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An old question is when and why the 6th string was added to the guitar.
When, late 18th century. Why? JF Scheidler gives an answer to that in his guitar method
which he published around 1803. JF Scheidler is known for the duo's for guitar and violin.
In his method for guitar and lyre he writes that the guitar has only 5 strings and that the 6th string was adopted fom the lyre. Also interesting is that he plays with the pinky on the deck without nails.

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Interesting, Hans. I've read elsewhere that the 6th string came from the Lyre, but I forget where I read it. I'd love to try to play a lyre.

Of course, all the best players play without nails, and with their pinky on the soundboard!

right on Rob

What kind of instrument is he is referring to with the term  "leyer".     Is it illustrated in the book?   Is he not really referring to the "Lute"?

I'm pretty sure the lyre is the instrument that he means. That seems to be an older or regional spelling of the word "Leier"(Lyre) and special attention has been taken to emphasize the word, (large case letters). I would think he would have used the word "laute" or Laude" if that was what he ment.


I'm guessing he ment one of these guys:


I'd love to make one sometime but haven't found any plans for one yet....any ideas??

Well - surely the 6-course guitar was already around in 1780 at least in Spain so perhaps Scheidler was really referring to a single stringed instrument.   I am curious...

Sotos describes only  the 5-course guitar, the 4-course guitar and the vandola -  a 6-course lute shaped instrument.   His book is actually a version of Amat's Guitarra espanola.  It is interesting that Scheidler's guitar has 5 single strings.   There seems to have been a period when single strings and double strings overlapped.

I recently went to Milan and happened to visit a musical instrument museum.  I took a photo of a guitar -- Chitarra (a set corda) Sanctus Seraphin, Venezia 1727.  It has a tied bridge, but a bone piece to stop the strigs on it.  I forget now, and the photo isn't clear enough for me to tell, but the frets may even be tied.  Also, each course is a single string.

It's odd that Merchi talks about the difficulty of getting 2 strings of the same thickness in 1777 when almost all plucked instruments up until then (and going back for centuries) had double courses.

Was this just a local problem of that time?

It seems even odder that if it is problems of intonation that upset Merchi, why  hadn't the same issues troubled Dowland, Weiss etc?

I'm pretty sure the intonation problems were upsetting to Dowland, Weiss et al as well but they had one small advantage in that they had movable frets with which they could adjust their intonation. Baroque guitarists as well but for reasons I'm not quite sure of (I've heard a few but none entirely convincing to me), the early romantics switched to fixed frets and well, here we are. The reason for the switch is a topic of further research I would think.

You will find a number of comments in the renaissance literature concerning the difficulty of finding two lute strings of the same thickness...and even today gut strings of the same "size" are not always uniform (ask any lute player who uses gut strings regularly). It's the nature of the beast or maybe I should say charm.


And Molitor recalls speaking to one of the last mandora players (Zincke perhaps) who tells him that he has recently changed to single strings as on the guitar since he finds it easier. The late 18th century mandora was by then generally tuned the same as the guitar (ie E A d g b e') and I've even speculated that this inspired the addition of the 6th course on the guitar in the 1780s. 

Scheidler, who played the Dm German theorboed lute as well as the 6 course guitar,employs a special well known mandora tuning for his two guitar sonatas (ie 6th course only a tone below the 5th) and this might well have come from his knowledge of the mandora.


Indeed Hans.

I believe there's no cetain information about whether the two S's were related - at least I can't recall seeing anything.  But it is remarkable that the same surname appears in guitar related sources at around the same time.  How common was the name Scheidler in this period?

Ch G's dates are 1752 -1815 , whereas JF's Nouvelle methode was published in 1803. Both where published in Rhineland cities (Mainz and Bonn) so I'd be surprised if there was no link - even Father and son or uncle and nephew. Do you have any more information?





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