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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 9:01 am 
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Martin Milner wrote:
I've only seen one played in a session once, and the poor woman had trouble because her ex-boyfriend who was leading kept changing key.

Here's #2 (third photo). Nice when it happens, but rare — I've only seen it once myself.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:29 pm 
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Walden wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
I guess I'll break it in, then.

So, is a cittern traditional or not?

Yes, but it hasn't been for very long.

Since the mid 20th Century a number of traditional cittern family instruments have been adapted to the use of the traditional musics of the British Isles. Mandolins, which originated in Italy as a sort of hybrid between a lute and a cittern, have been incorporated to local musics around the world for well over a century. The Greek bouzouki, both in the three course and the four course form, has been used in Irish music. The Portuguese guittar has also been used in Irish music, as has the Laouta, a sort of 4-course lute from Turkey.

The so-called Celtic cittern is an adaptation of these ideas to the usage of traditional music in its present form.


Ah, but citterns were being made --and it's safe to assume being played-- in Ireland, Scotland and England in various forms in the 1700s for sure. I've seen a photo of one from that period made by a Dublin luthier by the name of, if I recall correctly, Gibson, and I noticed that it was very similar in form to the one I play, and it had five courses. Well to be accurate, there were ten pegs. It could have been set up for six courses with the last two being single, but it didn't appear so from what I could tell.

Now the lore is that Steve Sobell basically cobbled together a five-course gizmo based on the newfangled four-course Irish bouzouki and by happenstance labeled it a "cittern" for no better reason then the name was out there to be used. Maybe that's true. Still, I find it curious that the modern instrument mimics the old one, or at least Gibson's. It's hard for me to believe that Sobell didn't know about citterns of yore in their various forms, what with him being a luthier after all, and didn't study them to some degree. The result, although of course a modern animal, is a very close interpretation to my mind.

What we don't really know is in what Irish circles they were played, what their place was, or how they were likely to be played. My suspicion is that since citterns were known to be well present in Scots music (usually for simple accompaniment to singing, and it was considered to be a woman's instrument back in the day, by the way. Don't even start on that one. :twisted: ), they were probably more likely found within the Pale than without if at all. It's just a guess, though.

It's possible that it may have been reintroduced to the tradition.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:28 am 
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Joseph Sobol is a great cittern player. He plays fingerstyle. Most players of citterns or bouzoukis play with a plectrum. And Sobol does play both Solell 10 and 12-string citterns.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:41 am 
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Nano, I think that the cittern in the pic Dale posted is a Brock.

Sobell sound hole
Image

I can't get a picture of the Brock to show up here but you can see one at
http://www.xs4all.nl/~hspeek/bouzouki/brock.html

Here's a picture of a pretty fancy renaissance cittern

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 7:07 am 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Ah, but citterns were being made --and it's safe to assume being played-- in Ireland, Scotland and England in various forms in the 1700s for sure. I've seen a photo of one from that period made by a Dublin luthier by the name of, if I recall correctly, Gibson, and I noticed that it was very similar in form to the one I play, and it had five courses. Well to be accurate, there were ten pegs. It could have been set up for six courses with the last two being single, but it didn't appear so from what I could tell.

Yes, you're right about that. These were pretty close related to the English Guittar and the Portuguese Guittar, the latter of which is an important connection to the revival of the cittern in the British Isles.

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Now the lore is that Steve Sobell basically cobbled together a five-course gizmo based on the newfangled four-course Irish bouzouki and by happenstance labeled it a "cittern" for no better reason then the name was out there to be used. Maybe that's true. Still, I find it curious that the modern instrument mimics the old one, or at least Gibson's. It's hard for me to believe that Sobell didn't know about citterns of yore in their various forms, what with him being a luthier after all, and didn't study them to some degree. The result, although of course a modern animal, is a very close interpretation to my mind.

My understanding is that he was well aware of the old citterns when he applied the name. I consider modern citterns to be true citterns, though the older ones were mostly higher pitched instruments. If an F-model Gibson mandolin is a mandolin, then a 5-course Irish cittern is very much a true cittern.

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What we don't really know is in what Irish circles they were played, what their place was, or how they were likely to be played. My suspicion is that since citterns were known to be well present in Scots music (usually for simple accompaniment to singing, and it was considered to be a woman's instrument back in the day, by the way. Don't even start on that one. :twisted: ), they were probably more likely found within the Pale than without if at all. It's just a guess, though.

Citterns were used by the common man, and, as you rightly point out, woman.

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It's possible that it may have been reintroduced to the tradition.

We can see similar phenomena with regard to pipes and the Irish harp.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 11:19 am 
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SteveK wrote:
Nano, I think that the cittern in the pic Dale posted is a Brock.


You could be right. I'm not familiar with Brocks; I was going primarily by the tailpiece and the clean impression of the soundboard. I've seen variation in Sobell soundholes as well as tailpieces, but the brass loop form is a signature of his. It could be that others use that style as well; it is indeed visually appealing.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 11:28 am 
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Joseph E. Smith wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
I cheat and let the cittern's innate qualities carry much of the load for me.


