If anyone still cares, or ever cared, Robert was pretty much right and Roman
wrong about when I took up baroque lute. I'm not sure why Roman would even
think he knew. I don't follow this newsgroup much, so it's a bit surprising
to find that my absence, of all things, was the cause of a flame war. If
I'm going to cause trouble, I should at least be there when it happens.
Post by Greg M. Silverman
Okay, so the conjecture is that it is easier to go from guitar to ren
lute: I'll buy that due to the tuning issue. What I don't understand is
how going from ren to baroque lute is better than just going directly to
baroque, especially given that the tunings are so different. What does
playing ren lute do to help one "prepare" themselves for playing baroque
lute? There seems to be a logical disconnect here? Can't be the courses,
especially since on baroque lute the lower course are just tuned like a
scale. Heck, I think doing scales, chords and arpeggios for a bit would
help one learn the topography of the baroque lute fretboard in a fairly
quick manner. Perhaps Howard could answer this.
I'm not entirely sure what the question is, but I know it's changed since my
post answering Jaspar Riedel. The question I was addressing then was what
sort of lute someone coming to the instrument from the guitar should look to
buy. The renaissance lute is the easiest choice for two reasons. First, of
all the lute tunings/stringing configurations (of which there are
considerably more than just two: renaissance, d minor baroque, Italian
theorbo, English theorbo, gallichon, and a number of "transitional" tunings
between renaissance and d minor baroque for which there is a substantial
repertoire, but which I've never tried and don't know much about) the tuning
is most familiar to the guitarist.* Any guitarist can tune the third string
down to F# and read tablature right off the page. Second, unlike a lot of
other tunings, renaissance tuning is practicable with a relatively small
number of courses -- as few as six (well, five, actually), by which I mean
there is a great deal of music written in that tuning for only six course.
(Also a lot of music for seven and eight courses, less for nine, quite a bit
for ten, and some for 14-course archlute) D minor tuning starts with 11
courses (i.e. the music in that tuning assumes 11 courses), which is quite a
jump for someone used to six strings. Music in theorbo tunings similarly
requires a lot of courses. So making the switch to renaissance lute is, on
the whole, the simplest way for a guitarist, because you can do it without
all those extra bass strings. That those bass strings are tuned in a
diatonic scale does not make it easier, because there are still a lot of
them, and they can turn into the Bermuda Triangle for your right thumb,
which has to find and play them all.
Nearly all lute players become conversant in renaissance tuning and when
they learn to improvise and play continuo, it's in that tuning or its
theorbo offshoots, rather than d minor tuning. There are exceptions, of
course, though I can't think of one offhand.
Greg may be suggesting that if all you want to do is play French or German
baroque music, it's probably a waste of time to start with renaissance
tuning. If so, I agree. But few players make this decision when they're
starting out. And those that do will not need my advice.
*OK, not necessarily true: the stringing and tuning for the 18th-century
German 8-course mostly-continuo instrument called the
gallichon/mandore/colachon is in some ways most like the modern guitar's,
but there isn't a lot of extant solo music for it, and it and its music are
still largely unknown even in lute circles, so it's not a practical option
yet. I suppose you could say that Italian theorbo tuning is more similar to
the actual pitches of the modern guitar, and some guitarists do very well
going straight to theorbo.