Multi String Guitars
Multi String Guitars
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Multi String Guitars WHY MULTI STRING?

Why consider a multi-string guitar?
The concept of a guitar with more than 6 strings is somewhat unusual. However, multi-string guitars and their predecessors such as the lute, theorbo, chitarrone, harpolyre, decacord and others have actually been around for quite a few centuries. Often these were developed as a response to musicians frustration with traditional instruments that were not quite able to achieve the sound or range they desired. Originally as simple melodic accompaniment, the multi-string has now evolved to something a lot more with maestros such as Narciso Yepes and Per-Olov Johnson spearheading the development of multi-string guitars from famous luthiers such as Ramirez, Bernabe and Bolin. Today’s guitarist is fortunate to be able to explore these exotic possibilities without it costing a fortune in a new generation of multi-stringed instruments from Laudarra.

Do you want more volume?
The answer is really quite simple. Don’t get a multi-string guitar! Its not about volume! The loudest or best projecting acoustic guitars are not always the sweetest or best sounding. Multi-string guitars are about extending the palette and quality of sounds available to the player culminating with the 10 string modern tuning where a whole new world of timbre is available. Indeed, a modern 6 string concert guitar using composite modern materials such as lattice bracing espoused by many fine Australian luthiers is probably the pinnacle of treble register projection and volume. But it still lacks something? This is aptly demonstrated by the common practice in most 6 string studio recording situations of adding artificial reverb and other mixing effects to make the sound fuller and more resonant. However, with an 10 string modern tuned guitar this is a natural inherent attribute of the instrument.

Isn’t it very difficult to learn to play a 10 string guitar?
Not really! Of course at first the width of the fingerboard looks daunting and the multitude of strings complex. But it is NOT too difficult to play or master. Really its not! The 1st 6 strings are exactly the same as a normal guitar as well as their spacing, tuned length and feel. The last 4 strings depend on the tuning system used and these are played very much less often. So its really a 6 string normal guitar with some optional extra strings!

What are the strings tuned to on a 10 string?


Yepes tuning
One could simply rationalise the 10 string as a 7 string guitar with 3 sympathetic resonance strings. The 7th string (C) is pivotal and multi-functional. It is not only an overtone resonator but also played open and fretted making it very useful for both a low D and C. Its convenient position within relatively easy reach for the left hand opens up fingering alternatives / additional bass options on the fretboard. It can be re-tuned to D or B or even A to suit particularly keys and music. Strings 8, 9 and 10 go back up in pitch to A#, G# and F# respectively (high to low) and have been termed re-entrant strings. Occasionally these are played open, occasionally re-tuned slightly to accommodate transcriptions and very much less occasionally, for obvious reasons, could be fretted. Principally however they are sympathetic resonators. However, ALL the wound bass strings from 4 to 10 act as sympathetic resonators thus ensuring all 12 semi-tones on the 10 string guitar have matching sympathetic resonance/s. (Note that the 3rd string G generally does play a lesser role in adding some resonances as well). In comparison the 6 string guitar only has 4 of the 12 possible sympathetic resonances that can be attributed to its 3 bass strings and these are principally A, B, D and E. The full spectrum of sympathetic resonances using the Yepes tuning schema gives a gentle , mostly subtle sonorous quality to the overall sound - adding tonal depth, richer sustain and a higher degree of ‘presence'.
Generally most guitarists quickly adapt to this 7 string "simplification" and once comfortable can start to explore possibilities on the
last 3 strings. For example, consider the usefulness of having an open sharp or flat bass note when playing in the common keys that
have an F#, G# or Bb.

The last three strings besides resonators also open up  melodic and harmonic possibilities. They can also be slightly re-tuned to suit certain compositions and transcriptions and Yepes did this with some pieces he played and transcribed as does Viktor Van Niekerk in his Baroque transcriptions. Although there have been a number of other tunings postulated, the Yepes tuning schema in its core basis is the only tuning that ensures an even and  spectrum of sympathetic resonances on all notes. Whether you consider it simple, complex or possibly even obscure, it is an elegant construct that works very effectively.

Click here for a typical Sympathetic Resonance Map Comparison of 6, 8, 10 string guitars/tunings

Please use your enlarge buttons and mouse to move around the map as there is a lot of detail that's not easy to show on a single page.
Note that this map is an illustration showing typical resonances. There are many other minor, softer, sometimes subtle resonances some
of which are slightly shifted due to the vagaries of equal temperament tuning, position of frets, string material / thickness / tension, atmospheric conditions etc. Of course the actual luthiers techniques of design, construction and materials probably also play an important
role in emphasising and bringing out certain resonances more than others. It is surmised that in the overall scheme of things, a unique resonance map is characteristic of a particular instrument and in essence contributes to what makes it sound uniquely as it does.

