Relatives of the Lute
Baroque Guitar

    The Baroque guitar has five courses; the first is single, and the other four are double.  The instrument utilizes a re-entrant tuning scheme, with the bottom course an octave higher than might be expected.  Based on publications and manuscripts of the time, some historical players clearly preferred octave stringing on the lower one or two courses, while others just as clearly preferred unison for all the double courses.  The choice of tuning scheme did not depend strictly on geography or chronology, and in fact in a few published collections the optimum tuning pattern may vary from one page to the next.

    During the Baroque period, the guitar was cultivated by players and composers within the courts of princes and kings, and instruments were built by makers as skilled and well-known as Antonio Stradivari.  Over the course of the seventeenth century construction of guitars became much more ornate than it had been earlier, in the Renaissance, and individual makers developed their own personal styles.  Some instruments had vaulted backs, like that on the instrument illustrated, while others had flat backs.

Rear view of the instrument above.
Click on either photo to view a larger version.

    The Baroque guitar may well have been used as it frequently is today, to provide a simple strummed accompaniment for a singer or small group.  However, there were also many significant music collections published during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for guitar containing contrapuntal compositions, as well as some where strumming alternates with contrapuntal motion.  Some original music for the Baroque guitar available on line is listed on another page of our website.

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Last updated 24 May AD 2015 — DFH

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