Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

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Conall
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Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by Conall » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:28 pm

Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?
- We have so many pieces in dropped D,
- C below 6th E is ideal for cello and other transcriptions of Bach & other great composers' music,
- Alternative tunings of the 7th & 8th & maybe 3rd opens up loads of the greatest Renaissance lute music,
- Some original Classical / Romantic period pieces by Coste et al are for 8 string guitar,
- Russian & Brazilian 7 string guitar music is fairly common & some of it at least worthwhile,
- Lastly, the excessive right hand span of 10+ string "harp" guitars is avoided as well as the restriction of playing low strings open (which impacts on expressive techniques such as vibrato & portamento).

Common guys & girls - start demanding local guitar shops stock them, buy an 8 string & learn to play it like Drew Henderson (see YouTube)!

Conall
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by Conall » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:37 pm

If you need convincing here's Drew playing Bach on his 8 string: https://youtu.be/6emElQDVqF4

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prawnheed
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by prawnheed » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:03 pm

I don't think I'd get more music out of 8 than 6.

CJguitar
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by CJguitar » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:16 pm

It's because 6 string guitars balance accessibility with versatility. I tried an 8 string guitar one time; dropped $2,000 on it. Words cannot describe how overwhelmed I was when I first picked it up and looked down at the neck. I had to concentrate as hard as possible just to play music on the standard six strings. Even then, I still got lost. It was like a completely different instrument.

I'm sure if I gave it a few months to a year, I'd get used to it. But going back to my standard six string made it feel like an ukulele in comparison. I knew it wasn't for me so I sent it back.

This experience made me understand why there are some romantic guitars out there with a low bass, harp-like string strung away from the neck. It looks like they're made to prevent that feeling I experienced playing an 8 string.

powderedtoastman
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by powderedtoastman » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:18 pm

CJguitar wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:16 pm
This experience made me understand why there are some romantic guitars out there with a low bass, harp-like string strung away from the neck. It looks like they're made to prevent that feeling I experienced playing an 8 string.
Even with "drone" contra-bass strings, you may get that feeling a little bit. I tried a couple of romantic guitars owned by a friend, which had just one extra string off the neck. If I looked at the neck at all, the cognitive dissonance would set in and I would feel really lost for a moment. I think you'd get accustomed to it reasonably quickly though.

I do kind of wonder why we don't do the drone strings at all anymore apart from the romantic replicas. Seems to me like it could be fairly useful.

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ameriken
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by ameriken » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:21 pm

I'd like to master (if that's even possible) 6 strings before making it any more difficult!
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Conall
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by Conall » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:24 pm

It's not just a case of "more music", Prawnheed. It makes more high quality music available for guitarists. We often complain (and our instrument is often criticized that) there are not enough high quality works playable on / written for guitar. A larger range makes more of Bach & Dowland's music open to us as well as lesser composers' best pieces (Weiss etc).

Conall
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by Conall » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:28 pm

In some ways 7 or more strings are easier than 6. You should be able to play in lower positions than on a 6 string (eg transpose a piece in E minor down to C minor if you have a low C) - fewer stretches for the left hand!

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joachim33
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by joachim33 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:30 pm

Conall wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:24 pm
It's not just a case of "more music", Prawnheed. It makes more high quality music available for guitarists. We often complain (and our instrument is often criticized that) there are not enough high quality works playable on / written for guitar. A larger range makes more of Bach & Dowland's music open to us as well as lesser composers' best pieces (Weiss etc).
I seriously object to Weiss being a “lesser composer”.

ddray
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by ddray » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:08 pm

joachim33 wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:30 pm
Conall wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:24 pm
It's not just a case of "more music", Prawnheed. It makes more high quality music available for guitarists. We often complain (and our instrument is often criticized that) there are not enough high quality works playable on / written for guitar. A larger range makes more of Bach & Dowland's music open to us as well as lesser composers' best pieces (Weiss etc).
I seriously object to Weiss being a “lesser composer”.
He's certainly "lesser" than Bach (like every other composer imo) but I think he's "greater" than Dowland. Weiss wrote some marvelous music, but within the narrow scope of the lute (other than works which haven't survived intact).
Bei einer andächtigen Musik ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart.
-- J. S. Bach

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prawnheed
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by prawnheed » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:14 pm

powderedtoastman wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:18 pm
CJguitar wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:16 pm
This experience made me understand why there are some romantic guitars out there with a low bass, harp-like string strung away from the neck. It looks like they're made to prevent that feeling I experienced playing an 8 string.
..
I do kind of wonder why we don't do the drone strings at all anymore apart from the romantic replicas. Seems to me like it could be fairly useful.
I think it's because they drone even when you don't want them to. Muting them while playing the other strings is restrictive. Early instruments and strings had so much less sustain that this was not a problem.