> Romantic or Baroque tuning
Is more akin to the multi-course lute (in relative not absolute tuning) and the extra 4 strings are tuned in
whole steps down from (6) E that is D, C, B and A. These are usually played in the open position with the thumb to add a melodic bass accompaniment. Of course they too can be fretted if needed. The Romantic tuning although adding some sympathetic resonances does not give a full complement. It also emphasizes some to a much greater degree. - eg having extra wound bass strings A, B and D obviously emphasizes the resonances associated with these. Most 10 string Baroque tuning players proactively use these as part of their interpretation and "jeux de vie". However some unjustified rumours went around in the past concerning these emphasized resonances and the ‘so called’ need to constantly have to check them. The criticism is largely unjustified and most 10 string players absolutely revel in them.
> Other Tunings
Other tunings have been postulated and used for the 4 bass strings and may be appropriate for certain works and styles of music where enhanced / exaggerated resonances on some notes may be desired. Eg Janet Marlow tuning. Particular tunings for jazz, Celtic, Folk and
Latin American styles may utilise particular keys, melodic phrasing and rhythms where exaggerated resonances and extended bass accompaniments and harmonies enhance the mood and feel of the piece. We encourage players and composers to experiment with not
only the traditional but also alternative tunings and to explore the possibilities and spectrum of sound and timbre each offers. This after all is really what a multi string guitar is all about.

What about ringing on and the difficulty and need to dampen the extra resonances
A silly rumour sometimes touted as an uneducated excuse for not taking a little time to understand the instrument or its tuning options. Its simply nonsense! Generally the extra resonances are not a boom crashing orchestra of sound – they are subtle and gentle adding just that little bit extra to each note played. Extra resonances are an asset and give, in particular the treble string notes, more sustain as well as an added depth and warmth. The basses sound fuller and more sonorous. Occasionally one might want to dampen some of the resonances on the bass strings and this is quite easy to accomplish as one would normally do on a 6 string using simple right and left hand techniques. Yepes developed his right hand technique in particular to get a lot more out of the extended palette the 10 string offered but also to accomplish selective dampening when it was appropriate. He also sometimes used to fret notes on the last 3 strings which opened up fingering options and novel phrasing and arrangements. Occasionally more specific damping of strings may be called for particularly with tunings other than the modern tuning. This may be needed because some sympathetic resonances are doubled and strong (A, B and D)
whilst othersnon existent. Please see Sympathetic Resonance Map for a more complete overview.

Sometimes the strong resonances of the Baroque tuning can be used as an advantage in the interpretation, style and timbre the player would like to achieve. Stephen Bright of Cathedral Guitars has a number of Folk / Celtic arrangements for the 10 string in Baroque tuning and they sound awesome.

Sounds Expensive
Laudarra believes that it should not cost a fortune to acquire a reasonable entry level or intermediate to advanced student multi string guitar. Our objective has been from just under $2000 to just over $3000. Of course master crafted concert level instruments will be a bit more. Our philosophy is that you should be able to get a sound instrument on which you can develop your new found freedom and technique without feeling its an extravagance restricted to some lucky few. In the past good entry level multi-string guitars have not been available. This has changed since luthier Neris Gonzalez made it his goal to bring fine multi-string guitars into the realm of affordability and propel them into the mainstream. Laudarra believes there are quite a few guitarists that would be interested to try a multi-string but concert level prices of $16,000 - $20,000, long waiting periods and lack of choice has put them off. These high prices are now a thing of the past! Laudarra can put an entry level 10 string guitar into your hands for less than $1700. The next level with more choice of finishes and levels of appointments ~ $2400. If you are already an intermediate to advanced player ~ $3000 for all solid construction and top finishes. For the professional concert musician we have custom made master level concert instruments for $6000 to $12,000.

Is there music available?
Indeed…. As a multi-string player the entire normal 6 string repertoire has new meaning allowing the guitarist exploration of enhanced and exciting tone, phrasing, interpretation and fingering. The rich and vast lute genre can be explored sometimes enabling more accurate and better sounding transcriptions. The 11 string alto guitar Laudarra will be bringing out in November 2011 is tuned the same as an 11 course lute ( a minor 3rd above the normal guitar) enabling original lute works to be read directly. In the last 40 years a number of compositions have been written specifically for the 10 string guitar often utilising its enhanced harmonic, melodic and resonance attributes. Laudarra will encourage composers to consider the multi string guitar as a serious compliment to the existing genre. It offers the modern composer not only an extended timbre palette for creative expression but also obvious exotic appeal. Indeed, something a little different that sets it apart from the mundane norm! We will as a proposed future service be compiling a list of 7 – 11 string composers and music. Please check our download page from time to time to see how this is progressing. If you are a composer, editor or arranger or know of works that should be listed, please get in touch with us. We will also endeavour to make those works that are not copyrighted or are in the public domain available for download. Those works that are copyrighted we will provide details of the publishers, stockists or ‘available from'.

