Relatives of the Lute
Tenor Cittern

      During the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth, citterns were made in a number of different sizes.  The tenor cittern is simply a large version, with a larger body and longer neck, to support a longer string length and consequently a lower overall pitch. Like the lute and the more common smaller-sized cittern it is constructed entirely of wood.  It is also strung with wire, two strings per course, and it has metal frets, which are set into the fingerboard like those of a modern guitar.  The string length of the instrument pictured is 61 cm, and its total length is 96 cm.  The back of the instrument is flat.  The bridge is not glued to the soundboard but rather is held in place by the tension of the strings, which are attached at the tail of the instrument.  The sides of the body on this instrument are slightly tapered, so that the back is smaller than the soundboard.

       Only around half a dozen tenor citterns from the sixteenth or seventeenth century have survived.  The model on which this copy is based was particularly ornate, with a beautiful and unusual head and pegbox design, known as a sagittal peghead because the pegs resemble arrows shot into a target.

The rose is very nice as well,
being built up out of contrasting
wood and parchment.

A rear view of the same instrument, showing
its flat back and slightly tapering sides. 
Note that the back of the neck is cut away
to accommodate the player’s thumb – the
thickness on the bass side is less than 1 cm,
while on the treble side it is around 3 cm thick.

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Last updated 25 May AD 2015 — DFH

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