attila57 wrote:Hi, you all,
I think we must have a good reason for having so many strings. On a 10-string guitar I wouldn't play music that is perfectly playable on 6 strings. What about you?
And here is the key point. The "good reason for having so many strings" envisioned by Narciso Yepes half-a-century ago was that the extra 4 basses would provide sympathetic resonance to the music being performed on the primary 6 strings. The initial concept was not so much to actually PLAY the lower four, as to have them vibrate sympathetically with the rest of the instrument and thereby create a better, more balanced background. Think of this as a sort of "sustain pedal" idea for the guitar.
In this light, it is worth noting that Yepes' first LP using his 10-string was a collection of 24 studies by Fernando Sor. By using a special design of half-capo (cejilla) covering just the main strings, he was able to convincing play in all 12 key centers, though not 12 major and 12 minor. So here is absolute proof that the initial concept did not involve plucking the lower 4 at all. (NOTE: A downside of this is that, unless listened to via headphones, it is difficult to really hear the overtone resonance of the extra strings on this LP. The player hears them fine, but they do not carry far into the audience).
Of course, in very little time, he started playing the lower 4 anyway. There is a good YT video of him doing the Prelude/Fugue and Bourree from Bach BWV 996, where he is plucking and fretting the 7th string, tuned to B in this case. And in the fullness of time, he reached the point of being able to pluck and even fret strings 8-9-10 on occasion.
Many people felt the Yepes tuning scheme was ineffective, and so have adapted a sort of quasi-lute tuning of ABCD for these low strings. This can work well for certain pieces, but to my ears it creates an imbalanced sound with too much of a compounded A/E/D overtone series going on. Again, this is not really so audible to an audience as it is to the performer.
A key element of the success/failure of the Yepes tuning is the quality of the instrument used, and the scale length. I have owned 3 Tamura 10-strings, and the one I currently possess has a really good resonance in this tuning. It's a 660 scale, so a bit of a beast to play laterally. The other 2 Tamuras were not so good. I owned a 640mm 10-string for a while, and it just did not generate much resonance at all. A very well made guitar, but it didn't do what I'd hoped it would do in that tuning (it would probably be superb in ABCD tuning). I've also owned two 650 sized 10-strings; neither was a particularly well-made instrument so we'll leave it at that.
There's a video on The 10 String Channel on YT of the South African guitarist Viktor Van Niekirk performing in a very large hall on his 664mm size Ramirez. This is a close sister to Yepes' own instrument. The video is done through a phone camera, but the sound and evident horsepower of the guitar are excellent. This supports Van Niekirk's oft-stated dicta that a long scale length, very high action, and a world-class builder are all needed to "make it work right". It certainly works well for him.