But the most inspiring moments always come from talking to absolute beginners. They always have great questions, and they force you to really think about all the “common knowledge” out there. For instance, what is a baritone guitar? Sharing ideas and info therefore becomes even more rewarding. I hear questions about guitar almost daily, which is great, and so I thought I’d put some of them together and provide the answers.
So without further ado here are a few of them.
What is a baritone guitar?
Although not as well known as its sibling, the standard guitar, the baritone has actually been around for a good while. The acoustic ones originated in Germany over 100 years ago, and the electric version became popular in the early 1960’s with the rise of surf rock, and of course spaghetti westerns and the great Ennio Morricone. In recent years they’ve been popping up in all kinds of musical genres, and interest has certainly increased.
A baritone guitar is pretty much a standard guitar with a longer scale length, typically between 27” and 28.5”. Also often with a slightly bigger body. This makes it ideal for heavier strings, and to play in a much lower register.
The standard baritone is tuned from to B to B, but it’s not uncommon to see baritone guitars tuned all the way down to A, as in A D G C E A.
This of course depends on the scale length and string gauge, but you get the picture.
Other than that, all else stays the same, i.e the relationship between the strings remains, meaning all chord shapes and scale shapes are the same. Most guitar string companies nowadays offer string sets for baritone guitars, often in the gauge of .017 to .070.
What is a guitar preamp?
A preamp, or a preamplifier, is crucial for your guitar tone, and occupies a very important role in the signal chain. These devices are responsible for boosting the signal from your instrument or microphone up to so-called “line level”, so that it can be picked up by the amplifier and sent to the speakers.
The “line level” is basically the bare minimum needed for a signal to be picked up and amplified. Even a line level signal cannot go straight to a speaker, it still needs amplification. If you ever tried to plug your guitar directly into your laptop or a loudspeaker, you would realize right away that the signal from the pickups on your guitar would be way too weak.
Most amplifiers today have built-in preamps, so you most often don’t need to buy one separately. However, to some guitarists the preamp is so essential for good tone that they choose to have an additional external preamp as part of their rig.
What is the nut on a guitar?
It’s this thing right here.
It’s that little piece of plastic, bone, graphite or metal that sits right between the end of the fretboard and the headstock, tightly underneath the strings. It serves essentially as an anchor point for the strings.
It’s a small but very important part on the guitar, and is responsible not only for holding the strings in place, but also ensures the strings are at the right height. This can have a great impact on playability and tone if not set correctly. For more info on string height, check out Guitar Action – A Complete Guide
What is pleking a guitar?
It’s simply scanning and doing sophisticated fretwork on a guitar using a computer-controlled machine called PLEK. This machine allows the luthier to scan the guitar and discover things on the neck and fretboard that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
After the scan, the machine evaluates the neck and frets and compares it to values stored in the machine. After that the operator can cut and smooth the frets and the nut with crazy precision, giving you a guitar with a fretboard that has superior playability. Read more about PLEK.
What is an archtop guitar?
Well, as the name implies it is a guitar with an arched top, or curved top, rather than a flat one. Many people also refer to them as hollow body guitars or semi acoustic guitars.
They were popularized in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, and are still frequently used in jazz, blues and rockabilly. Their shape, and the way they’re built gives them a big, mellow and soft sound.
What is HSS guitar?
Guitars are sometimes referred to by their pickup configuration, in this case humbucker/single coil/ single coil (HSS)
Therefore you also see guitars labeled as SSS, HSH, HH and SS.