Early dance tunes on 10-string cittern

  1. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Today, I've been getting out my 10-string waldzither for the first time in about four years -- I bought it a while ago, set it up for playing and then couldn't think of any music that would actually make use of its range or its rather individualistic tone. I thought I would give it another go because I was reading the "10-stringers" social group, which has got a new thread for sound clips of 10-string mandolin/mandola hybrids. Most of the instruments they are talking about over there are modern ones, some with fan frets, and mainly used for jazz improvisation. Mine isn't like that at all, and when thinking about what I could record, the obvious choice was early music.

    This waldzither is quite an unusual one: it has a much shorter scale than most at 400mm (460mm is usual) and it was built as a 10-string, not the normal nine-string. Original string configuration was 2-2-2-2-1-1, i.e. two separate bass strings tuned to different drone notes. One of the basses was fretted, the other unfretted like on a harp guitar (the nut had an extension sticking out beyond the edge of the fretboard). I replaced the nut and set it up as a five-course instrument tuned in fifths, CGDAE, i.e. a mandola/mandolin hybrid. A bit shrill on the E course (it's a .008 gauge), but it works pretty well over the whole range. I've added a photo of the waldzither to this group's photos.

    So, here are two dance tunes, "Saltarello" (no idea which one -- they seem to go by numbers, but my source doesn't have one) and "Alli In Midbar". For both of them, I decided to make use of the full range by transposing it downwards by a fifth after each repetition, i.e. playing it one string down.

    "Saltarello" is played four times through, first in its original key (G-dorian), then a fifth down in C-dorian, then another fifth down to F-dorian, and then back up to G-dorian. I wonder whether this may actually have been the way it was played anyway, as the tune seems to invite the transposition: the final note is a fifth down from the starting note, so each repetition starts at the final note of the previous one, leading naturally into each other. I'm really quite pleased with the way this works.

    "Alli In Midbar" is Spanish, I think -- I don't know anything more about it -- and as it is played on only two strings, I can do the same transposition one more time: the tune is played five times through, first in first in D-minor (Aeolian), then a fifth down in G-minor, then another fifth down to C-minor, then another fifth to F-Minor, and then back up to D-minor.

    I like this way of playing early dance tunes: the tunes are often very short, so this way one can repeat them and at the same time stop it from being monotonous by continually changing key.

    1. Saltarello:

    2. Alli In Midbar:

  2. MLT
    Thanks for posting these videos. I think that you must be corect about how these tunes could have been played--it just flows so well from 5th to 5th.
  3. Simen Kjaersdalen
    Simen Kjaersdalen
    Oh, I just love the sound of these Waldzithers! I've got two of them myself, 9-strings. I tune them up in 5ths.
Results 1 to 3 of 3