Medieval Gittern

4-course gittern

4-course gittern

The gittern was a common medieval instrument. It originated some time in the 13th century, and had largely died out by the end of the 15th century. It resembles a small lute, but its body is carved from the solid. My gitterns are based on a surviving example in the Wartburg museum, by Hans Oth of Nuremberg, dated circa 1450. It is one of my most popular instruments. Few other luthiers are crazy enough to make dugout instruments.

Hans Oth Gittern
Hans Oth Gittern

The Oth gittern has a string length of 441mm. It has 5 double-strung courses.

There is no definite information on historical tuning for gitterns. One tuning which seems to work well is
dd aa d'd' g'g' a'a'
but I can calculate string gauges for your preferred tuning.

I also make a 4-course version, which has proved popular. I believe it is more typical of earlier gitterns. This responds well to renaissance guitar tuning :
gg c'c' e'e' a'a'
but other tunings are possible (even mandolin tuning, although I don't recommend it).

gittern back
Gittern back - 4-course
gittern pegs
Gittern head - 5-course
gittern rose
Gittern rose

Sound Clips

Played by Ian Pittaway


Played by Ian Pittaway


Medieval Gittern, 5-course
Medieval Gittern, 4-course
Note : I have occasionally made a smaller version, with a 340mm string length, based on the information I originally had on the Oth gittern. I have recently dicovered that that information was wrong, but if anyone wants a smaller instrument at slightly lower cost, I can still make those.
Excellent cases can be ordered from specialist manufacturers such as Kingham MTM, but they're pricy. I can supply an attractive, custom-built plywood case, black with chrome fittings, for £150 when ordered with an instrument.
Delivery price depends on where you live. Please enquire.
To order or enquire, please contact me