Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Hi, everybody, this is my first post to this forum.

Recently I had the chance to purchase a beautiful used renaissance guitar made by Mr. Peter Forrest.  The same instrument as mine was used by Nigel North on his album "Guitar Collection".

My version seems to have been treated very carefully.  I've found no blemishes or dints except for the fret marks which are inevitable, of course.  I'm very happy with my purchase.

The only initial problem is that I cannot identify when the guitar was made.  I can read the label inside through the rosette.  There is Mr. Forrester's name and address but no date or year of the completion.  The guitar that Nigel North used was made in 1978.  According to recent post by Mr. Forrester, he has been concentrating on the citterns for about a decade.  So, mine should have made somewhere in the last quarter of the 20th century.  :)

The attached image below is of my guitar.  I would be very happy if Mr. Forrest would chime in here, but any comments would be welcomed and appreciated!

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Very much obliged for your answers to my questions.  After listening to the baroque guitar I just long to have one.  Best regards, Yong Leong

It's up to you of course but I wouldn't really believe word in word what somebody (irregardless of their authority) said on the liner notes of their CD. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth that that particular assertion you quoted. Well, one can of course say that the early 18th century piano sounds much like the modern one, or the viola da gamba as the cello etc but ...
Anyway, if the early guitar, be it a 4- or 5-course instrument or, indeed, a 6-course vihuela (which is essentially, i.e. from constructional point of view, the same instrument) is properly constructed, it does not sound as a lute, not at all! And the vaulted back does not contribute to a lute-like sound either. The sound (its timbral quality, sustain, quickness of response etc) virtually entirely is determined by the soundboard: its thickness / mass distribution, the barring structure, relative positioning of the bridge etc - all of which is rather different from that of the lute, and hence the guitar's sound.




thanks for chiming in!  With all respect for your experience and insight, I would say that Nigel North is "lutenist" in the first place who is the one of the best to know how the lute should sound like.  So, if he says that the sound of a 4-course guitar is close to a lute to any extent, there seems to be some points to consider.


That said, the recorded sounds of the vihuela and the renaissance guitar on the same CD by Jacob Heringman and those on the same CD by Hopkinson Smith are not so apart from each other.  Yes, "on the same CD" doesn't guarantee that both instruments were recorded in the same condition, but they seem to support your account.


By the way, is there any recorded material in which I can listen to the sound of your four course guitar?

Hi Akira,

If you are so convinced, that's fine with me, I'm not going to argue
with you. As I've already said, it's entirely your choice whom you
choose to believe. Just bear in mind though that it's a pretty old CD
and he may well regret what he has said at the time, all those 20+ years
ago; I would :)

I think Eligio Quinteiro used the fluted-back 4-course guitar
that I made for him in one of his CD recordings but I'm not sure if
it's out yet. I can send you a sound sample of this particular
instrument if you want.


Hi Alexander:

I just joined  and maybe you can help me.  I am writing a book on carribean folk instruments influenced by the 4,5 course guitars and vihuela, 16c.

I have a tuning for the 4 course in <E>.  The third course is <g> an octave above normal <G>.  On the 5 course with the spanish stringing its the 4th course.  The strings are in unison an octave above.  How was this course used on the 4 course and on the 5 course ?

I am familiar with the <campanella> style after 1600 and the re-entrent stringing. 

The instrument I am researching is called <vihuela>, has 5 courses, 8 strings, tuned:

a-d-f#-b-e, 54321, inyervals 4-3-4-4 as the first 5 courses of the vihuela.

I would like to know how this 3rd courd in unison octave above  was used.

Thanks for your help.

Juan Sotomayor.



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