minstrel: Hmmmmmmm--a period looking guitar?

Tim Connor timcon at flash.net
Tue Mar 14 22:07:10 PST 2000

It depends to some extent on exactly which part of "period", and on how
narrowly you define "guitar."  The lute as we have it now (seven or more
courses) is very late period.  An oud is probably more like the lute of
the high middle ages (except that Europeans probably added frets, which
ouds don't have).  There are direct ancestors of the guitar that date to
the 13th C.--they would have four or five courses, very small bodies
(not necessarily figure 8 shaped), and gut strings.  The Latin American
cuatro and vihuela are probably the closest modern equivalents, and can
be had quite cheaply (try e-bay--I saw a cuatro there going for $139). 
You could also use a child-sized guitar, a tenor guitar, or a baritone
ukelele.  I got a child size guitar at a garage sale, modified the
bridge and peghead to take four double courses (and friction pegs), put
a rosette in the soundhole, and voila--early guitar (sort of).  At
least, it'll do until I can afford something better.  Total cost about
$50.  Detailed instructions available on request.

Modern mandolins and citterns have steel strings, so are not really
guitar like--also, they're tuned in fifths so the fingerings are
unfamiliar (early guitars do seem to have been tuned in fourths with a
third in the middle, like the four high strings of a modern guitar). 


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