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  1. #1

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    I couldn't resist this beautiful instrument, though had to sell my Gibson 175 to pay for it - sacrilege, I hear you say!! The truth is, I have to admit I'm a 100% acoustic player, and the 175 just wasn't getting played. The forthcoming Elferink will be my main jazz guitar.

    So, to the theorbo. How did such a monster come about? Well, let's go back to the Reformation of the 16th century. The reformers decided that church music had become too complex - often there were six or more singers all singing different lines, often with different words. The whole was meant to elevate your spirits to admire the greater glory of God, but very often it went over the congregation's heads. So, they put forward the idea of one melody, which everyone would sing, and in the vernacular.

    Well, the Counter Reformation got itself organised, and thoughts soon turned to music. They liked the idea of the vernacular, but not of one melodic line. So they opted for a tripartite formula: a melody, to which was added a functional bass (rather than an independent melodic line), and chords in between. Thus was created Baroque music. By the way, "baroque" was a disparaging term. It really refers to a broken diamond - the diamond being the old Renaissance modal style.

    Anyway (are you still with me?!) all this meant that the bass increased in importance, and soon all the lutes were having long bass strings added for the low notes. Many early theorbos were adapted from lutes.

    My theorbo is actually a small one, though that makes it a bit easier to play. The video explains more, and I give a little performance at the end. I hope you like it!




    Edit: The French wrote for it too: Not easy, but I can't stop myself sharing it...

    Last edited by Rob MacKillop; 10-27-2017 at 10:56 AM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Awesome. As soon as I saw the thread title I knew who the author was.

    Check out this bad girl!

    NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-theorbo-jpg

  4. #3

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    congrats rob..beautiful instrument...not to sound heretical on a jazz forum, but it almost makes a ply top 175 seem silly in compare!!!

    great post info, overview vid...and playing of course

    the maestro!!! bravo

    congrats and enjoy

    cheers

    ps- i thought i remembered seeing you play one before!!



    cheers

  5. #4

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    pss- youre very likely the only theorbo player in the world who doubles on a danelectro longhorn bass!!!! haha...fantastic


    cheers

  6. #5

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    Just a delight! Thank you!
    Best regards, k

  7. #6

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    This is fantastic, congratulations.

    What a sound !

    Like WoodySound, upon reading "theorbo" i knew whose post this would be.

    Awaiting your take on Donna Lee à la manière de Robert de Visée.

  8. #7

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    I just heard this Capona.

    Interesting. Sounds a bit like this fantastic Madagascar guitarist, D'Gary, but on valium and with stockings and wig.
    Last edited by xuoham; 10-26-2017 at 08:49 PM. Reason: typos, typos, always TYPOS !!!!

  9. #8

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    xuoham- like your guitar and koto pieces...lots of strings moving!!! haha

    cheers

  10. #9

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    I love hearing you talk almost as much as I enjoy hearing you play.
    You are a gentle soul Rob.
    I forgive you for offing the 175. I understand. I would trade my theorbo for a 175 any day, if I had one...
    Joe D

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max405 View Post
    I forgive you for offing the 175. I understand. I would trade my theorbo for a 175 any day, if I had one...
    Joe D

    hahahaha..now that cracked me up!!!

    funny

    cheers

    ps- both of you guys love of playing is great!! inspiring

  12. #11

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    I'm glad the post generated such good comments. Thank you, all!

    Love my Longhorn (so to speak)!

    The Capona video was on a larger theorbo, not mine, with an 83cms playing string length, 14cms longer than my theorbo. It was LOUD.

    Part of the deal in selling my 175 was the inclusion of a Peerless Manhattan, which is now my only jazz guitar. It's actually a fine guitar, not a 175, but it will certainly keep me happy for now.

  13. #12

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    Happy New Theorbo Day, Rob! Didn't even know that an instrument of this name existed. It sounds beautiful and so does your playing! Why am I not amazed that you can play such a beast? LOL!
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  14. #13

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    Cheers, Tommo. Happy you have now made your acquaintance with the old beast.

