Baroque Guitar

The Baroque Guitar

The five-course, or baroque, guitar came into prominence in late 16th century Spain, but it was in the Spanish-influenced areas of Italy that it established itself as a popular instrument with the nobility of Europe. Throughout the 17th century Italian guitarists performed for the royalty of Europe and many of Europe’s aristocracy were themselves guitarists, most notably Louis XIV of France and Charles II of England.

However, in common with more recent times, its accessible nature also drew the critics’ ire and Sebastián Covarrubias Orosco was not alone in his opinion when he wrote in his music dictionary of 1611:

Guitar: An instrument well known, and practiced much to the detriment of music…

Dance music was intrinsic to the guitarra española, particularly the primitive Spanish baile. There were many bailes at the turn of the seventeenth century including the canario and the chaconas. All were based on a simple repetitive, strummed chord sequence. The guitar’s association with these peasant dances was often subject to vilification and it was commented at the time:

…this novelty with the five courses of the guitar … which bring such offence to the chastity and decorous silence of women.