Ask Bob: Baritones, Tuning Down
Question: After reading about how you created a nylon-string guitar for Zac Brown that could be tuned down a half step, I got to wondering. I've tuned my 1995 Taylor 412 down a whole step for years (DGCFAD). I use medium D'Addario EJ17 strings and then replace the E and B strings with a .014 and a .018. This tightens up the feel on the treble strings, which works well for fingerstyle and drives the soundboard a little better. My question is whether a Taylor Baritone would be a better fit for tuning a whole step down than other Taylor models. For me, the DGCFAD tuning is here to stay. I'm a baritone singer, and this tuning allows me to transpose songs more easily into keys that suit my vocal range.
Answer: Jim, the answer to that is "yep." Zac's guitar isn't "tuned down," but rather tuned the same. It just has an extra fret, so it's naturally a half step lower. Do you remember the Dan Crary Signature Model from way back? Well, the guitars we made for Dan himself had two extra frets, so it was a long-neck guitar. That allowed him to play in the lower key of "D" with normal tuning tension, and then he'd put a capo on the second fret to be at standard pitch.
If you started with a baritone guitar, it would tune to your desired pitch very nicely, and you wouldn't be forced to use super fatty strings for loosening the tension.