Authenticity and a Baroque Guitar

I make all sorts of fretted instruments.  In fact since most people who want a regular six string guitar will go to a shop and buy one it’s often the more unusual things I get asked to make.  Since I was first asked to make a tenor guitar there’s been a clear revival of interest, maybe baritone citterns will be next.  However one thing I tend to shy clear of is early instruments.  I aim for the best in sound and playability, the early music market is very concerned with authenticity and although these things overlap they are not the same.  In this case I was approached by someone who wanted a baroque guitar in terms of sound and construction but didn’t like the ornate decoration that is appropriate for the period.  He’d already approached a maker of baroque guitars and been told that he couldn’t possibly do that.  I don’t have a reputation for authenticity to consider so I took on the job.

David Bateman plays his Baroque Guitar at a meeting of The Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society

The instrument is loosely based on the Hill Stradivarius in The Ashmolean Museum using drawings by Stephen Barber whose lute making class I attended many years ago.  The intrument is unbelievably lightly built – there’s fascinating article about Strad guitars here.

Daylight shines through the front of the guitar is progress

Some time later the guitar developed a wave distortion of the front as the bridge tilted due to string tension.  My customer consulted with the experts and was told “they all do that”.  I could have prevented that happening but the modification would have been the first step down the road that led to the modern fan braced classical guitar and the instrument would no longer have been correct for the period.

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