Student of Guitar

Baritone Guitar Tuning: A Thorough Guide [2022 Edition]

Table of Contents

This post is all about standard and alternate baritone guitar tuning.

If you’re unfamiliar with the baritone guitar, I don’t blame you.

It’s a sort of novelty instrument that not many guitarists know about.

And I actually don’t (yet) own a baritone guitar.

But I’ve been doing a lot of research on them and hope to own one someday.

I’ve played both acoustic and electric guitars since 2003. Most of my early years with these instruments involved using standard guitar tuning. After I got better at the instrument I started to experiment with altered tunings. These tunings opened up a larger world of musical possibilities.

Acoustic and electric guitars use the standard E, A, D, G, B, E tuning that all guitar players are familiar with. There are also various alternate tunings that you can use for your guitar that are quite popular. Some popular tunings include DADGAD or playing your instrument as an open chord such as open G tuning, which is DGDGBD.

You may feel frustrated with regular guitars when using altered tunings. One way to get around this problem is to use a baritone guitar. This instrument makes it easy to use alternate tunings which I will explain in this guide.

The baritone guitar is different because of its tuning and scale length.  This guide will introduce you to the various tunings that you can use for your baritone guitar. You’ll be able to tune your baritone guitar in different ways to get the sound that you want.

The Most Common Baritone Guitar Tuning: BEADF#B

This YouTuber showcases standard baritone guitar tuning at the start of this video!

When you play a regular guitar, lower tunings tend to make the strings too loose. This results in a sound and feel that isn’t pleasant. To combat this problem, you can use a baritone guitar. Like I mentioned, these instruments have heavier strings and longer necks.

A regular guitar has a scale length of around 24 to 25 or so inches. The baritone guitar has a scale length that ranges between 27 to 28 inches. This larger scale length allows you to use heavier strings so you can tune your instrument lower.

This instrument first appeared in the 1950s. It became popular in the 60s with surf music bands and spaghetti westerns. This is now a popular instrument used by a wide range of different bands and players. If you play music in lower registers, this is an excellent instrument to own. It’s a lot easier to use a baritone for lower tunings than using a regular guitar.

However, it’s important that you use strings designed for a baritone guitar. Thus, you’ll need heavier strings like these to get these lower tones out of your baritone instrument.

The first tuning we will look at is the most common baritone guitar tuning. Manufacturers typically tune the baritone guitar to B, E, A, D F#, B. This is a perfect fourth lower than a regular standard guitar.

This tuning opens up a lot of different sound possibilities. You have more tuning tension at this pitch so it allows you to experiment with your sound. This lower pitch is popular with heavy metal bands since you get an aggressive sound. Other musicians also use this tuning to get generally lower tones popular in outlaw and some types of country music.

A Standard Tuning

Another tuning for baritone guitars is A standard. This tuning is A, D, G, C, E, A. This makes the instrument a perfect fifth lower than a regular guitar and one octave below standard guitalele, piccolo, and requinto guitar tuning.

If you like finger-picking, this is an excellent tuning to use. It’s also the ideal tuning if you want to hear a lot of droning notes.

Open Major Tunings

Besides regular B and A standard tunings, there are other options. You can also tune a baritone guitar to open and major chords such as A major or B major. Those tunings would be as follows:

  • A Major: A, E, A, E, A, C#
  • B Major: B, F#, B, F#, B, D#
  • C Major: C, G, C, G, C, E

If you play a lot of slide guitar, these major tunings can benefit you. They make playing chords easier on the instrument. Try the various tunings and see what you come up with.

DADGAD Baritone Guitar Tuning

A popular altered tuning for acoustic and electric guitars is DADGAD. You can do the same with your baritone guitar by tuning your instrument a little bit differently. This tuning for a baritone will be:

  • A E A D E A 

This allows you to play a lot of folk and finger-picking style music on your baritone guitar. This tuning gives you the same type of feel as DADGAD on the standard guitar but with much lower tones. 

Double Drop A

If you want to try this popular tuning, take a regular B standard baritone tuning and drop both of the B notes to A.  This tuning gives you a lot of sound options.

B Standard:

  • B, E, A, D F#, B 

To double drop A:

  • A, E, A, D F#, A

Double Drop G

And if you want to go even lower than the lowest common tuning for the baritone guitar, you can try double drop G.

Just take a regular A standard baritone tuning and drop both of your A notes down to G.

A Standard: A, D, G, C, E, A

To double drop G: G, D, G, C, E, G

These tunings work well for finger-picking as well as creating lines that use a droning note. 

Experiment with Baritone Guitar Tuning

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different tunings.

By doing so, you will open up a wide range of sounds by trying various tunings with your baritone guitar.

But like I mentioned, make sure you use heavier strings for the baritone guitar.

A good rule of thumb is to use strings that range between 0.12 and 0.68. This will give you the tension necessary for most tunings.  Many major manufacturers offer dedicated baritone guitar sets.

You may also want to take your guitar to a guitar technician or luthier for a setup. This would include setting the action to something that’s comfortable for you.

Conclusion

This guide should help you get the most out of your baritone guitar, a unique instrument with extended scale length and higher string tension.

Do you own a baritone guitar?

Have you tried alternate tunings with it?

Let me know in the comments!

8 Responses

  1. Shan Ahmadi says:

    Hi Harrison,
    Do you think it’s possible (or recommended) to tune a baritone up to an Open D tuning or is that too high?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Shan!

      I’m going to guess it’s not recommended per factory recommendations for most baritone guitars. That said, you may still be able to tune up to this tuning. I’ve never tried this so I can’t speak from personal experience. If you do try, I recommend using the lightest baritone strings you can since this is going to increase the tension on your instrument considerably. Sometimes you can downtune and capo to accomplish your desired tuning. This is generally a safer practice, and in most cases doesn’t have any negatives.

  2. I bought a cheapo from a charity shop for £10 and converted it to a baritone
    standard B baritone tuning. I have not touched it while I have been working
    on the Les Paul Custom for a couple of years. Not only does it still work but
    the only string that was well out of tune was the top B. I started in the late 50s
    on Bb cornet. I spent many years as a bassist. I needed to add guitars along the
    way for song-writing purposes and bridged the gap when I did the Baritone
    addition!

    1. Hi Arthur,

      That’s great to hear that you can get started on a baritone for not that much money! They’re interesting instruments!

  3. Jeffrey N Alsip says:

    I have a strat at the luthier, right now, for a conversion to a baritone. Fender makes a longer scale neck that is a direct swap out. I am hoping to use a standard guitar tuning that is one octave below a standard six-string guitar. Is this going to be possible?

    1. Hi Jeffrey,

      That might work! The tuning it sounds like you’re going for is standard bass tuning but, since it’s 6 strings, with two more strings in the same intervals as a guitar but down one octave. Thus, I would imagine that a bass guitar could potentially be set up if you or your luthier can do some drilling and add the spots for the other two strings. However, if your luthier is on board with your current plan, it will likely work!

  4. Jerry T Wilson says:

    I’m a bit confused. Which tuning should I use on a baritone when the other band members are using standard tuning?

    1. Hi Jerry.

      I’d go with BEADF#B. Most would call this standard baritone tuning.

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