  15. #14

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    Rob, can you cut the top and put a pickup in there??



    Beautiful stuff!

  16. #15

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    Or you can just wedge a BJB in there..
    JD

  17. #16

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    Personally, I think that's the most beautiful musical instrument ever made - and one of the best sounding, too

  18. #17

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    I'm so jealous...


    congrats!!!

  19. #18

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    Ah, the Counter Reformation, my favorite outcome of the Reformation. Happy new stringed instrument day Rob. Your playing and your history lesson made my morning. Thanks for sharing!

  20. #19

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    Can you get a gigbag that will fit, though? And careful not to dislocate your thumb, hitting those low strings!

    No seriously, Rob, that is one beautiful-looking and -sounding instrument!

  21. #20

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    Cheers, lads. I remember once taking a larger one through the London Underground, with a lute in my other hand, and a back pack. One American spoke to me, asking, "What IS that?", to which I replied "A lute". I've never forgotten his response: "Maaan, that's the MOTHER of all lutes!" Americans,

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Cheers, lads. I remember once taking a larger one through the London Underground, with a lute in my other hand, and a back pack. One American spoke to me, asking, "What IS that?", to which I replied "A lute". I've never forgotten his response: "Maaan, that's the MOTHER of all lutes!" Americans,
    The "Motherlute"!
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  23. #22

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    Latest video. Some french baroque:


  24. #23

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    Folks, not in the Capona clip, but in the others you can see Rob's right-hand technique. This is a good look at lute technique, FWIW. Rob is using the lutist's attack on the strings--which is considerably shallower than the "traditional" classical guitarist's right-hand approach. (I say "traditional," but lute playing is older than guitar playing.)

    When I was a student of classical guitar, I also worked with a lute player who was quite good. She helped me with this right-hand style on lute.

    It was good to see and hear Rob on his theorbo. What a nice "wake up in the morning" sound for my morning coffee.

  25. #24

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    Yes, Greentone, well observed. Each instrument I play has a different technique, and one of these days I'll get them all mixed up! Plectrum Theorbo - now, there's an idea!

  26. #25

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    Theorbo-lin!

  27. #26

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    japanese shamisen pick? hah
    NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-m0mys9xybjjzwlwopk_cd4w-jpg


    cheers

  28. #27

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    Okinawa sanshin (shamisen) bachi (pick) !!

    NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-cs0aziw-jpg NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-c4095964d2db02027dac247a28618f80-jpg

    how about buffalo horn ?

    NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-img_2116-jpg

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    Rob is using the lutist's attack on the strings--which is considerably shallower than the "traditional" classical guitarist's right-hand approach.
    Yes, that's true indeed.
    But to me Rob's right hand looks more natural, angle wise, than some baroque guys on youtube, IIRC.
    More like regular flat top or jazz guitar fingerstyle, with a relatively straight (laterally) wrist.
    That is, it seems doable.
    Comparatively, a guy like Rolf Lislevand has his hand tucked the opposite way to classical technique, almost like a gypsy jazz guitarist's hand. With the hand tucked this way, the right side of the finger touches the strings. No nails, btw ... Always seems so weird to me.
    Doesn't seem doable for me without tendonitis.

    edit: actually, it seems that the angle differs from one player to another. Even Rolf Lislevand's hand is not always that tucked when playing lute. But on baroque guitar he does. Just seeing this hurts my tendons !



    Rob, if I may, i have a few questions, a bit off topic.

    Is your lute from Le Luth Doré "loud" ? How would you compare to a nice flat top dreadnought or an archtop like a Stromberg (i know your Elferink is not here yet) ?
    By the way, 2000 euros only for a baroque lute ! Much less than i thought !

    Also, it seems that you are a very good reader. Are you ?
    I just mentioned Robert de Visée, and bam ! there you go with La Royalle ! That was fast !
    Beautiful playing, by the way.
    Is it a piece you had already worked on, or are you sight reading fluently enough to pick a piece, rehearse 20 mn and then just record it ?
    If so, this is an enviable feat, multiplied by all the instruments you play, from ukulele to theorbo !

