Welcome to “A Guitar A Day”
This series will last 7 days - so here we go!
The Renaissance Guitar
The time periods that I have noted for each day differ slightly from historian to historian so please see them as an approximation.
One of the first things that comes to mind when I think about the Renaissance guitar is the fact that the earliest surviving example of this instrument dates back to 1646. However, evidence of the guitar’s existence dates back to a book of tablature from 1552 and a description of the Renaissance Guitar by Juan Bermudo from 1555. That’s almost a hundred years of Renaissance Guitars that went missing – where are they?!
The Renaissance Guitar is a four-course instrument, meaning that it has four sets of strings. Three strings are doubled and the highest string is single. The tuning is G,C,E,A. If you put a capo on the fifth fret of the modern guitar and play the top 4 strings then you can get a feel for the tuning. The Renaissance guitar has gut strings, and gut frets which are tied around the neck. It also has friction pegs – lots of maintenance.
The types of songs that were played on the Renaissance Guitar included simple strumming to accompany singers as well as contrapuntal (I’ll explain this term in a future blog) compositions that approached the difficulty of the lute. This guitar was very popular in France. It is thought that the guitar was played during the Renaissance period as frequently as it is today!
Lawrence K. Brown constructed the Renaissance Guitar that you see in the attached photos. Larry was living in Asheville, NC at the time.
This first link will take you to a picture of the earliest Renaissance guitar – 1552.
This link will take you to a YouTube video of Stephen Murphy performing on a Renaissance Guitar.
Hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about where the guitar got its start! Have an awesome day and stay tuned for day 2!