Course (music)

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Cittern courses.

A course, on a stringed musical instrument, is two or more adjacent strings that are closely spaced relative to the other strings, and typically played as a single string. The strings in each course are typically tuned in unison or an octave. Course may also refer to a single string normally played on its own on an instrument with other multi-string courses, for example the bass (lowest) string on a nine string baroque guitar.

An instrument with at least one (multiple string) course is referred to as coursed, while one whose strings are all played individually is uncoursed.


Instruments that use two-string courses include:

Instruments that use three-string courses include:


All members of the mandolin family except the lowest-pitched have courses each of two or three strings, most commonly eight strings in four courses.

The exception, the mando-bass, has four individual strings.

An acoustic 12-string guitar. The one shown here is an Ibanez instrument.



Baroque guitar

The baroque guitar has five courses, with the bottom four always double strung, and the top string (the "chanterelle") either double or single.

There are also several patterns of modern ten-string guitar but all have ten single strings, played individually.

Twelve-string guitar

The twelve-string guitar has twelve strings, in six courses. The courses are most often tuned E-A-D-G-B-E, similarly to a six-string guitar; however, older instruments were often tuned one tone lower D-G-C-F-A-D to reduce the tension on the neck, and commonly played with a capo on fret 2.

The lowest three courses (E-A-D) are normally tuned at octaves, with the primary string uppermost and the octave below it, while the upper two courses (B-E) are tuned to unison. The G course is either unison or at octaves.

On some electric twelve-string guitars, and most notably the Rickenbacker 360/12, the octave strings are below the primary strings.

Twelve-string bass

The electric twelve-string bass has twelve strings in four triple courses. Basses have also been built with six double courses and other configs but these are very rare.

See also