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FAQ Main Menu > Citterns

Cittern Information and FAQs


small flat backed wire-strung plucked instrument; played with a plectrum; popular from renaissance to baroque times. Modern citterns are much bigger, and more like mandolins in shape. Usually with 10 strings in 5 courses. Related to Portuguese Guitarra.


The Cittern used by today's folk-bands has its ancestors in the renaissance Citterns and the English Guitar, but it is now more closely related to the flat-back Bouzouki - the main difference being that the Cittern has 10 strings in 5 courses, a slightly shorter neck and often a rather larger body. There doesn't seem to be a standard tuning, ADADA, ADGAD, or DGDAD, are in common use.


English Guitar

English Guitar

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Definition: A cittern popular in the 18th century, 10 strings, fan tuners, curved fingerboard. Almost identical to the Portuguese Guitar.
Introduction: The English Guitar or Guittar

They were more commonly used in Ireland and Scotland than in England and the leading exponents of the instrument were Scottish (James Oswald, who became court musician partly on the strength of this but was also an excellent fiddle player, and Robert Bremner). Oswald moved to London, bringing with him a craze for playing the guittar. His later published music moved away from Scottish songs, and adopted Italian style.
Read the full English Guitar FAQ Page.