14th Century Citole
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
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)
Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6