I spent quite a bit of time geeking out over Taylor at NAMM (look for a photo special soon, and I’m taking the factory tour tomorrow!), and one of the coolest products I saw was this incredible Baritone 8-string acoustic. Tuned B to B, the middle two strings are doubled an octave higher for subtle 12-string effects. I spent a bit of time playing it and I found it quite intuitive: because only two strings are doubled, you don’t get that same ‘I’m playing on a cheese grater … I prolly shouldn’t be doing this’ feel you get from a full 12-string. Now, as someone who plays a lot of 7-string, I can really see this guitar fitting quite nicely indeed into my recordings, adding some punch to the low end and some zing to the top at the same time.
Another awesome thing about this guitar is that while I was playing it, John Petrucci strolled in to the Taylor booth. He remembered me from our recent interview (at least he said he did – maybe he was just being polite. Man that dude’s nice), and I showed him the guitar and told him how freaking awesome it is. Who knows, maybe he’ll pick one up and work it into some future music?
Anyway, here’s the press release:
Taylor Guitars Introduces the Baritone 8-String Guitar
ANAHEIM, Calif. – January 14, 2010 – Born from a love of tone and a passion for innovation, Taylor Guitars has expanded the possibilities of guitar voicing in its new model, the Baritone 8-String. With a bold, fresh sound, the Baritone 8-String broadens the tonal spectrum, giving players a rich musical palette that promises to uncork new inspiration of musical harmony.
Featuring a Grand Symphony body with a richly hued back and sides of Indian rosewood topped with Sitka spruce, the Baritone 8-String embodies the spirit of a traditional baritone guitar paired with Taylor’s quality craftsmanship and product innovation. The model features a longer-scaled 27-inch neck and Taylor-designed baritone bracing. The guitar is tuned from B to B and features additional octave strings paired along with the third and fourth (D and A) strings. This feature gives players an extended range of sounds, without compromising tonal integrity or playability.
The Baritone 8-String came to be as Taylor’s product development team was deep in the throes of designing several series of 35th Anniversary guitars, including a 6-string baritone (XXXV-B) and a 9-string guitar (XXXV-9). The team decided to experiment by creating a hybrid of the two, as Bob Taylor explains. “We loved the traditional baritone, but missed having some of that upper register. We thought, what if we turned it into a 9-string baritone? So, we made one. But after deciding it was a little too jangly, we pulled off the [doubled second] string, leaving the third and fourth octave strings. It sounded awesome.”
Adding the two octave strings, Taylor says, transformed the baritone. “It’s a whole new ballgame. It’s really, really cool because you can either accentuate those octaves or stay away from them. The beauty of this guitar is that it goes low and those two strings brighten it up, but they don’t sound too ‘octave-y’. It doesn’t give you that 12-string effect as much as it really just extends the range because, as a baritone, the octaves aren’t really high. It fills the guitar out and gives it a nice (tonal) spread.”
The Baritone 8-String is tuned a fourth below standard guitar tuning, allowing the player to play songs in a lower register. In terms of the playing experience, Taylor’s David Hosler, a member of the product development team, compares the tonal properties of the 8-string baritone to a blend of three different instruments. “When I hear it, I feel like I’m hearing a 6-string, a bass, and a bit of 12-string all in one guitar,” he says. “In giving it a good listen, it sounds like standard and alternate tuning at the same time.”
The product development team at Taylor isn’t the only group excited about the new model. Taylor-strumming dealers, from metal players to singer-songwriters, are lining up to play and share the experience with their customers. Matt Clancy, from Craig’s Music in Weatherford, Texas sampled the 8-string during a fall Taylor Road Show event. As a heavy metal musician, he was blown away with the “bigness of the tone.” In fact, he says his favorite thing about the guitar is the tonal fullness he gets from a single strum. “When you’re playing regular chords on the 8-string, there’s so much more body, especially with octave strings,” he elaborates. “It opens up the way minor chords sound, and they sound huge on it. It’s a great guitar for guys who do metal and some acoustic rock, as it’s perfect for power chords, and for some jazz too, especially if they like playing in low B. It’s a guitar that’s filled with big, tonal goodness. It adds a depth that you can’t get from any other guitar on the market right now.”
