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The Best Baritone Guitar | 7 Of Our Favorites For Down Tuning

If you are in the market for a baritone guitar then you are likely looking to lay down some heavy tracks. However, that’s not all these guitars can do. They are awesome for all styles of music.

You must consider the hardware in your guitar if you don’t want to play metal with your baritone. A lot of these guitars come loaded with hot pickups like EMGs. These are great for distortion but not exactly amazing for clean jazz.

We have compiled a list of the top baritone guitars to allow you to find one that suits your needs. No matter your budget or stylistic preferences.

We are focusing on 6 string guitars for this article. Follow these links to our favorite 7 string and 8 string guitars.

Let’s get to it!

A Quick Look At The Best Baritone Guitars
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The Best Baritone Guitars

The Best Value Baritone Guitar

Chapman ML1 Modern Baritone Electric Guitar

Chapman ML1 - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Alder
  • Neck: Maple Satin Finish Bolt-on
  • Fingerboard: Macassar ebony with rolled edges
  • Pickups: Chapman active humbuckers 
  • Scale: 28”
  • Tuners: Chapman Locking (18:1 Gearing)
Pros
  • Excellent features for the price
  • Premium finishes
  • Versatile sound
Cons
  • No obvious flaws

The original run of these guitars were extremely hot property and hard to get a hold of. They have since made a second run of them with a few little tweaks to their construction. The newer versions have some of the most beautiful and colorful finishes you can find on guitars.

You may have to pre-order one of these as they often sell out shortly after they become available. They are worth the wait though as you get a lot of bang for your buck with these guitars. They’re only a little more expensive than our budget pick. Yet, they come with many premium features. These kinds of features are usually reserved for much more expensive guitars.

One standout inclusion on these guitars is the "3-way blade pickup switch with coil-split push-pull tone knobs" (Try saying that 10 times fast).

This means that the pickups on the guitar can switch between humbucking and single coil. Being able to switch between the two pickup types allows for a huge range of tones. All available with the pull of a tone pot. You will be able to conquer anything from chuggy metal to twangy country music.

A second premium feature of this guitar is the locking tuners. These tuners help to prevent the guitar from coming out of tune. They are Chapman branded tuners. They may not have the prestige of a brand like Grover tuners but they are plenty capable of performing their job.

I feel that the finishes available on these guitars are stunning. I know that not everyone will agree but I'm sure in terms of appearance you can make your own choice. It would be hard to find other guitars in this price range that have such intricate paintwork though.

There are plenty of carves and contours in the body of this guitar. This makes it very comfortable to play whether you are sitting or standing. The C shape neck and ebony fretboard also make for great playability.

The Best Baritone Guitar For Low Gain Applications

Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone Electric Guitar

Gretch g5260 - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Neck: Maple, Thin "U"
  • Fingerboard: Laurel
  • Pickups: Gretsch Mini Humbucking
  • Scale: 29 3/4"
  • Tuners: Die-cast Gretsch
Pros
  • Nice clean tone
  • Looks cool
  • Well priced
Cons
  • Not great for heavy genres

Gretsch guitars are well known for their hollow body guitars. This guitar takes a little of the styling from those guitars into a solid body baritone guitar.

If you are a fan of Gretsch guitars, you will love it's anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge. It looks great and helps to keep the guitar in tune. On the other hand, it is not great for expressive guitar tricks often used in heavy music. So it is not perfect for dive bombs or fast tremolo picking.

The pickups in this guitar are Gretsch Minis. They perform well for producing the thundering lows you would expect of a baritone guitar. The clean tones these pickups produce are incredibly clear and precise. This makes the G5260 great for playing jazz or jangly rock music. They don’t perform as well for high gain though so if you’re looking for a guitar to shred on this probably isn’t the one for you.

This guitar does still sound pretty good for hard rock or light distortion if that is what you're going for.

The Best Premium Baritone Guitar

Ernie Ball Music Man Axis Baritone BFR

Ernie Ball Axis Baritone - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Maple top, basswood body
  • Neck: Maple
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Pickups: Ernie Ball Music Man custom humbuckers
  • Scale: 27.5"
  • Tuners: Schaller M6LA with pearl buttons
Pros
  • Excellent tone and playability
  • Premium finish
  • Versatile pickups
Cons
  • Very expensive

Have you got a massive budget? Do you love Ernie Ball Guitars? Do you like shiny things? This is the guitar for you.

