The Eighteenth Century

In the seventeenth century, Italy was the undisputed center of the guitar world and retained this position of leadership until the succeeding century. By this time, however, a challenge began to come from the north. Germany, where the guitar had had a measure of popularity in the 1600s, became increasingly active in this particular musical field, and before long it had accumulated an impressive number of guitarists and composers for the instrument whose achievements rivaled those of the Italians.

The guitar in Germany

German baroque music had reached a culminating point with masters such as Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), Vincentius Lübeck (1654-1740) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). This century saw a great revival of interest in the lute. Bach himself, in addition to his numerous cantates, Passions, orchestral suites, concerti and others, composed for the lute.

This revival enriched the literature for the lute and caused developments in the instrument that eventually led to the rise in popularity of the guitar. The lute, increasingly, became a complex instrument arriving at a point where it had not less than 24 strings. As it accordingly required more skill and training for performance, and as the problems involved in the technique of playing it increased, it became less and less accessible. People who realized it turned to the guitar.

The growing number of guitarists was matched by an increasing number of composers for the instrument. A number of composers wrote for solo guitar: Johann Arnold (1773-1806), Friedrich Baumbach (1753-1813) and Johann Christian Franz (1762-1814) were some of them. But the most important aspect of German guitar music of the eighteenth century is the use of the instrument in a variety of chamber ensemble combinations, for example: guitar and flute; guitar and bassoon; guitar, viola and bass.

An important theoretical publication about the guitar Neu eröffneter theoretischer und praktischer Music-Saal by Joseph Friedrich Bernhardt Kaspar Majer, may be singled out because it contains the earliest known reference to a six-string guitar. Its tuning, according to Majer, was D-A-D-F#-A-D.

The Duchess Amalia von Weimar brought a five-string guitar from Italy to Weimar in 1788. This instrument served as model for some of the early efforts of the celebrated guitar maker Jacob August Otto (1760-1829). The resulting instrument became very popular in southern Germany. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, Otto was ordered by a certain conductor from Dresden (named Naumann) to add to his five-string guitar a sixth string - the bass - in accordance with Italian practice.

The guitar, having gained popularity in Germany, moved to the countries farther north. In Denmark, Peter Schall (1762-1820) cellist, composed songs and choruses with guitar accompaniment.

The guitar in Belgium and Holland

Belgium, produced a number of fine guitarists among whom was François Le Cocq, a violonist with the Brussels Court Orchestra. He wrote numerous guitar works in French tablature (Recueil de pièces de guitare). Later, he published an anthology of guitar music by seventeenth century masters.

In Holland, the Cuypers family of renowned instruments makers was also making guitars. They became a flourishing house with representatives at The Hague and Amsterdam.

The guitar in Eastern Europe

The interest shown in the guitar in the northern countries was equaled to that in the countries of the eastern part such as Bohemia, Czechoslovakia and Russia. Johann Baptist Wanhall (1739-1813), a Bohemian, composed for chamber ensemble which included the guitar.

In Czechoslovakia, the tradition of guitar playing continued to be reaffirmed by composers like Heinrich Dringeles and by guitar makers like Jean Bourgard, who worked in Prague, producing, in addition to guitars, mandolins, basses, lutes, English guitars and a "mechanical guitar"

In the late eighteenth century, the guitar began to establish itself firmly in Russia. The pioneers in guitar building began their work in that time. One of these was Ivan Andreyevitch Batov. His workshop was establish in Ulm in 1780. From it flowered a variety of musical instruments including guitars,> balalaikas, violins and cellos.

The guitar in France

While it is true that many of the guitarists thus far mentioned were members of court orchestra, it was in France that the guitar attained the status of instrument < em >par excellence for the nobility. Here, the tendency to associate the guitar with elegance in sound became especially marked and was subsequently reflected in the many charming works of art which picture the instrument. The most celebrated are the paintings of Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) in which young men and women stroll about in sweeping pastoral settings and are shown playing the guitar. Other French artists who pictured the guitar were Jean Baptiste Pater and Ollivier.

The French also produced art work on their guitars. They continued to develop their art following the same methods of construction used earlier and represented by the sixteenth century René Voboam instrument. The continuity is demonstrated by a number of eighteenth century instruments.

An example of the eighteenth century six-string guitar is an instrument made by Francisco Lupot, it is dated 1773. The Salomon guitar is another example. It was build by Salomon in Paris around 1760.

