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Piccolo Bass Vs Baritone Guitar: The Ultimate Guide [2021 Edition]

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a piccolo bass vs baritone guitar, this post is for you!

I’ve been a guitar player since 2003 and have messed around with plenty of instruments since then. 

So what’s the difference between a piccolo bass and a baritone guitar?

Check out the table below to get a sense of their differences:

Quality
Piccolo Bass
Baritone Guitar
Acoustic or Electric
Always electric
Usually electric but acoustic models are available too
Standard Tuning
EADG (the exact same as the last 4 strings of a standard guitar and one octave higher than a standard bass)
Doesn’t have a standard tuning but the most common tunings include ADGCEA, BEADG♭B, or CFB♭E♭GC (in the same intervals as a guitar but pitched down)
Scale Length
Usually the same as a standard bass’s and sometimes a few inches shorter.
Typically a few inches longer than a standard guitar’s scale length and a few inches shorter than a standard bass’s scale length.
String Gauge
Heavier
Lighter
Sound
Bass techniques in the tonal range of the guitar
Guitar techniques in a lower tonal range (closer to a bass’s)
Price
Lower
Higher
Learning Materials
Fewer
More

I’ll explore these differences more in the sections below.

And if you want to know more about the piccolo bass specifically, check out this post.

Piccolo Bass Vs Baritone Guitar: Acoustic or Electric?

Many musicians just modify their standard electric bass to support strings tuned one octave higher than standard bass tuning by swapping the nut to accommodate lighter strings and putting lighter gauge strings on their instrument.

(And sometimes, they don’t even swap the nut, they just put piccolo strings on their standard electric bass.)

However, some manufacturers actually make piccolo basses that have shorter scale lengths.

Thus, an electric piccolo bass has the same or shorter scale length as a standard electric bass.

Generally, an acoustic piccolo bass refers to a stand-up double bass with an alternate tuning.

However, you could certainly put lighter strings on an acoustic bass guitar and tune up an octave to get an acoustic piccolo bass in the bass guitar family.

A baritone guitar is often also electric.

For instance, Ibanez and Gretsch make electric baritone guitars available for purchase on Amazon.

That said, even though electric baritone guitars are more common, you can still find acoustic baritone guitars (unlike acoustic piccolo basses, unless you are referring to the stand-up double bass version).

For instance, Orangewood makes a baritone acoustic guitar, and it sounds beautiful as you can tell in the video below.

Alvarez also makes a popular baritone guitar.

In short, you can only really find electric piccolo basses.

But you can find either acoustic or electric baritone guitars.

Piccolo Bass Vs Baritone Guitar: Tuning

Many are surprised to find out that the baritone guitar is actually tuned lower than a piccolo bass!

As mentioned above, a piccolo bass is tuned one octave higher than a standard bass to be in the exact same tuning as the lower four strings of the standard guitar.

On the other hand, the baritone guitar is tuned lower than standard guitar tuning.

Though it doesn’t have a standard tuning, it could be tuned down a fourth (one octave below piccolo tuning: A to A), B to B, or C to C always in the same intervals as standard guitar tuning.

Comparing Scale Length

Another way to think about this is that you would have to capo on fret seven to get back to standard guitar tuning if tuned from A to A, fret five if tuned from B to B, and fret four if tuned from C to C.

You can better understand the scale length of these instruments and how they compare with each other with some examples.

Instrument
Scale Length (Inches)
34
30.3
29.75
24.6
27
25.5

Obviously, the instruments above are just examples and any one instrument may not follow these generalizations.

However, the scale length (and overall instrument size) tends to follow this pattern:

standard electric bass > piccolo electric bass > electric baritone guitar > acoustic baritone guitar > standard electric guitar > standard acoustic guitar

Piccolo Bass Vs Baritone Guitar: Strings

Even though a piccolo bass is tuned higher than a baritone guitar, it has heavier gauge strings than a baritone guitar.

This string gauge on the piccolo bass will give it more of that bass feel while allowing you to play in the tonal range of the standard guitar.

The electric baritone guitar still has very heavy strings relative to most guitars.

However, its strings are not as heavy as an electric piccolo bass.

You can compare these instruments’ string gauges to each other and other closely related instruments in the table below.

Strings for Instrument Type
1st String Gauge (Inches)
2nd String Gauge
(Inches)
3rd String Gauge (Inches)
4th String Gauge (Inches)
5th String Gauge (Inches)
6th String Gauge (Inches)
.05
.07
.085
.105
NA
NA
.02
.032
.042
.052
NA
NA
.013
.017
.026
.036
.046
.062
.01
.013
.017
.026
.036
.046
.016
.022
.029
.048
.06
.07
.01
.014
.023
.03
.039
.047

These string gauges are only examples and not representative of all instruments’ string gauges in their given category.

That said, most strings will be at least close in gauge to these string gauges for their given category.

Sound Comparison

You can get a great sense of the piccolo bass and learn a lot about the instrument in the video below.

You’ll notice that, even though this instrument shares the same tuning as the last four strings of a standard guitar, it still manages to have that distinct bass sound.

That sound likely comes from using bass guitar techniques with the twist of using them in the tonal range of a standard guitar.

And conversely, playing a baritone guitar involves using standard guitar techniques in the tonal range of a bass guitar.

Likewise, you can hear really cool deep sounds coming from an electric baritone guitar in the following video.

Lastly, here’s a video to get a sense of the acoustic baritone guitar’s sound.

Those beautiful low notes from the acoustic baritone are really unique.

And although this larger instrument with heavier strings is difficult to maneuver, it’s a great alternative to add to someone’s guitar collection.

Price

Specialty instruments typically skip the low-range, entry-level price point since they aren’t for beginners.

This has its pros and cons.

The pros are that you have greater odds of receiving a high-quality instrument when purchasing a specialty instrument you haven’t played before.

However, the obvious con is that there are fewer lower-cost options.

These pros and cons hold true for both the piccolo bass and baritone guitar.

That said, you can easily convert a standard bass into a piccolo bass.

Thus, if you really want a piccolo bass, you can have one for the cost converting a standard electric bass to piccolo.

This isn’t the case with baritone guitars.

In short, you will likely find both piccolo basses and baritone guitars in the $400 to $600+ range.

Guitalele Vs Piccolo Guitar: Learning Materials

You can find lots of learning materials for the guitar and bass, but not specifically for the baritone guitar and piccolo bass.

Both instruments are essentially considered to be versions of the guitar and bass. Due to this and the novelty of these instruments, learning materials for them just aren’t very common.

However, when searching Amazon, I did find this book dedicated to helping you learn baritone guitar.

Also, if you search YouTube for tutorials on either instrument, you should find some helpful videos.

Which instrument should you pursue?

So, which instrument should you pursue? Check out this table to find out:

You might pursue the piccolo bass if several of the following are true.
You might pursue the baritone guitar if several of the following are true.
You already play the standard bass and want to explore bass techniques in the tonal range of a standard guitar.
You already play the standard guitar and would like to play in a lower tonal range.
You have an extra standard electric bass that you would be willing to convert to a piccolo.
You are willing to pay a premium to add a specialty instrument to your collection.
You are willing to learn this twist on your instrument with almost no dedicated learning materials.
You are willing to learn this twist on your instrument with few dedicated learning materials (but more than the piccolo bass).

Guitalele Vs Piccolo Guitar: Conclusion

I hope this article helped you learn more about each of these instruments!

As usual, let me know in the comments if you have any further questions!

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