What Guitars do Loathe Use?

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If you’ve been enjoying Loathe’s fresh cocktail of shoegaze and metal lately, you may have been wondering just what type of guitars the lads are using. Here’s a list of the guitars that are delivering that depth charge tone:

Connor Sweeney

  1. SubZero Rogue VI Baritone
  2. Fender Pawn Shop Bass VI
  3. Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster

Erik Bickerstaffe

  1. Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster
  2. Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone

You might have noticed a consistent attribute to these guitars, in that they’re all either baritone or (in the case of the Fender Bass VI) bass guitars. 

What is a Baritone Electric Guitar?

The three practical differences between a normal electric guitar and a baritone guitar are:

Tuning

For a standard electric guitar, standard tuning is E2-A2-D3-G3-B3-E4. 

On a baritone electric guitar, the tuning for each string is normally several semi-tones lower than standard tuning (although there is no consensus on what is the “standard” baritone tuning). 

The most common tunings for baritone electric guitars are:

  1. A perfect fourth lower than standard tuning: B1-E2-A2-D3-F#3-B3
  2. A perfect fifth lower than standard tuning: A1-D2-G2-C3-E3-A3
  3. A major third lower than standard tuning: C2-F2-B♭2-E♭3-G3-C4

Based on the tabs I have downloaded from Ultimate Guitar and the guitar covers I’ve seen on YouTube, Loathe adopt a few different tunings. For the tracks Two-Way Mirror and Aggressive Evolution, I’ve seen the following tuning used:

E1-A1-E2-A2-D3-F#3

According to Guitar World, the lowest string on the SubZero Rogue and the Gretsch Jet is dropped even lower in their YouTube play through of Gored:

C#1-A1-E2-A2-D3-F#3

Scale Length (i.e. Physical Length of the Guitar)

Baritone electric guitars generally have a longer scale length than standard electric guitars. The “scale length” of a guitar refers to the distance between the nut (i.e. the piece of bone or plastic with grooves at the top of the fretboard near the headstock) and the saddle of the bridge (i.e. the equivalent grooved part of the bridge where the strings rest behind the pickups).

Guitars with longer scale lengths require more tension to be applied to the strings in order to get the guitar in tune. This means that tuning an electric guitar like a Gibson Les Paul (with a scale length of 24.75 inches) to standard tuning would require much less tension than, say, Erik’s Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet (with its whopping 29.75 inch scale length).

If you took the Gibson and the Gretsch and tuned them to standard tuning with a set of standard gauge guitar strings, the Gibson would be comfortable to play with no difficulty in fretting complicated chords or string bending, whereas the Gretsch’s strings would be tight to the point of snapping. Fretting chords or bending strings on the Gretsch would be painfully difficult because of the greater amount of tension required to get the guitar into standard tuning.

This extended scale length is what makes baritone guitars ideal for the lower tunings associated with Loathe’s sound as those lower tunings can be achieved without losing the tautness of the strings. If you tried dropping the tuning of a standard Les Paul to baritone territory, you’d end up with strings so loose that you’d struggle to produce any sound beside the flapping of the spaghetti against the frets.

By way of comparison, let’s take a look at the scale lengths of some popular standard electric guitars against Loathe’s lineup of guitars (in bold italic):

  1. Gibson Les Paul // Scale Length: 24.75 inches
  2. Fender Stratocaster // Scale Length: 25.5 inches
  3. Ibanez RG // Scale Length: 25.5 inches
  4. Strandberg Boden // Scale Length 25 – 25.5 inches
  5. ESP Horizon // Scale Length: 25.5 inches
  6. SubZero Rogue VI Baritone // Scale Length: 30 inches
  7. Fender Pawn Shop Bass VI // Scale Length: 30 inches
  8. Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster // Scale Length: 30 inches
  9. Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone // Scale Length: 29.75 inches

String Gauges (i.e. String Thickness)

The string gauges on baritone electric guitars are generally thicker than on standard electric guitars. This is because thicker strings are better at maintaining the tension required for the lower tunings and the longer scale length of the baritone electric guitar. 

If you tried stringing a baritone guitar with strings for a standard electric guitar and tuned it to a normal baritone tuning, you’d find that the strings would be slack. The thinner strings would also produce a much thinner trebly sound than their thicker counterparts.

String gauges are measured in fractions of an inch. For a standard electric guitar, the standard string gauges are: .010, .013, .017, .026, .026, .036 and .046. 

For a baritone electric guitar, the standard string gauges are: .013, .018, .030, .044, .056 and .072.

However, Loathe appear to opt for the even chunkier 6 string bass guitar string gauge, which have the following gauges: .020, .030, .042, .054, .074 and .090.

The above three attributes of their instruments shed some light on how Loathe are able to generate such depth to their sound, but let’s go deeper and take a closer look at the specs for each of their guitars:

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SubZero Rogue VI Baritone

SubZero is the in-house brand at Gear 4 Music, a York, UK based musical instrument retailer. The range of guitars released under this brand name all appear to fall within the more affordable end of the price-spectrum, with the Rogue VI Baritone retailing for a reasonable $363/£299.99.

The Rogue VI Baritone features a Jazzmaster-reminiscent body shape with a couple of classic colours to choose from: tobacco sunburst with a tortoiseshell pick guard and a darker thermally treated maple fretboard with pearloid block inlays or white with a black pick guard and a standard maple fretboard with black block inlays.

The guitar comes from the factory with a thick .24 to .84 gauge string set tuned to one octave below standard tuning (E1-A1-D2-G2-B2-E3). With these gauges and this tuning, the guitar seems to occupy a grey area between baritone and bass guitar (and I would say it leans further into the bass end of the spectrum as the guitar seems very similar to the Fender Bass VI discussed below).