    And just one more question.
    Are all your instruments just frolicking freely in your house or are they protected from humidity (or the lack of it) ?
    Edinburgh must be humid no ?

    Thank you.
    Last edited by xuoham; 10-28-2017 at 12:46 AM.

  30. #29

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    you can't be scottish, i understand you.

    anyhow, that theorbo is alright, but i'd rather save a few bucks and get the epiphone version. wacka wacka, i'll be here all week, folks.

    i did enjoy that. these things fascinate me because i've tried ouds and a few charango type tiny latin guitars. the scale length just doesn't work for my stupid fingers. not that they are that fat, it just isn't happening for me. maybe if i had studied violin at one point. tonally, this kinda sounds most like a western kinda pipa, believe it or don't, minus the crazy fret board. good for you. fun watch.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Latest video. Some french baroque:



    now you're just rubbing it in!!!




    Would you mind commenting on what the playability is like on one of these or a lute/archlute compared to a classical guitar? More or less string tension? Easier or harder on the hands?

    thanks so much.

  32. #31

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    Curses! I just wrote a long, detailed reply to the above questions, only for it to disappear into the ether! Grr! I'll try again later, when I'm not in my ancient and VERY ANNOYING iPad2.

  33. #32

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    Ah, bubonic plague !

    I know this feeling ! Sometimes one can recover with the auto-save function...
    I know how nerve racking this is. Sorry for the trouble and for your time.

    I guess you teased us all and this is getting demanding ! héhéhé !

  34. #33

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    Here goes again...probably a shortened version.

    Rolf often plays with the thumb moving under the index finger after playing a string, called thumb-under, or thumb-in technique. It's usually associated with early Renaissance music, before instruments developed extra bass strings. Many people still learn lute this way, and use the technique on all lute and lute-related instruments, even though it seems anachronistic to do so. But as Rolf is such a killer player, no one gives a damn.

    My lute is from Le Luth Doré Le Luth Dore(R) | Handmade lutes and early guitars - Sheet music - Accessories - a French company, whose instruments are manufactured in China. The Weiss model, which I have, is a very high-quality lute, great value for the price, and I highly recommend it. Order one now, and you'll get it for Christmas...

    I've absolutely no idea how to compare it to a Stromberg, or any other archtop. Completely different animals. How can you compare a tiger to a giraffe?

    Yes, I'm a good reader. I often just read things four or five times before recording them. I say this without ego, as I know many who are better at it than me. Almost all my videos were recorded after just a few read-throughs. One of the drawbacks of being a good reader, is you tend not to memorise many pieces. On the plus side, you get to experience a lot of music. This theorbo piece is in French tablature, which uses letters for fret positions instead of numbers. Here's the score:



    I only have a few instruments, as I have to sell in order to buy. Current inventory: theorbo, baroque lute, Peerless Manhattan, Taylor 322e, Ambridge classical, and a uke. The Elferink will replace the Peerless.

    The theorbo is a lower-tension instrument compared to a classical guitar. The average string tension is 4.1kg. The instrument is incredibly light, lighter than the Peerless by far, and you can feel those low notes resonating against your body (like a Stromberg, perhaps?). It's not hugely difficult to play, and the surviving repertoire is superb, not to mention its use as an ensemble instrument. Everyone should have one

  35. #34

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    Thank you very much, Rob.

    Very interesting.

    Gosh, you can read this ?!! (the attached partition)

    And i thought reading the whole Van Eps book was a challenge !
    Even assisted by your kindly shared Van Eps videos.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    How can you compare a tiger to a giraffe?
    By how loud they scream, or how stinky they are, for example !

    But seriously, yes i know, it is a bit of a nonsensical question.
    However, not suggesting using a dB meter, but i was hoping one can describe the loudness of the instrument with something like, "in the ballpark of a dobro" or something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Everyone should have one
    lol

  36. #35

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    It's as loud as a dobro, possibly even louder.

