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Baritone guitars are a great tool for metal musicians. For guitarists who like to use alternative drop tunings, they can provide a tonal depth that standard electric guitars simply cannot achieve.
Although baritone guitars are most famous for their ties to metal, they were actually invented way back in the formative years of rock n’ roll. Surprisingly popular amongst surf guitarists in the 1960s, they were used to produce a distinctive, twangy sound.
In this guide, we’ve selected the 6 best baritone metal guitars with extended ranges so that you can identify the best-suited instrument for your playing style and tonal requirements.
In a Rush Roundup
How We Tested
To accurately test these baritone guitars, we compared their playability, tone, and versatility. Firstly, we tested their physical qualities, such as the feel of the neck and fretboard, how easy they were to play rhythm and lead parts on, and their weight.
Furthermore, we tested their tone through both tube and solid-state amplifiers, and how well their tuning stability held up when used for a variety of alternative tunings. We then checked every component and decided whether the guitar’s represented good value for the money.
Best Baritone Guitar for Metal Reviews
Paul Reed Smith has built a reputation as an innovative guitar designer since he formed the PRS brand in 1985. Renowned for its luxurious feel and high-quality tones, the manufacturer has collaborated with some of the world’s best-known guitarists.
Although metal is not necessarily the genre that springs to mind when most guitarists think of PRS, the SE 277 is a capable baritone instrument perfect for energetic, aggressive styles.
With a 27.7-inch scale length, this baritone ace allows you to venture into territory that is impossible with standard solidbody guitars. It makes the low-end stand out, retaining its clarity while increasing in power and definition.
A pair of PRS 85/15 S humbuckers are tasked with amplifying the growling tone of this guitar – and they do so impeccably. If you enjoy playing in B-B tuning, this instrument is a great option.
There is also a coil-split feature installed on the guitar so that you can switch to more traditional single-coil pickup sounds if you feel the need to change from the default, thick, humbucking tone.
A smooth and responsive maple neck is joined by a classy rosewood fingerboard, and the signature PRS bridge adds the finishing touches to this instrument.
- 27.7-inch scale length
- Pair of 85/15 S humbucker pickups
- Coil split
- Perfect for B-B alternative tuning
- Produces both single-coil and humbucker tones
- Easy access to highest frets
- Wide-fat neck may be unsuitable for small-handed players
Danelectro was one of the first manufacturers to produce baritone guitars, way back in the early 1950s. Over seven decades on, they continue to lead the way in this niche genre of instrument production.
This elegant 6 string baritone guitar has a custom scale length of 29.75 inches, which is longer than the majority of the similarly designed instrument. The additional length makes it possible to play more expressive riffs and is great for technical metal guitarists.
Tonally, the Danelectro Baritone guitar reaches impressive low notes without sacrificing clarity, power, or dynamic consistency. It sounds wonderful when combined with saturation, whether it is provided by a pedal or an amplifier.
A pair of Lipstick single-coil pickups provide a fiery output that is ideal for shredding in drop tuning. You can use this guitar for basically any alternative tuning, as it can drop down as low as a B on the low-E string.
Stylistically, the guitar has many recognizable Danelectro features. Its Art Deco single-cutaway body shape pays homage to early baritone guitars, and the Dolphin headstock is also a trademark of the brand.
- 29.75-inch scale length
- Pair of Lipstick single-coil pickups
- Adjustable saddle bridge
- Suitable for metal, heavy rock, or down-tuned country
- Fast playing maple neck
- High-output, energetic tone
- Very lightweight
ESP has nailed the design of this baritone guitar. Rather than settle for the standard features and components, they’ve been thinking outside of the box in order to create such a unique instrument.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of the ESP LTD BB-600 Ben Burnley Baritone guitar is the multi-faceted pickup assembly. With both Seymour Duncan vintage humbuckers and a piezo system installed, you can switch your sound up instantaneously.
The piezo pickups are most commonly found on acoustic-electric instruments, so this inclusion is quite unexpected. However, it makes sense when you hear the resonant, tone they achieve especially with the lower-tuned strings.
The scale length of the BB-600 is 27 inches, which is ideal for fast, technical metal guitarists who like to use B-B tunings or any other form of drop tuning when playing through their amp.
With its single-cutaway body shape, this guitar makes accessing the higher frets very easy. It also has a thin “U” profile maple neck, which improves intonation and tuning stability.
