tenstringguitar. info "Music is the space between the notes." 
 
 

 

Narciso Yepes talks about his 10-String Guitar

Narciso Yepes Speaks About His Ten-String Guitar

 
 
In light of claims in other publications/websites that give wrong information about the 10-string guitar (some even attributing this false information to Yepes himself), the following cited quotations from Yepes's interviews and articles should serve to separate fact from fiction...
 
 
  • On Sympathetic Resonance, or Inter-String Transmission of Vibrations
     
     
  • On Transcriptions of Baroque Lute Music and Stylistically Informed Bass Lines in Early Music
     
     
  • Reference List
     
     
 
 
On Sympathetic Resonance, or Inter-String Transmission of Vibrations
   
'The first reason is that the 6-string guitar is not a "balanced" instrument. On a normal guitar, when you play the notes E, A, B, or D, you always have [...] resonance from harmonics caused by sympathetic vibration with these four notes. For example, if you play the first string E open, then stop it, you will hear the resonance of this note in the fifth and sixth strings. When you play A on the same string, it is the same. This is a well-known acoustical phenomenon; it's nothing new. Sympathetic vibration can be the reason why a musical note can cause a certain object in the room to rattle. Well, this vibration is produced basically by only four notes on the traditional 6-string guitar. But the other eight notes of the chromatic scale are without strong overtones, so there is hardly any resonance at all. The question in my mind was, "Why have only four notes which are very rich and beautiful and eight notes that sound very dry?" Then I had the idea that the guitar could sound not only louder but better with the additional strings. Also, if I have the resonance, I can always stop it, and when I stop it, you can hear the difference. But you hear me stop it only because I have it in the first place; if I don't have the resonance, I can't stop it.' (Snitzler 1978)
 
*
 
"Normally, the tuning of the four supplementary bass strings is C, Bb, Ab, Gb. In that way I have overtones for all twelve notes of the scale. Many people have said to me that this is the same principle as that used for the viola d'amore, which was an early eighteenth century instrument 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, and the F was either sharp or natural, depending on whether the key of the piece was D major or D minor. Thus when you played a D you had not only the sound of that one string, but also the sound of all the other Ds 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." (Snitzler 1978)
 
*
 
The 19th century 10-stringed harp guitar is "Not exactly the same, because the tuning that I use is also for the resonance". (Schneider 1983)
 
*
 
"The traditional six-string guitar has resonance for only four notes, but not in the twelve notes of the scale. In my guitar, every note has the same overtones." (Schneider 1983)
 
*
 
"My idea in creating this guitar was to correct the guitar's lack of balance. The 6-string guitar has four harmonics: E, A, B, and D. If you play one of those notes on the first string, and then stop the string from sounding, you will notice that the note continues to sound, softly, because its vibrations have caused harmonics on the other strings. But if you play [D#,] F, F#, G, G#, Bb, C, or C#, you will have no residual resonance at all. On the 10-string guitar, I have resonance on all 12 notes of the scale." (Kozinn 1980)
 
*
 
"My reasons were purely musical, and the first of them was that the guitar was not properly balanced. There was no equilibrium, because of the 12 notes of the scale, only four - E, A, B, D - had any resonance. If you play one of those notes and then stop the string with your finger, you will hear the sound lingering. But if you play one of the other eight notes of the scale, the sound dies immediately. On the 10-string guitar, I have resonance on all 12 notes." (Kozinn 1981)
 
*
 
The first [reason why Yepes added the lower strings tuned C, Bb, Ab, Gb] is to do with resonance. On the six-string guitar only four notes of the scale have natural resonances or overtones, E, A, B, an D. If you play notes such as C, F, Bb or F# there are no resonances. With the ten-string guitar all notes have natural resonance which you can employ or not, as you wish. To quote Sr Yepes, 'The idea is to have resonance, not only for resonance, but for having and stopping the resonance. Because if I have not the resonance, I can't stop it.' This, he claims is especially useful when he plays polyphonic music. (Sensier 1975)
 
