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Fretted Bass Strings (1 viewing) (1) Guest
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TOPIC: Fretted Bass Strings
#2973
Altophile (User)
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Fretted Bass Strings 1 Year, 5 Months ago Karma: 0  
Hello all,

This is my first post on this forum, and I'd like to start with a question:

On the 11 String Alto Guitar, how often will one need to fret the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th bass strings?

I ask because I'm hoping to have Heikki Rousu build me an "Open Alto" (maybe next year), and while I'm o.k. with eight strings on the fret-board and the last three open, I think it would make the transition easier for me if I had six strings on the fret-board and the last five open.

My current "Alto Guitar" consists of an Ibanez eight string classical guitar with the third string tuned to f# and a capo on the 3rd fret Makes Weiss' Ciacona much easier to play!

~Sean
 
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#2974
Glen (User)
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Re:Fretted Bass Strings 1 Year, 5 Months ago Karma: 3  
Sean,

I recently had the extension for my 8th string removed from my alto guitar so that the 8th string is the same length as strings 1 through 7. I can now fret the 8th string. I don't need to fret that string often, but when I do I'm sure glad I have it to fret. So my recommendation is to have at least strings 1 through 8 the same length, or to put it another way, have the nut cover strings 1 through 8. Normally the alto guitar is just 1 through 7 at the nut.
 
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Last Edit: 2016/04/25 05:14 By Glen.
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#2975
tenvec (User)
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Re:Fretted Bass Strings 1 Year, 5 Months ago Karma: 1  
Sean,
Glen is correct in saying that having 8 rather than 7 strings of the same length is a highly desirable feature for an alto guitar. It reduces the number of times one has to retune the 8th, and it helps one deal with those cases where, for example, "C" is sharp in one bar but natural in another. In the same way, it is a pity that Bolin did not design the alto with 12 strings, the 12th at A' to assist playing baroque lute music.
I also have 10s guitars and am prepared to fret over to the 9th and 10th strings on occasion. It is just a matter of practice.
James.
 
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#2976
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Re:Fretted Bass Strings 1 Year, 5 Months ago Karma: 0  
Hi Glen,

Thanks for the advice! I have my eyes set on the open Alto by Heikki Rousu, which appears to have eight strings on the fretboard:
https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Heikki+Rousu&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002

I love that guitar, but I'm probably going to have him do mine with a swan neck, just because I like the look

~Sean
 
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#2977
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Re:Fretted Bass Strings 1 Year, 5 Months ago Karma: 0  
Hi James,

Thanks for the additional guidance. About playing Baroque lute music, I originally approached Heikki about having him build me a 13 string guitar tuned to d minor, similar to the the Dresden, built by Michael Thames, but then I heard the open Alto and I was hooked. If money were no object and I were 30 years younger then I might set my sights on adding both to my collection, but at my age that no longer makes any sense. If it's one or the other, it's got to be the Alto, IMO.

~Sean
 
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#2978
tenvec (User)
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Re:Fretted Bass Strings 1 Year, 5 Months ago Karma: 1  
Hello, Sean,
The tuning of one's guitar depends very much on what you (principally) wish to play. There are two main tunings of the alto, terz/renaissance lute tuning, and baroque lute tuning.
If you wish to play extensively baroque lute repertoire, then a 13s instrument tuned like a baroque lute, but with single strings for the basses following the lower tuned string of a baroque lute, will work well. To maximise the use of this tuning, one learns to play from tablature. However, it is advisable to learn the notes of the new fret board. A baroque lute can cope well with keys up to three sharps or flats, so, you can arrange other pieces of music, if you know where the notes are on the fret board. This does require some effort, but is worthwhile if baroque lute repertoire is your main interest.
The other tuning, terz/renaissance tuning, is nearest to a tenor guitar in E, as it is essentially putting a capo on the third fret. Renaissance tuning drops the Bb of the third string of terz tuning to A, strictly, a. Music for this tuning uses the alto guitar as a transposing instrument, i.e., one finds the notes on the fret board from a score, just as one does for a standard tenor guitar. Consequently, re-learning is minimal. So far, all the scores on this forum are for this tuning. There are some points to note about G-tuned instruments.
1) Playing baroque lute music on a G-tuned instrument is likely to involve some compromises. Some slurs/ornaments/chords may be difficult, even impossible. The amount of compromise varies from none at all, to the frustrating. If you would like to play a fair amount of baroque, but a lot of other pieces as well, I would recommend a 12s instrument in G, with the 12th at A'. This way you can get the typical baroque bass line without compromise.
2) A 13s instrument in G can be very useful for the Bach "lute" suites. To get these to work, in some cases, you will have to choose an appropriate key, and use some scordatura of the diapasons. In all cases, the results will be far more accurate than anything 6s players can achieve. Of course, arrangements of other music, e.g., harpsichord, ensemble, etc., is aided by these extra two strings.
3) In many ways, the ultimate alto is a 14s instrument in G. This instrument opens up the archlute repertoire in addition to all the others. Also, it opens up the theorbo repertoire, assuming a theorbo in G, or perhaps lowering by a tone/re-arranging, those pieces where the theorbo is in A.
A final couple of general points. I would recommend not getting too enthusiastic about re-tuning the basses. Frequent re-tuning fatigues the metal with a consequent loss of tone. In addition to nylon strings, those who have tried "nylgut" from Aquila Corde, speak highly of its brightness of tone.
Hope this helps?
James.
 
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