Lute and Baroque Guitar set-up Print E-mail

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Picture nr. 1 : Deatail of a lute bridge of the Germanische National Museum, Nuremberg
Picture nr. 2 : Kremuenster's lute: detail of a lute's rosette
Picture nr. 3 : Antonio Stradivari: 5 course- guitar's string indications

 

 

to learn more: read our  FAQ

INTRODUCTION
Our philosophy concerning gut stringings (but also their synthetic equivalents) for the lute family and 5 course guitars is simple:

to reproduce, as far as possible, the typical sounds of historic instruments as they were in use.

This task has obviously its limitations, set both by our limited knowledge of ancient stringmaking technologies and by the fact that the lute (taking the 6 course as starting point) went through very different fashions and developments all along its long history.

Sill, within those limitations, research in the field of historic stringmaking made some important progress in recent years and, although we cannot claim we know exactly what the sound of the dolce strumento was like (a speculative point rather than a concrete one, anyway, since there must have been different opinions among lutenists in the past, too), we can fairly confidently define the acoustical region, common to all lutes, which was imposed by the stringmaking technologies of the past.

First of all, let us rule out the materials whose sound definitely cannot match the characteristic sound qualities of the lute:
1. PVDF (called‘Carbon’ from musicians) strings: much too bright in comparison with any type of gut string.
2. Nylon: produces a somewhat duller and darker sound than gut.
3. Nylgut: thin strings sound very close to gut, but does not quite compare by increasing diameters.
4. Wound on Nylon multifilament: almost all the strings of this type are much too bright and possess too much sustain - the opposite of what revealed by research on 18th century wound strings, which were fundamental-heavy and needed octaves for brightness, and had limited sustain.

And then let’s consider some other parameters pertaining to the sound of the lute:

1. Working string tension: today’s criteria, when working out lute stringings, rarely follow the idea of feel of equal stiffness on every course, like advocated by the ancients. The modern rule is, in general, to calculate the string diameters by applying the same tension, expressed in kilograms, to each string (this criterion is first described by Maugine & Maigne 'Nouveau manuel complet du luthier' in Paris, 1869) and completely ignores the variability of some typical factors, such as the different amount of reduction of the string diameters under working tension and how different strings of different manufacture and/or length feel under the fingers.

2. Octave strings: the modern tendency is to apply a noticeably lower tension than on their respective fundamental strings (Virdung, 1511 seem to suggest that the diameter of the octave string should be half that of its fundamental).

3. Trebles: when single strung, modern tendency is to apply too low a tension, giving an unbalanced feeling between the treble and the other courses.
8. Stringing criteria: the principle of grouping the strings into three well defined Sorts (like advocated in the old treatises, in Trebles, Meanes and Basses) is usually ignored. Thus, we often see strings of one Sort invading the field of another, thus altering the timbric and dynamic balance of the instrument (wound strings on the 4th course, wound long diapasons &c).


In conclusion: the acoustical qualities of today’s lutes are, in general, remarkably brighter and have more sustain in the bass and, because of the wound strings, also in the mid-register, thus failing to achieve the timbric and dynamic homogeneity we believe was typical of the past.

At the top end, trebles can be much brighter (PVDF or  so called‘Carbon’) or duller (Nylon) than gut. We have created a new sound that doesn’t have very much in common with that of the past.
No criticism at all on this choice: the lute can well be played like this, too.

 


 

 

Some suggestions

 

Renaissance 6 course Lute/Vihuela  (1490-1580 ca)

All gut

1  HT gut  (single)

2  HT gut (unissons)

3  HT gut (unissons)

4 Venice +  HT gut octave (or unissons: 2x Venice)

5 Venice + HT gut octave

6 Venice + HT gut octave

 

Gut & syntetic's version

1 Nylgut (single)

2 Nylgut (unissons)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Venice +  Nylgut octave (or unissons: 2x Venice)

5 Venice + Nylgut octave

6 Venice + Nylgut octave

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single)

2 Nylgut (unissons)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut (octaves or unissons)

5 Nylgut (octaved)

6 Filata tipo D (or wound DE to imitate the loaded C sound)  + Nylgut octave

 

Suggestion: the working tension of the octave strings must be greater of  10% than the fondamental's gut paired  bass string.

 

 

Renaissance Lutes with 7; 8; 9 e 10 courses  (after 1580 ca.)

All gut

1 HT  (single o double)

2 HT (unissons)

3 HT (unissons)

4 Venice +  HT gut octave (octaves or unissons)

5 Venice +  HT gut octave

6; 7; 8; 9;10 courses: loaded C strings +  HT gut octave

 

Gut & syntetic's version

1  HT gut (single or double)

2 HT gut (unissons)

3 HT gut (unissons)

4 Venice +  HT  gut octave ( or unissons)

5 Venice +  HT gut octave

6; 7; 8; 9;10  courses:  wound  D types (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) +  HT gut octave

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single or double)

2 Nylgut (unissons)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut (unissons)

5 Nylgut  (octaved)

6;7; 8; 9;10  courses:  wound  D tyeps (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) + ottave in Nylgut

 

 

13; 14 course Archlutes with short extended neck and octaved diapasons (after 1590 ca.)

