I've been in the market for a baritone guitar for a few months. I write most of the music for my band, and writing my own vocal parts has always been a difficulty for me. It's hard to come up with something melodically and rhythmically interesting for vocals even though guitar and bass parts come pretty easily.
I figure this is because I have more experience with those instruments than I do with vocals, so I looked for an instrument in my vocal range I could write on, and I have basically a baritone range (A2 to A4). Also baritone guitars are cool.
Problem is, money just became extremely tight. So I won't be able to pick one up probably until the end of the summer.
So does it make more sense to tune down one of my guitars (Epi Les Paul, custom strat) to A-A or to tune up my bass (a cheap Jay Turser P-bass)?

And if you have any suggestions for melody writing techniques, I'd love to hear them.
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Stick some beefy strings on a guitar and tune it down. It'll be much closer to the playability of a baritone.
You generally don't want your guitar to be in the same range as your vocals. Good way to lose both in the mix.

Besides, you wouldn't tune DOWN to get to A2-A4, you'd tune up.

A six-string guitar starts at E2 (82Hz, roughly), and the fifth fret of that E or the open A string *is* an A2 at 110Hz. The top E is actually an E4 at around 330Hz, with the A4 on the fifth fret at 440Hz. Most guitarists don't realize that guitar music is actually written an octave higher than it's played.

There's also this; there's no reason to retune your guitar to play within a specific range when it comes to chording or songwriting. You just figure out where you're comfortable and play in that key.

If you're really having problems writing, learn to play keys. I started out as a keyboard player, so chords are much more obvious and intuitive for me on keys, and particularly complex changes make sense more easily for me there than on the twisted voicings you sometimes have to get your fingers into on a stringed instrument. Often after having written something on the piano, I'll have to scratch my head to figure out what the chord name is for what looks like a simple change on the piano.

There's also this; a lot of keyboards will allow you to automatically transpose a song to a different key while you play the same notes on the keyboard. What comes out of the amplifier may be two stops down from what you're playing on the keys. The same is true of Variax guitars; most will alternate tune up to a full octave down (if that's your favorite direction) without ever requiring you to change string tension even a little bit. We've had singers come in and want to sing Don't Stop Believin' but they can't hit Perry's notes, so they want every instrument to transpose down a couple of stops. I just rotate a dial and play it as I always have, and the guitar outputs the lower tuning.
Last edited by dspellman at May 6, 2016,
Agree. Why do you need to retune to play in a different key?
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generally people sing an octave higher then what the note on the piano. a baritone is generally if you just want a lower range overall on the guitar. just slap some heavy gauge strings on your guitar and tune down. You can get a decent baritone guitar for 500 used now though.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
People sing whatever they sing; there's no rule of thumb vis a vis the piano. A middle C on a piano is usually a C4 (about 261.6Hz). Most singers actually sing (fundamentals) an octave or two on either side of that, depending.

What designates a guitar as baritone is how it's tuned and (usually) the scale. "Baritones" usually have a longer scale (27", 28", 28.65", etc.) than a six-string, but not as long as a short-scale bass (30") and certainly not as long as a full-size bass (34" - 36", etc.). The longer scale helps the lower end sound clear and the notes at the bottom end distinguish themselves one from another.

Putting heavier strings on something with a relatively short scale, such as an LP (24.75") usually nets you a muddy bottom end.

You can get a 27" guitar (http://www.rondomusic.com/hadron6271.html ) that's surprisingly decent for $169.99.
I'd very reluctantly call a 27 inch a baritone but it seems to be where the industry is going these days. it will work.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
I don't need to retune to play in a different key. I was saying I would like a guitar that has the range of my vocals so I can write my vocal part on a guitar, which I'm more familiar with writing melodies for. I'll be using a different guitar or retuning to standard when playing and singing at the same time, but just for writing I'd like something with a baritone range, as my vocal range goes from about A2 to A4.
Custom-Built Strat
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo