Single String "Chanterelle"?

Discussion of all aspects of early instruments, lutes, theorbos, vihuelas, Renaissance guitars and Baroque guitars.
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Single String "Chanterelle"?

Post by augustgarage » Fri May 06, 2016 5:59 pm

I was recently watching a video of Jack Sanders playing and discussing his baroque guitar modeled on a Stradivarius. One of the comments asked a question I've also wondered about - of the five courses, why is the top course only a single string? I guessed that there were multiple reasons for this (e.g. the historical difficulty of producing identical strings of such a narrow diameter might present tuning difficulties; the melody would more often be played on the top string, so it would sound with greater clarity with only a single string - likewise you could utilize rest-stroke more easily with a single string, which might be used to increase the volume (or accent) the melody line) - but really, this is all speculation on my part.

So - my questions - does anyone have a more definitive answer for why the highest course on a five course baroque guitar is often a single string? Finally, when and why did the highest course become known as the "chanterelle?" Is the same true for lutes and other precursors to the early guitar?

Thanks in advance for any insights!

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Re: Single String "Chanterelle"?

Post by Michael.N. » Fri May 06, 2016 7:47 pm

Might also have to do with the fact that the thinner strings breaks very easily, twice the cost if it was doubled! or they just didn't see it as being necessary to have that particular string doubled.
The chanterelle largely carries the melody. I've always thought the word had a common root to the word 'chanson' and 'chant', as in song or melody. That's just a guess on my part though. No idea when it became known as the chanterelle, probably quite early.
Lutes also have this single string. Some baroque lutes have the top two as single strings.

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Re: Single String "Chanterelle"?

Post by JohnH » Thu Jun 01, 2017 2:54 pm

I read somewhere to tune a lute one method suggested that the top string (chanterelle) be tuned as high as it could stand. You did not want to lose two strings if you tuned too high.

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Single String "Chanterelle"?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Thu Jun 01, 2017 5:12 pm

I see a bigger mystery; there always seems to be a tuning peg provided for the string that's never there!
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

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