Source: Music Mart
Date: 01 March 2000
Reviewer: Paul Day
Paul Day lands some low blows, courtesy of the big-sounding Gus G4*, the first baritone guitar from the UK's most distinctive maker.
*(Please note that G4 was the original model name for the G3 Baritone)
The baritone electric has been around since the 50s and is currently enjoying renewed interest, thanks to contributions from a growing number of makers. Some choose to revive former glories in almost facsim fashion, while others go for an all-new approach to this old idea. Unsurprisingly, the G4 falls fairly and decidedly un-squarely into the latter category. Simon Farmer has never been one to slavishly follow fashion or convention, and the G4 is no exception to this UK maker's ultra-original rule.
The baritone concept combines standard and bass guitars in one instrument, and as with any such hybrid, the target market determines certain basic design aspects. As more of these models become available, itís apparent that most aim to please one of two player types - either the guitarist who fancies going down or the bassist wanting to go up in the world.
The demands involved are by no means the same and satisfying them entails different thinking for certain pertinent construction and/or component parameters.
Another influential factor is that a baritone can be tuned in a variety of ways - A, B or C below normal guitar pitch, or even a full octave down (although the latter actually takes it into old-fashioned six-string bass territory).
As preferred by Gus, A-below seems to be the most popular option, offering plenty of low register potential plus an easily fingered upper end. Also, being a fifth down means it's easier to work out the necessary comparative key maths when playing with standard tuned instruments.
The review example is Simon Farmer's first baritone and does seem to favour the four-string fingerer, an impression engendered by the neck dimensions, string spacing and hardware, although these are actually less substantial than on the similarly-styled G3 Bass.
Gus is obviously aware of possibly further limiting the appeal of an already minority market instrument, because another version of the Baritone is to be offered with a shorter and smaller scale neck, trimmed-down components and slimmer string spacing - all aspects intended to foster a more guitarist-friendly image.
The headstock adopts a Music Man-style four-and-two tuner lay out, but thatís where any resemblance ends. This is quite an extended effort - big enough to accommodate the smooth-looking sextet of Hipshot-made machineheads, which are compact by bass standards, but more meaty than those employed on other baritones.
A gratifyingly well-cut nut leads onto the sleek expanse of cocobolo fingerboard. This is gently cambered and equipped with equally slinky medium gauge frets plus a full complement of the impossible-to miss Gus position markers.
Bass of operations
Whether employed on guitar or bass, Farmerís novel construction methods allow an ultra easy transition from neck into body, and here the 24th fret is accordingly reached with ease. Although the neck is significantly slimmed down from the G3, to my fingers the wide and shallow shaping suggest bass rather than guitar.
Sporting a gold paint job that's well up to this maker's usual exemplary standard, the well balanced body is borrowed straight from the G3 bass, with the same curved profile and quite squat, exaggerated offset-waist styling. This is embellished by chrome tubes which create the necessary horns (or tusks, more like), the left one long and outwardly curving, while its treble-side partner is appreciably stunted and quite straight in comparison. Stretching a point I feel the latter would benefit by being a bit longer. allowing the curve to develop a little for a better aesthetic match to its companion, while also offering more anchorage on the leg, as the G4 does tend to slide backwards when played sitting down.
Like other models in the current range, the baritone's pickups are Gus Tube single-coils and the controls are topped by metal knobs made in house. The bridge/tailpiece is equally own grown - a clever concoction comprising a recessed solid baseplate supporting six chunky saddles, each fully adjustable via access on the underside. Also round the back is the novel and neat raised jack socket. another typical Gus fitting, while Schaller Straplok buttons complete the component picture.
Overall string spacing is only about 5mm wider than the average six-string electric, but the extra air makes it feel more, which doesn't exactly encourage chord work or subtle lead lines. Instead, the G4 seems better suited to forceful riffing and stands up well to a heavy right hand, in other words an empathy with bass-orientated playing styles.
As on the G3, the rotary switch provides the usual either pickup or both-on positIons, plus a fourth setting which combines the single-coils in humbucking mode. Each option offers a distinctive tonality - from deep-throated growl through to brash and twangy bark - all different but equally usable in a baritone context, and with a consistent degree of appreciable poke.
Suitable amplification is a must- don't expect any such low-strung six to be at its best through a bog-standard cheapo guitar combo. More watts, extra headroom and a bigger speaker are prime requisites - very much as for a bass in fact - but the top end needs covering adequately too.
The G4 flies the baritone flag in typically eye-catching Gus fashion, but as always this maker's left-field visuals are backed up by immaculate build standards and powerful performance abilities. Specific features of the review model do seem bassist-friendly, and contribute to what is quite a demanding instrument. The guitar-orientated alternative could prove an easier proposition for some, but there's no denying this version really delivers the goods in a physically satisfying sort of way, and this is matched by impressively sizeable sounds. Like the looks, the asking price tag will tend to restrict interest in an obviously niche market model, but in this case such money buys the added value alliance of no-compromise quality and super-strong individuality.
Copyright Music Mart ©2000. Used by kind permission of Music Mart.