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prawnheed
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by prawnheed » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:28 pm

Conall wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:24 pm
It's not just a case of "more music", Prawnheed. It makes more high quality music available for guitarists. We often complain (and our instrument is often criticized that) there are not enough high quality works playable on / written for guitar. A larger range makes more of Bach & Dowland's music open to us as well as lesser composers' best pieces (Weiss etc).
I don't think the repertoire problem is due to a shortage of strings on the instrument - it already has more than a violin or cello. The challenge is that there have been very few composers who took the instrument seriously enough to write decent music specifically for it.

The possibility for me to play more transcriptions of medieval and baroque music does not excite me enough to buy and learn to play a new style of guitar.

ddray
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by ddray » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:48 pm

Conall wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:37 pm
If you need convincing here's Drew playing Bach on his 8 string: https://youtu.be/6emElQDVqF4
As great as that performance is -- and I love it -- you can play a transcription of the same work on a 6-string and perhaps in a more "spare" way, as in the violin original.
Bei einer andächtigen Musik ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart.
-- J. S. Bach

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joachim33
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by joachim33 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:48 am

Why stay with 8 strings: [media]https://youtu.be/8Bx4AFYA85E[/media] or even just 10 strings [media]https://youtu.be/oPmKRtWta4E[/media] :wink:

On a more serious note, by adding two strings you will raise the total set tension from around 40kg to something like 53kg. The neck, the bridge and the braces have to support this. Perhaps our luthier members can comment on this.

Conall
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Re: Why are 8 string classical guitars not more popular?

Post by Conall » Wed Jan 17, 2018 12:58 pm

prawnheed wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:28 pm
Conall wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:24 pm
It's not just a case of "more music", Prawnheed. It makes more high quality music available for guitarists. We often complain (and our instrument is often criticized that) there are not enough high quality works playable on / written for guitar. A larger range makes more of Bach & Dowland's music open to us as well as lesser composers' best pieces (Weiss etc).
I don't think the repertoire problem is due to a shortage of strings on the instrument - it already has more than a violin or cello. The challenge is that there have been very few composers who took the instrument seriously enough to write decent music specifically for it.

The possibility for me to play more transcriptions of medieval and baroque music does not excite me enough to buy and learn to play a new style of guitar.
If you don't like the idea of more than 6 strings then that's up to you and of course you are in the majority!

If you are not a fan of Baroque & Renaissance music that is also your choice though avoiding music from this period obviously means denying yourself the music of some of the world's greatest ever composers (such as Bach of course).

If you do like & play the common modern versions of (for example) Bach's "lute works" then you are already playing Baroque transcriptions / arrangements. However I would argue that these 6 string arrangements will be inferior to ones that could be made on 8 (or even 7) strings since there are plenty of examples within these modern arrangements of the lute (or more likely "lautenwerk" keyboard) works in which there are less than satisfactory bass notes transpositions (especially in the 1st 2 movements of BWV 996) or even bass lines left out altogether (eg in bar 30 of the Sarabande of BWV 997).

In contrast to you it does excite me to play (for example) Bach's cello suites in their original keys & pitch instead of many of the frankly poor modern guitar transcriptions. I found that if I tune the low E 6th to C and the A 5th to G I can play the suites from the bass clef cello music directly on a 6 string guitar. In fact in doing so I have at my disposal 3 of the cello's open strings (C,G,D) and so can play the third (C major) and fifth suites (C minor) in a more faithful & effective way than a 6 string guitar tuned normally. I can even play all the internal open string pedal notes in the original scores. I have also experimented with tuning the 2nd string down to A - to gain the cello's 1st open string - and used this tuning (C,G,D,G,A,E or D) to play the famous first suite in it's original G major. The open A 2nd string allows one of the pedal passages at the end of the prelude. Needless to say these tunings make the guitar very resonant when playing in C major & minor particularly but also they mimic the resonances of the cello. The only problem I have with tuning down to low C is that the 6th string is too loose & suffers somewhat being a step down too far. This is one major reason why I'd like a 7th or 8th string pitched to C. Ideally I'd learn the cello but I'm too old to start that now and of course we guitarists have one advantage over the cello in that we can play the chords more cleanly or as block chords.

Re: "why not just play harp or harp guitar then?"....I've already answered that. 8 (or 7) string guitars where the 7th & 8th are fretable & the neck is only a bit wider than on a 6 string (& the guitar stronger but similar in design to a 6 string) are not that major a departure from a 6 string (I'm not talking about Galbraith's fan-fretted "Brahms guitar" - an altogether different proposition). But 10-15 strings where most extra lower strings are played open need a very wide right hand span which I dislike (as I discovered playing the Baroque lute) and the character of this type of guitar is too close to the harp which I like a lot less than a 6-8 string (fretable) guitar.

Re: "seriously objecting to Weiss being a lesser composer" - sorry Weiss fans - I do like his music a lot but you won't find many musicians putting Weiss in the same league as Bach, Handel, Vivaldi & others of the late Baroque. Dowland is regarded with justification as being one of the greatest Renaissance lute composers. But I guess some subjectivity / personal taste comes in to all that.

Thank you all for your contributions - I'm enjoying the debate!

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