Campbell put the instrument on the map in a big way along with the even lower-tuned Fender Bass VI. Furthering the signature sound of 1960s popular music, the Beach Boys founder and revered songwriter/producer Brian Wilson often used a baritone to arrange and write songs, finding a range of notes and tones that were otherwise unavailable to guitarists.
More recently, baritone guitars have been found in the hands of metal aficionados James Hetfield of Metallica, Brian ‘Head' Welch of Korn, John Petrucci of Dream Theater, Pat O'Brian of Cannibal Corpse, and countless others. On another side of the rock spectrum, Eddie Van Halen, Dave Matthews, and Robert Smith have used the baritone frequently for recording.
Jazz giant Pat Metheny used a baritone guitar to record his 2003 solo album One Quiet Night and his 2011 solo album What's It All About. The recordings of Ani DiFranco are another great example of the baritone guitar's contributions to both jazz and sounds that bend and defy the constraints of genre.
In 2019, Snarky Puppy's Mark Lettieri released a baritone-centric solo album, Deep: The Baritone Sessions. Since then, he has since played both standard guitar and baritone guitar in Vulfpeck side-project The Fearless Flyers, and brought a new wave of popularity to the instrument among funk players.
Countless musicians look to Eastwood when considering baritone electric guitar options. Pat Smear of the Foo Fighters, Ian Mackaye from Minor Threat, and Albert Bouchard of the Blue Oyster Cult are all known to frequently use the Eastwood Sidejack Baritone on stage.
Picture: Albert Bouchard and his Sidejack Baritone DLX
WHERE CAN I BUY A BARITONE GUITAR?
Thanks to our wide range of models, Eastwood Guitars is the leading manufacturer of baritones in the market today. By the Summer of 2023, our Baritone offerings have grown into 20+ models, some available in dozens of colours and configurations. All of our offerings are available at an affordable price, ranging from $600 to $1500USD, shipped straight to your door. We have Baritones for most of our brands - Rivolta, Classic, Sidejack, Airline, Jeff Senn, MRG Studio and more.
Last year we released a 20th Anniversary Sidejack Baritone LTD model and it quickly became that top selling model. Just when we thought everyone had a Baritone guitar, a new flood of people jumped on board!
In fact, one customer - Steve Robbins from Palm Beach Florida - talked us into doing a custom version. He wanted a single pickup workhorse baritone. He sent us a Rio Grande BBQ Humbucker pickup for the bridge, then we redesigned the pickguard to remove the neck pickup and switch. Just master Volume and Tone.
Steve and I both agree, it turned out AWESOME!
Steve's band The $hareholders play The Double Roads Tavern in Jupiter, FL 2nd Friday of every month, and at Ralph's Stand Up Bar also in Jupiter, 2nd Saturday of every month. So go check out his "Steve Robbins Signature Baritone Guitar" and say hello!
ANOTHER NEW SIDEJACK RELEASE - This week we released a new series of Sidejack Standard guitars (standard tuning) that go well with your new Baritone. This one was inspired by the Baritone model we did with Steve:
All of our guitars incorporate modern manufacturing and design techniques to deliver matchless electric instruments, built to last, and ready for the studio and stage.
What are you waiting for? Time to hop on board with deep tones and clean sounds, and join the baritone revolution!