Music man guitars are costly and this baritone guitar is no different. To set you back over $3000 it would want to be an awesome guitar. You don’t need to spend this kind of money to get a good baritone guitar but this guitar does justify its price tag.

This guitars construction compliments drop C tuning. This is one of the most common tunings for metalcore, hardcore, post-punk, and many other heavy sub-genres. The sound from this guitar is perfect for those genres. So is the flashy finish on this guitar.

This guitar has an ebony fretboard on top of its bolt-on neck. It has 24 frets that are fitted with cream neck binding for a flawless finish and super fast fretboard.

The wood used to build the body of this guitar is basswood. This wood provides a warm midrange that is also hyper present. If you boost the mids on your amp this guitar should compliment that tonal range perfectly.

It also features a maple top. This helps to create a crisp brightness, especially in the higher range of frequencies this guitar is capable of reaching. This also creates a good foundation for super long sustain.

The Best Budget Baritone Guitar

ESP LTD Viper 201B Electric Baritone Guitar

LTD Viper 201B - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Neck: Maple 3pc set-thru thin-u
  • Fingerboard: Roasted jatoba
  • Pickups: ESP designed Humbuckers
  • Scale: 27"
  • Tuners: LTD branded
Pros
  • Cheap
  • Looks great
  • Decent sound for the price
Cons
  • Worse than other more expensive guitars in the Viper range from LTD such as the 400B

LTD guitars are the lower price range guitars built by ESP. They maintain the high level of construction and playability of the $1000+ ESP guitars. The primary difference is they have cost-effective pickups and other hardware.

The Viper series from ESP comes in many different variations. These come with a huge range of costs and inclusions. The 201B is the cheapest baritone model in this series. It doesn’t measure up to the most expensive ESP E-II Viper but you still get a lot of guitar for the price.

It is an off-center SG style guitar. It is only available in one color so if you like this guitar we hope you like black too. The inlays on this guitar look premium which is a nice inclusion for a low-cost guitar.

The body is solid mahogany which gives a warm tone. The neck construction is maple with a jatoba fretboard. The fretboard looks good and plays well but lacks the tone of either rosewood or maple. It lies somewhere between the two.

This guitar comes loaded with ESP designed passive pickups. These are for hi-gain applications but are also capable of decent clean tones. However, if you like the look of this guitar but would like better pickups then you could spend a little extra to get the 400B. This comes with EMG 85/81 pickups - metal standards for guitars. It also has an upgraded Pau Ferro fingerboard.

The Best Signature Model Baritone Guitars

ESP LTD Ben Burnley BB600 Baritone Electric Guitar

LTD BB600 - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Mahogany with quilted maple top
  • Neck: Maple 3pc
  • Fingerboard: Ebony
  • Pickups: Seymour Duncan 
  • Scale: 27"
  • Tuners: Grover
Pros
  • 3 pickups
  • Premium finish
  • Versatile
Cons
  • A little expensive if you aren't going to use all of its premium features

This baritone guitar is the signature model of Ben Burnley. Burnley is the founding member of the alt-rock group Breaking Benjamin. If you are familiar with their work you will know that the range of tones they use is quite versatile. That means this signature guitar is also versatile.

The BB600 comes equipped with a set of high-quality Seymour Duncan magnetic pickups.

One of them is the JB model which is a classic hot-rodded Duncan pickup. This pickup has been an industry standard for heavy tones for over 30 years.

The neck pickup is a ‘59 pickup which provides smooth and crystal clear tones.

Having both of these loaded into the guitar gives you a particularly adaptable ax.

The pickup versatility doesn’t stop with the Seymour Duncan pickups though. There is also a Graph Tech Ghost-Loaded Resomax NV bridge. This bridge has an integrated piezo pickup in it. Not only does this provide more versatility on its own, but it also has its own output.

You can have your magnetic pickups plugged into one amp and have the piezo pickup running through a second one. This gives you amazing control over your tone. It also makes it easy to switch between completely different sounds instantly.

It comes with a 3 piece set through U-shaped neck. The body is mahogany with a quilted maple top. This wood combination helps this guitar create its resourceful tonal range.

As you can tell by the picture this guitar also looks beautiful with a see-through black sunburst finish. The red inlays and hardware cases are also a nice touch.

