minstrel: Re: guitars

nickolas kaugon ollaimh at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 25 14:57:04 PST 2001

--- Lisa and Ken Theriot <lnktheriot at home.com> wrote:
> 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 differences other than the surface appearance are
legion. the vihula and other early guitar shaped
instruments were built for gut strings, and rather
poor quality gut. they were built so much lighter than
a guitar that many can be held by one finger. i nave a
medieval cittern that light and it is strung with

because of these reasons the sound , playing attack,
tuning and styles are completely different from a
modern steel strung guitar. modern nylon strung would
at least be a descendant of the early guitars although
most early guitars were double strung--some folk
vihulas were single strung.

the metal strung instruments(the citterns) wer closer
to the sound and attack of a modern steel string
guitar. they were louder and hence the more popular
instrumant with the masses, outstriping the lute in
the late rennaisance at all levels. however the
cittern family are the direct ncestors of the modern
mandloin and bouzouki family and not guitars.

early diuble strung guitars were essentially lute
variants, and if you've played one they are very
similar in volume and playability. now i have nothing
against guitars but remember the word itself didn't
mean what it means today. the citter family were
called guitars at variuos times, or guiterns.

i do get tired of people claiming their martin is
period. i don't think the difference of tuning pegs is
very sigificant at all. it's the sound and attack that
differentiates an instrument. i consider a modern
greek bouzouki to be very close to period as the
itallian calleciaonne was almost identical in strings
sound and playing bit had fristion pegs. i have three
friction pegs citterns and can tell you unless you
want to spend time learning "the art of tuning" go for
the modern machine heads. you will eventually get the
knack but it takes a lot more time. oftn bardic
corcles are not willing to wait while you tune a
period instrument(and you need quiet) as people son't
have the patiebce for this as they did in period. in
period it was common the spend a quarter of a concert
listening to tuning, on lute harp or cittern.

anyway if you want a close to period instrument the
five course quatro, strung with gut or nylon is really
pretty good and you can play most of the guitar stuff
with a little thought--and i wouldn't alter the
machine heads unless you are the patient type--if you
do get a professional to ream the holes and match the
pegs exactly --it will save lots of time.

of course avoid the guitar problem and play the harp!

 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 
> assembly).
> 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 
> is.
> Adelaide
> _______________________________________________
> minstrel mailing list, minstrel at pbm.com,
> http://www.pbm.com/mailman/listinfo/minstrel
> To unsubscribe, send email to
> minstrel-request at pbm.com with a SUBJECT of
> unsubscribe

Do You Yahoo!?
Send your FREE holiday greetings online!

More information about the minstrel mailing list