Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Hello all!
Does anybody know the specifications to the Julian Bream BG and Vihuela?
Especially when it comes to the width and length? It looks alot wider and alot longer than the average BG or Vihuela. I think that is why the volume of these instruments is alot richer than the average BG or Vihuela and I would like to obtain the same.
As much info as possible on would be greatly appreciated.

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In a word, "no." I do not know the luthier of Julian Bream's baroque guitar or vihuela, but, having been a lutenist for 45 years I can tell you that his instruments are much closer in design to modern 20th century classical guitars than to period instruments. It is not just a matter of the dimensions of the bodies. It is the heavy bracing, thicker tops, heavier bridges, much higher tension nylon strings, fingernails, and modern "Julian Bream Technique." All of these things give Julian Bream his remarkable sound. But mostly it is the musician himself. Mr. Bream has always received strong criticism from Early Music camps for his approach to Early Music. I am a lutenist and I completely understand the criticism, but I also find him to be an absolute genius musician. He is not an Early Music musician and his instruments are very modern creations ... but he is simply a totally unique artist. He is the great Julian Bream. I am convinced he could make a cigar box sound completely wonderful. It is a lot more than a few centimeters of extra air space in the instrument's body that makes THAT sound! That is Julian Bream! Best Wishes, Tom
Thank you so much Mr. Berghan for taking the time to reply.
I suppose a BG or Vihuela of these sizes would not pair well with other instruments when it comes to ensemble performance right? Perhaps for solo performance but certainly not for continuo playing.
In your opinion what would be the largest size for an instrument in order to be acceptable for ensemble participation in early music? I figure that same instrument could also be used for solo performance and it would project better due to its larger size. Your toughts?

The Renaissance guitar, vihuela, and Baroque guitar used in the 1984 "Guitarra!" videos were made by Jose Romanillos.

Mr. Edwards, thanks so much for your reply.
Yes I adore that documentary and watch it almost every single mornIng while having breakfast (just bits and pieces now'a days 'cause I've seen it a million times already!
I do wish though that I could obtain both Mr. Romanillos's book and video on how to make a BG and Vihuela but they both seem to be out of print.
You wouldnt happen to know of copies that someone might want to pass on/sell would'ya?

Hi Isidro, your statements are not correct at all.  I highly recommend you attend some early music concerts and see and hear real early music musicians playing baroque guitar, lute, and theorbo!

So, we have two points to discuss.  One, is has to do with the construction of period baroque guitars versus modern classical guitars.  A "real" baroque guitar is loud despite their small size.  They sound totally different from Julian Bream's instrument.  They cut right over the top of other instruments.  They are punchy and percussive.  And they are great for playing continuo.  You need to be exposed to the correct "period construction" and to the period performance practice.  Here is an original period guitar made by Antonio Stradivari (yes, THE Stradivari).  Rolf Lislevand is playing, and this is baroque technique (versus Julian Bream . . . who is excellent but does not play with baroque technique).


And here is a baroque guitar playing continuo in an ensemble and as you can hear, it is plenty loud and even cuts over the top of the baroque harp. Guitarist and Grammy Winner Stephen Stubbs on guitar:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3S7inDWP20

Here is Paul O'Dette playing theorbo with Pacific Musicworks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOQrLFrUySc

I hope these videos will help!  Best Wishes, Tom

Hi Mr. Berghan,

Thank you once again for taking the time to reply. I very much appreciate and value the video links you posted.

In regards to sound volume and projection, I was basing my experience on a spanish baroque guitar model (the one in my pic) and I was not very impressed with its volume and projection. Dont get me wrong it was a nice solid instrument, I just could see it projecting well in a large space.

I will heed your advice and will enjoy getting out there and attending some live performances!
Thank you!

Hi Isidro, I get the issue now.  So be assured that I want to see you succeed at the baroque guitar, and the world of baroque music certainly needs more skilled continuo players!  It is great news that you actually have a BG even if it is not an ideal instrument.  Just consider it to be a starter guitar - but it will allow you to hone your skills and there are so many special techniques when it comes to BG. Baroque guitar is definitely a contact sport . . . very aggressive right hand sometimes and of course similar to Flamenco.  Also, you live in the Los Angeles area so you are in an area where baroque musicians come through on tour.  Now, if you ever need to be put in touch with some west coast BG players and/or luthiers who make baroque guitars, feel free to contact me offline.  Also if you not already a member of the Lute Society of America, I reccommend joining and attending one of the summer workshops.  You would meet other players and get instroduced to some top luthiers. http://lutesocietyofamerica.org/

Baroque Guitar is one of the most exciting instruments in my opinion (I wish I played) and so I think you are on a great path.  I'm just an old lute picker.  You can hear soe of my music here: http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~wbc/tom/

Best Wishes, Tom

Personally I would question this idea that the baroque guitar is similar to flamenco. It is a popular misconception.  The original sources do not support the idea that that the instrument was strummed in an aggressive and strident manner - on the contrary most of them refer to playing the instrument sweetly and softly.......

And boy am I greatful for that because as much as I love to attend Flamenco shows and love its culture, after having two intruductory lessons I realized it was a bit to much for me! Too much of a gentle soul I guess.
Thank you so much Monica for keeping us on the straight and narrow. As always your input is of great value snd thank you also for your work in publishing the 19 Easy to Intermediate Pieces!
Yes Tom! I would like to be put in touch with a nearby BG player for lessons (the closest to me is in LA but I live in Westminster in Orange County) and a luthier for a fine instrument ( the closest luthier to me is over a 6 hr drive, San Francisco) How may I contact you off line?
I have already become a member of the LSA and will make sure to see when the next workshop will be.
I listened to your mp3s and my favorite was the Courante Confesse (it reminded me of being back home with mother). Very fine music.
Thanks once again for the bit of guidance!

Hi Isidro, I sent you "friend request" and gave you my personal email address to contact me offline.  I will put you in touch with some friends here in Seattle who play baroque guitar.  Now, as I say, I do not personally play baroque guitar, I'm just a baroque lute an solo theorbo guy ;-)

Thank you for the nice compliment on Courante Confesse . . . it has been one of my personal favorites for about 40 years now!

Hey . . . speaking of friends who play baroque guitar . . . here is my good friend Rob MacKillop.  He is a monster player!  If it has strings, then Rob can play it!  Check him out!


Very good, will do!


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