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Looking, yet again, at early four course guitar stringing I'd be grateful for any additional perspectives especially on the stringing of the third course, bearing in mind the Phalese (1570) directions.
Bermudo in his 1555 work describes two principle tunings for the four course guitar: Temple Nuevos and Temple Viejos. The highest three courses are understood to be in unison and the doubled fourth course with a bass and an octave high string.
Cerreto's 1601 tuning has the same intervals as Bermudo's Temple Viejos but with both strings of the fourth course at the higher octave.
Praetorius (1619) gives nominal pitches which have the same intervals as Bermudo's Temple Nuevos but just the lower octave single fourth course depicted and with no description of detailed stringing of any doubled courses.
Phalese's Selectissima of 1570 (Rostock University Library Musica XVI-58) contains latin text describing, amongst other things, the detailed stringing of the four courses.  Heartz's translation (Galpin Soc 1963) clearly shows that Phalese describes an instrument with an octave on both the fourth AND third courses. The article by Dobson, Segerman and Tyler in LSJ 1974 questions some of Heartz's conclusions: in particular that Phalese indicates third and fourth basses an octave lower than nominal rather than the small basses being an octave high. The article's conclusions are nowadays generally accepted but this still leaves Phalese requiring a high octave on the third course as well as the fourth.
All this is not just an academic query: I've just rebuilt a small four course made in the 1980s and am now uncertain how to string it. The high octave on the third course certainly makes a noticeable difference (with numerous unexpected inversions - shades of the five course guitar controversy!).  I'd also be grateful for personal experiences of employing a high octave on the third course of the early four course instrument and its suitability in the contemporary non-Phalese repertoire. Do people use this tuning for the other sources or do they bother to re-string? Also any relevant papers I may have overlooked.
MH

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What tuning should be used for "conserto vago"? Apparently 0010 would be an F chord, but this is not the usual temple Nuevo or Temple viejo? Actually the 1 on the second string would not work with the open fourth string if tuned to Temple Nuevo.
Wolzien mentioned in guitar player in the late 80s or early 90s that this instrument was tuned in fourths... The F chord would not make sense this way either.

The point about "Concerto vago" is that the 4-course instrument is not a 4-course guitar. It is a small 4-course lute. On the title page it is referred to as "chitarrino a quatro corde alla Napolitana". It is has a 4th between the 1st and 2nd courses and the 2nd and 3rd courses but a 5th between the 3rd and 4th courses. According to Tyler - "The guitar and its music" p.83 the nominal pitch (compared with the other instruments) of the first course is b' above middle c.  This is the same as the tuning described by Cerreto which is also a small lute.

The article by Meucci proves beyond reasonable doubt that the term "chitarra" in Italian does not necessarily refer to a figure of eight shaped instrument. The Chitarrina alla Napolettana called for in 1589  is probably the same instrument.
Martyn said earlier 'I'd be interested in your reasons for believing that the chitarra italiana  and the chitarrino a quarto corde were both probably small 4-course lutes.  I realise this sort of speculation has been put forward before but I am not entirely convinced".  At the risk of being called "combative" again I would  point out that Martyn  is fully aware of the contents of this article and is being a tad disingenious dismissing it as speculation. You can argue about the details but the basic premise is irrefutable. It would be interesting to know his reasons for seeming to claim that the term "chitarra" must  always refer to a figure of 8 shaped instrument.

I agree with Monica that that 'the term "chitarra" in Italian does not necessarily refer to a figure of eight shaped instrument'  - but the point is that it might do.  

The term does not always means a figure of 8 shaped instrument  - but it sometimes might. 

We need to uncover more evidence in this area to establish anything further about identification

MH

First of all - I must correct an error in what I said about the 4-course instrument in Conserto vago above. The interval between the 2nd and 3rd courses is a major 3rd not a 4th. Top down the intervals are 4 - 3 - 5. (Hopefully I've got it right this time).

I don't think Martyn should get away with suggesting that "we need to uncover more evidence in this area to establish anything further about identification". The whole point about Meucci's article is that he has done just that and a lot of what he says makes very good sense. In the past people have just assumed that any 4-course instrument called chitarra or chitarrino is figure of 8 shaped - in particular James Tyler who is very influential but not always reliable. Unfortunately once an idea has taken root people are very reluctant to consider new evidence and new insights with an open mind. 

