19 Frets the Evolution of the Guitar
The evolution of the guitar from the vihuela to the 19th century guitar The guitar probably originated in Spain in the 16th century, deriving from the gittern or guitarra latina, a medieval instrument with a waisted body and four strings. The early guitar was narrower and deeper than the modern guitar and with a less pronounced waist. It was closely related to the vihuela, the guitar shaped instrument played in Spain instead of the lute.
The Spanish vihuela appears to be an intermediate form between the ancestral guitar and the modern guitar. The technique required to play these instruments had many similarities especially considering that the strings of each instrument were constructed with courses either tuned in octaves or unison and that each instrument was bounded with frets, which were made of gut or metal and tied around the neck.
The early guitar probably had four courses of strings, three double, the top course single which ran from a violin like peg box to a tension bridge glued to the sound board, the bridge sustaining the the direct pull of the strings. In the belly was a sound hole often ornamented. The 16th century guitar was tuned c-f-a-d, which was the tuning of the vihuela and the lute.
From the 16th century through to the 19th centuries several changes occurred in the instrument. The end of the Renaissance saw the eclipse of the four-course guitar. A fifth course was added before 1600. Thus the five-course Baroque Guitar was born, which looked similar to the Vihuela but was much larger and the placement of the right hand was less rigid. It was tuned aa, dd, gg, dd, and e. By the late 18th century a sixth course was added. Before 1800 the double courses were replaced by single strings tuned E-A-d-g-b-e which is still the standard tuning.
The Baroque Guitar, Six-course guitar, and six-string guitar all existed in popularity simultaneously but the music of the time increasingly required instruments with greater range and contrapuntal capacity especially because of the demands of the classical period. In the 19th century the guitar’s body also underwent changes that resulted in increased sonority largely because of the innovations of Antonio Torres. Firstly its size increased. The fingerboard was raised slightly above the belly and was extended across it to the edge of the sound hole. It became broader and shallower with a very thin soundboard. Other changes also occurred internally. The neck also was transformed into a brace to provide extra stability. The guitar grew in popularity during the 17th century as the lute and vihuela declined in popularity. However, a great deal of music was written for these instruments during those times and has been successfully transcribed on to the six-string guitar that is still played today. Principal differences also existed in tuning and tablature between the vihuela and baroque guitar. In 1536 Luis Milan published one of the first books (Libro de music de vihuela de mano: intitulado El Maestro, music) analysing the vihuela which describes the vihuela also as a six-course instrument usually tuned to GCFADG which begins with the first course down to a fourth, fourth, major third, fourth, fourth. However, according to Juan Bermudo’s book on music theory (Libro primo de l declaration de instrumento 1549) talks about a seven course vihuela having two different tunings G, D, G, d, g, d, g, or G, D, G, B, f sharp, b, d. Eight course vihuela have also been mentioned among scholars. However, no real pitch was established and usually depended on the player’s preference to how the instrument sounded. For like the lute the vihuela used movable gut frets for accurate tuning adjustments.
In 1546 Alonso Mudarra’s book on vihuela sought to explain the baroque guitar in direct contrast with the vihuela. He explains the baroque guitar as being much smaller than that of the vihuela and only having four courses resembling to the second and fifth courses of a vihuela. The relative pitch of a baroque guitar was usually tuned much higher than the second to fifth strings of a vihuela, which made it more of a treble instrument. Mudarra also explains the baroque guitar as having only 10 frets with the first three courses on the Baroque guitar tuned to unison and the fourth as a bourdon at an octave below. However, in the case of dealing with Italian tablature the fourth course was changed to re-entrant tuning where the fourth course is tuned in unison at higher pith than the third course indicated in Scipione Cerreto work (Della Prattica Musica 1602). As for Spanish and French tablatures the fourth course stayed as a bourdon. Slowly the baroque guitar gained more popularity throughout the sixteenth century in Europe and eventually a 5th string was added. The new tuning became ADGBE like the modern guitar today. However, 5 course guitar tunings varied throughout Europe and depended on the type of music performed so “Scordatura” or unusual tunings were often practiced which involved interchanging between bourdons or re-entrant tuning usually on the fifth and fourth courses. The new 5 course baroque guitar was constructed to be as large as its previous counter part and in 1586 in Spain (Barcelona) the first comprehensive work written by Juan Carlos Amat was published containing new methods of playing and several compositions for instrument. However, most of the guitar music or tablature dating from the sixteenth century towards the late eighteenth century was notated in Italian tablature. When interpreting guitar and vihuela tablature the staff represents one course for each horizontal line. On each line a number or letter is placed on or between the lines, which indicates, what frets should be used. Eg 0 = open string, 1 = first fret, 2 = second fret etc and the tenth = x, eleventh = ii and twelfth fret = 12. Each tablature system differed across Europe as for French tablature distinct differences are present from the Italian and Spanish tablature in the sense that even though the courses are represented by lines, the order in which the bottom to top strings are placed is in reverse where the top string is represented by the bottom line in Spanish and Italian tablatures. Also instead of using numbers French tablature adopted letters to indicate what fret should be used (a = open b = first fret etc.) Most of the music composed in the 16th to 18th century was for four and five-string guitars however the principle involved in it’s writing is the same used in vihuela tablature. Whereby six lines would be used instead of five for music on the vihuela. In Spanish and Italian tablatures, the top string of the vihuela was also represented by the bottom line and French tablature was also in reverse. Note values in vihuela and guitar tablature were both indicated by various note types placed above the staff like today. The value of the rhythm sign remains valid until a new sign appears, also duration of any individual note depends on technical factors such as how long left hand fingers can remain held or when it is necessary to play another note, it was also assumed that the bass notes were held as long as possible. Guitar tablature also adopted symbols for right hand techniques where single dots under individual notes were indicated for which finger was used EG one dot = the index finger and later in seventeenth-century music, two dots = the middle finger. Principal differences in tuning and tablature in Baroque and Renaissance lutes in Europe Principal differences in tuning and tablature existed between the Baroque and Renaissance lutes.
The eight courses (one single, seven double) of a typical Renaissance lute were tuned D, F, G, c, f, a, d, g, – totally different from guitar. In contrast to the Renaissance lute the 13-course Baroque Lute beginning with the highest string was tuned to: F, D, A, F, D, A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A. Like the vihuela and baroque guitar tablature was the most practical way of notation for lute music and worked on the same principles as it did for guitar and vihuela tablature according to the system throughout Europe. Although, when considering Renaissance lute tablature it must be taken into account that the Renaissance lute was popular for many years in many places, and there are many forms of tablature that exist from those times. But it mainly consisted of six lines like the vihuela. During the 17th century six bass courses were added with unalterable pitch and a new system of tuning called “nouveau ton” was introduced by Denis Gaultier and at the end of seventeenth century the French system of tablature was adopted. In standard Baroque lute tablature each staff also has six lines, representing the first six courses. The course of the highest pitch appears at the top and that of the lowest appears at the bottom. Lower case letters or “glyphs” were also placed on each line to represent notes. The strings below the sixth course are notated with additional short "ledger" lines: glyphs are placed below the staff eg: G- a, F- /a, D- ///a, B- 5, A- 6. These courses were usually tuned in accordance with the key of each piece played which was usually in d minor.