A multi-scale baritone guitar built from African blackwood and sinker redwood.
by Teja Gerken
August 21, 2017
Even though few guitarists use it as their primary instrument, a low-tuned baritone guitar is an increasingly popular choice for guitarists looking to expanding their sonic options. Lowden Guitars began offering a baritone about ten years ago, and we recently had an opportunity to check out a customized Baritone 50, generously loaned to us by Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California.
Like the company’s standard baritone, our demo guitar is built with Lowden’s original jumbo-size O body, but made slightly deeper than a regular-scale guitar. The most distinctive feature on this Baritone 50 Fan Fret is its multi-scale fingerboard, which has a scale length of 26⅜ inches on the treble-side and 28⅜ inches on the bass side. As a 50-series guitar (Lowden’s highest designation), the instrument is built with premium woods. The back and side are made with ultra-dark African blackwood, and Lowden used sinker redwood for the top. In typical Lowden fashion, the Baritone 50 fingerboard is free of inlay and except for its abalone rosette, the guitar has wood appointments: koa binding and an ebony peghead overlay and back-strap. The guitar has the five-piece neck Lowdens are known for, and the pinless bridge has been modified to accommodate the fanned-fret arrangement.
The Baritone 50 Fan Fret is a phenomenal guitar. Tuned in standard tuning, but a fourth below a regular guitar (B–B), it has a deep low-end rumble with no shortage of clarity, even when playing busy lines. The guitar’s playability was also excellent. Compared with a baritone with a 27.5-inch scale and no fanned frets, the guitar felt easier to play, and the difference between the bass and treble scale made the guitar much more ergonomic, especially on longer stretches. The longer bass scale also has sonic advantages, especially when the bass strings are dropped even lower than B. In the DADGAD equivalent of baritone tuning (with a low A), the strings still have enough tension to keep them from becoming floppy and the intonation stays spot-on.
Overall, the Lowden Baritone 50 Fan Fret is an amazing instrument. Whether used as a solo instrument or as part of a duet or ensemble, it delivers complex baritone sounds and great playability, all matched by incredible woods and outstanding craftsmanship.
SPECS: Lowden O body. Solid sinker redwood top. Solid African blackwood back and sides. Five-piece mahogany and rosewood neck. Ebony fingerboard. Bogote bridge. Multi-scale fingerboard with scale length of 26⅜ inches on the treble side, and 28⅜ inches on the bass side. 1¾-inch nut width. Gotoh 510 tuning machines. Made in Northern Ireland. $9,975 street as shown. Lowdenguitars.com
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