- 27-inch scale length
- Duncan ‘59 and Duncan JB humbucker pickups
- Under bridge piezo system
- Smooth clean tones and fiery distorted tones
- Easy to reach the upper frets
- Retains string tension when detuned
- Extra jumbo frets could take some getting used to
Along with its distinctive appearance, the M-7 HT also produces an appealing range of metal tones. When paired with a high-gain tube amplifier, the midrange sounds huge, and not at the detriment of the low-end frequencies either.
One Seymour Duncan Black Winter humbucker has been employed by ESP LTD. This pickup is perfectly suited to the heaviest styles of metal guitar, offering ultimate aggression and heat.
Metal is generally a very technical style of guitar, and this baritone instrument facilitates the most complex of techniques. With a fast-playing maple neck that is shaped in a thin “U” profile, it makes transitioning up and down the frets easier.
Also, despite the solid, high-quality build of the ESP LTD M-7 HT Baritone Black Metal guitar, it is surprisingly lightweight. This makes it perfect for guitarists who like to move around when performing.
The neck design also promotes maximum sustain, which is useful if you like to ring out chords or hold notes for longer when soloing.
A set of locking tuners have been installed by ESP LTD to make changing strings easier and quicker, so no matter how often you break them while shredding, you can get back to playing in no time.
- 27-inch scale length
- Seymour Duncan Blackened Winter humbucker pickup
- 7 strings
- Ideal for red-hot metal tones
- Clear and tight bass output
- Lots of sustain
- The coil splitting feature can be confusing
Most people know the Telecaster for its rich history in the genres of blues, rock n’ roll, and indie rock. While some metal musicians have used it in the past, this is a fairly rare occurrence.
Fender’s sibling company, Squire, has ambitiously attempted to transform one of their most popular solidbody guitars into a baritone instrument. And they’ve managed to pull it off surprisingly well!
At first glance, this cheap baritone guitar looks like a standard vintage Telecaster. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that it has an extended 27-inch baritone scale, which is longer than the average Tele.
With a pair of Fender-made Alnico soapar pickups, the Squier Paranormal Baritone Cabronita guitar is able to project lower notes with outstanding clarity and power. It can be used for any drop tunings and sounds great with distortion added to the signal.
The custom-designed hardtail bridge ensures that every last bit of resonance and sustain is transferred from the strings into the pickups, and with a classic Tele slim “C” profile neck, it’s very comfortable to play.
- 27-inch scale length
- Pair of Fender Alnico Soapbar single-coils
- Slim “C” profile neck
- Classic Fender Tele feel and playability
- Perfect for chugging metal chords
- Blends effortlessly with high-gain amps
- Looks more like a rock n’ roll guitar than a metal instrument
Stephen Carpenter is a highly respected rock guitarist from the band, Deftones. When designing the SC-607, ESP LTD collaborated with him, and the partnership resulted in a highly unique creation.
With 7 strings, the SC-607 Baritone guitar allows you to access alternative tunings that would usually be out of reach when playing a standard 6-string electric. It has a high-end 3-piece maple neck, which is joined by a responsive, smooth ebony fingerboard for ultimate comfort.
The extended 27-inch scale length allows metal guitarists to utilize every note on the fretboard, and the cutaway design is great for sliding into the upper registers when playing a solo.
With 24 jumbo frets, there’s plenty of space for more technical players to move quickly around the fingerboard without feeling crammed in, as is the case with some narrower fretboard designs.
A Fishman humbucker has been installed, with a push-pull control for variation. The Modern Active and Modern Passive settings allow you to quickly alter the attack and frequency output of the guitar.
- 7 strings
- 27-inch baritone guitar scale length
- Pair of Fishman SRC Fluence humbucker pickups
- Highly comfortable maple neck
- Great tuning stability
- Resonant tone
- The eccentric design is an acquired taste
Best Baritone Guitars for Metal Buyer's Guide
Some variations of electric guitars are nothing more than marketing gimmicks that have minimal impact on the way they sound or feel to play. The baritone guitar design doesn’t fall into this category and can be a very useful acquisition for certain guitarists.
Guitarists who play metal and other related genres can use the deeper tones of a baritone guitar to add depth to their low-end riffs.
This can cause a darker sound that makes the band more powerful as a whole or makes for more interesting solo performances.
Baritone guitars have been around for many decades, with surf rockers and the Beach Boys even employing them in their recordings. However, in recent years, they’ve become more popular amongst heavy-sounding musicians.
The remaining section of this article will provide you with some essential information on baritone guitars for metal, and other styles.
Things To Consider When Buying
Consider the scale length
Baritone guitars generally have a longer scale length than the average electric guitar. They’re commonly in the range of 27 to 31 inches. If you are used to playing a certain scale length, it’s good to choose a baritone guitar that won’t require too much adjustment.
Decide how many strings you need
Would your playing style benefit from using a 6-string baritone guitar, or a 7-string baritone guitar? The former is more conventional, while the latter allows you to experiment with less common string tunings.
Think about fret spacing
One thing that differentiates most baritone guitars from standard electric guitars is their larger body and wider fret spacing. Musicians with larger hands and fingers may consider the widest fret spacings, but it may be wise for others with smaller hands to choose narrower frets.
Consider the pickups
The pickups installed on a baritone guitar for metal have a huge impact on the instrument’s tone. Therefore, identify the humbucker or single-coil pickups that will produce the sounds you’re looking for.
The Important Qualities of a Baritone Guitar
Like “conventional” electric guitars, baritone guitars aren’t all designed equally. There’s a lot of variation from model to model – some are highly effective at providing the low-end thickness that they’re designed for, while others are not so good.
To ensure that you choose the best baritone guitar, you need to first decide which qualities are most vital to your metal guitar style.
Baritone guitars usually have longer necks than standard-sized guitars. This means that if you have smaller hands, you might find it more difficult to navigate the fretboard as quickly and efficiently.
If speed is one of the most important aspects of your guitar playing, it’s advisable to look for a baritone guitar that has a fast-playing neck profile, perhaps with a slightly thinner radius.
Metal guitarists often combine rhythm and lead playing, but if you focus more on one than the other, you should consider this when deciding which baritone guitar to use.
Single Coils or Humbuckers?
Baritone guitars aren’t confined to one specific type of pickup. Manufacturers will often have a specific sound in mind when choosing which pickups to install on these unique instruments.
Lead guitarists will likely benefit from a baritone guitar that is fitted with hotter-sounding pickups, while rhythm guitarists should look for one with a set of fat-sounding humbuckers installed.
If you’re unsure which pickups would sound best on your new baritone guitar, you need to think about your tonal and dynamic aspirations, along with considering the other parts of your rig.
Do you use a high wattage tube amplifier that produces lots of headroom? If so, then you’ll probably enjoy the energy of single coil pickups that can push your amplifier into overdrive when you add gain to the signal.
Or perhaps you use a digital amplifier that includes many different presets and settings? If this is the case, the thicker sound of a humbucker may allow your baritone guitar to perform more effectively.
You might have noticed that a select few baritone guitars also include piezo pickups, in addition to their humbuckers or single-coils.
These pickups are most commonly installed on acoustic guitars with onboard electronics, but they are also highly effective at enhancing the deep, powerful tones of a baritone guitar.
Tuning Stability and Build Quality
When you use your baritone guitar, you’ll probably be tuning it to B standard or something similar. The guitar’s build quality and design needs to facilitate this lower tuning, without easily going out of tune.
Baritone guitars that have truss rods, bolt-on necks and other compknents are likely to stay in tune more efficiently.
Baritone Guitars for Metal FAQs
Which Tunings Can You Use on Baritone Guitars?
Baritone guitars can be used for a variety of alternative tunings. They’re designed to produce lower notes than the standard tuning of an electric guitar, so technically you could use them for any tuning that involves lowering the pitch.
Most baritone guitar players like to use either B or A standard, as these are tunings that are fun to play and sound great on this type of instrument. B standard consists of B-E-A-D-F#-B, and A standard consists of A-D-G-C-E-A, which is a whole tone lower.
Which Guitarists Use Baritone Guitars?
Baritone guitars have been used by several notable guitarists over the years, both in metal and other genres. Perhaps the most famous examples are Metallica, The Cure, and the Beach Boys.
Metallica used a baritone guitar to double up James Hetfields lead line, which eas played on a guitar that hadd been tuned a full step down. This created a deep, haunting tone that can be heard on the track Captain Crunch.
Do You Need a Baritone Guitar for Drop B?
Although baritone guitars are highly capable of drop B tuning, you can achieve this tuning on a normal electric guitar. To do this, however, you’ll need very thick gauge strings so that they can be detuned down that low without losing tension.