  37. #36

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    Thank you for all this information, Rob.

    OK, i guess i have a possible candidate for G.A.S !
    Financial considerations aside.
    After all, one doesn't need money for G.A.S, well for G.A.D at least...
    Gear Acquisition Dreaming, that is
    Still i thought that a quality Baroque lute would be something like 5000 Euros, starting price.
    Good news.

    When i was a kid i used to go to the doctor one block away from Le Luth Doré.
    I was doomed to catch another syndrome from this area !
    I will go see my Mom in Paris after Christmas, i guess i'll go and visit the store.
    No lute shops here in Okinawa !

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by xuoham View Post
    Okinawa sanshin (shamisen) bachi (pick) !!


    how about buffalo horn ?

    NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-img_2116-jpg
    That looks like some kind of early weapon!

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound View Post
    That looks like some kind of early weapon!
    Haha ! Yes.

    Okinawa is at the origin of karate, btw.

  40. #39

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    Sorry, one more thing.

    About the bass notes separation on the theorbo.

    I kind of understand that on descending lines you can mute the note before with a rest stroke of the thumb, but on ascending lines, i am really puzzled about how you manage such a clarity. I thought you would be muting with the palm but some moments are just too fast for this i guess.

    edit: ooops, sorry, i guess i got it by watching once more the first video of your NTD.
    It seems you mute with the palm.

  41. #40

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    No, I never use the palm, at least not deliberately. I usually use the flesh on the nail side of my thumb to backwards mute a string. It's hard for someone to observe, but I can see myself doing it. And occasionally I just put my thumb back on the string.

    Theorbos were originally strung in gut, which has less sustain, making work a lot less tiresome for the thumb. Or so we have been led to believe. Mersenne, a lute player in early 17th-century France, said his strings rang on for twenty seconds, which is VERY long and troublesome for bass notes.

    The trick is to NEVER look at your right hand. I normally never look, but there are a couple of places in the French piece where I do - a video camera is a very critical eye!

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    I only have a few instruments, as I have to sell in order to buy. Current inventory: theorbo, baroque lute, Peerless Manhattan, Taylor 322e, Ambridge classical, and a uke. The Elferink will replace the Peerless.
    What, no cello?!

    My first exposure to the theorbo in live performance was earlier this month when I saw/heard Lucas Harris with Tafelmusik (original instruments baroque group) --- he has some interesting instructional materials online. A strikingly eye-and-ear-catching instrument --- well played, Rob.

  43. #42

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    Bravo Rob ! Masterful playing. Way more strings then I could ever handle. I am still trying to conquer 6.

  44. #43

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    Cheers, Vinny. More strings, but fewer Eb13b9#11 chords

  45. #44

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    pcjazz - I still have the cello, that's true, but I'm not able to put in the hours. And since getting the theorbo, the cello has been in hiding...

  46. #45

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    I can´t understand how I missed this earlier. Edinburgh has just become a more beautiful place, wonderfully peaceful music for my soul. Congrats Rob!

  47. #46

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    Thanks, Ozoro. We could all do with more peace in the world.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound View Post
    Awesome. As soon as I saw the thread title I knew who the author was.

    Check out this bad girl!

    NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-theorbo-jpg
    Damn how do you play the lower part of the board?

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound View Post
    Awesome. As soon as I saw the thread title I knew who the author was.

    Check out this bad girl!

    NTD - New Theorbo Day! - update-theorbo-jpg
    Oh duh you only strum those strings lol.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk

  50. #49

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    Thanks so much, Rob, your post and video made my Sunday morning.

    I had no idea the theorbo existed and want to thank you for taking the time to share this passion of yours. I wanted to jump ahead in the video to your playing, but your explanation was so compelling and enjoyable I happily waited.

    Wonderful playing on such a cool instrument. Thanks for making me a bit less ignorant of our shared musical history.

    Great stuff!!

    -Chris

  51. #50

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    Cheers, Chris. I'm sure we all have interesting things to share. That's why we come here.