"Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Discussion of all aspects of multi-string guitars, namely those with 7 or more strings.
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David Norton
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"Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by David Norton » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:35 pm

So here's a rather embarrassing question, because I'm usually the fellow who ANSWERS these sort of historical questions. But this one came up the other night and has me flat stumped.

It's well-established that Narciso Yepes, in close collaboration with Jose Ramirez III, came up with the design and specific tuning scheme for the modern 10-string guitar. This all happened around 1961 to 1964, no one seems to know the precise date of the 10-string debut. Even the location of that concert (Madrid, Barcelona, or Berlin) is up for dispute. And again, I am specifically referencing the modern version, and not factoring in Carulli's decacorde and/or other 19th century designs.

But what about the modern 8-string? The earliest one I can think of (again speaking of the modern design) was Jose Tomas's Ramirez, built in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Was this designed as a "smaller/simpler 10-string"? And what was the initial "preferred" tuning scheme for the 7th and 8th strings? On my own 8-strings, I've tended toward 7=B and 8=D, a re-entrant sort of tuning, and this is meant for renaissance lute music*. Drew Henderson uses 8=A and 7=D. Paul Galbraith and others throw a real curve ball here, by keeping the "main six" strings in slots 2 to 7, and adding a higher and lower A string to the outermost slots.

Any info is appreciated.

*Because the belly of a lute, and the belly of a David, don't line up very well....
David Norton
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jack_cat
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by jack_cat » Sat Mar 31, 2018 3:53 pm

"Modern eight string" can only refer(IMO) to Galbraith's fanned fret design aka "Brahms guitar", which is undeniably THE modern design and makes others obsolete, unless you want to invoke the Opharion, and it seems reasonable to credit Galbraith and his luthier David Rubio with its invention, but don't forget that Ralph Novak paved the way by building fanned fret electrics.

Other 8-string designs, all with straight frets and negligible differences in string length, and a couple of extra bass strings tacked on, are not modern at all and go back to the early nineteenth century as played by Johann Kaspar Mertz & others, and have a further history back to Dowland's time on the lute. (Whereas the addition of a high A in Galbraith's manner makes a profound difference in what is possible to play). I don't see what is modern in the least about Ramirez' design other than building a very old concept on a 20th-century-style body... no?

Yepes's 10-string cannot be considered "modern" now (60 yrs old), because the fanned fret concept has opened up new design possibilities that are not
possible with any straight-fret design. Plus most ten-string players I have run into use the Janet Marlow tuning with diatonic steps down in the bass instead of Yepes's re-entrant tuning, which was designed for sympathetic resonance instead of practical added basses.

AndreiKrylov

Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Sat Mar 31, 2018 5:18 pm

I "invented" original 8 string guitar for myself...
7th string is A or B or G (whatever I want for certain piece) bass on frets
and 8th is fretless (but playable on all neck) usually high A but I change it sometimes for whatever I like at the moment.

Stephen Faulk
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:29 am

My teacher Gene Clark was building true 8 string models in the mid 1960's. He was not the only one, the concept was in the air for players who wanted an instrument to transcribe mostly baroque music, so the two lower strings could be utilized a tuned in a variety of ways. Lot's of 8 string guitars were made on modern large pattern plantillas ( so define modern ) that could be used in reentrant tuning or diatonic variants. The Brahms came about because the reach of tuning between lowest and highest string needed a change in scale length. Before that true modern 8 strings existed, but the tuning was almost always standard tuning with two string added- The tuning did not call for a change in scale length, and variation in tuning could be as easy as descending chromatic, or a low D plus a reentrant string over it...it all depended on the players intent to transcribe to a certain key.

There was also nothing stopping anyone from making a guitar in G tuning or A tuning, except buying the right gauge strings. An 8 string guitar with the high E exchanged for a G string stepped higher is very possible. A 'G' tuning in guitar intervals put the guitar in 8 course G lute range. Lower the third string by a half step and you have a lute in G, but as a modern guitar. So the Brahms concept is extended by reaching the low bass. But wait, we already had that, it's called a Theorbo. Which can go even lower than a Brahms guitar. But why? Now we have pianos. You want to play Brahms? Just get a theorboed guitar, bigger range. Nothing is really 'modern'.

The Brahms guitar is an amalgam of new and old ideas, mostly old ideas- The end pin was an invention that the famous cellist Duport became famous for. He was quite fat and the end pin helped him hold the cello, for one thing. The end pin slowly became a standard for the cello and by about 1850 it was solid. So the end pin is a old idea. The multi scale concept is 300 plus years older than the invention of the end pin. So what's modern mean?

The Brahms guitar has range, but to me it's more about the change in technique and how the player engages the release of the string. For that matter the viola da Gamba was played picado style and with fingered arpeggio, so again there is a historical connection. Range is not the main issue, we as makers could already achieve the range by the era of Monteverde, around 1580- 1620. The thing that makes Brahms concept modern is Galbraith's personal reinvention of guitar technique, and that was made possible for him by using older design concepts in service of flipping the guitar up into a more vertical playing position.

Who invented it? Who knows. It was probably a case of simultaneous development. For that matter the Manuel Ramirez shop made extended range guitars in the early 20th century. They were popular with some players.

Pythagoras invented it.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

Stephen Faulk
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:04 am

So here's the deal, you can do the same with a Brahms guitar was you can with a theorboed guitar that has an endpin. But have you ever tried to get a 6 to 7 foot long guitar case on an airplane?

