Ten-string classical guitar of Yepes

Last updated
Ten-string classical guitar of Yepes
JME ten string guitar.jpg
String instrument
Classification string
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 321.322-5
(composite chordophone sounded by the bare fingers)
Developed1963 by Narciso Yepes in collaboration with José Ramírez III from the classical guitar
Related instruments
Ten-string guitar

The ten string extended-range classical guitar, with fully chromatic, sympathetic string resonance was conceived in 1963 [lower-alpha 1] by Narciso Yepes, and constructed by José Ramírez [III]. [2] This instrument is sometimes referred to as the "modern" 10-string guitar [lower-alpha 2] (or the "Yepes guitar" [3] ) to differentiate it from ten-stringed harp guitars of the 19th century.


Today, ten-string instruments to Ramírez' original design remain available from the Ramírez Company, [lower-alpha 3] and similar instruments in a variety of designs are available both from the Ramírez Company and other luthiers, notably from Paulino Bernabe Senior.


In the early 1960s, luthier José Ramírez III considered adding sympathetic strings to the classical guitar. He sought advice from the leading classical guitarists of the time, notably Andrés Segovia and Narciso Yepes, both of them players of Ramírez six-string guitars. Eventually, they came up with a ten-string guitar. [4]

Yepes' standard tuning for the 10-string guitar Narciso Yepes' reentrant tuning for the ten-string guitar.jpg
Yepes' standard tuning for the 10-string guitar

In Ser Instrumento, [5] Yepes mentions that the reasons that led him to carry out the "design" (diseño), [6] of his instrument were acoustical/physical ("físicas") and musical ("musicales"). [6] After some "initial protest" [3] that the 10-string guitar envisioned by Yepes was "impossible" [7] to construct, Ramírez agreed to the commission and completed the first of these instruments in March 1964. [8] Yepes hastens to point out that he invented nothing (inventado nada) [6] by adding four strings to the guitar, noting the constantly changing number of strings on the guitar during its history, [9] including 10-stringed guitars of the 18th and 19th centuries. [10] Like earlier 10-stringed guitars, his instrument has an augmented tessitura. However, unlike earlier 6- or 10-stringed guitars, the normal tuning of the strings Yepes added "also incorporates all the natural resonance that the instrument lacked in eight of twelve notes of the equal tempered scale". [lower-alpha 4] As Yepes explains, the tuning of the Romantic ten-stringed guitars is "not exactly the same, because the tuning that I use is also for the resonance") [11]

Yepes recalled that after receiving his first ten-string guitar in 1964, he held a private concert for "friends, musicians, conductors and composers to listen to my instruments and then let them decide which is the better instrument for my concert. I can honestly say that during the concert I played the same compositions once on the six-string guitar and once on the ten-string guitar. They all preferred the ten-string guitar." Yepes then sought the opinion of his former teacher, Nadia Boulanger. After playing the ten-string guitar for her, Yepes recalled that, "She noticed that my playing on my new guitar had more resonance, and this is important, she noticed that I could stop the resonance with my hands if I wanted to. She also preferred my ten-string guitar." [12]

Segovia, though, was highly critical of Yepes's innovation, writing in 1974 that, "I absolutely do not believe that the guitar requires additional strings, neither at the right nor at the left of its fingerboard ... the six it traditionally possesses are quite sufficient. The inventors of this futile addition in sonority are far from having exhausted the natural resources of the instrument." [13] However, the validity of Segovia's criticism can be called into question: Firstly, Segovia seems to have been ignorant of the predominance of 'multi-string' guitars in the 19th Century, [14] including the 21-stringed harpolyre for which Fernando Sor composed, [15] as is evidenced in his claim that "Sor....did not feel a need for additional strings". [16] Secondly, Segovia incorrectly claims that Yepes "added four thick tongues" [17] to the guitar. In fact, Yepes added one "thick" (seventh) string only. As Yepes pointed out, the first criticism from Segovia already came "before he had seen or even heard the instrument, soon after Ramírez made the ten-string guitar." [18] Lastly, the questionable nature of Segovia's criticisms of the Yepes ten-string guitar is revealed by the fact that Segovia wrote "frequent letters" [19] to José Ramírez III in which his unhappiness with weak "notes were always mentioned." [19] Segovia complained that he "had to substitute or cancel a specific musical piece from one of his programs because the note that he had to emphasize coincided with one of the mortifying [weak] notes". [19] [lower-alpha 5] Before the Yepes ten-string guitar was designed to address exactly this problem, Segovia had already complained to Ramírez III about how certain notes on the first string of his six-string guitar did "not have the same intensity as the others." [20]

