minstrel: Re: guitars

Lisa and Ken Theriot lnktheriot at home.com
Mon Dec 17 14:29:11 PST 2001

Boy, this comes up about every ten months or so, doesn't it?

RE: body shape and size... I can show you period woodcuts that look just 
like dreadnought steel-string acoustics, (though they are in fact, 
vihuelas), and others that look like smallish classical acoustics (which 
are, in fact, guitars).  The biggest difference between a modern guitar and 
a period one is the tuning pegs, which were direct rather than involving a 
machine (i.e., the strings were wound directly onto the tuning peg rather 
than being wound on a spindle which connects to the tuning peg via a gear 

Eloise wrote:

[However, our standard figure-eight, steel-strung, six strings tuned EADGBE 
guitar is fairly modern.]

Figure eight bodies are ancient.  Steel strings are indeed problematic, at 
least for guitars.

Tuning ran roughly as follows:  a vihuela was tuned like a lute: G C F A D 
G; a guitar whacked off the lowest and highest courses to get C F A D. 
 Sometime in the 16th century, a course or single string chanterelle was 
added back on and the pitch raised a tone to A D G B E, which is modern 
standard less the low E.

If you can find it, I highly recommend _The Art and Times of the Guitar_ by 
Frederic Grunfeld.

Technical questions aside, no one has ever told me to go away because I was 
carrying a guitar (I know better than to take it certain places, where I 
choose to perform a cappella, if I choose to perform at all).  I wouldn't 
hesitate to use it in a competition, though my documentation would include 
the differences between my guitar and a period instrument (have you tried 
finding gut strings for a guitar?).  The reason the guitar pretty well 
killed off the lute was primarily ease of tuning and play, and so it still 


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