Here are some of the key specs taken from Gear 4 Music’s site (linked above):

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Body Finish: Gloss
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Neck Joint: Bolt-On
  • Neck Finish: Natural Matte
  • Fretboard Material: Thermally Treated Maple
  • Frets: 22
  • Bridge Pickup: Vintage Style Humbucker 15.20K
  • Neck Pickup: Vintage Style Humbucker 11.50K
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic with String Through
  • Scale Length: 30 inches
  • Factory String Gauges: .024 to .084
Connor playing his Pawn Shop Bass VI in the Music Video for Two-Way Mirror

As the name gives away, the Fender Bass VI is a six string bass guitar, not a baritone. With its 30 inch scale length, this would be considered a short-scale bass (compared with a standard Fender Precision bass, for instance, which has a scale length of 34 inches).

Styling-wise, the Bass VI is reminiscent of the Fender Jaguar and the Fender Jazzmaster, with its offset body shape and the floating tremolo.

As with standard bass guitars (and the SubZero for that matter), the Fender Bass VI is tuned to one octave below standard tuning (E1-A1-D2-G2-B2-E3).

Connor’s Pawn Shop Bass VI is differentiated from standard models with the inclusion of a JZHB humbucking pickup in the bring position rather than the usual single coil. This particular model is now discontinued.

Here are some of the key specs for the guitar taken from an old GAK listing:

  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fretboard Material: Rosewood
  • Frets: 21
  • Bridge Pickup: JZHB Humbucking
  • Middle Pickup: Special Design Hot Jaguar
  • Neck Pickup: Special Design Hot Jaguar Single-Coil
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Pickup Switching: 5-Position Blade – Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup
  • Bridge: Vintage Style Adjustable 6-Saddle with Floating Tremolo Tailpiece
  • Scale Length: 30 inches
  • Factory String Gauges: .024, .034, .044, .056, .072 and .084 

Fender aren’t currently offering a Bass VI as part of their lineup, but there is a Squire option currently available in the form of the Squier Classic Vibe Bass VI LRL. These come in black and 3-Tone Sunburst, both with tortoiseshell pick guards, Indian laurel fretboards and pearloid block inlays.

The Squiers are available for around $450-$500/£375-£400.

Here are some of the key specs for the Squier Bass VI taken from Thomann’s listing:

  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fretboard Material: Indian Laurel
  • Frets: 21
  • Bridge Pickup: Fender Designed Alnico Single Coil
  • Middle Pickup: Fender Designed Alnico Single Coil
  • Neck Pickup: Fender Designed Alnico Single Coil
  • Controls: Master Volume and Master Tone
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle vintage style bridge with non-locking floating tremolo
  • Scale Length: 30 inches
  • Factory String Gauges: .024, .034, .044, .056, .072 and .084
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Squier Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster

The baritone Jazzmaster is a similar beast to the Bass VI, but in baritone format with a standard tuning setup of A1-D2-G2-C3-E3-A3 out of the factory (a perfect fifth below standard tuning).

The latest version of the guitar to be part of Squier’s lineup comes in either an all-black colour way or in a very unique Antigua Burst with matching Antigua Burst pick guard. However, you’ll be hard pressed to pick either up outside of the resale market as I couldn’t find a retailer that still had these in stock.

The pickups have the appearance of P90s, but are described as Duncan Designed single coils.

Here are some of the key specs for the Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster taken from the Gear 4 Music listing (linked above):

  • Body Material: Basswood
  • Body Finish: Gloss Polyester
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Neck Finish: Gloss Polyurethane
  • Fretboard Material: Rosewood
  • Frets: 21
  • Bridge Pickup: Duncan Designed JM-101B Single-Coil Jazzmaster with Alnico 5 Magnets
  • Neck Pickup: Duncan Designed JM-101N Single-Coil Jazzmaster with Alnico 5 Magnets
  • Controls: Volume, Tone
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Fixed Bridge
  • Scale Length: 30 inches

Erik’s choice of a Gretsch is bound to be viewed as unconventional for a guitarist whose playing resides primarily in the darker, heavier end of the spectrum. In a reflection of Loathe’s lack of interest in convention, there appears to be no regard for whether or not the brand name “Gretsch” suits his band’s image or not. For a band that evidently pays attention to their visual presentation, the traditional aesthetic of the Gretsch (and the SubZero, Fenders and Squiers for that matter) suits nicely.

Adopting a different factory tuning again to the others, the Gretsch comes tuned B to B (which I take to mean B1-E2-A2-D3-F#3-B3 – i.e. a perfect fourth lower than standard tuning). As you might expect of a Gretsch, the factory string gauge setup is a little lighter at .014, .018, .024, .044, .056, and .072.

With Erik’s stop tail model, three subdued colourways are offered, with dark cherry, jade grey and London grey, each of which are finished with chrome hardware. There is also a Bigsby model which comes in silver and in black.

The fixed bridge Jet Baritone retails at around $599.99/£519.00 or $699.99/£599.00 for the Bigsby models.

Here are some of the key specs for the Jet Baritone taken from Gretsch’s website (linked above):

  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Body Finish: Gloss
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Neck Finish: Gloss
  • Fretboard Material: Laurel
  • Frets: 22
  • Bridge Pickup: Gretsch Mini Humbucker
  • Neck Pickup: Gretsch Mini Humbucker
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Pickup Switching: 3-Position Toggle: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • Bridge: Anchored Adjusto-Matic (in an interesting chevron shape)
  • Scale Length: 29.75 inches.

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