Think about that problem in relation to the multi scale fret board
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

Martin Woodhouse
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by Martin Woodhouse » Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:00 am

There’s nothing necessarily 'more modern' about the Brahms guitar than an 8-string with two extra bass strings, except that the Brahms guitar was first built in the 1990s rather than (maybe) the 1960s. They’re just different designs which allow the use of different tunings.

Just to add a couple of side-notes about the Brahms guitar:

David Rubio hadn’t heard of Ralph Novak when he had the idea of using fanned frets on the Brahms guitar - he got that from the orpharion. David knew a lot about early stringed instruments, but wasn’t really aware of developments in the electric guitar world.

Paul Galbraith first played in his upright position on a traditional 6-string guitar, and the Brahms guitar can be played in a regular classical position - the design of the instrument and the playing position aren’t really connected. The cello endpin is an optional thing, not integral to the design.

Stephen Faulk
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:34 pm

I saw Galbraith play and before the concert he came out and constructed his special chair. After he played for awhile he gave a short talk about the gear. What I gleaned from the concert, reading about Galbraith and his talk is that the end pin and the chair are integral to his development of the technique he employs. Also in his practice and thought about his personal technique is an extension of his practice of Alexander technique, which in part spurred him to develop the chair and end pin parts of his concept. The Brahms guitar can be played like a regular guitar or in an upright position, but the way Galbraith developed his playing was a very thoughtful movement to incorporate the end pin, resonator box, chair and Alexander technique to a musical end that he intended. So I would argue that the way he developed his playing is very much structured around the components of his gear and how he uses them.

I do agree the Brahms concept is not really modern, but a putting together of ideas that already existed.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

David starbuc2
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by David starbuc2 » Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:21 pm

jack_cat wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 3:53 pm
Yepes's 10-string cannot be considered "modern" now (60 yrs old), because the fanned fret concept has opened up new design possibilities that are not
possible with any straight-fret design. Plus most ten-string players I have run into use the Janet Marlow tuning with diatonic steps down in the bass instead of Yepes's re-entrant tuning, which was designed for sympathetic resonance instead of practical added basses.
A correction here: Janet did not use a "diatonic" tuning such as DCBA as many do. She used B,F#,C#,G#. The B and F# were re-entrant.
-David

Martin Woodhouse
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by Martin Woodhouse » Tue Apr 03, 2018 1:36 pm

Stephen Faulk wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:34 pm
I saw Galbraith play and before the concert he came out and constructed his special chair. After he played for awhile he gave a short talk about the gear. What I gleaned from the concert, reading about Galbraith and his talk is that the end pin and the chair are integral to his development of the technique he employs. Also in his practice and thought about his personal technique is an extension of his practice of Alexander technique, which in part spurred him to develop the chair and end pin parts of his concept. The Brahms guitar can be played like a regular guitar or in an upright position, but the way Galbraith developed his playing was a very thoughtful movement to incorporate the end pin, resonator box, chair and Alexander technique to a musical end that he intended. So I would argue that the way he developed his playing is very much structured around the components of his gear and how he uses them.

I do agree the Brahms concept is not really modern, but a putting together of ideas that already existed.
I know that Paul Galbraith has a very carefully thought through and well developed playing position and technique - I’ve known him for 18 years and made three guitars for him. All I was saying is that there’s nothing about the Brahms guitar which is really designed around playing in cello position, and therefore Paul’s playing position/style isn’t necessarily relevant to this discussion. The fact that he plays it that way doesn’t make the design of the Brahms guitar 'more modern' than other kinds of 8-string.

Getting back to the original questions (in relation to the Brahms guitar at least): I think the first one was built in 1992, and the original tuning was AEBGDAEB (1st-8th), but Paul Galbraith is tuning the whole guitar lower now, to GDAFCGDA, though he tunes the 8th string differently for different pieces.

Stephen Faulk
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Re: "Inventor" of the modern 8-string and its tuning?

Post by Stephen Faulk » Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:49 pm

Martin Woodhouse wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 1:36 pm
Stephen Faulk wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:34 pm
I saw Galbraith play and before the concert he came out and constructed his special chair. After he played for awhile he gave a short talk about the gear. What I gleaned from the concert, reading about Galbraith and his talk is that the end pin and the chair are integral to his development of the technique he employs. Also in his practice and thought about his personal technique is an extension of his practice of Alexander technique, which in part spurred him to develop the chair and end pin parts of his concept. The Brahms guitar can be played like a regular guitar or in an upright position, but the way Galbraith developed his playing was a very thoughtful movement to incorporate the end pin, resonator box, chair and Alexander technique to a musical end that he intended. So I would argue that the way he developed his playing is very much structured around the components of his gear and how he uses them.

I do agree the Brahms concept is not really modern, but a putting together of ideas that already existed.
I know that Paul Galbraith has a very carefully thought through and well developed playing position and technique - I’ve known him for 18 years and made three guitars for him. All I was saying is that there’s nothing about the Brahms guitar which is really designed around playing in cello position, and therefore Paul’s playing position/style isn’t necessarily relevant to this discussion. The fact that he plays it that way doesn’t make the design of the Brahms guitar 'more modern' than other kinds of 8-string.

Getting back to the original questions (in relation to the Brahms guitar at least): I think the first one was built in 1992, and the original tuning was AEBGDAEB (1st-8th), but Paul Galbraith is tuning the whole guitar lower now, to GDAFCGDA, though he tunes the 8th string differently for different pieces.
I think we're saying much the same thing then. The Brahms guitar is not a modern thing, but a construct of things that already existed. It can be played in normal standard position and finally Galbraith's technique is not important, but he did develop a technique using that gear. We said almost exactly the same thing- And how lucky you are to work with such an accomplished artist.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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