If you’re curious about the differences between baritone guitar vs 6 string bass, this post is for you!
And if you have other questions about the baritone guitar, check out my other posts in this series including:
- baritone guitar vs short scale bass
- baritone guitar vs 8 string guitar
- piccolo bass vs baritone guitar
- baritone guitar tuning
The baritone guitar and the 6 string bass are both unique instruments that share some things in common.
While the 6 strings bass is relatively young (it was invented in the 1980s), the baritone guitar has been around since the 1960s!
Let’s take a look at the main differences between them:
- Scale: The 6 string bass is a larger instrument, therefore its scale is bigger than that of the baritone guitar.
- Tuning: Although the tuning of both instruments is very similar, and cross each other’s range at some point, the baritone guitar is tuned 1 octave above the 6 string bass.
- Role: The 6 string bass is more suited to play bass lines, while the baritone guitar fits guitar lines better. However, the baritone guitar is quite more flexible in this aspect, as you will see.
Even when the tuning is an octave difference with crossover range, you will find that choosing which instrument is better has to do more with your musical background and musical preferences rather than the features of each.
The basic visual aspect of these instruments is that the baritone guitar looks more like a guitar than the 6 string bass.
The scale of the 6 string bass is very similar to a regular bass guitar, except that the fretboard is wider than usual. This is because we need to accommodate 2 additional strings.
The baritone guitar is slightly larger than a regular guitar, but the fretboard’s width proportion is about the same as a regular guitar.
Baritone Guitar Vs 6 String Bass: Size
A 6 string bass is usually larger than a baritone guitar.
The body size of the 6 string bass guitar resembles the shape, depth, and width of a regular bass guitar, except on the fretboard’s width.
The baritone guitar’s body, however, resembles the shape of a regular guitar, only on a slightly larger scale
Here’s a table in which you can compare sizes of both a baritone guitar model and a 6 string bass guitar model:
The 6 string bass guitar is tuned B0-E1-A1-D2-G2-C3. In order to achieve this tuning one string has been added on both the low and high ends of the standard bass guitar.
The baritone guitar, on other hand, has no additional strings compared to the standard guitar. The resulting tuning is – B1-E2-A2-D3-F#3-B3, a 4th lower than a standard guitar.
The addition of the 6th string widens the low range of the instrument, allowing players to add depth to the register going from B0 to E1.
Likewise, the new 1st string allows you to play up to a higher register.
The baritone guitar’s tuning could be considered B standard. As a result, there’s a lot more room to play in keys that are normally considered hard to play on the guitar.
Therefore, it will be easier to play songs in the keys of B major, F# minor, and others. And if you tune your baritone guitar in C standard, keys with flats like Bb major/minor or Eb major/minor will be easy to play.
Baritone Guitar Vs 6 String Bass: Strings
Both instruments have single strings equally spaced from each other.
However, bass players will find the string spacing to be narrower than the 4 string bass guitar’s.
The main difference in the strings of the baritone guitar and the 6 string bass is the string’s gauge.
The baritone guitar’s strings use the .013 – .062 or .014 – .068 gauge. On the other hand, the 6 string bass use the .032-.130 string gauge. As you can see, the 6 string bass’s gauge is almost .030” thicker.
Thus, each instrument uses its own set of strings, and strings cannot be used interchangeably (as you would imagine on instruments that are an octave apart).
As for the feeling, the baritone guitar feels very similar to guitar albeit with heavier strings that require more pressure to push down.
The six-string bass feels more like a cross between a guitar (with six strings) and a bass (with heavy gauge strings to press down).
Even though these instruments aren’t as popular as their standard counterparts, you can still find strings for them on Amazon.
Here’s a popular set of baritone guitar strings.
And check out this set for the 6 string bass.
The difference in sound between the baritone guitar and the 6 string bass is huge!
The baritone guitar’s sound resembles that of an electric guitar, but with a darker tone
In this video you can see how the baritone guitar is just as comfortable as a normal guitar.
The sound is ideal for rock and metal players, but it is still appealing to those into lyric and ambient music:
The 6 string bass is the ideal instrument for bass players looking to explore extended ranges and alternate techniques while retaining the sound of a bass as you can see in the following video.
The 6 string bass provides the flexibility of playing lead, bass, or both of them thanks to its extended range with the extra two strings.
Baritone guitars and 6 string basses are both going to start at approximately the same price.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, there typically aren’t entry-level non-standard instruments simply because there isn’t enough demand for them.
And entry-level instruments typically benefit from economies of scale and are priced accordingly.
Thus, most musicians interested in non-standard instruments expect to pay a premium for them.
Check out this baritone guitar for an idea of what you might pay for an electric.
And here’s an awesome acoustic baritone model from Alvarez.
Likewise, a decent 6 string bass will start about the same price as a mid-range standard bass.
Check out this electric instrument for reference.
(There aren’t many commercially available six-string acoustic basses.
You’d probably need to get one custom-made from a luthier.)
Baritone Guitar Vs 6 String Bass: Learning Materials
You can find lots of learning materials for the guitar, but you will need to transpose it in order to make use of it for the baritone guitar.
However, the 6 string bass, poses a different challenge. By adding two additional strings, you will have lots of new chord and scale positions.
That said, you can still find some books that delve into 6 string bass specifics.
Both instruments are essentially considered to be extended, alternate versions of the guitar and the bass guitar respectively. So, the ideal scenario is that you already have a guitar/bass background before getting your hands on these instruments.
Which instrument should you pursue?
So, which instrument is best for you? Check out this table to get a better idea of which to pursue.
You might pursue the baritone guitar if you…
You might pursue the 6 string bass if you…
Already play the guitar and you want to play in a lower tonal range.
Already play the 4 string bass and are interested in an extended range instrument
Want to play djent and other metal genres
Want to push the envelope in terms of extended range techniques
I hope this post helped you get an understanding of the differences between the baritone guitar and six-string bass.
Let me know if you have other questions about these instruments in the comments below!
Bora da 🏴 morning good, before asking my question please let me explain the to have almost no musical knowledge and I did have a 51 year gap between being rock God the first and second time I’m and then covid struck.
Also to add the total I have a maths degree I am not the brightest button in the box. Perhaps I should see the highest string on the axe 🎸
I am thinking of getting a Harley Benton 6 string bass as I have been calling it but now seem to believe it’s called a baritone guitar. My purpose is for pleasure and learning and to take me back to the week in the 60s when I had the be beautiful Fender 6 string the tie found had to thin a sound and I ended up with the Gibson EB0 and that was not because it was short scale I just love the guitar.
And foxed by all these octaves and numbers and even you’re brilliant post has still not answered all my questions.
Is the standard bass one octave below the standard 6 string?
If baritone guitar is 1 octave lower than the standard 6 string 🤔 then I assume that the lower for strings would ring at the same frequency or shall I save be the same note as on my standard basses. Of course I would not expect them to sound the same but it depends on the pickups and electronics and it might well be a thinner sound or more treble but it should be the same note.
I have absolutely no desire to buy a 6 or even 5 string bass as I find the ratio of width two lengths of the fretboard totally unappealing.
As I say I am very very close to buying the €200 HB baritone or six string and might buy it anyway for fun but I’m just curious to know if the lower for strings would be the equivalent of on my standard basses but no doubt not sound the same.
Standard bass tuning is one octave below a standard 6-string guitar tuning! Hope that helps!
First thing you say is the the 6 sting bass was invented in the 1980s. What? What about the Fender VI and danelectro. Both 6 sting basses and not baritones. As Fender and other sources will tell you.