University of Cambridge > > The Centre for Music and Science (CMS) > The Quest to Tune the Guitar Bridge, 1831-1956

The Quest to Tune the Guitar Bridge, 1831-1956

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Gabriela Pavarini.

For as long as guitars have graced our musical communities, efforts have been directed towards making them louder. It is nearly as well known that guitarists who are heard do not always play in tune. If only they would practise. But what is less well known is that guitars have posed a rather peculiar set of technical challenges to those who would try to render them in-tune with the levels of precision and accuracy that we have long since expected of the piano. In this paper I shall trace the endeavour, spanning over a century, to improve just one of the components upon which this instrument depends for basic functionality and especially tuning. The ostensibly simple apparatus of the bridge had by 1956 attracted over 100 US and British patents; and these together reveal a gloomy yet deserved account of the instrument’s tuning problems. Yet amidst the haze sprang remedies which have lastingly rejuvenated that “miniature orchestra in itself” as Beethoven had already envisaged in the guitar.

This talk is part of the The Centre for Music and Science (CMS) series.

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