In case anyone is interested in pursuing the matter further the article in question is

R. Meucci, ‘Da ‘chitarra italiana’ a ‘chitarrone’ – una nuova interpretazione’, in  Enrico Radesca di Foggia e il suo tempo (atti del Convegno di studi, Foggia, 7-8 Aprile 2000), ed. Francesca Seller (Lucca, LIM, 2001), pp.37-57.

It is in Italian. I have been working on an English translation of it for ages but haven't got around to finishing it. There is a French translation.

People who have actually read it regard it as a significant contribution to our understanding of these things.  I am sure James Tyler would have.

Thank you for this Monica, to continue the digression:

We appear to agree that Meucci's work was generally useful and contributed to our understanding.  However there is a tendency to move from admiring his own qualified findings to asserting things which he never did.  In this context an example is the (accurate) statement you made earlier in this exchange: 'The article by Meucci proves beyond reasonable doubt that the term "chitarra" in Italian does not necessarily refer to a figure of eight shaped instrument. '  which somehow moved from this clear statement to an earlier assertion that the chitarra was always a lute shaped instrument.  As already said, I agree with your initial observation and pointed out that, accordingly, the term 'chitarra' might also refer to a figure of eight shaped instrument as well as to a lute shaped one.

Regarding evidence, I do think we should always be open to looking at new evidence or re-analysing old evidence and not to accept that any view given at one time is set for all eternity.  In this regard I'd therefore draw your attention to Praetorius Syntagma Musicum (1619) and to the Theatrum Instrumentorum on Plate XVI depicting a flat backed figure of eight shaped instrument which he identifies there as a Quinterna.  In the text Praetorius refers to this plate depiction and has interesting things to say about various forms of this instrument with a flat back (ie not lute shaped) which he generally labels Cithara (p.55 - 56).

Regarding the small four course version (which Tyler also considers to be a four course guitar) Praetorius alternatively calls it the Quinterna or Chiterna (p.52-53) and moreover again confirms the relevance of the flat backed depiction in the Theatrum Instrumentorum by stating that this instrument has '...however not a rounded back, but is completely flat, quite like a bandora (ein Bandoer)'  Tyler's translation - The Early Guitar, 1980).  Of even more relevance to the shape of the Italian four course instrument of the period Praetorius goes on to say that  '... Some (NB not all) have five courses, and in Italy the charlatans and mountebanks ... strum them, singing their villanellas....'). In short, Praetorius is clearly describing small four course flat backed figure of eight shaped (ie not lute shaped) instruments also being used in Italy. 

MH

So what? Praetorius was writing in German in 1619 and refers to the instrument as the quinterna or chiterna. Meucci's article and this discussion is/was concerned with the term chitara/chitarrina/o in Italian sources. Even Tyler (p.139) comments "The suspicion that Praetorius had no first-hand knowledge of guitars grow stronger etc..." Not all you read in original sources is accurate or relevant. The illustration of the Quintern in Virdung (1511) is of a small lute shaped instrument. This is another point which Meucci makes - words change their meaning over time. You can't argue that the chitarra a siete corde in Barberiis or the chitarrina alla Napoletana are 4-course guitars on the basis of what Praetorius says. What surprises me is that you seem to have problem with the idea that things aren't always what you thought they were. In practice players probably played the on any 4-course instrument insofar as this was practical. 

Furthermore your suggestion that I have "somehow moved from this clear statement to an earlier assertion that the chitarra was always a lute shaped instrument" is simply not true .  I have never asserted that the chitarra was always lute shaped. It is an example of how you miread or misrepresent what other people say. Most people including myself assumed that the chitarra was a 4-course guitar. This assumption is not actually supported with any evidence. No source describes the instrument in sufficient detail to be able to tell.  It is a result of our lack of philological expertise. Meucci has put forward some very sound philological reasons which suggest that until the end of the 16th century the term is more likely to refer to a lute shaped instrument. Most people would take that serious - but not you! He knows more about these things than you or I do.

Reply by Martyn Hodgson on Friday

Thank you for this Monica, to continue the digression:

We appear to agree that Meucci's work was generally useful and contributed to our understanding.  However there is a tendency to move from admiring his own qualified findings to asserting things which he never did.  In this context an example is the (accurate) statement you made earlier in this exchange: 'The article by Meucci proves beyond reasonable doubt that the term "chitarra" in Italian does not necessarily refer to a figure of eight shaped instrument. '  which somehow moved from this clear statement to an earlier assertion that the chitarra was always a lute shaped instrument.  As already said, I agree with your initial observation and pointed out that, accordingly, the term 'chitarra' might also refer to a figure of eight shaped instrument as well as to a lute shaped one.

