Smaro Gregoriadou

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Double-course guitar

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Double-course guitar tuned unisono or in octaves, soundboard pedal.

 

Learn more on the fascinating tradition of double courses!

The art of stringing an instrument in pairs flourished all over the world as a primary feature of traditional lutherie. Renaissance and baroque lutes, like most plucked instruments of that time, had double strings. Harpsichords could also have multiple choirs of strings tuned to be the same pitch, or to an octave apart. Medieval, renaissance and baroque guitars were made with double and occasionally triple strings, the number of courses increasing progressively from four to five. A six-course instrument finally appeared around 1770 in Spain, known as the ‘Spanish guitar’. During the early 19th century, double-course guitars were increasingly overshadowed by the single-stringed instruments of the builders Pagés, Panormo, and Lacôte. The final standardization of the modern guitar’s form, overall dimensions, string number and string length came in the mid 19th century, with the next generation of luthiers, notably Antonio de Torres.

 

Double courses, especially when tuned in octaves, open to the interpreter a broad perspective that I like to call ‘polyphony within polyphony’. This possibility illuminates the melodic, harmonic and contrapuntal structure of the music (see example), as well as the crucial interpretive parameters of voice distinction, articulation, phrasing, and ornamentation. Old compositional devices, like the campanella effect or the linear polyphony of Bach, are impressively projected.

 

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Among the major achievements of Kertsopoulos Aesthetics is an efficient extension of a guitar's range both upwards and downwards (depending on the tuning employed, as well as of the octave doublings one is using). This extension is not only quantitative, but also qualitative, since the co-action of the two adjacent strings, in producing a complex double tone, serves to widen the range and harmonic partial content of this tone considerably, while strengthening the phenomenon of sympathetic resonance in the overall sonic spectrum of the instrument. This translates into richer sonority and a greater wealth of tone color.

 

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