Baroque Guitar

Name: Baroque guitar.
Type: Lute > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Period: 1600-1750.
Country: Many.
Region: Western Europe & Europe.

Description: The Baroque guitar [c. 1600–1750] is a string instrument with five courses of gut strings and moveable gut frets. The Baroque guitar replaced the Renaissance lute as the most common instrument found in the home. The earliest attestation of a five-stringed guitar comes from the mid-sixteenth-century Spanish book Declaracion de Instrumentos Musicales by Juan Bermudo, published in 1555.

History: The first treatise published for the Baroque guitar was Guitarra Española de cinco ordenes [The Five-course Spanish Guitar] c. 1590 by Juan Carlos Amat. The baroque guitar in contemporary ensembles took on the role of a basso continuo instrument and players would be expected to improvise a chordal accompaniment. Intimately tied to the development of the Baroque guitar is the alfabeto system of notation.

Tunings: Three different ways of tuning the guitar are well documented in seventeenth-century sources as set out in the following table. This includes the names of composers who are associated with each method. Very few sources seem to clearly indicate that one method of stringing rather than another should be used and it is often argued that it may have been up to the player to decide what was appropriate. The issue is highly contentious and different theories have been put forward.

Ferdinando Valdambrini [Italy, 1646/7]; Gaspar Sanz [Spain, 1674] E-B-G-D-A Antoine Carre [France, 1671]; Robert de Visée [France, 1682]; Nicolas Derosier (Netherlands, 1690] E-B-G-D; Girolamo Montesardo [Italy, 1606]; Benedetto Sanseverino [Italy, 1620]; Giovanni Paolo Foscarini [Italy, 1640]; Francisco Guerau (Spain, 1694) E-B-G-D [in octave]-A [in octave].

Citations: Harvey Turnbull, The Guitar – From The Renaissance to the Present Day 3rd, impression 1978 London: Batsford (ISBN 0 7134 3251 9) p. 15: Chapter 1 – The Development of the Instrument. Lex Eisenhardt, Bourdons as Usual – In The Lute: The Journal of the Lute Society, vol. XLVII 2007.

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