More Than Six
or Playing the Notes Other Guitars Cannot Reach, by James R. Smith

1. Intro | 2. Guitar Types | 3. Strings | 4. Learning | 5. Repertoire | 6. Conclusion | This article was originally published in Classical Guitar Magazine


6. Conclusion

This article has outlined the major topics relating to multi-string guitars, and these are now summarised. While not easy to learn, one must accept that lutenists cope with instruments having anything from seven to thirteen courses, so learning to play a multi-string guitar is feasible. Repertoire, saving the modern compositions for a re-entrant ten-string, and some readily available renaissance and baroque lute transcriptions, is singularly absent. However, although Bach, Mozart, Debussy and a great many other fine composers did not compose for the guitar, a ten-string does make more realistic arrangements of their music a genuine option. At the same time, composers have an opportunity for exploring a new sound-scape. So where, overall, does one see multi-string guitars fitting into the guitar family? While no hard and fast proscriptions can be given, I would suggest that:

1) seven and ten-string instruments are for solo performance

2) saving the innovation of the Brahms guitar, while eight can be used for solo performance, it is ideal for small ensemble use with a dropped eighth string.

For large ensemble / guitar orchestras, the six-string members of the guitar family (octave down to bass) are the instruments of choice.
As to availability, fine instruments are available from major studios as standard catalogue items, so that waiting times are a matter of a few months. Solo makers are usually prepared to make any of the types discussed and offer a valuable customising service, though with longer waiting times. Given the will to start, there are very rewarding opportunities for the guitarist prepared to consider multi-string instruments. However, as noted at the end of my previous article on the guitar family (January 2000), nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I would like to express my appreciation of all those who have made valuable comments on this article, viz., Paul Devery, Stephen Dodgson, Paul Elliott, Steve Gibbs, Christopher Goodwin, Jonathan Leathwood, Idris Owen, Peter Reuffer, Brian Whitehouse. I am, of course, entirely responsible for the final form and content.

1. Brian Whitehouse, The Classical Guitar Centre, 51A, St. Mary's Road, Bearwood, West Midlands, B67 5DH. Tel: 0121 429 7446, international +44 121 429 7446

2. Ohana, Maurice: 'Tiento', 'Si le jour pairait', 1968 Editions M. R. Braun, Girard Billaudot Editeur, 14 Rue de Echiquier, Paris 10e.

3. Two examples of Bach Lute Suites:
'Bach Lute Suites for Guitar', Edited and fingered by Jerry Willard, 1980, Ariel Publications, New York.
Kompositionen für Laute, Johann Sebastian Bach, transcribed and edited by Hans Dagobert Bruger, Mseler Verlag, Wolfenbüttel and Zürich.

4. 'Intavolatura di Liuto', S. L. Weiss, transcribed by Ruggero Chiesa, Edizioni Suvini Zerbono -Milano.

5. 'Suite, e-Moll für Gitarre', Robert de VisÈe, edited by Hubert Zanoskar, Otto Heinrich Noetzal Verlag.

6. 'Intavolatura di Balli per sonar di Liuto', Gio. Maria Radino, transcribed and edited by Giuseppe Gullino, Edizioni Musicali Ditta R. Maurri, Firenze, Via del Corso.

7. 'Lauten Musik aus der Renaissance', vols 1, 2, 3, edited by Adalbert Quadt, VEB Deutscher Verlag f¸r Musik, Leipzig.

8. 'Lauten Musik aus des 17 and 18 Jarhunderts', vols 1, 2, edited by Adalbert Quadt, VEB Deutscher Verlag f¸r Musik, Leipzig.

9. CD ­ 'Introducing the Brahms Guitar', by Paul Galbraith, P.W.C. Watercourse (1996) Recital Series, Eclectic Records, 6, Barclay Terrace, Edinburgh, EH10 4HP.

10. 'Italiana' (anon 16th century), in 'Solo Guitar Playing', vol.1, by Frederich M. Noad, Schirmer Books (MacMillan Publishing Co.), New York, 3rd Edition.

11. 'Tanz', Georg Fuhrmann, in 'The Renaissance Guitar', by Frederick M. Noad, Ariel Publications, New York.

12. 'A Tutor for the Renaissance Lute', Diana Poulton, Schott (ED 12324).

13. 'Tone Production on the Classical Guitar', by John Taylor, 1978, Musical New Services Ltd, London.

14. Keyrex (price £9 plus p&p) is available from: Wayland Design at

15. "Playing the Ten String," An Approach for Guitarists, by Janet Marlowe, (Book plus CD), publ. by Janet Marlowe Music LLC.

16. Websites. These are easily found by using major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Altavista and typing in: 10-string guitar, arch guitar, alt or alto guitar, Nestor Bonito, Steve Gibbs, Jonathan Leathwood, Janet Marlowe, Sergio Medina, Stephen Schmidt, Raphaela Smits, etc, and following the resulting links.

FRONT | 1. Intro | 2. Guitar Types | 3. Strings | 4. Learning | 5. Repertoire | 6. Conclusion

Home | Accessories | Articles | Builders | Gallery | For Sale | Composers | Guitarists | Movies | Sheet Music | Free PDFs | Recordings | Teachers | Radio | Group | Contact Us