GITTERNS

Carved from a solid piece of wood the history and development of the gitten are by no means clear; many different names are recorded historically for this and similar instruments and unlike the lute, where a significant number of instruments survive, surviving gitterns are extremely rare.

However, depictions of these kinds of instruments seem to be quite abundant around the 14th century suggesting they were quite common, but if taken at face value, sizes varied and doubtless so did tunings. Apart from the fact that many contemporary representations show players using a plectrum rather than fingers, we have no direct evidence of how gitterns were played and tuned and I'm sure these also varied greatly and were not at all standardised and so my approach is for you to think about how you wish to play the gittern, now, in the modern era with due respect to what evidence we do have. If an instrument was used in the 14th century then it was obviously still known about later.... it couldn't be un-invented.

I based my original designs on the only good surviving example we have which has five courses and was made around 1450 by Hans Ott in Nuremberg (incredibly for such an early period, it has a maker?s label inside it) during a time when I would suggest that the use of gitterns was in decline. However, judging by all the earlier iconographic evidence it had changed very little in concept over perhaps the preceding two centuries, although the number of strings or courses of strings varied between 3 and 6! But were they all classed as the same instrument? We don't know. Although its shape indicates an obvious similarity to the lute it has also been suggested that the gittern was a forerunner of the guitar.

After Hans Ott c.1450. Neck and body carved from solid.

Suggested tunings
short scale: top string at either c'' or d''
long scale: top string about a 4th lower

I have been able to accommodate quite a number of different tuning variations for previous customers. I would suggest the intervals primarily as 4ths. You can have a 3rd in somewhere if you wish or a 5th, or a mixture of 4ths and 5ths, there are a number of possibilities. I would only say here that if you wanted all 5ths then it may be better to go for a 4 course, or less, instrument. Usually I go for tunings based on a D chord for the small gittern and a G chord for the large gittern most people seem happy with this: d, a, d', g', c'' and G, d, g, c', f'.

Short scale (42-44cm)
4 course
£1800
5 course
£1900

Long scale (50-53.5cm) and with larger body
4 course
£2000
5 course £2100

It is usual to have a fingerboard accommodating 7 gut frets, however, as the larger gittern has a longer neck it can be made with more if required. See example pictures of both below.

To hear a sound clip of a gittern, click on the link on my links page.

Click on pictures for more information
The above instrument is offered with sound hole decoration (rose) and nylon strings as standard. Additional decorations, carving, gut strings etc. are available at extra cost.

The first two pictures in left hand column show basic model. The first two pictures in the right hand column show long scale model with larger body.

Cases are available on request and prices will vary according to instrument.