If you’re wondering if you can tune a baritone guitar to standard guitar tuning, this post is for you!
I’m no guitar expert, but I have played since 2003 and know a thing or two about the instrument.
So can you tune a baritone guitar to standard tuning?
I’ll elaborate on this in the sections below.
What Is a Baritone Guitar?
To understand how to answer this question, you first need to understand the concept of scale length. It may seem confusing, but it simply refers to the vibrating part of your guitar’s strings.
Put another way, it’s the distance between the nut and the saddle. Of course, every string has a slightly different scale length. So the more precise way to define it is the distance from the nut to the 12th fret and double it.
But why does scale length matter? It’s important because it determines the string tension and affects the tone. Regular acoustic and electric guitars have scale lengths between 24 and 25.5 inches. But there are also long-scale guitars with scale lengths of 26.5 inches or more. These are also known as baritone guitars.
Longer scale lengths are popular for electric guitars. But what’s so special about extended scale length? Well, it allows you to use lower tunings while keeping normal string tension. Such a design also helps keep tuning stability in lower tunings.
Sure, you can tune a regular-scale guitar to B standard. But the strings will feel too loose and you’ll have tuning and intonation issues. You might hit a string, and the note’s pitch may vary more than usual. This can be a real deal-breaker for lower tunings on a standard scale length guitar.
Baritone Guitar: Common Tunings
So what’s the standard tuning for a baritone guitar? Well, there actually isn’t one. Many manufacturers tune baritone guitars to B standard or a perfect 4th below E standard. But there are plenty of ways how to tune it.
Here are some of the common tunings for a baritone guitar:
- B standard: B1-E2-A2-D3-F#-B3
- C standard: C2-F2-Bb2-Eb3-G3-C4
- Drop Bb: Bb1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-G3-C4
- Drop A: A1-E2-A2-D3-F#-B3
- A standard: A1-D2-G2-C3-E3-A3
In some rare cases, we also have E standard but one octave lower. This was first introduced with Fender Bass VI. It’s technically not a bass guitar since pickups and strings are different. But it functionally served as a bass guitar. Nonetheless, it had a scale length of 30 inches so it opened up the way for baritone electric guitars.
There are also 7-string baritone guitars. These come with scale lengths of at least 27 inches. These are usually tuned the same way as 7-string guitars but lower. This means that you have the same distribution of intervals between strings. These are usually tuned to A standard. For 7-string guitars, this goes:
Can You Tune a Baritone Guitar to Standard?
Of course, you can tune a regular-scale guitar to baritone tunings. But what about the other way around? Can you tune a baritone guitar to E standard?
First, let’s answer a question that some might have. Why would you tune a baritone guitar to E standard? After all, it’s designed for lower tunings, right?
Well, baritone guitars are usually a bit more expensive than regular-scale ones. And if you are looking to buy one, you may feel like you don’t have many options compared to the standard guitar. You’re stuck with lower tunings. So tuning a baritone guitar to a standard tuning could help.
Here’s the short answer. You technically can tune a baritone guitar to standard tuning. But this comes with a few challenges. A longer scale length increases string tension. And if you tune it up, you’ll have really tight strings.
Another big issue is that you might experience more frequent string breaking. The chances are that string won’t handle the tension. And this goes for any type of baritone guitar, be it a 6-string or a 7-string one.
Honestly, I wouldn’t advise you to tune it up. That would be like tuning your regular guitar two or three semitones higher. So just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. If you want to have both options, then I recommend having one baritone and one regular-scale guitar.
What If You Really Want to Tune a Baritone Guitar to Standard Tuning?
But, then again, what if you’re keen on tuning a baritone guitar to standard tuning? There are some methods to do this.
If you really want this option, then I advise getting a baritone guitar that has a relatively shorter scale length. Some baritones go up to 30 inches. But you should probably look for something that’s 26.5 or 27 inches like Orangewood Guitar’s Hugo Live.
(Check out our Orangewood Guitars post to learn more about this unique brand.)
Next up, you should think of using light-gauge strings. And I mean really light. The lighter the better. This is the best method to even things out. You’d still have a lot of tension in there, but it will be more bearable.
I’d recommend that you go with .009-gauge sets. If possible, even find .008-gauge sets. Additionally, you should also start with cheaper strings first. If they break, you’ll know that the tension might be a bit too high. Then move on to thinner strings.
You could also consider getting a hybrid set. The bottom strings should retain more tension if you like to do heavy riffing. We all usually bend the top three strings, so they should be thinner.
Finally, if you have a tremolo bridge, check how its tension feels. With lighter strings, a tremolo bridge might feel too tight. You can solve this issue by keeping only two springs in the tremolo system instead of three. However, there’s a chance that you won’t need to do any modifications at all.
I hope this article has cleared up this question for you!
As usual, feel free to let me know if you have questions about this or another guitar topic in the comments below!