By Adam Perlmutter
At first I wasn’t sure what to do with the Taylor 326e. Like any six-string baritone guitar, the instrument—tuned a perfect fourth lower than standard—sits between the register of a standard guitar and a bass guitar, and not always gracefully. My go-to chord-melody arrangements sounded murky and it felt tonally disorienting to play the instrument.
But digging deeper and experimenting with both repertoire and register, I began to appreciate the tonal possibilities inherent to this nicely executed modern baritone with a throaty low voice.
Despite a 27-inch scale length—1.6 inches longer than the standard dreadnought or OM scale, and 2.1 longer than short scale—it feels natural to play the 326e. I can pull off low-position chords requiring large stretches with the same ease as on a regular guitar. The strings on the baritone, gauged .016–.070, are much thicker than the 12s that makers use on most modern guitars, but thanks to the baritone’s comfortable low action and its low-profile neck, it’s not straining on the fret hand.
Overall, the 326e has a firm and imposing voice—it’s the nightclub bouncer of guitars. Its registral balance is pretty good, though the treble isn’t quite as present as the bass and the mid. Single notes in the guitar’s lowest quarters sound warm and cello-like, not in small part because the baritone’s sixth string is just a minor second apart from the lowest string on a cello.
With this in mind, I placed a capo at the first fret, to play the prelude from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 in C major. The baritone sounded rich in this context, and it was particularly satisfying to play low notes that aren’t unavailable on a standard-tuned regular guitar.
When strummed, the 326e packs a wallop—it’s got great projection and sustain. But it can get slightly muddy, as it did, for instance, when I strummed a low open Gmaj7 chord with a D in the bass—the individual voices blended together in a way that wasn’t ideal. Strumming voicings with fewer notes—for example, two-note seventh chords with only thirds and sevenths, in the manner of Freddie Green, the longtime Count Basie guitarist—tends to yield better results. I remembered that Pat Metheny had recorded an entire album, One Quiet Night, on the solo baritone acoustic. Using guitarinstructor.com, I purchased scores from this album. Playing Metheny’s interpretations of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” and Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Ferry ’Cross the Mersey” revealed that when fingerpicked, the guitar has a sort of symphonic effect that lends itself to solo fingerstyle guitar.
Whatever the approach, when plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amplifier, the 326e’s onboard electronics—Taylor’s Expression System 2—does a terrific job of capturing the guitar’s natural acoustic sound with a minimum of fuss.
The Nitty Gritty
The 326e, with its Shaded Edgeburst finish on a mahogany soundboard, is good-looking. Taylor is known for its consistent high-level craftsmanship, and overall the review model hits most of the marks. Its fretwork is clean and tidy, as are its nut and saddle slots. The decorative work is precisely articulated and flush with the body.
Plenty of players are satisfied with the range of a standard guitar, but the 326e brings additional tonal possibilities—and delivers them with authority. This US-made instrument isn’t necessarily easy on the wallet, but those committed to the baritone, should definitely check out this brawny contender.
Grand Symphony size
Solid mahogany top
Solid sapele back and sides
27-inch scale length
Taylor nickel tuners
Expression System 2 electronics
Elixir baritone strings (.016–.070)
$2,318 list/$1,799 street
Made in the USA