Cantigas Gittern

Cantigas Gittern

Cantigas Gittern

This is an early form of the gittern, closely based on an illustration in the 13th century "Cantigas de Santa Maria", a huge collection of poems, written in Galician-Portuguese and set to music during the reign of Alfonso X 'El Sabio' (1221-1284), King of Galicia, Castile and León.

Unlike the surviving 15th century gittern by Hans Oth, this gittern is single-strung (one string per course). The illustration shows three strings, but I have designed it with four, which makes it a little more versatile.

Gitterns from the Cantigas de Santa Maria
Gitterns from the Cantigas de Santa Maria

The shape of the gittern is derived as accurately as possible from this image. Likewise the string length, which comes out at 40cm.

There is no definite information on historical tuning for early gitterns. Some tunings which work on this instrument are :

g d' g' d''
g d' g' c''
a d' g' c''

but I can calculate string gauges for your preferred tuning.

I don't claim to be a master carver, but I can usually produce a respectable carving of a simple animal's head. I'm willing to attempt more complex carvings, but the price reflects the long hours of sketching, re-sketching, chisel wielding and obsessive sharpening. Pick your favourite beastie and contact me.

Cantigas gittern front view
Carved cat head
Carved cat head
Carved eagle head
Carved eagle head

Sound Clips

Played by Ian Pittaway


Cantigas Gittern, simple scroll head   £1200
Carved head (replaces scroll) From £160, depending on complexity.

To order or enquire, pleasecontact 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 £220 when ordered with an instrument.

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

I hate it when websites say "Phone for a quote", so to give you some idea - getting a baroque guitar in its case to America, including insurance, is currently about £170. Getting one to Kent is about half that.

Waiting time, from placing an order to clutching your new baby, is currently about 16 months. It's very approximate, because the schedule often contains items that are somewhat experimental, and they may take more or less time to complete than anticipated. Usually more.

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.

Anote on HUMIDITY - delicate wooden instruments are remarkably resilient, but they can have major problems with both high and low atmospheric humidity levels. I keep my workshop at the recommended humidity level, between 45% and 50%, and I strongly recommend that instruments are kept as close to that range as possible. Electronic humidity meters are available cheaply on the Internet. They're small enough to keep in your instrument's case.
Low humidity can shrink wood, resulting in cracks and distortion. Case humidifiers, again available quite cheaply, should prevent this.
High humidity can swell the wood enough to cause cracking and warping, but the main risk is the formation of water droplets, either from condensation or perspiration while playing. These can damage varnish and slowly dissolve glue joints. A silica gel sachet can be kept in the case, but use a humidity meter as well. Take care it doesn't reduce the case humidity too far.