See also


  1. The first compositions for this instrument date from 1963 [1]
  2. There is no record of Yepes himself using the adjective "modern" in relation to his guitar or its standard tuning. However, it is used by the LaBella Company to differentiate string sets intended for Yepes' standard tuning and another string set that the company produces, called "Romantic". (See LaBella's catalogue, p. 10, as well as . The Romantic 10-stringed harp guitar's tuning, from which the LaBella Company has derived its "Romantic" tuning string sets, is indicated (among other sources) here (p.3), in a period document (Rischel 30 mu 6611.1784 U48) housed at The Royal Library of Denmark.)
  3. See Professional guitars in the current Ramírez Guitars catalog. The Traditional Classic ten-string is as designed by José Ramírez III, while the Special Classic ten-string is a later design by his son José Ramírez IV.
  4. "además incorporan toda la resonancia natural que le faltaba al instrumento en ocho de las doce notas de escala temperada" [10]
  5. Ramírez misidentifies Segovia's complaint as a "wolf" note; however, it is clear from Ramírez' own description that Segovia complained about weak notes that could not be adequately emphasized when the musical context so required, as opposed to wolf notes in the scientific sense.

Related Research Articles

Classical guitar member of the guitar family used in classical music

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 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.

Andrés Segovia Spanish guitarist

Andrés Segovia Torres, 1st Marquis of Salobreña was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Linares, Spain. Many professional classical guitarists today were students of Segovia, or students of his students. Segovia's contribution to the modern-romantic repertoire not only included commissions but also his own transcriptions of classical or baroque works. He is remembered for his expressive performances: his wide palette of tone, and his distinctive musical personality, phrasing and style.


In music, inharmonicity is the degree to which the frequencies of overtones depart from whole multiples of the fundamental frequency.

Resonator Device or system that exhibits resonance

A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior. That is, it naturally oscillates with greater amplitude at some frequencies, called resonant frequencies, than at other frequencies. The oscillations in a resonator can be either electromagnetic or mechanical. Resonators are used to either generate waves of specific frequencies or to select specific frequencies from a signal. Musical instruments use acoustic resonators that produce sound waves of specific tones. Another example is quartz crystals used in electronic devices such as radio transmitters and quartz watches to produce oscillations of very precise frequency.

Sympathetic string

Sympathetic strings or resonance strings are auxiliary strings found on many Indian musical instruments, as well as some Western Baroque instruments and a variety of folk instruments. They are typically not played directly by the performer, only indirectly through the tones that are played on the main strings, based on the principle of sympathetic resonance. The resonance is most often heard when the fundamental frequency of the string is in unison or an octave lower or higher than the catalyst note, although it can occur for other intervals, such as a fifth, with less effect.

Tiple Fretted string instrument

A tiple, is a plucked-string chordophone of the guitar family. A tiple player is called a tiplista. The first mention of the tiple comes from musicologist Pablo Minguet e Irol in 1752. Although many variations of the instrument exist, the tiple is mostly associated with Colombia, and is considered the national instrument.

Fantasía para un gentilhombre is a concerto for guitar and orchestra by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. The concerto is Rodrigo's second most popular work after the famous Concierto de Aranjuez.

Ramírez Guitars

Ramírez Guitars is a Spanish manufacturer of professional, concert-quality classical and flamenco guitars. Five generations of the Ramírez family have produced Ramirez guitars.

Narciso Yepes

Narciso Yepes was a Spanish guitarist. He is considered one of the finest virtuoso classical guitarists of the twentieth century.

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

The evolution of classical guitars began with the influences of the vihuela and gittern in the sixteenth century and ended with the modern classical guitar in the mid nineteenth century.

