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Sunday, November 16, 2014

“A Guitar A Day”
Installment #2

The Baroque Guitar
Approx. 1600-1750

Here’s the Baroque Guitar! You’ll notice that there are ten tuning pegs representing 5 different sets of strings. Each string is doubled. You may remember that the Renaissance Guitar had seven tuning pegs. That’s because three of the courses (strings) where doubled while the highest was single. The pitches from the lowest string to the highest on this Baroque guitar are the same as the modern guitar – A,D,G,B, and E. Guitar tunings were not yet standardized. In fact, there were three different ways to tune these guitars depending on whether you lived in Spain, France, or Italy. “Guitarra espanola de cinco ordenes was written by Joan Carlos Amat in 1596 in which he references the tuning noted above – looks like I have the Spanish model – sweet.
Check out how fancy the guitar is. The Baroque era was highly ornate and decorative. The edges of the guitar are made out of individual pieces of wood (no it’s not paint), the wedding cake design in the sound hole is made out of parchment paper, and the ornate decorations continue on the headstock. The frets and tuning pegs remain the same design as the Renaissance guitar. Also, notice the mustache shape towards the bottom of the instrument, that’s called a mustache bridge, a common feature of guitars of that era. If you look back at the Renaissance guitar you’ll notice a bit of a mustache on that bridge as well – pretty awesome.
Some guitarists were able to land serious gigs like Francesco Corbetta (1615-1681) who gave guitar lessons to Louis XIV and Charles II. One of Corbetta’s students, Robert De Visee (1660-1725) was a court musician for Louis XIV, was a guitar tutor for Louis XV, and was employed by the royal family from 1680-1732.  
Be sure to check out of the music below to get a feel for how Baroque music is similar to jazz. It’s highly decorative and elaborate and involves a bit of improvisation. In fact there’s a book about this subject titled “Bach and the Art of Improvisation”.

Here’s a clip of a Robert de Visee piece performed by Rafale Andia

Check out the music with a link to Karl Richter knocking out the harpsichord on Brandenburg Concerto 5.

I’ve also included a second link to a fun article on how to perform Baroque Guitar music on a modern guitar.

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