Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Somebody asked me how I strum, so here is a rough performance of the Terantela from the Coimbra MS and an explanation of what I'm doing. The original has only one line of chords: C G C G F E Am but I introduce it with the chords which underlie the punteado part: Am G C G Am E Am. Only the first punteado part is original, to which I added four other diferencias - basic stuff.

This is not the dainty repicco found in some publications, so whether it is 'authentic' or not, well, who can say?

Guitar by Alexander Batov tuned to 392, a tone lower than modern pitch.

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Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 30, 2009 at 22:06
I agree, Dominic.
Comment by Dominic Robillard on April 30, 2009 at 21:48
Sounds great, especially the percussive stuff, quite convincing. There was a lot of percussion accompanying guitar then. I would think any rasgueado is authentic, everyone did what they could and what they liked I'm sure, countless possibilities. These guitar players only played guitars, and strummed them all day long, surely there were some crazy strummers out there.
Comment by Rob MacKillop on May 30, 2008 at 21:54
A couple of people have emailed me questioning my strumming near the bridge. My first response would be to say, 'just because it isn't mentioned in the didactic literature doesn't mean it wasn't done', but today I found some supporting evidence.

Fernando Fernadiere's Arte De Tocar La Guitarra Espanola might be considered a late source, 1799, and for a six-course instrument. However, the 6c guitar was a new-fangled instrument, and the five-course guitar was still very much alive. Discussing right-hand technique, he says:

''The right hand is placed fairly firmly very close to the sound-hole, because that is where a sweet and agreeable tone is obtained; and not next to the bridge, which is where it is commonly strummed and played in barber-style''.
Comment by Tonyyyy on May 30, 2008 at 17:47
Great stuff - I will certainly come back to your video and have a go at some of these tips. Hope you dont damage the beautiful guitar (or your fingers!)
Comment by Rob MacKillop on May 29, 2008 at 21:40
Thanks Martyn, but what do you mean by ''any chance a couple audio recordings?''?

I made seven CDs, most of which are still in circulation, mainly of Scottish historical music. You can read about them on the following website:

But I have decided not to make any more CDs, instead putting all my recordings up for free on the following website:
If you want audio recordings of my baroque guitar playing, you will find them there, including a version of this Terantella. I plan to add many more recordings there in the future.
[Although free, visitors are welcome to make donations]

Or did you mean something else?
Comment by Rob MacKillop on May 29, 2008 at 16:54
We don't know all the strumming techniques and patterns that were used. We have a few very good details outlined in some publications of the day. But that doesn't give us carte blanche to impose flamenco and South American guitar techniques onto the old instrument. I don't think I'm doing that. However, the music can be very similar to modern Spanish and South American music, and the techniques had to develop from somewhere somehow. I wasn't trying to recreate what a Portuguese nobleman would have done - I have no idea - but the music certainly lends itself to many interpretations including, I hope, my own.
Comment by Michael. N. on May 29, 2008 at 15:04
Wow! That's much closer to Flamenco techniques than I thought baroque guitar strumming would be. Very effective.
Next lesson has to be ornamentation :-)
Comment by Rob MacKillop on May 29, 2008 at 15:03
Well, I'm no expert. There are some strums I just cannot do. I think we have to do what feels natural to us. I don't believe that players in the old days just did the strums detailed in the guitar publications. The guitar was incredibly popular then in many countries, and I'm absolutely convinced there were many, many ways to strum, some posh some folky. The main thing is to enjoy doing it.
Comment by Trond Bengtson on May 29, 2008 at 14:03
Thanks, this is great. Very informative. Now I got no excuses for not strumming anymore.
Comment by Timo Peedu on May 29, 2008 at 13:54
Nice Rob, thanks.
Authentic or not, it sounds terrific and looks convincing.

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