Chapman ML3 Rabea Massaad Baritone Electric Guitar

Chapman ML3 - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Alder with flame maple top
  • Neck: Roasted maple
  • Fingerboard: Ebony Fretboard with Rolled Edges
  • Pickups: Chapman Henchman
  • Scale: 28"
  • Tuners: Chapman Locking (18:1 Gearing)
Pros
  • Stylish AF
  • Versatile tones
Cons
  • Not a huge upgrade from the ML1

I actually hadn't heard of Rabea Massaad until I began research for this article. He plays instrumental tracks that are somewhere between prog metal and djent. I was impressed with his music so I am grateful for finding this guitar. If you have not listened before, have a quick listen on your favorite streaming service or the video above. You will be able to hear what these guitars are capable of.

These guitars are similar to the ML1 guitars that we reviewed as our top value pick. However, these guitars are a telecaster shape and have a few upgrades. So they are a slight improvement to the already fantastic ML1.

These guitars have similar pickups to the Chapman ML1. They have the same three-way blade switch and a push-pull tone knob. These features allow you to switch between single-coil and humbucker pickup functions.

The ML3  has even better pickups than the ML1 though. These are the Chapman Henchman series. They are even more versatile in their sound between the bridge and neck pickup. The bridge pickup has a hotter output for those thunderous chugs. The neck pickup is a versatile sounding single coil. The combination of these two pickups makes it perfect to cover all the 'djenty' tonal qualities.

There are locking tuners for outstanding tuning stability. You won't have to tune this guitar often on stage. If you do, it won't have moved far.

These guitars also have a C shaped neck topped with an ebony fretboard with rolled edges. This makes for an incredibly fast and comfortable playing guitar.

If you have a little extra cash to spend and like the look of the ML3 it is worth considering this guitar over the ML1. They are a little more well equipped and look just as good.

Other Baritone Guitars Worthy Of Your Consideration

PRS Paul Reed Smith SE 277 Baritone

PRS SE 277 - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Mahogany with maple top
  • Neck: Maple
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Pickups: 85/15 "S"
  • Scale: 27.7"
  • Tuners: PRS-Designed
Pros
  • Classic PRS styling
  • Nice pickups
  • Fairly priced
Cons
  • Lots of competition at this price point

The SE shape is the most famous guitar shape produced by PRS. It is less common to see it copied like Les Paul or Stratocasters so you can instantly tell this is a PRS guitar. The bird inlays are also signature to this brand and add a real touch of class to this guitar.

The body of the SE 277 features a string-through design. This can help with the sustain for your heavy songs with long ringing notes. The mahogany body with maple top assists in creating this fantastic sustain. The combinations of these woods also create a full sound. The sound produced leans toward the warmer side of the tonal spectrum.

The included pickups are PRS 85/15. They give a full range of sounds but lend themselves especially well to heavy music. This is especially true when comparing them to other passive pickups. They are also capable of providing clear clean tones.

The cost of this guitar is relatively low compared to other PRS models as it comes from Indonesia. It still maintains the high quality you can expect from this brand.

This guitar is one of the best in its price range. It boils down to whether you like the aesthetics of it more than similarly priced guitars. Some examples of direct competitors are the Ibanez RGIB21 or Chapman ML3.

Ibanez RGIB21 Baritone Electric Guitar

Ibanez RGIB21 - Product Image

Specs

  • Body: Nyatoh
  • Neck: Maple and purple heart
  • Fingerboard: Jatoba
  • Pickups: EMG 60, EMG 81 Active humbuckers
  • Scale: 28"
  • Tuners: Gotoh MG-T locking machine heads
Pros
  • RG Simplicity
  • Active EMG pickups
  • Gotoh locking tuners
Cons
  • Not so great on the clean channel

I love the elegant simplicity of the RG series of guitars from Ibanez. They are simple to look at but they pack so much quality into these guitars.

This guitar comes loaded with EMG 60/81 pickups. These are great for high gain music but lack a little sparkle when playing on the clean channel. 

You get one volume pot and a 3-way switch to control your pickups. Having simple controls makes it easy to navigate. It does not allow for a lot of versatility though. This is a metal machine and you should treat it as such.

You have Gotoh locking tuners equipped to this guitar. These have great tuning stability.

Included is a Nitro Baritone 3 piece maple/purpleheart neck and jatoba fretboard. With this combination, you have a fast, comfortable, great-sounding guitar.

This baritone guitar isn’t the most versatile of our top picks. However, if you love Ibanez guitars and you know you are only going to be playing heavy stuff this guitar could be perfect.

Baritone Guitar FAQs

How Is A Baritone Guitar Different To A Standard Guitar?

