Eleven-string alto guitar

Last updated
11-string alto guitar 11-string alto guitar by Heikki Rousu.jpg
11-string alto guitar
Head of 11-string alto guitar Head of 11-string alto guitar by Heikki Rousu.jpg
Head of 11-string alto guitar

The eleven-string alto guitar (also known as altgitarr, archguitar, or Bolin guitar) is an extended-range classical guitar developed by Swedish luthier Georg Bolin in the 1960s.


Original Bolin instruments are now rare and valuable. [1] The Bolin alto guitar most often has eleven strings, but Bolin also made a thirteen-string version.

The 11-string alto guitar is a multi-string classical guitar , which generally refers to classical guitars with more than six strings. Classical guitars with extra strings can have from seven to 13 or more strings. [2] However, an 11-string is the most useful for performing lute music, particularly Bach and Weiss. The first six strings are tuned in the same intervals as the normal classic guitar. Therefore, a musician can play with conventional fingering on those strings.

In the United States, luthier Walter Stanul makes performance instruments ranging from 11 to 13-strings called the Archguitar. The design and the body shape of this guitar is similar to the vihuela, and thus it is fundamentally different from the Bolin design. [3]


Georg Bolin first constructed 11-string alto guitar with collaboration with Swedish guitarist Per-Olof Johnson in 1960s. Johnson is the teacher of a well-known guitarist Göran Söllscher who made this instrument famous through his extensive usage of Bolin's 11-string alto guitar. [4] [5]

Johnson was fond of lute music, but the difference in playing techniques between guitar and lute is significant, and he was looking for a way to play lute music using guitar playing technique. Thus, the design goal was specifically to be able to play renaissance lute music directly from original tabs using guitar playing technique.

This design introduced two main elements. The first was to provide conventional lute tuning by tuning the first six strings a minor third higher (hence the name "alto guitar"). It is equivalent to putting a capo on the third fret of the normal prime guitar. The second element was to add five extra strings to accommodate low notes.


The typical 11-string alto guitar tuning is (from low to high strings): Bb1 C2 D2 Eb2 F2 G2 C3 F3 Bb3 D4 G4. [6]


Current luthiers who build 11-string alto guitars, primarily located in Sweden, include Heikki Rousu and Roger Strömberg. Ermanno Chiavi in Switzerland is known for his 13-string guitar built for Anders Miolin, but he builds 11-string guitars as well. [7] Chiavi's guitar has the scale length of a normal classical guitar, 650mm, and is tuned in the same manner as classical guitar. Therefore, it is technically not an "alto" guitar. Yoshimitsu Hoshino in Japan built 11-string alto guitars with the same specification with Bolin's design in 1980s. However, he no longer makes them. [8]


Some of the guitarists who use the instrument are as follows:

See also

Related Research Articles

Classical guitar

The classical guitar is a member of the guitar family used in classical music. An acoustic wooden string instrument with strings made of gut or nylon, it is a precursor of the modern acoustic and electric guitars, both of which use metal strings. Classical guitars are derived from the Spanish vihuela and gittern in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, which later evolved into the seventeenth and eighteenth century Baroque guitar and later the modern classical guitar in the mid nineteenth century.

Guitar Fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming or plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while simultaneously pressing the strings against frets with the fingers of the opposite hand. A plectrum or individual finger picks may by be used to strike the strings. The sound of the guitar is projected either acoustically, by means of a resonant chamber on the instrument, or amplified by an electronic pickup and an amplifier.

Lute Plucked string musical instrument

A lute is any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. It may be either fretted or unfretted.

String instrument Class of musical instruments with vibrating strings

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

The fingerboard is an important component of most stringed instruments. It is a thin, long strip of material, usually wood, that is laminated to the front of the neck of an instrument. The strings run over the fingerboard, between the nut and bridge. To play the instrument, a musician presses strings down to the fingerboard to change the vibrating length, changing the pitch. This is called stopping the strings. Depending on the instrument and the style of music, the musician may pluck, strum or bow one or more strings with the hand that is not fretting the notes. On some instruments, notes can be sounded by the fretting hand alone, such as with hammer ons, an electric guitar technique.

