A Guide to Playing the Baroque Guitar
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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The amount of guitar music produced during the late sixteenth through the middle of the eighteenth century is huge—second only to that of the lute. And like the latter, it ranges from the modest efforts of amateur musicians to the miniature masterpieces of the great court composers of Europe. Some of it even found its way to the New World...
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The performance of period music involves a seamless blending of skill and scholarship. So said both of my esteemed teachers, Walter Kaye Bauer, with whom I studied the five-string classic banjo, tenor banjo, and mandolin as a teenager in Connecticut, and Joseph Iadone, with whom I later studied the lute. Walter, a brilliant musician, music director...
Part 1. The Basics
1. The Instrument
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In the late sixteenth through the early eighteenth century the guitar was known as the Spanish guitar (Italian: chitarra spagnola). Throughout the period it had five courses (pairs) of gut strings. As a study of its music and the various contemporary references to its tuning and stringing reveal, the baroque instrument, unlike a lute or...
2. Tuning and Stringing
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In the Baroque period, pitch level, or nominal pitch, varied with the source of the guitar music. Some sources indicated a top first course that was called and read as d’, but for most it was e’. The actual pitch, however, as measured by a modern tuning fork or electronic tuning device, could vary significantly depending on such factors as the size of the guitar and the other instruments one might be tuning it to...
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Left-hand position and fingering for the baroque guitar are the same as for the lute and almost the same as for the classical guitar. Because the width of the baroque guitar’s neck and its string spacing are much narrower than that of its modern counterpart, classical guitarists playing on a baroque-style instrument will find far fewer...
4. Reading Tablature Notation
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For centuries virtually all guitar music was written in tablature, not staff notation, and there are several reasons for this. Tablature takes a more direct approach in presenting the music. It doesn’t require the player to first interpret where the notes are on the fingerboard and what positions and fingerings to use; it shows you where the notes...
5. The Fundamentals of Battuto (Strumming) Technique
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There is no real equivalent to battuto (Italian: battente or battuto; Spanish: rasgueado) for the modern classical guitar. Most players today equate the Spanish term for it, rasgueado, with flamenco guitar technique, but the two are very different, mainly because the high-tension stringing of the modern instrument demands a somewhat...
6. Reading Mixed Tablature Notation
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After the 1630s, Italian guitar composers began using a mixture of simple Italian number tablature and one-line alfabeto. Inserting the alfabeto letter symbols and stroke signs within the normal five-line system not only enabled them to notate melodic lines efficiently, but also eliminated the need to write out common chords in full. In most...
7. Idioms Unique to the Baroque Guitar
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When chords are sounded on a guitar that is strung without basses, no strongly audible inversions are produced; the chords are heard as units of pure block harmony. Since the clarity and transparency of the chords allowed the words of solo songs to be easily heard and understood, this feature made the baroque guitar an ideal instrument for the...
8. A Note on Basso Continuo
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As previously noted, the baroque guitar, like the harpsichord, organ, lute, theorbo, harp, lirone, and other chord-playing instruments, was also used to accompany the voice, solo instruments, and vocal and instrumental ensembles. This involved reading from a bass clef line with or without the figures beneath the notes that helped the...
Part 2. An Anthology of Music for Baroque Guitar
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Although an abundance of facsimile editions of baroque guitar music is available today, many of the original prints and manuscripts were presented in a manner that could be off-putting to players not used to dealing with them. Editors and players accustomed to reading from these original sources or from editions that use re-creations of authentic...
9. Pieces Suitable for Stringing A
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Gaspar Sanz (b. Aragon, mid 17th C–d. early 18th C) was a clergyman who received a bachelor of theology degree and licenciado en filosofia at the University of Salamanca. It was probably his priestly duties that took him first to Naples and then to Rome, where he studied composition and guitar with such notable musicians as Pietro Andrea Ziani...
10. Pieces Suitable for Stringing B
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A much-travelled native of Pavia, Italy, Francesco Corbetta (ca. 1615–81) was one of the most influential guitarists of the seventeenth century. Throughout his life, he managed to win the support of powerful patrons, including two kings, Charles II of England and France’s Louis XIV . His several published guitar books were well known throughout...
11. Pieces Suitable for Stringing C
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The Pavaniglia con parti variate (Pavaniglia with variation sections) is from Il primo, secondo, e terzo libro della chitarra spagnola . . . (The First, Second, and Third Books for Spanish Guitar) by “L’Academico Caliginoso detto Il Furioso” (a member of the Accademia dei Caliginosi, a literary and music society founded in Ancona in 1624, whose...
12. Pieces wit h Basso Continuo
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Biographical information about Corbetta can be found in ch. 10 in the commentary that precedes his Preludio and Chiacona. The terms sinfonia and sonata were used interchangeably in the seventeenth century to mean a free-form instrumental piece. Corbetta’s Sinfonia a 2 is from an earlier collection entitled...
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Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 118 music exx.
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Publications of the Early Music Institute