Guitar decacorde

Guitar decacorde
René Lacôte, Paris, 1826
Gifted in 1977
Musical Instrument Collection: MIMEd 767

As its name suggests, the Guitar decacorde is a type of guitar that has ten strings. It was invented in 1826 by the guitarist composer Fernando Carulli in association with the maker of this instrument, René Lacôte. While guitars commonly have six strings, this has five that are stopped by the left hand and another five that only play open strings. This feature is not unique to the decacorde – it can be seen on chitarrones from the 16th century and harp-lutes form the earlier 19th century – but is not common on guitars.

Carulli published a tutor book as well as some pieces of music written for the decacorde, but the instrument never gained great popularity. This example, gifted by Anne O Macaulay, was brought back into playing condition recently in part through the work of one of our PhD students, Daniel Wheeldon. Some of the small brass hooks, which enable players to change the notes of the open strings, were missing and Daniel was able to make replacements using 3D printing.

Anne O Macaulay (1924-98) worked in the paper-making industry and trained as an aeroplane pilot before her marriage. As a child, she had been fascinated by the sounds of plucked stringed instruments and over a lifetime she amassed a collection of some 55 examples.

For several years, Anne promoted concerts in Edinburgh, bringing in world-leading guitarists and lutenists. As well as collecting instruments, Anne also developed a wide and deep knowledge of their history, in later years focussing more on earlier examples such as the Greek lyre.

As well as giving her collection to the University (in 1977 and 1985), Anne was also generous with her time and expertise, offering a great deal of voluntary work to the collection.

Story by Dr Jenny Nex, Curator, Musical Instrument Collection