Regarding evidence, I do think we should always be open to looking at new evidence or re-analysing old evidence and not to accept that any view given at one time is set for all eternity.  In this regard I'd therefore draw your attention to PraetoriusSyntagma Musicum (1619) and to the Theatrum Instrumentorumon Plate XVI depicting a flat backed figure of eight shaped instrument which he identifies there as a Quinterna.  In the text Praetorius refers to this plate depiction and has interesting things to say about various forms of this instrument with a flat back (ie not lute shaped) which he generally labels Cithara (p.55 - 56).

Regarding the small four course version (which Tyler also considers to be a four course guitar) Praetorius alternatively calls it the Quinterna or Chiterna (p.52-53) and moreover again confirms the relevance of the flat backed depiction in theTheatrum Instrumentorum by stating that this instrument has'...however not a rounded back, but is completely flat, quite like a bandora (ein Bandoer)'  Tyler's translation - The Early Guitar, 1980).  Of even more relevance to the shape of the Italian four course instrument of the period Praetorius goes on to say that '... Some (NB not all) have five courses, and in Italy the charlatans and mountebanks ... strum them, singing their villanellas....'). In short, Praetorius is clearly describing small four course flat backed figure of eight shaped (ie not lute shaped) instruments also being used in Italy. 

MH

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 Reply by Monica Hall on Friday
So what? Praetorius was writing in German in 1619 and refers to the instrument as the quinterna or chiterna. Meucci's article and this discussion is/was concerned with the term chitara/chitarrina/o in Italian sources. Even Tyler (p.139) comments "The suspicion that Praetorius had no first-hand knowledge of guitars grow stronger etc..." Not all you read in original sources is accurate or relevant. The illustration of the Quintern in Virdung (1511) is of a small lute shaped instrument. This is another point which Meucci makes - words change their meaning over time. You can't argue that the chitarra a siete corde in Barberiis or the chitarrina alla Napoletana are 4-course guitars on the basis of what Praetorius says. What surprises me is that you seem to have problem with the idea that things aren't always what you thought they were. In practice players probably played the on any 4-course instrument insofar as this was practical. 

Reply by Monica Hall on Friday
Furthermore your suggestion that I have "somehow moved from this clear statement to an earlier assertion that the chitarra was always a lute shaped instrument" is simply not true .  I have never asserted that the chitarra was always lute shaped. It is an example of how you miread or misrepresent what other people say. Most people including myself assumed that the chitarrawas a 4-course guitar. This assumption is not actually supported with any evidence. No source describes the instrument in sufficient detail to be able to tell.  It is a result of our lack of philological expertise. Meucci has put forward some very sound philological reasons which suggest that until the end of the 16th century the term is more likely to refer to a lute shaped instrument. Most people would take that serious - but not you! He knows more about these things than you or I do.

-------------------------------------------------

Thank you for these Monica. It appears that we may now be in agreement: in short, that the four course instrument called 'chitarra' might have been lute shaped or it might have also been figure of eight shaped - this is good.

Nevertheless I'd be grateful for confirmation of your position since earlier in this discussion (August 20 above) you wrote 'You know very well why the chitarra italiana and chitarrino a quarto corde were probably small course lutes.' I replied that I do not know this and that 'I'd still be grateful for a proper response to an earlier question I asked you: ...... your reasons for believing that the chitarra italiana  and the chitarrino a quarto corde were both probably small 4-course lutes'.  

Finally, regarding the evidence from Praetorius, might it not be sounder to incorporate it into thinking rather than dismissing it as failing to conform with a pre-determined view? After all Praetorius is one of the very few early organological sources we actually have (and roughly contemporary with the 'chitarra') and it is surely unwise to dismiss his reports simply because they fail to fit one particular position.  By linking flat backed instruments directly to contemporary Italian instruments his reports also suggest that some of these may have been flat backed too. The precise name he employed ( Quinterna/ Chiterna) in his part of German speaking lands is not really relevant since the instrument was known by many other names depending on location (eg Gorlier and Morlaye calls the figure eight instrument Guiterne, Le Roy Guiterre and, of course, English sources frequently used an Anglicised version of Guiterne - eg Gittern/ Gitterne).