Meaning, you let its funky appearance wow the crowd? :wink:


Hey, you know the fashion maven's adage: accessorise, accessorise, accessorise. :wink:

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 2:12 pm 
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Hey, Steve, I'd say you're right. That's gotta be a Brock that Dale posted the pic of. Nice looking axe, to be sure! The bridge looks sorta thick and chunky, though. I wonder how it affects the tone.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:07 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Typically five courses of ten strings


Holy mackeral! How many fingers you got?

I'd been pondering taking up cittern or bouzouki lately, but I'm starting to wimp out, I think. Between flute and trying to learn U.P. (I got an old Ginsberg half-set from a local who'd received it from an old fellow's widow), I think I've got enough on the plate, and I've never played a stringed instrument before, so it's not like I have an innate advantage.

The U.P.'s are making me feel like I've never played an instrument of any kind before. Picking up something with ten strings would probably cause me to collapse under the weight of my own inadequacy. And why play harmony when you've got a melody instrument to hand? Humph.

Not that I'm jealous of the talented multi-instrumentalists among us or anything.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:40 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Hey, Steve, I'd say you're right. That's gotta be a Brock that Dale posted the pic of. Nice looking axe, to be sure! The bridge looks sorta thick and chunky, though. I wonder how it affects the tone.


Mary Tulin of Banshee in the Kitchen plays a brock. She purchased it at Dusty Strings. Partially that's what made me think Brock when I looked at that dusty strings site. They have CDs at CD Baby. I haven't listened to all the clips but you might get an idea what hers sounds like if you listen to the right clip. My impression is that Brocks are excellent instruments. I've never heard of another store selling them. Just Dusty Strings.

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/banshee2

Here's the band's website http://www.bansheeinthekitchen.com/Pages/Welcome.html


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 4:25 pm 
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herbivore12 wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
Typically five courses of ten strings


Holy mackeral! How many fingers you got?


One for each string, just like you. Presumably.

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I'd been pondering taking up cittern or bouzouki lately, but I'm starting to wimp out, I think. Between flute and trying to learn U.P. (I got an old Ginsberg half-set from a local who'd received it from an old fellow's widow), I think I've got enough on the plate, and I've never played a stringed instrument before, so it's not like I have an innate advantage.


I just have this thing for tilting at windmills. Lots of windmills. I play (after a fashion) a Ginsberg flat set, myself. How are you liking yours?

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The U.P.'s are making me feel like I've never played an instrument of any kind before.


Tell me about it.

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Picking up something with ten strings would probably cause me to collapse under the weight of my own inadequacy. And why play harmony when you've got a melody instrument to hand? Humph.

Not that I'm jealous of the talented multi-instrumentalists among us or anything.


Please to refrain from calling me talented! I just plug away, I'm afraid. As for ten strings, think of it as five, just doubled. That's one course less than a guitar; two less than a Russian guitar if that makes you feel any better, heh. I took up cittern because a) I enjoy doing backup, b) I liked the idea of an extra bass course as compared to the 'zouk, c) it's an instrument that was played back in the day, d) it's got a really trad sound when it's played right, e) I played guitar just like everyone else for years and wanted to do something different, and f) it looks like a mandolin on steroids. That grabbed me.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 5:04 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
herbivore12 wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
Typically five courses of ten strings


Holy mackeral! How many fingers you got?


One for each string, just like you. Presumably.


I've the normal complement of fingers, yep (though I once had a cat with seven toes per foot).

But for some reason I thought "five courses of ten strings" would make for a fifty-stringed instrument, and I just take such delight in pointing out other people's mistakes. Is it not five courses of two strings each, or is my nomenclature faulty?

Nano wrote:

I just have this thing for tilting at windmills. Lots of windmills. I play (after a fashion) a Ginsberg flat set, myself. How are you liking yours?


I'm not sure about "like"; I'm still figuring this thing out. Mine's a concert set (I'd prefer a flat set, but alas, beggars/choosers, etc.) in a mystery wood (pale, almost like new boxwood, but it's over 30 years old, so I dunno -- a fruitwood?). I almost dread pulling the thing out and strapping everything on to practice. I mostly keep the drones off and am concentrating on bellows/bag control and stuff for now. I gotta have a local guy check out my reed, which is closing up in the second octave. But I got it for next-to-nothing -- I figure if I turn out to be suited for it, I can step up to a better instrument. And it's fun to turn on the drones once in a while and bask in that hum (once the damn things are all in tune -- oy!).

Having just received a six-keyed flute from John Gallagher -- and oh, it's a beauty -- I've been hard pressed to strap in lately. I'll get back to it, though.

I may break down and try a cittern or 'zouk one day, but man: so little time. So many demands on it.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 5:14 pm 
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herbivore12 wrote:
But for some reason I thought "five courses of ten strings" would make for a fifty-stringed instrument, and I just take such delight in pointing out other people's mistakes. Is it not five courses of two strings each, or is my nomenclature faulty?


Not a whit. But nor did I say "five courses of ten strings each. You should be able to play cittern just fine. You're just as picky (get it? *nudge nudge*) as I am. :P

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 10:24 am 
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Pretty traditional in Scotland, it would seem.
See below:-

http://www.standingstones.com/scot18th.html

Also, sorry to be pedantic, but the instrument-maker from the North-East of England previously referred to, I've always known as STEFAN Sobell.
[ It might matter to him ! ]

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 1:16 pm 
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Thanks, that's correct. My bad!

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