Epiphone Les Paul Baritone Guitar
December 17, 2013 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of buying an Epiphone Les Paul Baritone Guitar (appears to be the same model as the wooden one in back of picture). This is a craigslist purchase which I will see tomorrow. Any advice on what to look for/ask? More questions inside about price and amps and so on.

I am new to the electric guitar world, but use really low open tunings on my classical guitar and have wanted to get a guitar better designed for how low I go (most of my tunings are around Bb). Hard to get a sense of this Les Paul baritone because all the videos I have found of it are heavy metal improvisations/reviews (here's the only one I've found).

Does $425 seem a reasonable price for this instrument, plus hard case? For comparison, new Danelectros seem to be about the same price.

I really know nothing about amps. What would be an okay amp for someone playing a baritone guitar who wants the low notes to sound really good but is not playing heavy metal? Pretty good reverb is probably my most desired effect. Probably can't spend more than $150.

Also, any experience with baritone guitars staying in tune and string gauge?

posted by Corduroy to Shopping (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It would be good to know what you want to use the electric for; are you looking to do the same music on an electric, or something else?

The more I learn and play on both acoustic and electrics, the more I'm struck by how different they are- I absolutely consider them two different instruments that happen to have similarity in form and (some) playing technique. Ultra-low tunings sound (to my ear, at least) significantly better on acoustic guitars. I play some slide blues in Open C, and the sound on my acoustic is resonant and detailed, while the same tuning and song played on a variety of my electrics is less pleasing. Also, when using any kind of gain-based effect (overdrive, distortion, fuzz) any attempt to let low-pitched open strings resonate while playing simultaneously on higher-pitched strings is usually doomed to be drowned out in a sea of second-order harmonics.

My suggestion would be to have an opportunity to test the kind of playing you want to do when you don't have the pressure of a hopeful seller standing nearby. Perhaps you can find a local store that has a baritone electric you can try out- then you can evaluate how it sounds with different amps and shop for them also.

As for amps, there was a recent question that had some information that might be relevant to your inquiry. Ideally in your situation, I'd recommend a Fender Bassman, but those are about 1000% of your budget (and sadly, out of mine as well!)
posted by EKStickland at 8:52 PM on December 17, 2013

The last two that sold on Ebay went for $388 (white, no case) and $412 (natural with case.)
posted by lee at 8:57 PM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: That's a good idea. I played a Danelectro baritone at a store, but that was a few months back. I will try to go back tomorrow before meeting the craigslister. My music tends to be fairly slow and not too complicated. It's not that spaghetti westerny, but I am imagining playing the baritone more like spaghetti than doom metal. Here are three examples all on low-tunings (two classical nylon stringed guitars, one borrowed electric guitar): example 1, example 2, example 3. Not sure how helpful that is, but my assumption is that the music would transfer easily to a baritone electric (that isn't on an overdrive or distortion effect). I should definitely test that out.
posted by Corduroy at 9:22 PM on December 17, 2013

One observation from someone who plays a different but similarly long necked instrument: be careful how you move around with it. Those extra three frets add a whole new level of accidental smashing into things.
posted by scruss at 6:16 AM on December 18, 2013

From my husband:
good price. sound will be darker than that of a danelectro due to humbucking pickups. if you really want clean tones, go with a solid state amp.

line 6 makes amps in that price range that will get the clean tones you're looking for. if you buy used, you can get more amp. the spyder series will work, but the distorion on them is horrible.
posted by kellyblah at 7:33 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Baritones are tough. They can sound chintzy on a guitar amp but lifeless on a bass amp. I found my Eastwood baritone worked pretty well with this Acoustic bass amp when I used the Electroharmonix Knockout pedal.

What I realized from playing my baritone and comparing it with my other electrics and my bass guitar is that guitar amps and bass amps are pretty much perfectly voiced for those instruments and not the in-between baritone. You really realize that companies spent millions and millions of dollars trying to find better-sounding amps for guitars and basses, while also developing better guitar and bass pickups to play through existing amps. Guitar in guitar amp and bass in bass amp is optimal. The baritone is a middle-of-the-road beast that can be the worst of either amp world.

Excluding metal there are two applications of the baritone guitar that might sound better than either low guitar playing or high bass playing: pre-British invasion rock'n roll like Duane Eddy or the Ventures, or the 80s alt-rock bass guitar sound like the Smiths or the Cure. Based on your examples the latter is probably what you'd want to go for in a baritone. Off the top of my head this Bats song is probably the best, most gorgeous example of this sound. You could also dirty it up a bit, or add reverb but this is what you'd probably want your clean baritone to sound like. In any case I've found with my Eastwood I can switch from the 80s to 50s sound without much work with the help of that EHX pedal and some reverb.

Based on all this I wouldn't recommend getting a baritone with humbuckers unless you're playing metal. Single-pickups have much more treble than humbuckers in general. My single-pickup Eastwood is supposed to sound twangy, but without that EHX pedal it's pretty dull. Also, the Iron Cross on the Epiphone baritone is telling: specifically that you'd never want to play cleanly through it. Get the Danelectro.

Smaller speakers have less bass: I think my baritone guitar would sound better through a bass amp with a 10" speaker. the Acoustic B15 would be in your budget. If you don't quite like the sound I'd consider getting the EHX Knockout though then you'd be a bit over budget.

Finally reverb: the absurdly wonderful, stupidly good, stupidly cheap Danelectro Fab echo pedal. I'd also recommend that pedal for vocals, guitar, bass, organ, electric piano, synth, theramin, etc. It's $15 and pretty limited in it's application, but you could record your bass and probably convince someone you bought a $10,000 vintage reel-to-reel tape machine then used the same techniques they did in the 50s because you wanted the Bo Diddley sound. Try it.
posted by Luminiferous Ether at 10:43 AM on December 18, 2013

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