The baritone guitar is one of the least common guitar types, but it’s also one of the most unique and dynamic instruments you can own. Since baritone guitars are even larger than standard dreadnoughts, they can accommodate larger strings and lower tunings. Whether you’re an experienced musician or just getting started, you can learn how to play baritone guitar songs using this list of top 10 baritone guitar songs to learn.
What is a baritone guitar?
Baritone guitars are tuned lower than a standard guitar (B, F#, D, A, E, B) and are typically used to play lower registers. This means that regular guitar tabs may not be compatible with your baritone in terms of tuning and string size.
Although baritone guitars are an adaptation of a standard guitar, they are not as common. Therefore, you may need to adjust your guitar tabs to make them baritone-friendly. You may also have to play chords deeper on the neck of the baritone compared to the standard guitar.
Their deep, dark tones are the perfect complement to heavy rock, metal, and punk music. There are plenty of great songs that take advantage of the baritone’s rich sound and lower notes, so we’ve put together some of the best songs to learn on a baritone guitar.
Baritone Guitar Songs for Beginners
Here are 10 songs that work well with a baritone guitar. These tunes use simple chord progressions and melody lines, making them easy to learn. Baritone guitars can be difficult to play compared to other guitar types, but you have a good chance of sounding like a pro with these songs under your belt.
1. Twin Peaks Theme
The main theme from Twin Peaks is one of the most memorable television tunes ever. It’s also pretty easy to play on a baritone guitar. The theme is played in the F major key, a common choice for popular songs.
This theme was composed by Angelo Badalamenti and made famous because of its appearance in a 90s television show called Twin Peaks. This is a beginner-level baritone guitar song that most amateur baritone guitar players should play after some practice time.
2. Glen Campbell – Galveston
If you want to learn baritone guitar, start with an iconic country song featuring Glen Campbell’s smooth voice and acoustic guitar playing. The song Galveston tells the story of a man who has been drafted and is preparing to leave for war.
It was written by Jimmy Webb, who was also the composer of songs like MacArthur Park, Up, Up and Away, and Where’s the Playground Susie. It was recorded in 1969 and reached number one on the Billboard charts in January 1970.
The chords are straightforward, and there aren’t any tricky chord changes. It only features basic guitar chord shapes. The song also starts slowly, so you’ll have time to get your hands in position on the fretboard before the tempo picks up.
3. The Beach Boys – Caroline, No
This 1960s classic is one of The Beach Boys’ most loved songs that appeared as the closing track on their album Pet Sounds. The song’s lyrics, written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, depict a disillusioned guy reflecting on his aging past love interest and losing her innocence.
This song features a baritone guitar line that is easy to follow, even for beginners. It’s definitely worth learning if you want to get into some good baritone guitar songs.
4. Metallica – Invisible Kid
Invisible Kid is about a little boy who has shut himself off from the outside world and is only visible to himself. With his sentiments of apathy and despair, he “floats” alone in his room. No one is aware of or cares about the anguish and anxiety he is experiencing on the inside.
This song is, without a doubt, Metallica’s most controversial song. It’s from their album St. Anger, their first studio album in almost five years since Reload in 1997. In this song, James Hetfield used his signature ESP baritone guitar, “The Grynch,” which was tuned to Drop-Ab.
5. Dave Matthews Band – The Space Between
The Dave Matthews Band song The Space Between was included on their 2001 album Everyday. It was the album’s first successful single and the band’s first Top 40 hit, reaching number 22 in the US.
This specific song is actually relatively easy to play. It starts with the main riff, then a chorus you can easily strum along to. After the first chorus, you can play the main riff for the verses with a swing strum rhythm. Many DMB songs don’t require too much practice as they tend to not go outside their typical structure, making it ideal for beginners.
6. The Cure – Primary
The Cure has always played with odd tunings and time signatures, but Primary is one of their easiest tunes to learn on the baritone. Robert Smith is one of the few rock guitarists that play the baritone guitar.
He uses his humble old Fender Bass VI, a baritone guitar, in many of The Cure’s songs over the years. This baritone guitar has recently come back in popularity with numerous Fender reissues.
7. Mark Lettieri – Barreleye
In 2019, Mark Lettieri of Snarky Puppy released his solo album Deep: The Baritone Sessions.
One of the tracks entitled Barreleye has an addictingly catchy melody. This is partly due to Lettieri’s ability to use a tremolo pedal effect for his chords. Using this style can feel good on your fingers, making it easier to play along.
This song also lets you use various techniques, from bending strings to tapping. It’s accessible enough that even beginner baritone players can learn some of these guitar techniques and not feel out of their depth.
8. The Pixies – Here Comes Your Man
The Pixies may be best known for Where Is My Mind? but they also had several great baritone guitar-oriented tracks. Here Comes Your Man is a bright, upbeat tune that serves as a nice introduction to people who are new to playing such a low-pitched instrument. It has some great bass lines and melodies, which will give you plenty of practice opportunities.
9. Van Halen – Spanked
Eddie Van Halen played a baritone guitar on the song Spanked from Van Halen’s 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. His guitar was a double-necked Ernie Ball EVH Music Man with a baritone top neck, which he used in music videos and live performances.
Baritone guitars were part of Van Halen’s sound for the first few albums, and this early tune features the instrument prominently.
10. Staind – Mudshovel
There is no denying that Staind is one of the most popular bands in metal ever. Mike Mushok, the band’s lead guitarist, has a distinct playing style. Mushok is noted for his baritone guitars and for playing with tunings, although he also plays standard guitars.
One of the band’s most famous songs, Mudshovel, is one of the first songs that comes to mind when you think about rocking out on a baritone guitar. The baritone guitar’s lower pitch makes the riffs on the song sound really heavy. This is a great song to learn if you want to add some metal music to your repertoire.
The baritone guitar is a beautiful instrument for any guitarist. Since it’s tuned lower than a standard guitar, it can add depth to your music and allow you to play different styles of music. We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of baritone guitar songs. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert player, these songs will give you a chance to work on your skills.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.