The main difference between a baritone guitar and a standard guitar is the scale length. A baritone guitar has a longer scale length. This will also impact the overall length, the optimal tuning, and the type of strings that go on the guitar.

The scale length is the distance between the nut and the saddle of the guitar. Due to this fact, a longer scale length also means a longer neck.

Baritone guitars have a scale length of about 27” to 30.5”. A standard guitar is between 24.75” to 25.5”. The extra length allows baritone guitars to tune lower without losing string tension. If you have tuned your standard guitar down to B or A standard you've likely noticed the rubbery strings.

As they have longer necks baritone guitars must have thicker string gauges on them too. This is to maintain playable tension across the strings. It also makes a baritone a little more difficult to play. When compared to a standard guitar, you need to press the strings much harder.

Why Would I Need A Baritone Guitar?

Down tuning!

These guitars are ideal for having tuned to B or even A as the lowest note. This is several steps lower than the standard E tuning.

Having lower tuning makes baritone guitars perfect for heavy music. It allows for chunkier palm muting and for riffs to sound darker.

Despite their common use in metal genres, baritone guitars can also suit any other genre. They have seen success in anything from country, to rock, to jazz, and of course djent.

The sonic range is somewhere between a bass guitar and a standard guitar. You can fill out the sound in a band mix wonderfully with these instruments.

Baritone guitars made for heavy genres will have hot pickups. Most baritone guitars have this kind of pickup installed. If you plan to use the guitar for other genres you will need to pay close attention to the pickups.

What Should I Look For In A Baritone Guitar?

Scale Length

You may be moving to a baritone guitar from a regular guitar. In this case, you will likely be more comfortable with a shorter baritone. Conversely, if you are a bass player you will feel more comfortable with a larger baritone guitar.

Longer scale length baritones are more suited to lower tunings. If you are looking to tune to A standard a 30.5” scale length is best.  A shorter scale baritone is still equipped to play those low notes. It may result in a little less tension on the strings.

Playability

As with any guitar you will need to have something comfortable for you to play. This means you should pay attention to the neck profile and body shape as to what works for you. Someone with smaller hands will need a thinner neck profile. Especially considering these guitars are larger than a standard guitar.

Tuning stability

Cheaper guitars have less tuning stability. This is true of all guitar types. They lack premium inclusions such as a Floyd Rose or locking machine heads. They can also come with a cheap nut or poorly filed frets.

That is not to say a cheaper guitar cannot have decent tuning stability. All our picks will get you through a set with minimal on-stage tuning. If you plan to shop outside of our picks, we recommend you still go with a reputable brand. Make sure the guitar has decent tuners too.

Do I Need Active Pickups?

The pickups are the main source of your overall tone. Therefore, it is an important factor to consider when purchasing a baritone guitar.

Active pickups are great for high gain applications. This makes them perfect for metal, heavy rock, or any other genre with a lot of distortion and drive. They are less suited to create crisp clean tones. Passive pickups are generally better for this purpose.

There are passive pickups that are also designed for high gain applications. They are often included in cheaper guitars designed for metal. They lose a little bit of the brooding warmth of active pickups. They do have the benefit of not having to replace batteries though.

How Much Do I Need To Spend?

As baritone guitars are not as common as standard guitars they are more expensive. Expect to pay at least $250 for a low-end baritone guitar. These low-end guitars will have cheaper tonewoods and hardware. That means that they won’t sound as good as a premium guitar and may come out of tune more often.

It is very unlikely you will find a guitar with active pickups on the budget end of the spectrum. If you plan to use your guitar for high gain styles of music it's worth spending the extra money. This will net you an active pickup guitar.

You may notice a lot of cheaper baritone guitars include pickups that are “designed by EMG” or “Duncan designed”. These emulate more expensive pickups such as Seymour Duncan Blackouts. They obviously aren’t as good as the real thing but will get you by if you don’t have a huge budget.

The $1000+ range will have the most premium features but you can get a fantastic guitar for less than this.

We recommend spending at least $400. This is around the cost you don’t sacrifice too many features.

When shopping you should pay attention to the inclusions and whether they are worth the extra money for you.

What Shape Should My Baritone Guitar Be?

There are many stereotypes around which guitars and colors suit a certain style of music. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you like. You should get a guitar that YOU think looks great. As long as it is capable of playing the style of music you intend to play.

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About The Author

Hi, I'm Chris, the owner, creator, and head writer for InciteMusic.com 
I have been a touring cover musician and a teacher for the last 10 years and take helping people to achieve their musical goals very seriously.
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