Renaissance Guitar


Renaissance Guitar

The renaissance guitar emerged in the early 16th century, and largely fell out of use in the mid-17th century, when larger, 5-course guitars became popular. It's a delightful and extremely versatile instrument. It seems to blend well with anything from bagpipes to choirs.

It has its own small, attractive repertoire of lute-like pieces in tablature, but it also responds very well to strumming, providing a solid but prominent accompaniment to other instruments. A really useful workhorse for all sorts of 16th century music.

It has four courses (gg' c'c' e'e' a), and a string length of 485mm. It's smaller, easier to play, and more portable than a lute or vihuela.

Praetorius Guitar
Praetorius Guitar

My renaissance guitars are based on various paintings and illustrations, including the precise scaled drawing in Michael Praetorius's "Syntagma Musicum" of 1612. This is a rather odd instrument, having 6 courses and a carved head, but it provides the most accurate evidence for the body shape of a renaissance guitar.

I usually construct the body and neck in maple, with a spruce or cedar soundboard. Bridge, pegs, etc. are in walnut. Fingerboard can be plain ebony or my signature yew.

Illustrations of renaissance guitars usually show a fairly plain instrument, but there is plenty of scope for customisation. Different woods, an alternative rose, purfling, carved head - tell me what you want and I'll work out a price for your chosen frippery.

Rose 1
Rose Design 1
Rose 2
Rose Design 2
Back of Guitar
Back view
Guitar with Purfling
Guitar with purfling
Guitar with yew fingerboard
Guitar with yew fingerboard

Sound Clips

Played by Richard MacKenzie


Played by Ian Pittaway


Played by Ian Pittaway


Played by Nick Gravestock


Renaissance Guitar, 4-course "Praetorius", string length 484mm, plain

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.