Baroque Guitar
Baroque Guitar
Baroque Guitar

The Baroque Guitar was common from the beginning of the 17th century to the late 18th. It has five double-strung courses. There is a substantial solo repertoire in tablature, but it was also used as a continuo instrument, improvising from figured bass, and for simple strummed accompaniments.

The basic tuning is aa d'd' gg bb e'e' - the fourth and fifth courses are re-entrant. Two other tunings were commonly used - a low octave string on the fourth (aa d'd gg bb e'e') or on both fourth and fifth (aA d'd gg bb ee). Fortunately, changing tuning only means changing strings, so players are free to experiment.

Multilayer Rose

My baroque guitars are based on plans of the Stradivarius in the Ashmolean Museum, and another in a private collection in Birmingham.

String length varies widely on survivimg baroque guitars. The Ashmolean Stradivarius is 72cm, which many players, especially those with small hands, would find unmanageable. After consulting professional players, I scaled down all the dimensions to give a string length of 66.5cm. This is short enough for complex solo playing, but provides enough sustain to make it useful as a continuo instrument. String length can be varied to suit your preference, though.

A prominent feature of the Baroque guitar (appropriately) is ornament. There were relatively plain examples, but many of the surviving baroque guitars have LOTS of inlay, deep multilayer roses, moustaches on the bridge, and all sorts of other frippery.

Prospective purchasers will need to decide how much decoration they want. The pictures on this page show my standard model, which is decorative without being gaudy - nothing like the encrusted examples in some museums.

Inlaid Head and Pegs
Bridge with moustaches and inlaid top
Back of Baroque Guitar
Back view
Plain baroque guitar
Plain Baroque Guitar
Simple Rose
Simple Rose

Sound Clips

Played by Richard MacKenzie
Tombeau de Charles (Sarabande) by Gallot D'Irlande
From Richard's new album "Tombeaux - a secular requiem for my father".


Played by Ian Pittaway


Played by Ian Pittaway


Baroque Guitar, as in the pictures above - deep rose, bridge moustaches, edge banding, inlaid head.
Baroque Guitar, plain version - simple rose, no moustaches, no banding, plain head
More or different decoration - tell me what you want and I'll work out a quote.

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.