The English Guittar or Cittern – A popular Plucked String Instrument of the 18th Century

I am currently reading about the history of the English Guitar or Guittar, a kind of Cittern. Some time ago I have written a post about this instrument in my German blog

The guittar was developed after 1753 in Great Britain. According to the very detailed paper by Jürgen Kloss it has first been used by the actress Maria Macklin in a play that has become very popular. After this the guittar has become very popular for the next 50 years.

The guittar has 6 courses and ist typically tuned in C-major. The guittar can be used to accompany the singing, but it can also be used to play instrumental music like that for the guitar. It can be played with the fingers, but also with a pick or quill. Early instruments had tuning pegs, later a system using watch keys has been developed similar to the system used for the Portuguese guitar.

Rob MacKillop has compiled interesting information and pictures on his website (choose “guitar” first, then ). His videos can be found at the beginning of my playlist.

Pictures of historical citterns can be foudn on the museum websites listed below.

The first video shows an instrument from the workshop of John Preston from the 18th century:

Robert Mouland on The English Guitar

An example in which a cittern is used to accompany the singing with Dante Ferrara:

The Wager – Dante Ferrara ; cittern

The Wager
(William Ellis, 1652)
from the CD Bazimakoo by Dante Ferrara

My lady and her maid, upon a merry pin,
They made a match at farting, who should the wager win.
Joan lights three candles then, and sets them bolt upright.
With the first fart she blew them out, with the next she gave them light.
In comes my lady then, with all her might and mane,
And blew them out and in and out and in and out again.

Music Copyright Dante Ferrara 2007
Video Copyright Adam Verity

Doc Rossi plays his arrangement of a Sonata by J. C. Bach on a cittern from the workshop of John Preston (ca. 1770).

Doc Rossi: J C Bach Sonata for cittern (English guitar) and violin

Solo arrangement of JC Bach’s Sonata for 18th-century cittern (a.k.a; English guitar) and violin played by Doc Rossi on a Preston cittern from around 1770.

Playlist with more videos with the English Guittar / Cittern

Additional Information about the English Guittar / Cittern

The “Guittar” In Britain 1753 – 1800 – paper by Jürgen Kloss:

Atlas of Plucked Instruments:

Monticello Explorer:

Wikipedia about the Cittern (engl.):

Cittern and other plucked string instruments of the  18th century in the National Music Museum:

Homepage of Rob MacKillop – with some free sheet music for the cittern, vihuela and theorbo:

Music- and Theatermuseum in Stockholm, Sweden (select kategorie: stränginstrument, then Cistrar):

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