Apart from a couple of publications for a guittar in A (Marella) and one or two for a guittar in G, the repertoire for the English guitar/guittar is in C. And the tutors and instructions all agree on the tuning of the instrument to a C major chord: c-e-g-c-e-g. Some surviving instruments even have the tuning stamped on them.

So it's a surprise when D. Ritter, in his 'Lessons for the Guittar' (c.1770) has a footnote on the title page: "the Guittar may be played in an easier and more complete manner when the second string in the Bass is tuned to d" (c-d-g-c-e-g). And he gives a little exercise to explain how to finger the fifth course to get the e and the f..

Here's a simple Allemande:


Now this could be just one person's idiosyncratic perspective but Joseph Carpentier, writing in France at this same time, gives this same tuning (for the guitharre angloise) in several places.

And there is something a little bit unusual about Ritter's music for the instrument. It is all very simple and unambitious but it treats the guittar differently from most others.Most composers/arrangers (even Straube, Marella, Geminiani) treat the guittar as a melodic instrument which can do some double stopping and chords. Ritter treats the instrument like a lute or guitar: at least a basic melodic line with simple bass accompaniment.

Most guittar composers/arrangers seem to have avoided this approach. If a bass line was needed they would write duets. And maybe there is something a bit clunky about Ritter's approach. And, stranger still, his pieces could easily be played in the usual tuning. In fact the Allemande here would be more easily played in the usual tuning.

There are some other pieces which treat the guittar more in the manner of Ritter, such as the solos at the end of Straube's collection. But it's very difficult to see any virtue in adopting Ritter (or Carpentier's) tuning.


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