*
 
"In the first place, the four supplementary strings 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, 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. This allows me to modify at will not only the volume but also the tone-colours." (Yepes 1973)
 
*
 
"The normal tuning that I use for the resonance, for the overtones, is: C, Bb, Ab, Gb." (Schneider 1983)
 
*
 
"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 resonance that the instrument lacked in eight of the twelve notes of the equal tempered scale." (Yepes 1989)
 
*
 
"The most important reason [why I developed the 10-string guitar] is because the traditional 6-string guitar has resonance, but sympathy only in 4 notes of the scale. This is the chromatic scale in the music; as you know, [there] are 12 notes. Only 4 notes of these 12 has [ sic] resonance in the 6-string guitar: the E, A, B, D. That is, if you play a good 6-string guitar, you play E and you stop it, the E continues [as] the harmonic of another string. You play A and you stop it and the A continues. But if you play F you have nothing. This is a very dry note. You play F#, it is the same. If you play G# or Bb or C you have absolutely nothing at all for the resonance. Then why have 4 notes with resonance and 8 notes without? Then the 6-string guitar is not an equivalent [ sic, i.e. 'balanced'] instrument in that case. Then with the 10-string guitar I have 8 new natural harmonics, at least, I have many more but the most important are these 8 natural harmonics with the 4 new strings. Then in the 10-string guitar I have resonance for every note of the scale." (interviewed by Steve Reeder on FM Radio WFMT, 1981/82; see Reeder 1984)
 
*
 
 
 
On Transcriptions of Baroque Lute Music and Stylistically Informed Bass Lines in Early Music
 
"My second reason is that if the guitar is to the lute as the piano is to the harpsichord - that is, a new expression of an old instrument - then I should be able to make direct transcriptions from lute music to the guitar [...] without making any changes. But this cannot be done with the 6-string guitar. With ten strings, on the other hand, I can perform lute music exactly as written, without being obliged to sacrifice some of the lines in making a transcription." (Kozinn 1980)
 
*
 
'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 thirteen and fourteen courses, in the case of the baroque lute - and transcribe it for a guitar, which has only six strings? With a 10-string guitar, I can play all of this music without changing anything. [...] I want to be able to make "legitimate" transcriptions in which the music loses nothing, but rather improves in quality.' (Snitzler 1978)
 
*
 
"No, I do not play with a d-minor tuning, but I also have a guitar in d-minor tuning with fourteen strings; but for me it is very difficult to travel with the guitar and the lute, and the other guitar and the other lute, and the third guitar and the fourth lute... With the ten-string guitar I have many possibilities, and I do not need the baroque tuning exactly." (Schneider 1983)
 
*
 
"The point is not to just translate the tablature numbers into notes, but to consider what the composer would have done if he had the present resources at his fingertips." (Kozinn 1980)
 
*
 
 
 
References

Kozinn, A. 1980 "Narciso Yepes: Classical Master of the 10-String Guitar". Frets Magazine, February: pp. 39-42.

Kozinn, A. 1981. "Narciso Yepes and His 10-String Guitar". The New York Times, Nov. 22: p. D21-22.

Reeder, S. 1984. "Face to Face with Narciso Yepes". Guitarra Magazine 10(58): pp. 8-10.
 
Schneider, J. 1983. "Conversation with Narciso Yepes". Soundboard, Spring: pp. 66-68.

Sensier, P. 1975. "Narciso Yepes and the Ten-String Guitar". Guitar III(9): p. 27.

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 .

Yepes, N. 1973. " The Ten-String Guitar". Trans. Lionel Salter. La Cantarela, July.

Yepes, N. 1989. "Ser Instrumento" {To Be an Instrument}. Speech of Ingression into the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando delivered on 30 April 1989. [Available to download in Spanish on www.narcisoyepes.org]
 
 
Copyright 2009-2012 by Viktor van Niekerk (All rights reserved in all countries; no unauthorised duplication of any material on this site permitted.) Information about the 10-String Classical Guitar designed by Narciso Yepes