José Tomás

José Tomás Pérez Sellés was a Spanish classical guitarist and teacher. Considered a major influence on the evolution of classical guitar technique in the second half of the 20th century, he trained many guitarists from all over the world.

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.

Reentrant tuning

On a stringed instrument, a break in an otherwise ascending order of string pitches is known as a re-entry. A re-entrant tuning, therefore, is a tuning where the strings are not all ordered from the lowest pitch to the highest pitch.

Ten-string guitar

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

String resonance occurs on string instruments. Strings or parts of strings may resonate at their fundamental or overtone frequencies when other strings are sounded. For example, an A string at 440 Hz will cause an E string at 330 Hz to resonate, because they share an overtone of 1320 Hz.

José Ramírez III (1922–1995) was a luthier and the grandson of José Ramírez, founder of Ramírez Guitars. He was responsible for major changes both to the company and to the classical guitars it produces.

Colombian tiple

The Colombian tiple, is a plucked string instrument of the guitar family, common in Colombia where it is considered one of the national instruments. About three-fourths the size of a classical guitar, it has twelve strings set in four triple-strung courses. It is played as a main instrument or as an accompanying instrument to the guitar.

Paulino Bernabe Senior Spanish luthier

Paulino Bernabe Senior was a Spanish luthier.


  1. Ohana (1963).
  2. Yepes, quoted by Snitzler (1978)
  3. 1 2 Sensier (1975)
  4. Ramírez (1994), pp. 137–140, "The ten-string guitar".
  5. Yepes (1989).
  6. 1 2 3 Yepes (1989), p. 15.
  7. Snitzler (1978).
  8. Kozinn (1981), p. D22.
  9. Yepes (1989), pp. 16–17.
  10. Yepes (1989), p. 17.
  11. Schneider (1983), p. 67.
  12. Kazandjian (1992) , Appendix C; reproduced as Kazandjian (1995)
  13. Segovia (1974), pp. 246–249.
  14. Wynberg (1977).
  15. "Marche Funebre (Andante lento)", reproduced as Appendix A in Kazandjian (1992) , pp. 224–226.
  16. Segovia (1974), p. 247.
  17. Segovia (1974), p. 249.
  18. Kazandjian (1992), p. 234.
  19. 1 2 3 Ramírez (1994) , p. 208, "Andrés Segovia, the guitar and I"
  20. Ramírez (1994), p. 199, "Andrés Segovia, the guitar and I".


  • Kazandjian, Fred (1992). The Concept and Development of the Yepes Ten-String Guitar: a Preliminary Investigation (M.M. thesis). University of Cape Town.
  • Kazandjian, Fred (1995). "An Interview with Narciso Yepes in Cabo-Roig, Alicante - Spain on 7 July 1987". Musicus. 23 (2): 11–18.
  • Kozinn, Allan (22 November 1981). "Narciso Yepes and his 10-string guitar". New York Times .
  • Ohana, Maurice (1963). Si le jour paraît... Paris: Gérard Billaudot. nos. 1-7.
  • Ramírez, J. (1994). Things About the Guitar. Bold Strummer. ISBN   978-84-87969-40-9.
  • Segovia, Andrés (29 January 1974). Letter in Answer to Vladimir Bobri's Query About the Value of Multi-String Instruments in the Twentieth Century. Reproduced as Appendix D in Kazandjian (1992), pp. 246–249.
  • Sensier, Peter (1975). "Narciso Yepes and the ten-string guitar". Guitar. 3 (9): 27. ISSN   0301-7214.
  • Schneider, John (1983). "Conversation with Narciso Yepes". Soundboard (Spring).
  • Snitzler, Larry (1978). "The 10-string guitar: overcoming the limitations of six strings". Guitar Player . 12 (3): 26.
  • Wynberg, Simon (1977). A Brief History of Multi-String Guitars from the Renaissance to the Present Day (B.Mus. (Hons.) thesis). University of the Witwatersrand.
  • Yepes, N. (30 April 1989). Ser instrumento[To be an instrument] (in Spanish). Speech of Ingression into the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.