A more unusual variety of guitar seems to have been developed at this time: the bass guitar. This instrument had a series of extra strings off the neck attached to a separate tuning box. A bass guitar, made by Gérard J. Deleplanque, in 1782, has six single strings on the neck and four bass strings outside the neck. This type of ten-string guitar was later to become extremely popular in the second half of the nineteenth century when it became known as the chitarra decachorda. It survived to the early part of the twentieth century.

The French revolution of 1789 forced into exil many nobles but fortunately did not lead to obscurity for the instrument. On the contrary, in time it climbed to a higher level of popularity as a result of its adoption by the masses. Of course, the instrument could hardly have attained the degree of favor it enjoyed before and after the revolution without the efforts and accomplishments of the musicians-performers and composers.

Performers and composers of the eighteenth century

One of these was Trille Labarre, a virtuoso on the guitar. He wrote music for guitar solo, for guitar and violin, guitar and voice.

Another was Antoine Marcel Lemoine (1763-1877) a famous virtuoso who also played the violin and composed..

B. Vidal filled the functions of performer, teacher and composer. He wrote a Nouvelle Méthode for guitar.

Perhaps the most outstanding figure in the history of the guitar in eighteenth century France is Charles Doisy. He played both the five and six-string guitars and wrote a treatise, Principes généraux... for both instruments. A prolific composer, he left about two hundred works for solo guitar, guitar and piano, guitar and strings, and guitar and brass instrument.

Folia d'Espagna was a very popular theme known throughout Europe. Doisy wrote not less than fifty variations on it. The Italians Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti wrote variations, too, for this theme.

The developments taking place in the various countries of Europe were reflected rather faintly in Spain. The number of Spanish guitarists, composers, and guitar makers was less formidable in comparison to what it had been in the previous century and what it was to be in the following century.

Probably because in the preceding centuries the guitar had been overshadowed by the vihuela, the Spanish school of guitar making did not begin to flourish until the end of the eighteenth century. By this time, José and Juan Pages' workshops were active from 1790 to 1819 in Cadiz, a center for the construction of musical instruments

José Benedict and Francisco Sanguino had exerted considerable influence in the evolution of the modern guitar.

Juan Matabosch, who worked in Barcelona, counts among the important guitar makers in the late eighteenth century Spain. Fernando Sor's first guitar was built by Matabosch.

Santiago de Murcia was one of the most important guitarists of eighteenth century Spain and one of the last to employ tablature.

Fernando Ferandière enjoyed a high rank as guitarist in the eighteenth century and was spoken of in glowing terms by Dionisio Aguado. This remarkable prolific composer wrote two hundred and thirty-five works which were published from 1785 to 1799. Ferandière's most important contribution, however, was his Arte de tocar la guitarra española por musica, a method in modern notation for the six-string guitar, published in Madrid in 1799.

Appearing almost simultaneously with the work of by Ferandière was another method entitled Principios para tocar la guitarra de seis ordenes by Don Frederico Moretti, a composer of Italian origin. Moretti's method established the fundamental principles of modern guitar technique and formed the basis for further development. Moretti was highly praised by F. Sor and Aguado for his work and innovations.

The love of the Spaniards for the guitar was made apparent by the frequency of its appearance in the works of artists such as Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Bravissimo, one of Goya's etchings, attracts attention both for its depiction of the guitar and for its backward glance at age-old themes.

Other works of art in Spain reflect the waning popularity of the guitar in aristocratic circles and its emergence as Spain's national instrument.

There were few guitar makers in Portugal during this period. Of these, only the names of José Pedeira Coelho and Miguel Ancho have come down to us. The Vieyra guitar is another guitar made by a Portuguese maker.

Italy, despite the slight regression in the popularity of the guitar in the eighteenth century, retained its position as guitar center of Europe by virtue of its contributions to the development of the instrument. Italians composers wrote a substantial number of works and, like the guitarists and even guitar makers, traveled widely, bringing to bear on various other countries the influence of their achievements.

Of the many Italian composers who wrote for the guitar, the most celebrated was Luigi Boccherini (1746-1805). He traveled extensively, like many of his contemporaries, performing as cellist with the famous violonist Manfredini. These two musicians were invited to Madrid where the King's brother, the Infante Don Luis, engaged Boccherini as composer and performer. Later, Boccherini fulfilled similar functions for the King of Prussia. After this period, Boccherini learned to play the guitar and was invited to write guitar parts. In 1799, Boccherini composed a Symphony Concertante for guitar, violin, oboe, cello and bass. But the majority of Boccherini's guitar works are gathered in manuscript form.

