Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Dear all,
again some technical problem about my future instrument.
I don't know the width at nut for my 5 course baroque guitar. The maker making it at 52 mm and 65 mm for the bridge. What do you think?

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Well, it's up to the player in the first place to decide how wide the string spacing should be both at the nut and bridge. So if you already play the lute and find its spacing comfortable you might as well use it as a guidance for your (first) baroque guitar. Or you could try somebody else's guitar and see if it feels OK for you. If this is not an option, here are my figures for the nut and bridge spacing accordingly: 36 - 37 mm / 58 - 60 mm. By ''spacing'' here I mean the distance between the outer strings of the 1st (supposedly single in your case?) and 5th courses. Adding about 3.5 - 4 mm at both sides to the nut spacing figure gives you the neck width at the nut @ c. 45 - max. 46 mm. As you can see both my figures are smaller than your maker's so it's again up to you if you want it as wide at both ends ... For example (strange as it may be!), people do play baroque guitars nowadays with 'thumb under' technique, just like they do on the renaissance lute which, in turn, would make the set up feel rather uncomfortable for those who don't. Just as an example, even on some surviving French late 18th century 5-course guitars the width at the nut can be as narrow as 40 - 42 mm (you can judge the nut spacing accordingly), and bridge spacing 52 - 55 mm.

Hope all these figures won't give you a headache!
Thx for your Support !! I'll give your advice to the maker, cause the measure he gave to me seems also a bit wide for a 5 course guitar !
best regards,
Alexander, you mention that the spacing at the nut for a Baroque guitar is 36-37 cm. I think that equals the distance between the 1. and the 5. string of a normal classical (more or less, at least). Is the intention to make it easier to switch from a Baroque guitar to a classical without having to adapt your left hand fingers to a different spacing, or is it simply the normal standard spacing of surviving instruments?
Olivier, if you play the Classical guitar, you might perhaps consider to have the same spacings between the centres of the 5 courses of your Baroque guitar as the spacings between 5 strings of a normal classical. This makes it easier to switch from one instrument to the other. I ordered my vihuela like that, 6 courses, 52mm at nut, and I am very happy about it! I can switch quite easily from the vihuela to the classical without having to struggle with different spacings. To me this is a MUST! Good luck!
I don't play the classical guitar but the baroque and renaissance lute (and some archlute) so 52 mm is ok for 6 courses, but maybe not useful for 5 courses. I ordered last week so, i'm waitng now the guitar. Thank you so much for your kindly support !
Hello Harry,

No, it is not specifically related to ease the transition from classical to baroque guitar. Besides, most of my customers who order baroque guitars would have long forgotten what classical guitar is all about! Moreover, judging from my own experience, as well as other players, it is not at all a problem to switch from one size of spacing to another (say, from baroque guitar where it's probably the widest to more closer ones, such as on vihuela or small French mandore). The figures that I quoted are just what seems to fit (from my personal experience of course) a majority of modern baroque guitar players; although it can be more or less depending on personal preferences (I'd prefer not more than 35mm) so I would imagine the same situation would be true for historical guitars.

In its historical context, spacing (whether it's to do with the nut or bridge, or indeed both) didn't just exist for its own sake. For instance, if one is intending to play some more demanding vihuela pieces (with double stops on neighbouring courses, plus also combined with long stretches) the only solution would be to go for a closer spacing both on the nut and bridge, thumb-over right hand technique etc.



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