Baroque guitar, an ancestor of the modern classical guitar was used in the baroque era (c1600-1750). The instrument was smaller than a modern guitar, of lighter construction, and had gut strings. The frets were also usually made of gut, and tied to the neck.
Although the baroque guitar would appear to be closely related to the six-string guitar, but there are certain characteristics that distinguish it from others. Not only is the baroque guitar lighter and smaller but its music is recorded using a fundamentally different form of notation i.e. tabulature.
It has five strings (also called course); the first is single and the other four double. The five courses of the baroque guitar were tuned to the same relative pitches as the first five strings of the modern guitar; ADGBE, However, it represents an interesting challenge on how to string it. Altered tunings were also occasionally employed. The instrument utilizes a re-entrant tuning scheme, with the bottom course an octave higher. But the tuning pattern may vary according to choice.
During the Baroque period, the guitar was played by players and composers within the courts of princes and kings and they were built by instrument makers as skilled and well-known as Antonio Stradivari.
Of all the modern guitar’s predecessors, the baroque guitar has the largest surviving stock of songs, plays, operas, readings, or other pieces, yet the vast majority of it is never played.
Baroque guitars are renowned for their articulation, brightness, depth of sound and projection, and they work very well for both continuo and solo playing.
Historic baroque guitarists include:
• David Ryckaert
Modern baroque guitarists include:
• Eduardo Egüez
• Paul O’Dette
• Hopkinson Smith
• Stephen Stubbs
Even now-a-days, when there is a hype of electric guitar, guitarists often do concerts using baroque guitars.
Tuomas Rauramaa, from Finland, said:
“It is really a wonderful instrument. The workmanship is excellent. The upper register is very clear and the lower is nicely full, making it ideal for both solo and continuo.”
Baroque is like a rose, quite different from a real rose, since it will not wither however much it is touched with the hands, and moreover, if it is plucked by the hands of a skilled master, it will produce in them an ever-new bouquet which delight the ear with their sonorous fragrances.