"In music, the instrument often predates the expression it authorizes, which explains why a new invention has the nature of noise [i.e., disruption of the old order]; a 'realized theory' (Lyotard), it contributes, through the possibilities it offers, to the birth of a new music, a renewed syntax. It makes possible a new system of combination, creating an open field for a whole new exploration of the possible expressions of musical usage."
"I have not added four strings to the guitar out of a whim, but out of necessity. The strings that I have added incorporate all the natural [sympathetic] resonance that the instrument lacked in eight of the twelve notes of the equal tempered scale."
Ser instrumento. Speech of Ingression into the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, delivered on 30 April 1989.)
"In the first place, the four supplementary strings [C2, Bb2, G#2, F#2] give it a balanced sound which the six-string guitar is far from having. In fact, at the moment of playing a note on one string, another begins to vibrate by sympathetic resonance. On the six-string guitar this phenomenon is produced only on four notes [E, B, A and D], while on mine the twelve notes of the scale each have their sympathetic resonance. Thus the lopsided sonority of the six-string guitar is transformed into a wider and equal sonority on a ten-string guitar. Secondly, I do not content myself with letting the extra strings vibrate passively in sympathy; I use them, I play them according to the demands of the music to be interpreted. I can control the volume of the resonances, or I can suppress them. I can damp one if it is inconvenient in a given passage, but if I can do this it is precisely because I have these resonances available."
The Ten-String Guitar. Trans. Lionel Salter. July 1973.)
"Many people have said to me that this is the same principle as that used for the viola d'amore ... with seven strings that were mounted underneath the normal ones and vibrated in sympathy. But there was a problem with that instrument: The tuning - of both the bowed strings above and the sympathetic strings below - was D, A, F, D, A, F, D ... Thus when you played a
D you had not only the sound of that one string, but also the sound of all the other
D's on the instrument, so you had a very big
D ! But, when you played
G , for example, you had absolutely nothing in the way of resonance. My idea of the 10-string guitar is exactly the contrary - to provide sympathetic vibration for the notes that do
not have this kind of reinforcement on a normal 6-string guitar."
(Narciso Yepes. 1978. "The Ten-String Guitar: Overcoming the Limitations of Six Strings". Interviewed by L. Snitzler. Guitar Player 12, p. 46.)
'Another reason for the 10-string is that guitarists are always playing music written for the Renaissance or the Baroque lute. We can say that the lute is to the guitar as the harpsichord is to the piano. And if this is true, how can we take the music written for these eight, nine, or 10-course instruments - even [eleven,] thirteen and fourteen courses, in the case of the baroque lute - and transcribe it for a guitar, which has only six strings? [...] I want to be able to make "legitimate" transcriptions in which the music loses nothing, but rather improves in quality.'
(Narciso Yepes. 1978. "The Ten-String Guitar: Overcoming the Limitations of Six Strings". Interviewed by L. Snitzler. Guitar Player 12, p. 26.)
Narciso Yepes used scordatura ("mistuning") sparingly, according to the requirements of the music at hand. However, the configuration of the strings that he added already consciously solves the problem of lute music. He did not replace the resonator strings with ones of thicker diameter for lute music. As he said: "With the ten-string guitar I have many possibilities, and I do not need the baroque [lute] tuning exactly."
(Narciso Yepes. 1983. "Conversation with Narciso Yepes". Interviewed by J. Schneider. Soundboard, Spring: p. 66.)
While string manufacturers produce such strings, the concept of adding four thick strings descending stepwise below the 6th string has nothing to do with the 10-string guitar as designed or used by Narciso Yepes. It has been introduced in recent decades, initially, due to a dearth of first-hand information and lack of published resources and the consequent misunderstanding of the modern 10-string guitar concept, or conflation of this concept with that of the 10-stringed
harp guitar of the 19th century. Both the science of acoustics and empirical observations show that this 'Romantic' tuning concept - or what is more erroneously referred to as 'Baroque' tuning - has exactly the opposite resonance properties as those intended by Yepes in the design of his 10-string guitar. As Yepes said, his innovation is meant "to provide sympathetic vibration for the notes that do not have this kind of reinforcement on a normal 6-string guitar",
not to add more strings that resonate excessively whenever an A, E, B or D is played. In addition, this contrary concept of stringing/tuning does not provide equal advantages for the performance of 11-course Baroque lute music, as at least half of the additional strings' pitches (in that tuning) fall below the range of the 11-course Baroque lute, without adding the desired G- and F-basses required for Baroque lute music.
More details about the Yepes 10-string guitar, including the history of its origins, can be found in this informative interview (click the page numbers):
Snitzler, L. 1978. "Narciso Yepes: The 10-String Guitar: Overcoming the Limitations of Six Strings".
Guitar Player 12(3): pp.26,42, 46, 48,52.
ABOUT THIS SITE
This site is a not-for-profit resource for the researched and verified facts about Narciso Yepes's innovation of the guitar.
It is authored by professional 10-string guitarist Viktor van Niekerk(long term student of 10-string guitarist Fritz Buss, alumnus and teaching assistant of Narciso Yepes). Information here is based on Yepes's interviews and published words, Fritz Buss's first-hand experience, and Viktor van Niekerk's 20 years of extensive research on the instrument, the science of its acoustics, and analysis of primary sources such as handwritten transcriptions of Baroque lute music by Yepes.
This site is intended to present a counterpoint against the vast amount of disinformation about Yepes's guitar that appears on many other websites and publications.
Copyright 2009-2016 by Viktor van Niekerk (All rights reserved in all countries; unauthorized duplication of material on this site is prohibited.)
Information about the 10-String Classical Guitar designed by Narciso Yepes