A luthier is a craftsperson who builds and repairs string instruments that have a neck and a sound box. The word "luthier" is originally French and comes from the French word for lute. The term was originally used for makers of lutes, but it came to be used already in French for makers of most bowed and plucked stringed instruments such as members of the violin family and guitars. Luthiers, however, do not make harps or pianos; these require different skills and construction methods because their strings are secured to a frame.

Seven-string guitar

The seven-string guitar adds one additional string to the more common six-string guitar, commonly used to extend the bass range or also to extend the treble range.

Eight-string guitar

An eight-string guitar is a guitar with two more strings than the usual six, or one more than the Russian guitar's seven. Eight-string guitars are less common than six- and seven-string guitars, but they are used by a few classical, jazz, and metal guitarists. The eight-string guitar allows a wider tonal range, or non-standard tunings, or both.

Tenor guitar Four-stringed guitar

The tenor guitar or four-string guitar is a slightly smaller, four-string relative of the steel-string acoustic guitar or electric guitar. The instrument was initially developed in its acoustic form by Gibson and C.F. Martin so that players of the four-string tenor banjo could double on guitar.

Harp guitar

The harp guitar is a guitar-based stringed instrument generally defined as a "guitar, in any of its accepted forms, with any number of additional unstopped strings that can accommodate individual plucking." The word "harp" is used in reference to its harp-like unstopped open strings. A harp guitar must have at least one unfretted string lying off the main fretboard, typically played as an open string.

Outline of guitars Overview of and topical guide to guitars

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:

Göran Söllscher

Göran Söllscher is a Swedish award-winning virtuoso classical guitarist known for his broad range of musical interpretations, ranging from Bach to the Beatles. Söllscher's international career began during his years of education at the Royal Conservatory of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark when at the age of 23, he won the Concours International de Guitare in Paris, 1978. He was signed by German record label Deutsche Grammophon, the largest label featuring classical guitarists. As of 2005, Söllscher had released 19 records, which altogether have sold over a million copies.

Flamenco guitar Acoustic guitar used in Flamenco music

A flamenco guitar is a guitar similar to a classical guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing. It usually has nylon strings, as opposed to steel. It generally possesses a livelier, more gritty sound compared to the classical guitar. It is used in toque, the guitar-playing part of the art of flamenco.

A person who is specialized in the making of stringed instruments such as guitars, lutes and violins is called a luthier.

Classical guitar with additional strings

A classical guitar with additional strings is a nylon-string or gut-string classical guitar with more than six strings, in which the additional strings pass over a fingerboard so that they may be "stopped" or fretted with the fingers. These are also known as extended-range guitars, and should not be confused with harp guitars.

Experimental musical instrument

An experimental musical instrument is a musical instrument that modifies or extends an existing instrument or class of instruments, or defines or creates a new class of instrument. Some are created through simple modifications, such as cracked drum cymbals or metal objects inserted between piano strings in a prepared piano. Some experimental instruments are created from household items like a homemade mute for brass instruments such as bathtub plugs. Other experimental instruments are created from electronic spare parts, or by mixing acoustic instruments with electric components.

Ten-string guitar

There are many varieties of ten-string guitar, including:

Anders Miolin is a concert guitarist performing on the 13-stringed guitar "Chiavi-Miolin".

Alto guitar may refer to:

Experimental luthier

Experimental luthiers are luthiers who take part in alternative stringed instrument manufacturing or create original string instruments altogether.


  1. Georg Bolin's 11-string alto guitar for sale by Kurosawa Gakki
  2. 16-string guitar by Philip Woodfield Moore
  3. Archguitar shape Archived 2013-12-28 at the Wayback Machine by Archguitar.com
  4. Göran Söllscher's profile by allmusic.com
  5. Göran Söllscher's discography by Deutche Grammophon
  6. 11-string alto guitar tuning by altoguitars.com
  7. 11-string guitar by Ermanno Chiavi
  8. Hoshino guitar no longer takes order for 11-string alto guitar Archived 2013-12-27 at Archive.today Hoshino Guitar