What about study guides or methods?
Laudarra wants to encourage the development of study methods and a student repertoire by encouraging teachers, composers and educators to produce these materials and resources. Peter Mony (Australia), Neris Gonzalez (Spain) and Stephen Bright (USA) are actively engaged in researching, badgering and encouraging experienced players and teachers around the world to produce such study methods. We are also liaising with these experts to provide excerpts from these pedagogues in progress so that we can put together and publish a simple shorter broad based "Study Guide" for the budding multi string player encompassing from 7 - 11 string instruments and a range of styles from eg Renaissance to Samba to contemporary. The objective is a primer for the transitioning guitarist leading to recommending and referencing the more in depth methods from the experts. We are putting this together based on customers asking us for such a resource and hope to include one with each multi string guitar sold. We will also make it available on our web sites and other outlets. Things are starting to happen – watch this space! If you want to be informed as soon as this publication is available, please click here.

We are actively researching, collecting and collating material and resources for this up until the end of the 1st quarter of 2012.  If you are in any way involved in multi-string guitars and have suggestions or contributions to offer, please make contact with Peter Mony as soon as possible. We value any assistance and insights offered and of course will fully acknowledge and reference the source including links to any publications.

The Luthiers we represent and work with
We are the distributors for Milagro, Bartolex, Cathedral Guitars and Lorenzo Frignani in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. We also will be marketing these in the UK and Africa. We consider their guitars good value with a high standard of workmanship. We also have commissioned the Australian luthier Lance Litchfield to make a Laudarra concert level 10 string guitar and will hopefully continue to commission guitars from him and other fine Australian luthiers in the future to be marketed worldwide.

Neris Gonzalez is an Argentinean luthier living in Spain with a luthiery and workshop in China using traditional instrument makers. They produce about 250 hand made multi-string, 6 string and flamenco guitars a year in 3 – 4 batches. The Cathedral and Bartolex range has fixed standard features and are ideal as entry level and student or studio guitars respectively. They offer excellent value at a good entry level price. Neris Gonazalez is an innovator and has become a bit of a legend for making a large range of 7 – 11 string guitars with top quality finishes, excellent sound and at an affordable price. Bartolex guitars have a Rosewood or Mahogany laminated body and are made in standard versions with limited customisability and standard rosettes. The tops are solid cedar or solid spruce using traditional fan bracing. The workmanship is excellent and the finish is nitro cellulose lacquer. There are options for cut- away’s, sound port and internal Fischman pickup’s for Latin American and jazz players.

Milagro guitars are the “Premium and Special customised” series of guitars made by luthier Neris Gonzalez. In his custom workshop he has 2 Master luthiers making Milagro guitars by hand in limited quantities under his supervision from Jacaranda do Bahia, Cocobolo, Madagascar Rosewood, African Blackwood and other exotic woods. Some of the more exotic details are finished in Spain by Neris personally. Milagro guitars have a solid body usually of Rosewood with an enhanced attention to detail in their construction, finishing and detailing. The tops are either cedar or spruce and the bracing can be traditional fan or on some models lattice. Customers can order customised instruments with a range of wood types, tops, bracing, features such as cut- away’s, 12th fret, sound port, pickup’s, tuners, finishes. Standard models are produced in small batches with customised commissions usually taking 6 – 8 months.

Lorenzo Frignani
Laudarra Guitars is proud to be the Lorenzo Frignani representative in Oceania. Lorenzo is an acknowledged master luthier based in Modena Italy who specialises in restoring old bowed and plucked instruments. He has a priceless collection of bowed and plucked instruments that is truly awesome. He also is a renowned maker of 6, 8, 10 and 11 string guitars hand made in his luthiery using traditional techniques.
He has received numerous national and international prizes and awards and he regularly works together with various museums and musical institutions both locally and worldwide. Frignani is the curator and assessor for the Toscanini Foundation of Parma and was Vice President of the ALI (the Italian Association of Luthiery for professional luthiers) and has been artistic consultant to and lecturer in the art of lute-making at the Pieve di Cento School of Luthiery, Bologna. He often hosts musical exhibitions and conferences and is frequently invited to participate in events of a similar nature. He has also, on several occasions, been a member of national and international juries. Frignani guitars are requested by commission only.

Australian Litchfield 10 string
Laudarra Guitars is collaborating with the fine Australian Luthier Lance Litchfield and commissioned its 1st Australian 10 string concert
guitar in 2011. Click here for progress pictures.
· Cedar top with Lance’s modified radial carbon fan bracing
· Rosewood back and sides
· Tasmanian Blackwood Headstock and neck
· Alessi Tuners with black mother of pearl tuning knobs
· Discreet matching mother of pearl decoration in headstock
· Now available.









MILAGRO BARTOLEX LITCHFIELD FRIGNANI Multi String Guitars. ALESSI tuning machines PETERSON tuners. Delivery Worldwide.