Archlutes and Chitarroni

Archlutes and Chitarroni

Italian pattern Chitarroni after Matheus Buchenberg of Rome and Christofolo Koch of Venice.
Archlute after Matteo Sellas of Venice.

The chitarrone was probably developed c.1580 by a member of the Camerata of Florence, to accompany the new style of song writing, musica recitativa. Large bass lutes were strung at a high pitch (g or a), to create an instrument with a bright, penetrating sound.

The instrument was known initially as the 'chitarrone'. Long diatonic bass strings were added soon after, creating the classic form of the instrument as we know it today, with re-entrant tuning and long second neck.

The archlute is similar in general design and construction, but smaller in size and tuned like a normal renaissance lute. Typically it has 6 pairs of fretted strings and 8 single basses. Although earlier examples existed the instrument appears to have flourished from the mid-17th century onwards, especially in Rome in the 1660s, where it was used extensively for playing continuo parts.

Matteo Sellas 1630

  • 64/133cm
  • 10 ¼ frets spaces
  • 15 ribs
  • Model EE

Fourteen course archlute: six double courses on the lower neck, eight single basses.

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Christoph Koch

  • 85/1700cm
  • 9 ⅔ frets
  • 15 ribs
  • Model CK

Although many surviving chitarroni have multi rib backs, some like this one by Koch have a more modest number - in this case fifteen.

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