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'

Another option is a smaller version, with a 340mm string length. The Elblag Koboz is about this size, so it has some historical validity. It's mainly of interest to people who play modern mandolin, and don't want to learn a new tuning. It can be tuned gg d'd' a'a' e''e''

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

To order or enquire, please contact me


Cases - 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 - the price depends on where you live. Please enquire.

Waiting time, from placing an order to clutching your new baby, is currently about 10 months. It's approximate, because the schedule often contains items that are somewhat experimental, and they may take more or less time to complete than anticipated.

Deposit - I usually ask for £150 (non-returnable unless I'm dead, insane, incapacitated or incarcerated) to secure an order and cover materials. Once that's paid, your order is entered into my Magic Book. Nothing happens for several months, then you receive an email to tell you I've started construction. A few weeks later, a big parcel arrives, and you squeal with delight.