Baroque lute tuning question

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soltirefa
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Baroque lute tuning question

Postby soltirefa » Mon May 18, 2015 9:14 pm

Which bass strings do you tune up or down depending on the key of the piece? I read somewhere that the first six strings are not retuned, but that all the rest are? Is that correct?

In the same vein, how many of the strings are actually fretted, eight?

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Alain Cloutier
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Re: Baroque lute tuning question

Postby Alain Cloutier » Mon May 18, 2015 10:03 pm

Hi Glen

Yes, the first six strings are never retuned and the others can be depending on what you need.

There are eight fretted strings on the theorbed lute and ten or eleven (I'm not sure) on the lute with bass riders. I know that there are a few pieces that need a ninth or tenth fretted string in Weiss' works but it's very rare and it's quite easy to find a way around it.

soltirefa
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Re: Baroque lute tuning question

Postby soltirefa » Mon May 18, 2015 10:29 pm

Thanks, Alain. That's very useful and interesting. So, if you're playing in D major you would tune the 8th string F bass to F# (as well as C#, or course)?

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Alain Cloutier
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Re: Baroque lute tuning question

Postby Alain Cloutier » Mon May 18, 2015 10:45 pm

soltirefa wrote:Thanks, Alain. That's very useful and interesting. So, if you're playing in D major you would tune the 8th string F bass to F# (as well as C#, or course)?


Exactly. Have a look on JD Forget's website, http://jdf.luth.pagesperso-orange.fr/, he gives the tuning on every sonata, suite or piece he uploaded there.

Have you decided to try the d minor tuning? Be careful it's like a powerful drug! You'll be very likely to become addicted to the stuff...

soltirefa
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Re: Baroque lute tuning question

Postby soltirefa » Mon May 18, 2015 10:56 pm

I have thought of putting on a d minor set for my alto guitar. My only reservation is 1) I already have so many guitar goals, I'm afraid of that new thing pulling me away from that, and 2) I already know a bunch of pieces on my alto guitar and don't really want to shelve those. But I'm curious, I must admit.

I ended up letting someone else have that 11th string device, because they have a Bartolex and it fits better. Plus, I just can't change my 10-string, it's too nice to mess with. But this alto guitar idea has merit.

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Alain Cloutier
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Re: Baroque lute tuning question

Postby Alain Cloutier » Tue May 19, 2015 4:36 pm

soltirefa wrote:I have thought of putting on a d minor set for my alto guitar. My only reservation is 1) I already have so many guitar goals, I'm afraid of that new thing pulling me away from that, and 2) I already know a bunch of pieces on my alto guitar and don't really want to shelve those. But I'm curious, I must admit.

I ended up letting someone else have that 11th string device, because they have a Bartolex and it fits better. Plus, I just can't change my 10-string, it's too nice to mess with. But this alto guitar idea has merit.


You can tune it in g minor and read directly from the tabs. Weiss' Infidèle sonata in the London manuscript is entirely written for eleven courses. that's how I first tried, with an alto.

If you're strongly pulled away from you're current goals it won't without a good reason. :D

Scot Tremblay
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Re: Baroque lute tuning question

Postby Scot Tremblay » Tue May 19, 2015 6:35 pm

Alain Cloutier wrote:....Yes, the first six strings are never retuned and the others can be depending on what you need....


This is 99% the case. There were a few "transitional" tunings (mainly for the 10 course lute) between the Renaissance and the Baroque tunings where the players were trying to find what worked best with the new musical aesthetic. Some of the more well known composers/luteists are Pierre Gaultier who tuned his lute eb' c' a g c G F Eb D Bb; Jacques de Montmorency de Belleville, Francois Dufault found in the Ballard lute book and a number of anon composers from the Lute Book of Margaret Board - tuning: eb'-c'-ab-f-c-G-F-Eb-Db-C. There was also a tuning used in the Scottish 10 course era - usually f'-c'-a-f-c-G-F-E-D-C. One can find other more obscure tunings but these are probably the ones we come into contact most often these days.

However, the Dm tuning is probably the only one we find after the first known printing of this tuning appears in "Tabulature de luth de difference authors sur les accords nouveaux" by Pierre Ballard, 1638.

Also keep in mind that the Italians never really adopted the Dm tuning. They maintained the Renaissance tuning and just added bass notes.

Note: eb', ab' etc are e flat, a flat...
Scot Tremblay Guitars

"One picture is worth a thousand words. So, for me, one good note put where it should be put, will say what it will take some people many notes to say. ~B.B. King, 1986


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