14th Century Citole Day 2

Here it is, day 2. 

This wasn't a big day for cutting, sanding, gluing, chiseling, and all that other fun stuff.  Since I am not working from any kind of template or dimensioned measurements, I am simply building what feels good in my hands.  This leads to a lot of non-standard stuff, which has to be figured out.  For example, the scale length (the length of the vibrating string from the bridge to the nut) on this thing is going to be about 19.25 inches.  OK, well, maybe exactly 19.25 inches, since this is a fretted instrument.  Which means that I had to figure the fret distances and placement from the nut for this particular instrument.

String music theory lesson 1.  No matter what the string length between the nut and the bridge, there is a standard formula for figuring out the placement of frets.  The distance between a fret and it's next highest neighbor is the distance between the fret and bridge, divided by 17.817.  Frets are measured from the front end of the nut to the center of the fret.  So a basic formula you can use is [(scale length - distance to previous fret) / 17.817 + distance to previous fret] = distance to next fret.

Always find the distance from the nut to any fret, and measure from the nut when you place the fret.  If you don't, you are very likely to come up with errors in the notes that compound as you move up the neck.

I have included an excel spreadsheet that does the work for you for 20 frets here.  Simply change the length in the 'scale length in inches' cell, and it will figure everything else out for you.

Neat thing about this - it is not dependant on any specific scale length - all strings vibrate in tonal increments that correspond to our modern musical sensibilities when you use the magic 17.817 factor.

So this instrument will have 15 frets (I decided that I didn't want to go much closer than 1/2 inch between frets, as my fingers are very large.  Most of the instruments I have seen reconstructed have between 8 and 18 frets.)  These frets will be placed to correspond to the notes played on a modern guitar.  This is a compromise, but since I want to be able to have this instrument play comfortably with otuer instruments, I will fret it accordingly.  A little later in the series of pages I will go more in detail about period frettings and tunings and temperaments, but I don't want to give away all the secrets up front now, do I?  Then there would be no reason for folks to come back)

Anyway, most of this day was spent on designing the fretboard and figuring out inter -string spacing.  This instrument will be strung in 4 courses.  The bottom 2 courses will be strung with 2 strings each (like a 12 string guitar or an 8 string mandolin) and the top courses will be single string.  There were all kinds of variations on stringing, but this gives a real bass that can be used to advantage (bass string sound in minstrel and small consort performances is often lacking).

But I couldn't help but mess with the thing a bit - a day without cutting or sanding or rasping or chiseling is a day without sunshine.  So I did some basic prep work to the body to get ready for the soundboard.

I narrowed the neck and defined the rear curve, so that I could determine the location of and place the nut and the rear of the fretboard.  The nut will be antler or bone, depending on depth.

I had to lap the top of the soundbox to make it perfectly flat.  The spruce soundboard will be flat, with one soundbar as support.  The Warwick citole had a curved top and bottom, most citoles depicted in art had flat tops and botttoms.  The curved top adds to sound, but it was not common until later in period, and I wanted to create a very typical sounding instrument.

I had to do the basic dimensioning of the trefoil 'knob' at the front, to give clearance for the soundboard.  This will be carved in a 'bound balls' pattern, rounded with a criss-crossed binding carved.

Here is a view of the instrument held as it should be when playing, to give an idea of size and feature.  It has a longer neck than a lot of instruments, and the body is on the small side, but it looks 'right' to my eye, and it is the instrument I was able to get from the wood (which, I believe, was a critical medieval decision-making factor).

This is the end of day 2.  More tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov 9)

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