Beyond Vintage – guitar expert Paul Brett delves back in time for guitars so ‘vintage’ they’re positively ancient!
The three cintage offerings I have for you go way back in time. In fact they are antiques rather than vintage but are still a very important part of the guitar’s historical timeline. First up is a classical conversion of French or German origin. It was converted to a six string around the 1770s from an earlier guitar that originally had 8 or 10 strings. It has a spruce top and solid old repairs, the back and sides are made from solid (not veneered) narrow curly maple or sycamore and an ebony veneered neck and peghead for 6 pegs, ebony fingerboard and bridge. It has 11 low bone frets, bone nut and saddle, scale 65.9 cm, length of back 46.3 cm. It is in very good playing condition as you can see and hear from the accompanying video clip.
Next up is a Harp Lute made by Edward Light of London around 1810 in his workshop in Foley Street. These Dital Harps as they are known had pillar supports and diatonically tuned bass strings to extend the range of the fretted strings. The pitch of the bass strings could be raised a semitone by finger-operated ring stops that work very much like pedals on a harp, hence the term dital. They were popular among the ladies of the day and I sourced this particular one from Canada. You will note the Prince of Wales feathers under the bridge. After extensive research I landed up at Windsor Archives having been referred to them by Prince Charles. They keep lots of records of gifts made by Royalty from way back. It did appear that this particular instrument was given as a gift by the then Prince of Wales who later became William 1V , to the wife of a director of the Hudson’s Bay Company of Canada whom the Royals had close dealings with. That apart, it’s a unique find and sounds great and again, forms an important part in the historical timeline as they are the forerunners of the Harp Guitar as we know it today,
Finally, I present to you a theorbo. This instrument was made in Germany in the late 1800s. It’s of the lute family in genre but differs as it had an addition of six bass strings along side the 6 guitar strings. So it’s a double neck sort of, similar to the harp lute in concept but much larger. According to historians on the subject: “It is related to the liuto attiorbato, the French théorbe des pièces, the archlute, the German baroque lute, and the angélique or angelica. A theorbo differs from a regular lute in that the theorbo has a much longer neck which extends beyond the regular fingerboard/neck and a second pegbox at the end of the extended neck. Low-register bass strings are added on the extended neck. This gives a theorbo a much wider range of pitches (notes) than a regular lute. The theorbo was used during the Baroque music era (1600-1750) to play basso continuo accompaniment parts (as part of the basso continuo group, which often included harpsichord, pipe organ and bass instruments), and also as a solo instrument.” On the plus side with my Theorbo, I discovered some really strange illustrated clippings from an early German Bible pasted inside of the instrument’s bowl back , along with a clipping from a letter in old German dated 1676. You can see what i mean in the final video clip. Enjoy !