All gut

1 HT (single or double)

2  HT (unissons)

3  HT (unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice +  HT gut octave

6; 7  fretted courses:  loaded  gut C +  HT gut octave

8; 9;10; 11;12;13;(14)  diapasons: loaded gut C +  HT gut octaves

 

Gut & syntetic's version

1  HT (single or double)

2  HT (unissons)

3  HT (unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice +  HT gut octave

6; 7 fretted courses: wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) + HT gut octaves

8; 9;10; 11;12;13; (14) diapasons:  wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) + HT gut octaves

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single or double)

2 Nylgut (unissons)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut (unissons)

5 Nylgut (octaved)

6;7; 8; 9;10 diapasons:  wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) +  Nylgut octaves

 

 

 

13; 14 course Archlutes with long extended neck and single diapasons (after  1590 c.)

All gut

1 HT (single or double)

2  HT (unissons)

3  HT (unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice + HT gut octave

6; 7 fretted courses: loaded gut C +  HT gut octave

8; 9;10; 11;12;13;(14) diapasons:  HT gut (no wound strings here)

 

Gut & syntetic's version

1  HT (single or double)

2  HT (unissons)

3 (HT unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice + HT gut octave

6; 7  fretted courses: wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) + HT gut octaves

8; 9;10; 11;12;13; (14) diapasons:  HT gut strings or Nylgut  NGE (no wound strings here)

 

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single or double)

2 Nylgut (unissons)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut (unissons)

5 Nylgut (octaved)

6;7; 8; 9;10 diapasons: Nylgut NGE type (no fwound strings here)

 

 

 

Theorbo/Chitarrone with 14  single or double  strings (after 1590 ca.)

All gut

1  HT  (single or  double)

2  HT (single or double)

3  HT (single or double)

4 HT (single or double)

5 Venice (unissons)

6; (7); (8) fretted courses: loaded gut C +  HT gut octave

7; 8; 9;10; 11;12;13;14 diapasons:  HT gut (no wound strings here)

 

Gut & syntetic's version

1  HT (single or double)

2 HT (single or double)

3  HT (single or double)

4  HT (single or double)

5 Venice (single or double)

6; (7); (8) fretted courses: wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) + o HT octaves

7; 8; 9;10; 11;12;13; 14 fretted courses: budello oliato liscio HT oppure Nylgut tipo NGE (no wound strings here)

 

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single or double)

2 Nylgut (single or double)

3 Nylgut (single or double)

4 Nylgut (single or double)

5 Nylgut (single or double)

6;(7); (8) fretted courses: woundD (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) +  Nylgut octaves

7; 8; 9;10; 11; 12; 13;14 diapasons: Nylgut  NGE (no wound strings here)

 

 

 

11 and 12 d minor baroque lutes (1660-1720 ca)

All gut

1  HT (single)

2  HT (single)

3  HT (unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice (unissons)

6;7; 8; 9;10,11; (12) bass strings: loaded gut  C + oHT gut octaves

 

Gut & syntetic's version

1  HT (single)

2  HT (single)

3 b HT (unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice (unissons)

6; 7; 8; 9;10,11; (12) basses: wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) + o HT gut octaves

 

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single)

2 Nylgut (single)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut (unissons)

5 Nylgut (unissons)

6;7; 8; 9;10, 11; (12) basses: wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the loaded strings C) +  Nylgut octaves

 

 

 

13 course german baroque lutes (1720-1810 ca.)

All gut

1  HT (single)

2  HT (single)

3  HT (unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice (unissons)

6;7; 8; 9;10,11; 12;13 basses: gut core's open wound  strings (at present not in  production) +  HT gut octaves

 

Gut & syntetic's version

1 HT (single)

2 HT (single)

3  HT (unissons)

4 Venice (unissons)

5 Venice (unissons)

6; 7; 8; 9;10,11; 12;13 basses: wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the open wound gut basess) +  HT gut octaves

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single)

2 Nylgut (single)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut (unissons)

5 Nylgut (unissons)

6;7; 8; 9;10, 11; (12) ordini: rivestite tipo D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the  open wound gut bassses) + ottave in Nylgut

 

Gallicon (1710-1800 ca.)

All gut

1  HT (single)

2 HT (unissons)

3  HT (unissons)

4  HT +  HT octave (alsoin  unissons)

5 Open wound string (not in production) +  HT gut octave

6 (7) Open wound string (not in production) + HT gut octave

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single)

2 Nylgut (unissons)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut (octaves or unissons)

5 Filata tipo D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the  open wound gut bassses) + Nylgut octave

6; (7) Filata tipo D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the  open wound gut bassses)) + Nylgut octave


5 course guitars  (1590-1790 ca)

Suggestion
for french repertoires after 1700 ca. we suggest to employ wound strings for the 4th & 5th courses

 

All gut

1  HT (single or double)

2  HT (unissons)

3  HT (unissons)

4 Venice +  HT  gut octave (or  2x venice unissons; or a gut core's open wound  strings (at present not in  production); unissons  or octaved

5 Venice +  HT gut octave (or  2x venice unissons ); or a gut core's open wound  strings (at present not in  production + HT gut octave

 

All syntetics

1 Nylgut (single or double)

2 Nylgut (unissons)

3 Nylgut (unissons)

4 Nylgut or unissons wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the  open wound gut bassses); or  2 x unissons woundNG/D/D or with  an octave Nylgut typepaired

5 unissons wound D (wound DE to imitate the sound of the  open wound gut bassses) or 2 x unissons or octaved Nylgut

 

 

 


MORE
Owing to the large variety of instruments within the lute family, we do not find it possible to suggest any standard stringings. Please let us have the following information:


- Type of instrument and vibrating string length.
- Top string pitch (note and pitch frequency).
- String tension.
- Unison or octave disposition of courses.
- Type of string (plain or loaded Gut, Nylgut®, wound, nylon, etc.).

 

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