Renaissance Guitar

Name: Renaissance Guitar.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Period: 16th Century.
Country: Many.
Region: Western Europe & Europe.

Description: The Renaissance guitar is most likely have evolved during the late 15th century from the application of design features and construction techniques for Spanish lutes and vihuela’s of the time to a more simply constructed simply constructed earlier plucked lute called the gittern.

The features that set guitars apart from earlier gittern were: the neck and constructed resonator being separate units joined together rather than being carved from a single block of wood; a relatively long neck with frets rather than a fretless short neck; and a figure-eight-shaped resonator rather than a pear-shaped one.

Renaissance Guitar Tunings
Names Tunings
temple nuevos G / C / E / A

A period during which the five course Baroque guitar also existed and was in widespread use. An interesting note on the tenacity of musical practice over spans of time and distance: the temple nuevos tuning, minus the bordón [G4] is used as the standard tuning for the Hawaiian ‘ukulele, which was developed from various diminutive Iberian folk guitars [machête de braça, cavaquinho / braguinha, tiple/timple] brought to Hawaii by late 19th century Portuguese immigrants, who included in their numbers instrument makers.

Construction: The resonator or body is made from thinly shaven boards of maple wood. The renaissance guitar is in a figure eight shaped not all that dissimilar to the current Classical Guitar. Although the body is proportioned differently. The resonating chamber is covered with a flat soundboard of straight-grained softwood [spruce or pine]. Near the centre of the soundboard a circular sound hole that is covered with a delicately carved and perforated rosette of wood and bone.

A long wooden bridge is glued across the soundboard just above its bottom end. A neck made of hardwood, rounded on its backside but flat on its front side. The neck is securely joined to the top end of the resonator. Its flat side, which is in the same plane as the soundboard, serves as the  fingerboard. The top end of the fingerboard terminates in a nut made of bone. Ten gut frets are securely tied around the neck. Joined to the top of the neck and bent back very slightly is the peg block with seven back-mounted wooden tuning pegs.

Seven strings are arranged in four courses, the three lowest-pitched courses are double and the highest-pitched one is single. One end of each string is tied to the bridge on the soundboard.  The strings pass over the resonator from nut to bridge, passing over the resonator and above the frets on the fingerboard. Making contact with the nut as it passes over it. The strings are then finally threaded through and wound around a tuning peg. The strings all have the same vibrating length of 50.5 cm or 19.9 inches as measured from the bridge to the nut.

Citations: Bibliography: Paul O’Dette 1994 Plucked Instruments, In A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance Music. ed. Jeffery T. Kite-Powell. New York: Schirmer Books, pp. 139-153 ; Turnbull, Harvey, and James Taylor. 1984. “Guitar, 1-4” NGDMI v.2: 87-99 ; James Tyler, 1980 The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook. London: Oxford University Press ; Websites:

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