Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Ok, here goes. I've been playing the ren lute for a decade and a half, and baroque archlute continuo for about a decade now, and have been itching to try out baroque guitar for ages. I tried to use a ukulele once as a sort of baroque guitar substitute once, but alas it didn't quite go down well with the other ensemble players even though they were on modern instruments...


On that note, James Tyler's book doesn't really say which the most useful tuning is - no bourdons or 4th bourdon only. I note that Monica Hall mentioned that a 4th bourdon is a compromise that works best. Would those of you who play continuo say that it works well for continuo? Does Alfabeto presume both 4th and 5th course are bourdonless?
Coming from a background of archlute continuo, the idea that inversions don't matter is somewhat scary. 
Also, not finding anything in the book about what to do for such things as suspensions is rather worrying. The sole example given for baroque guitar in basso continuo appears to ignore such things as 7ths and 4-3 cadences. What do I do about diminished and augmented chords? Nigel North's book was supremely useful when I started out playing lute continuo, and still remains a fabulous resource into which I dip from time to time, but what does one do when looking up chord fingerings? I have never played guitar of any sort in my life, having started lute at 17. For chords not in the Alfabeto system, will I have to start looking at 'guitar chords for beginners' and suchlike publications?

Views: 1654

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Olav! Would love to see the First Part of that book...

Hi Edward, I guess a chordbook could be useful to get some initial  familiarity with guitar-style fretboard harmony. Or probably better, make your own personal notebook of the most useful sequences, in 2 or 3 positions.

I have the opposite problem. It is no problem  on lute to read the tablature. But I think in guitaristic terms, so my notional string 1 is an E . If I were asked to play a C chord that is really a C then I would struggle. And f course the shapes are different due to  the semitone difference on string 3


Olav - thanks for the very useful Matteis link. It will be really helpful
Tony, I'm looking at guitar chordbooks, and most entertained. I'm finding that a lot of these seem to already work with inversions. Quite fascinating!

One guitar chord book I use is written by Gaspar Sanz.  In his Regla Sexta, Para Componerse (6th rule for composition, roughly translated) he points out that his labyrinth includes, for each chord of the alfabeto, three other chord forms up the neck to produce the same harmony (as it were).  If my rough translation is correct, you can choose any of the alternatives arbitrarily, and in this way you can produce many "diferencias" -- so many that you can't count them "without much arithmetic". 


This labyrinth is also useful because he groups the major/minor chords together, something the alfabeto doesn't do.  He also kind of groups them in 4ths...  E/A/D, G/C/F, etc.  I suspect that because chords were a fairly new concept, there was still room for innovation concerning the ways to group and categorize them for discussion.
interesting - where do i find this book? Google doesn't reveal anything...

I got it here:



I believe there are places where you can find images of the actual pages online.  As I recall, there was a site in Spain that had it.  But since I got the facsimile, I have lost all those links.

Actually Sanz has arranged the chords in his labyrinth according to Amat's system of notation as explained in his book "Guitarra espanola".   Amat arranged the chords in a circle of 5ths starting with E major/minor and ending with B major/minor and numbered them 1-12.   The numbers are in the triangles at the top of the columns.   Far from being new, Amat's system dates back to 1596.  It is more logical than alfabeto.

this was explained to me by a friend and BG BC player that when doing BC on BG in ensemble:


'don't apply polyphonic thinking to baroque guitar (already lute with its octaves is a big mess). don't listen to it with analytical or musicological ears... For the bass line there are other instruments that whould be part of the ensemble - guitar is ONLY for rythm and harmony - or you must be able to accept A LOT OF compromise :)'


 i am officially mind-blown, really! 


The challenge is to choose which compromises to accept and which to avoid.


For the moment I'm trying to figure out how to play the continuo part in a Telemann sonata for traverso and BC. BG and cello will be used for the continuo.


One problem is that the bass line some places is so high voiced that the ordinary chord shapes for the first positions will place some of the tones on the BG below the bass line (I use diapason on the 4th course) Is that one of the compromises that's acceptable, or should I be careful not to come below the bass line?


I try to vary between more melodic sequences and arpeggios that are plucked and chords that are strummed.


As I am rather new to baroque guitar I have to arrange an write down the BC voice – A rather time consuming job in other words............


Is there anybody out there who knows about how common it was to use BG for BC only supplied with a bass instrument?


I hate to throw a spanner in the works but I doubt whether Telemann intended his music to be accompanied with the baroque guitar!   This idea that the baroque guitar can be used for anything is not really in accord with the evidence.   Monica in a spanner throwing mood.
hmm. Not likely with German composers, possibly ok with Italian and Spanish composers?


© 2023   Created by Jelma van Amersfoort.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service