MH

Third course octaves were discussed, as both Martyn and Monica will know, a very long time ago. My suggestion then was that the two well-known woodcuts from Morlaye and Phalese/Mersenne show guitars of necessarily(?) similar-sized bodies, but with different amounts of the fingerboard length occupied by frets. This could indicate the different string-lengths necessitated by the breaking strength of gut coupled with the presence or absence of the 3rd course octave. The conclusion would then be that it was sometimes present?

Many thanks Peter.

Well spotted about the difference between fretted neck lengths on the two depictions - I don't think this observation has been widely recognised before.  As mentioned in my earlier report (above) of stringing with an octave third, I was obliged to generally lower the instrument's pitch a bit to allow a high third course gut octave (even though this particular small old/new four course gittern has a fairly short string length of  54cm - my other one has 58cm.)

MH

I really have not got time to reply to this in detail - which is simply going over again the same arguments with Martyn misrepresenting what I have said in an attempt to prove that he is right and therefore I must be  wrong. 

I have never asserted that that the term chitarra in Italian always refers to a small lute only that it most likely  does. I know that you were  familiar with Meucci's article because we have discussed this at length before. Many years ago there was a similar confusion about the identity of the medieval gittern - it was thought to be figure of 8 shaped or at least  the holly leafed shaped instrument depicted in many medieval sources until Laurence Wright's article was published in the GSJ proving beyond reasonable doubt that it was actually a small lute shaped instrument. No one would dismiss what he said as speculation. Meucci's article picks up where Wright leaves off -  actually they overlap a bit and it is a reasonable assumption that the term chitarra does refers to a small lute unless there is very positive evidence to the contrary.

I was able to look at Praetorius's book - his quintern has a single first course and five double courses - not very likely - and his other comments - as Tyler says - suggest he was not very familiar with the instrument.

I have also reread the English translation of Phalese introduction. I know that Tyler and Co seem to have concluded that it does indicate octave stringing on the third course but I am not convinced about that. The references to 1st and 2nd basses which occur elsewhere other than in the tuning instructions are just as likely to be due to the misapplication of the information from the cittern book.  I don't think you can deduce very much from the illustrations. They are not photographs! You cannot draw definite conclusions from them.  Praetorius might have copied his 6-course guitar from Phalese for all we know. There is no point in putting a high octave string on the 3rd course - it creates the same effect as a high octave string on the 3rd course of the 5-course guitar. It doesn't extend the compass of the instrument in any useful way. What Mudarra and Bermudo say really is all  we need to know. The 4-course guitar had a re-entrant tuning with a bordon added to the 4th course to extend the compass downwards.

However I have no doubt that in the same way that I have to endure baroque guitar music played with a high G string I will have to steel myself to put up with the 4-course guitar music being mutilated in the same way.

I am currently caring for my terminally ill partner and I have really not got time to quibble over there things so don't expect to hear from me again. 

 

Peter,

Further to the discussion about a high octave string on the third course of the four course guitar, in my report of 23 August (pasted below for convenience) I should have also mentioned that it did have a marked effect in brightening the instrument and, if struck with the thumb (as for example in strumming chords), it does not intrude but adds somewhat to the little instrument's charm. So the use of such stringing was not, I suggest, to change the compass of the instrument in anyway but to brighten its sound.  It certainly works well in the simple dance settings and pieces which allow a bit of strumming play. 

Martyn

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23 August

To return to the original matter: I can report that I've now strung the old/new four course instrument with a high octave and a bass on the third course. One problem was that it was necessary to lower the instrument's pitch by a tone to accommodate the breaking stress of the new highest sounding string (the third course high octave) and this inevitably reduced the brightness and clarity of the fourth course bass string (especially when tuned a tone low as required in some sources).

Nevertheless the tuning works relatively well in the simple dances in Phalese but the high third course octaves are, as might be expected, intrusive in the contrapuntal works by Fuenllana and Mudarra and blur the fine lines. The dances in the Gorlier, Morlaye and Le Roy collections also work fine, but the chanson etc settings requiring some counterpoint less well. Finally, the Barberis works are interesting since there is a passage which could be thought to represent campenalla style play taking advantage of the high octave third (eg 6 bars from the end of the Fantasie seconda) - or possibly not.......

In short, in my view an octave high third is possible and permissable in some pieces but I still prefer a unison third in all the repertoire.

MH

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