The strides made in Italy towards the improvement of the guitar had an impact on the instrument throughout other parts of the world, for this century signalled the spread of the instrument in the New World, particularly in South America. Argentina had already produced a number of guitarists. Among them were Manuel Macial and Antonio Guerrero, who became quite famous.

The Italian craftmen's achievements alone would have earned for their country a lasting place in guitar history. It was through their initiative that the important shift of emphasis - from the elaborately decorative to the more functional and classic style - was effected in guitar construction.

Six-string guitar

Decidedly, the most important factor in the development of the guitar was the addition of the sixth string. It was without doubt an innovation that belongs to the eighteenth century, just as the five-string guitar was a product of the sixteenth. The Italian origin of the six-string guitar is favored by many arguments:

1) The Italian chitarra battente of the late seventeenth of early eighteenth century had an arrangment of six courses of two strings each.

2) A 1732 publication by J.F.B.K. Majer gives the tuning for a six-string guitar.

3) The first six-string German guitar made by Otto, was constructed accordingly to the Italian method.

The precise date, for when the six double strings were replaced by six single strings, is not known. But it is safe to assume that, the six single-string arrangment goes back to the middle of the eighteenth century. Toward the end of the century, the guitar with six single strings overshadowed all other types.

The six-string guitar had become the norm. The rosette gave way to an open hole, while the neck was lenghtened and fitted with a raised fingerboard extending to the sound hole. Nineteen fixed metal frets eventually became standard. The bridge was raised, the body enlarged, and fan-strutting introduced beneath the table to support higher tension strings. Treble strings were made of gut (superseded by more durable nylon after World War II), bass strings from metal wound on silk (or, more recently, nylon floss). Tablature became obsolete, guitar music being universally written in the treble clef, sounding an octave lower than written. [Sparks, Paul, 1997]

Unusual guitars

The seventeenth century was a period during which the guitar went through a number of structural changes. New and unusual instruments were being fashioned, innovations tried, some of which lasted well into the nineteenth century.

The desire for better sound moved many luthiers to experiment with varying shapes for the instrument. Also, there was at this time a great love for strangeness and novelty for their own sake. Probably the most spectacular guitars developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were the closely related lyre-guitar and harp-guitar and harpolyre.

Patented by Salomon in 1829, it was clearly designed to be played as a very intricate adaptable harp guitar with many necks. The middle 6-string neck is tuned exactly like a standard guitar. The neck at left contains 7 bass & quot; harp& quot; strings, tuned chromatically from A (an octave lower than the main neck's 5th string) up to Eb (adjacent to the neck's low E). The right neck contains 8 treble & quot; harp& quot; strings, tuned diatonically in the key of C, starting with the C matching the first fret of the 2nd string on the main neck, up to C an octave above. The outer neck frets are only there to allow for full, accurate chromatic pitch changing of the & quot; harp strings& quot; with a capo.

All appear to have been made in the 1798-1830 period, generally in London (the Levien in Paris). Edward Light was the original and most prolific inventor (his instruments being built by the shop of Barry), with competition from Clementi, Harley, Wheatstone, Ventura, and finally, Levien in Paris.

Edward Light was the original and most prolific inventor (his instruments being built by the shop of Barry), with competition from Clementi, Harley, Wheatstone, Ventura, and finally, Levien in Paris

Fretted Harp Guitars. In rare instances, most notably Salomon's harpolyre, there are instruments that are clearly meant to be tuned and played as harp guitars, but are provided with a full set of frets under all strings. In this case, the frets are not intended for left hand fingering, but as a series of nuts, behind which a capo (a device which clamps the strings to the fingerboard) is attached to change the pitch of an entire harp string bank.

A guitar with an extended soundbox was build in England. The extension is simply a long rectangular protrusion with its own sound hole. This was probably an attempt to improve the sound of the instrument by increasing the resonance of the soundbox.

Many of these innovations were discarded as soon as they were proven impratical, but three variations on the basic guitar found a certain degree of acceptance.

First was the bass guitar, which consisted of a standard guitar with extra bass strings numbering two to six. These were strung either by having the neck curved to accomodate an extra tuning head by adding a second neck without frets. The other two accepted types of guitar - the terzguitar and the quartguitar - were closely related to each other. The former was smaller than the modern guitar and was tuned a minor third higher: G-C-F-Bb-D-G. The latter was even smaller and was tuned a fourth higher than the modern guitar: A-D-G-C-E-A. Many composers, among them Giuliani and Diabelli, wrote for these instruments. The bass guitar, the terzguitar and the quartguitar did not survive beyond the first quarter of the twentieth century.