Not a Harp Guitar, but I’m Not Complaining

That’s because this is one of those rare “holy-grails” on my fantasy wish list – that just became reality.

A 1792 Renault arch-cistre (arch-cittern) in fantastic original condition.  There was a bit of “fate” to acquiring this one…suffice it to say, that the time (and budget) was right.

As readers may know, this is something I classify as a “false arch-cittern” – meaning that it is descended from/inspired by the guittar (aka English guitar, itself, a sort of “false cittern”).

It may or may not be strung entirely in steel/brass, but I’ve got some more investigation to do regarding strings.  What’s on it now represents a previous owner’s idea (solid steel or brass strings), and I doubt it’s accurate.  Tuning up a couple for an experimental plunk yields a dry, punchy tone (somewhere between a lute and a banjo).  The ribbed back is quite a bit deeper than any lutes, and of course the strings attach to the end block, not a tie bridge.

Not sure about the woods – the back could be stained maple or sycamore.  The rose is parchment and everything else white is ivory (yes, F&W opened this sucker up…but thankfully damaged nothing).

Back of the neck is stamped S. Renault, while the label is Renault & Chatelaine, Paris, dated 1792.  That’s twice as old as any Knutsen, and it’s in better condition than the majority of those…

7 courses on the neck (first 4 double), 5 floating.  Any cittern buffs out there with more details on this beast, please give me a shout!

  1. Benoit Says:

    Open tuning on neck: Probably depending on scale: Gcegc’e’g’ or B’GBdgc’d’ and descending basses

  2. Gregg Says:

    Thanks, Ben – though I’m looking for provenance.

  3. Benoit Says:

    Cheack the website about them tones of information

  4. Gregg Says:

    And which web site would that be, Ben?

    Meanwhile, I found this specific tuning in the 1973 Journal of the Lute Society of America article by Joscelyn Godwin (provenance not provided): Low to high: A B c# d d# / e a d’ e’ a’ c#” e”.
    As I suspected, the top four double form the open chord (down a minor 3rd from the English guitar). Things get more interesting after that…

  5. Benoit Says:

    Interesting tuning.

  6. Gregg Miner Says:

    Yes, the traditional 7-course French cistre tuning was apparently based on the guittar (“English Guitar”), or specifically the larger Irish guittars that were tuned to A. After the 4th course, it deviates to provide basic root notes I suppose. The basses may have been diatonic, which is probably what I’ll try. I’m working on strings now with the help of the guys at the Cittern group.

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