Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Well, I have an early lyre guitar that seems to never had more than 12 frets. It's perfectly playable, with great action, so would of course be nice to have frets running up the body (as on another lyre I have by another maker similar age). But I absolutely don't want to add any if it never had any. 

Any guess as to why this has just 12 frets? I've attached a closeup to prove my point that there never seem to have been any...I assume that if some bone or ebony frets had been laid on with glue or shellac to attach, there would be the shadow of them on the (probably just waxed polished) top, and I see nothing. Am I wrong in this, or was this a model meant for "permanent beginners" who would never need those upper frets?

By the way, if you're curious, I've also attached the label (duplicated under each sound hole and with the curious date of 18011 as I've noted in previous posts).

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Looking at the date, the first '1' is attached to the '0' so my guess is the date is 1801. what the other '1' is anyone's guess. Perhaps 1=January? Perhaps the French took all the ones from the Austrian dates! (as you know, Austrian/German dates, such at 1801 sometimes appear as 801). 

Re the frets, many Spanish-shaped guitars from around 1800 also only had 12 frets. I attach a photo of just one example. Although, I have a lyre-guitar in my collection, I don't know much about the music. Have you looked at the music and methods of this instrument at that time, do they go past the 12th fret?

I haven't looked at the chronology of the instruments, but perhaps you have an early one, and later ones go higher? you'd have to look into that. Alternatively, perhaps the player intended for your guitar was not necessarily a beginner, but they played different kind of music, to the ones with higher frets: perhaps song accompaniment only, or something else. I am just bouncing ideas around, and I am sure someone out there could justly argue against my thoughts!  


I just wanted to add: I know many excellent guitarists who have been playing all their lives, who never adventure past the 12th fret, and don't feel the need to for the sort of music they play. I certainly wouldn't call them beginners. 

Thank you James, no I don't know the specific lyre guitar repertoire. And heavens forbid, no offense meant towards those who have no need of more than 12 frets...permanent beginner is more what I'd call myself, though I do find Sor now teasing me up to the highest frets ;) My other far fancier lyre (approximately same age) does have frets up the body, so there is that. Yes maybe song accompaniment ?

Thanks for the opinion on the date. Of course I'd like to think it's 1801 but that extra number is perplexing.

Well, song accompaniment was the main activity for guitarists in the early 19th century, so that would fit.

 I think I've now answered my own question with this painting: no frets on body.



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