Seminstrunnaya Gitara

Name: Seminstrunnaya Gitara.
Type: Chordophones > Composite > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Russian Federation.
Region: Eastern Europe.

Description: The Russian guitar [in Russian: семиструнная гитара], sometimes referred to as a “Gypsy guitar”. This type of acoustic seven-string guitar was developed in Russia towards the end of the 18th century. While sharing most of the same organological features with the Spanish guitar.

Some historians insist on English guitar ascendancy. It is known in Russian as the semistrunnaya gitara [семиструнная гитара], or affectionately as the semistrunka [семиструнка], which translates to “seven-stringer”.

History: Although a number of sources associate the invention of the Russian guitar to Andrei Sychra [1773 – 1850]. There are strong reasons to believe that the instrument was already in use when Sychra began his career. Sychra was very influential in creating the school of Russian guitar playing.

He was a very prolific composer leaving a thousand compositions, seventy-five of which were republished in the 1840s by Stellovsky and then again in the 1880s by Gutheil. Some of these were published yet again in the Soviet Union in 1926.

Usage: The Russian version of the seven-string guitar has been used by professionals because of its great flexibility, but has also been popular with amateurs for accompaniment [especially Russian bards] due to the relative simplicity of some basic chords and the ease of playing alternating bass lines.

Tuning: Russian and Spanish guitars are tuned differently. On the Spanish guitar the open-string chord is an Em11 – E / A / D / G / B / E, while on the Russian guitar it centres on a G major. While the Spanish guitar is tuned in fourths with one major third [G3 / B3], the Russian guitar is tuned in thirds [G2 / B2 / B2 / D3 / G3–B3 and B3 / D3] with two fourths [D2–G2, and D3–G3]: D2 / G2 / B2 / D3 / G3 / B3 / D4 tuning used in classical literature C2 G2 B2 D3 G3 B3 D4. The lowest string D occasionally is tuned down to the C.

Seminstrunnaya Gitara Tunings
Names Tunings
Open G D / G / B / D / G / B / D
Bulat Okudzhava D / G / C / D / G / B / D 
D / G / C / D / G / B♭ / D
Tuning in Classical lit. C / G / B / D / G / B / D

Citations: Bibliography: Casey, Fred 2003 From Russia, with strings attached, American Lutherie: The Quarterly Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers [Instrument Plan]. 8222 South Park Avenue, Tacoma WA 98408 USA – The Guild of American Luthiers. Number 75; Anatoly Shiryalin, “Guitar poem”, Moscow, 1994 p.11; Timofeyev, O. and Bazzotti, M – The Seven-String Guitar in 19th-Century Russian Culture; phee, Matayana – A Brief History of the Russian Seven-String Guitar.

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