Eleven-string alto guitar
Original Bolin instruments are now rare and valuable. The Bolin alto guitar most often has eleven strings, but Bolin also made a thirteen-string version.
The 11-string alto guitar is a multi-string classical guitar, which generally refers to classical guitars with more than six strings. Classical guitars with extra strings can have from seven to 13 or more strings. However, an 11-string is the most useful for performing lute music, particularly Bach and Weiss. The first six strings are tuned in the same intervals as the normal classic guitar. Therefore, a musician can play with conventional fingering on those strings.
In the United States, luthier Walter Stanul makes performance instruments ranging from 11 to 13-strings called the Archguitar. The design and the body shape of this guitar is similar to the vihuela, and thus it is fundamentally different from the Bolin design.
Georg Bolin first constructed 11-string alto guitar with collaboration with Swedish guitarist Per-Olof Johnson in 1960s. Johnson is the teacher of a well-known guitarist Göran Söllscher who made this instrument famous through his extensive usage of Bolin's 11-string alto guitar.
Johnson was fond of lute music, but the difference in playing techniques between guitar and lute is significant, and he was looking for a way to play lute music using guitar playing technique. Thus, the design goal was specifically to be able to play renaissance lute music directly from original tabs using guitar playing technique.
This design introduced two main elements. The first was to provide conventional lute tuning by tuning the first six strings a minor third higher (hence the name "alto guitar"). It is equivalent to putting a capo on the third fret of the normal prime guitar. The second element was to add five extra strings to accommodate low notes.
The typical 11-string alto guitar tuning is (from high to low strings): g d a f c G F Eb D C B.
Current luthiers who build 11-string alto guitars, primarily located in Sweden, include Heikki Rousu and Roger Strömberg. Ermanno Chiavi in Switzerland is known for his 13-string guitar built for Anders Miolin, but he builds 11-string guitar as well. It should be noted that Chiavi's guitar has the scale length of a normal classical guitar, 650mm, and is tuned in the same manner as classical guitar. Therefore, it is technically not an "alto" guitar. Yoshimitsu Hoshino in Japan built 11-string alto guitars with the same specification with Bolin's design in 1980s. However, he no longer makes them.
- Georg Bolin
- Roger Strömberg
- Heikki Rousu
- Ermanno Chiavi
- Joel Jedström, MusikTeknik
- Yoshimitsu Hoshino
- Asturias (Japanese instrument manufacturer)
- Benoit Raby
- Rodolfo Cucculelli
Some of the guitarists who use the instrument are as follows:
- Göran Söllscher
- Peder Riis
- Stefan Östersjö
- Paulo Martelli
- Kozo Kanatani
- John Francis
- Nils Klöfver
- Rob Guz (Robert Ritchiesse) uses an electric version in many of his songs
- Andreas Koch
- Coral Sunset by John Francis
- Youtube videos by Kozo Kanatani
- Youtune videos by Stefan Östersjö
- Youtube videos by Marcus Strand
- Youtube videos by Paulo Martelli
- Youtube videos by Tamaki Shibuya
- Youtube videos by Nils Klöfver
- Youtube videos by John Francis
- Youtube videos by Andreas Hess
- Youtube videos by Mikio Tsuji
- Youtube videos by Andreas Koch
- Youtube videos by Duo Accords Galants
- My Own Sickness by M.A.N
- altoguitar.com, site dedicated to the Bolin altgitarr.
- Altgitarr Links.
- John Francis web page.
- Peter Blanchette, 11-string archguitar
- Georg Bolin's 11-string alto guitar for sale by Kurosawa Gakki
- 16-string guitar by Philip Woodfield Moore
- Archguitar shape by Archguitar.com
- Göran Söllscher's profile by allmusic.com
- Göran Söllscher's discography by Deutche Grammophon
- 11-string alto guitar tuning by altoguitars.com
- 11-string guitar by Ermanno Chiavi
- Hoshino guitar no longer takes order for 11-string alto guitar Hoshino Guitar
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