Evan Carmen, a Taylor dealer from Morgan Music in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, had the chance to play an 8-string prototype during a recent visit to the Taylor factory. As an acoustic singer-songwriter, Carmen is sure this guitar will be an addition to his collection. “There is practical application in nearly every style and genre I can think of,” he says. “It’s only a matter of time before it starts changing music forever. I can’t wait to see how people react to it right out of the gate. No doubt, we’ll be hearing it used frequently after people catch wind of what it’s capable of. I can’t wait to have one of my own.”
As enchanting as the guitar is to play and listen to, it’s equally attractive visually. The model’s appointments include a mother-of-pearl peghead inlay and delicate diamond-shaped fretboard inlays, a three-ring abalone rosette, and abalone-dotted bridge pins. Premium features include Indian rosewood binding, a bone nut and saddle, and an all-gloss finish. Amplified with the Taylor Expression System® pickup and strung with ELIXIR® Baritone strings, the model is also offered in a standard 6-string version.
Available at authorized domestic and international Taylor dealers in mid-winter, the Baritone 8-String will be offered at a suggested retail price of $3,998 and the Baritone 6-String at $3,798. Players looking to keep their baritone guitar equipped with ELIXIR strings® can purchase them through TaylorWare, the company’s online store of Taylor-branded clothing, accessories and gear.
To experience the company’s new guitars, artist performances, or to learn more about Taylor Guitars, please visit the Taylor Guitars booth on the second floor of the Anaheim Convention Center, Room 213.
For additional information about the Baritone guitars, please visit
For Taylor Guitars news, please visit
In some circles, Fernandes is known for the high quality copy guitars it made in decades gone by. I have a rather impressive Fernandes Jazz Bass copy, for instance. For others the Fernandes Sustainer, a pickup system that provides infinite sustain and controllable feedback by interacting with the string itself, is a thing of legend, the key to a sonic Eden populated by the likes of Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Reeves Gabrels and Adrian Belew.
Fernandes calls the Ravelle Deluxe Baritone (discontinued in the USA but still available in some markets, or check eBay) the most aggressive axe it’s ever made, and it’s easy to see why. Apart from the distinctive Ravelle styling, which looks like some kind of medieval weapon concealed within the lower half of an otherwise subdued looking 50s solidbody guitar design, this mahogany-bodied beast features fire breathing EMG pickups and an extended scale length designed for maximum impact when tuning down.
The Ravelle Baritone came tuned to B and was strung with heavy D’Addario strings selected to get the most out of the extended 27” scale length at such a low tuning. The hardwear, in classic metal tradition, could be ‘none more black.’ The Gotoh-made Tune-O-Matic bridge and Stop tailpiece good choices for maintaining tuning stability, while the break angle of the bridge to the tailpiece seems to add its own little mojo in terms of sustain and fullness of tone.
Electronics consist of a pair of EMG 81 pickups, a 3 way toggle switch, and volume and tone controls. The fretboard has a 14” radius, with a 5 1/8” Graph Tech Trem nut. What? A trem nut? Hang on, bucko, there’s logic behind this lunacy. Sure, at first it would seem like an odd choice – why would a nut designed for keeping vintage tremolo systems in tune be used on a fixed bridge guitar? But it makes perfect sense when you consider that there’s no ‘standard’ string gauge or even standard tuning for baritone guitars, so this self-lubricating nut is a great way of covering all bases and coping with the demands of a player who may change string gauges and tunings several times before settling on their preferred setup.
Ravelle Baritone, meet Marshall DSL50. The Ravelle is a straight up ass kicker from the very first chord. Those used to tuning down on standard scale instruments, or even dedicated 7-stringers like myself, will realise very quickly that they’re missing out by playing lower tunings without the extended scale of this baritone. The extra length keeps the string tension tight and makes the note definition sharp and punchy. On a down-tuned standard scale guitar, play a chord and the notes drift around a little bit, especially if you’re using lighter strings. On this baritone, the tuning remains solid, but more importantly, there’s a punch and oomph to the note attack that you just can’t get with a standard scale length. The EMG pickups add some bite and fizz to the top end, so not only does the Ravelle thud you in the chest, it also takes off some skin – metaphorically speaking of course, unless you get a bit too wild with that sharp treble side cutaway during live performance…
The Ravelle Baritone has uses for everything from metal to country, though pickups with a coil split option might enhance its use for the latter. While I thought I would generally pretty happy to stick with my 7 string when I need to get down to low B, now I’m not so sure.