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Renaissance Workshop Company
The foremost manufacturer of early musical instruments worldwide

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Frequent Questions and Subjects of general interest

In addition to the information that you can find in these pages, we have selected a wide range of books about, musical instruments and instrument making. Not only design and technique, you will also find some books about the history and collections. And some theory necessary to deep in the knowledge.


What is Early Music?

Early music commonly designates either music which is chronologically early or an approach toward the idea of performing any old music more "authentically" (known as "Historical Performance", "Period performance" or "Authentic performance"). Frequently it is both.

  Musical periods  
  Prehistoric

Ancient (before AD 500)

Early
Medieval (500–1400)
Renaissance (1400–1600)
Baroque (1600–1760)

Common practice (classical music)
Baroque (1600–1760)
Classical (1730–1820)
Romantic (1815–1910)

Modern and contemporary
20th century (1900–2000)
Contemporary (1975–present)

European musicians began to discover the musical riches from earlier centuries in the 19th century, and the idea of performing early music more "authentically", with a sense of incorporating performance practice,  was more completely established in the 20th century, creating a modern Early Music Revival that continues today.

All over the world, there is in the 21st century a great flourishing of ensembles, training programs, concert series, festivals, organizations and recordings devoted to promote the study and performance of ancient and early music.

The general topic overcomes the intention of this website. More information in the following links:


What changed in the Renaissance?

Emancipation of instrumental from vocal music. Methods and compositions only for instruments and orchestration in the second half of the sixteenth century.

Contrast and blend of timbres, as a vital part of music. The new delight in timbre acted as a strong stimulus in making instruments. All instruments were made in families or consorts, that is, in several sizes. They extended the lower limit of medieval music with basses and contrabasses. Never before and never since has the palette of musical hues been as rich as in the sixteenth century. In contrast to the following centuries, there was a prevalence of wind instruments (80%) over stringed (20%). Comprehensive and reliable, the Syntagma (Praetorius 1571-1621) is the standard reference book on sixteenth century instruments.

The beauty of musical instruments has never been so much appreciated before and since. At that time the violin and most other instruments were given their classical shapes. Moreover, many instruments of that time were carefully joined, turned, carved and inlaid; precious material was used; harpsichords and spinets were decorated by first-rate painters. For the same reason instruments were collected by art lovers and preserved in museums. 


Typical instruments by musical era

Medieval (476 – 1400)
Citole, Gemshorn, Gittern, Harp, Lute, Lyre, Mandora, Rebec, Recorder , Vielle

Renaissance (1400-1600)
Bassoon, Cittern, Clavichords, Cornamuse, Cornet (zink), Crumhorn (Cromorne), Curtal (dulcian), Dulce Melos, Flute (one handed flute, tabor and pipe), Kettledrums, Lira da gamba (lirone), Lute, Organs (big ones), Rankets, Rauschpfeifen, Recorder consorts, Regals (small reed organs), Schryary, Shawms (Bombardes, Pommers), Sordone, Spinets, Virginals and Harpsichords, Transverse flute, Trombone, Trumpet, Viols

Baroque (1600-1750)
Archlute, Baroque Flute, Baroque Oboe, Baroque Trumpet, Baryton, Bow, Carillons, Chalumeau, Citterns, Clavichord, Cornetto, Cortol (Cortholt), Curtall (Dulcian), Fortepiano, Guitar, Harpsichord, Horns, Organ, Rackett, Sackbut, Serpent, Slide Trumpets, Viola d’Amore, Viola Pomposa, Violin

Classical (1750 – 1820)
Basset Clarinet, Basset Horn, Buccin, Chalumeau, Clarinette d'amour, Classical Clarinet, Clavichord, Fortepiano, Harpsichord, Ophicleide (Serpent replacement, precursor of tuba)


What instrument is this?

Musical instrument classification


Making an instrument

The Secrets of our Ancestors

  • Musical Instrument Making is a Science
  • Old materials and old techniques
  • Misinformation

The First Time

  • Why should I build musical instruments?
  • I want to build a perfect musical instrument even though I have no experience as a woodworker or instrument maker.
  • When I should start?
  • Can I build it cheaper myself?
  • Can an instrument built from a kit be good enough for musical purposes or be as good as a professionally made by an expert instrument maker?
  • Can an occasionally builder get the same quality that a professional builder gets?
  • Can an occasionally builder at home, with the same kit, get the same quality that an experienced builder with a well equipped workshop?
  • I have decided that building instruments is what I want to do for a living. What's the best way to get started?
  • Can I take on a particularly challenging project like an spinet, hurdy-gurdy or a guitar as my first instrument?
  • Should I build my first instrument from scratch, or should I buy a kit?
  • Which kit provider do you recommend?
  • Can I modify the kit I buy to make it a different shape or size?

Woods

  • What are the chances that woods can cause an allergic reaction to me?
  • What woods should I use for my instrument?
  • I'm getting ready to build my first instrument and I don't want to ruin an expensive piece of wood. Can I use MDF (medium density fiberboard)?
  • I'm getting ready to build my first instrument, and I have access to some timber locally. I don't want to ruin an expensive piece of wood on my first instrument. Can I use cheap wood?
  • My local hardware store has lots of cheap pine/spruce/fir. Can I build my acoustic guitar entirely from these woods?
  • What is "quartersawn" wood?
  • Do I have to use quartersawn wood for the back and sides of my acoustic guitar?
  • The back/soundboard wood I just bought for my acoustic guitar has cupped. Can I still use it?
  • Should I use flatsawn or quartersawn wood for my guitar neck?
  • I don't have any quartersawn spruce for bracing my acoustic guitar soundboard, but I have plenty of other scrap wood on hand. Can I use it as soundboard bracing?
  • I bought wood from a lumberyard/hardwood yard, and the instrument I made from it appears to be cracking. What did I do wrong?

Bending wood

  • I've read about steam bending, and it sounds like it would be easier to build a steam box than build and learn to use any kind of bender. Can I steam bend the sides?

Tools

  • What are the minimum essential tools to build a instrument?
  • Does it take a fully-equipped woodworking shop to build stringed instruments? I don't have that much money to spend on expensive power tools.
  • I'm putting together my first real shop and am planning on a dust collection system. Do I have to ground it?
  • Can I use a hand-held power planer for flattening or jointing plates?
  • I can't afford a drill press. Are those portable drill guides any good?
  • I need a bandsaw but can't afford a 14" model. Can you recommend a good bandsaw that's smaller and cheaper?

Glues and adhesives

  • I've read that you should wipe the surface of rosewoods and other oily tropical woods with acetone or naptha right before you glue them. Should I prepare the joint this way before gluing?
  • Do I have to use epoxy to glue rosewood and other oily tropical woods?
  • What's the best glue?

Varnishing and Finishing

  • How can I finish my musical instrument quickly and easily, with a minimum of preparation?
  • I don't have any spray equipment. Do I *have* to use nitrocellulose lacquer on my instrument?
  • I don't have a spray booth. Can I spray my instrument with nitrocellulose lacquer outside or in an unheated garage, then bring it into the house to dry?
  • I finished my instrument weeks ago. Why won't the finish dry?
  • Can I leave my instrument, or just the neck, unfinished?
  • Can I stain/dye my instrument with clothing dye/food dye/any other kind of stain or dye not originally intended for use on wood?
  • I have a vintage/collectible instrument. I want to refinish it, what should I do?
  • I have an average/low-value/worthless instrument. I want to refinish it, what should I do?

Customization

  • I'm building my first instrument, a guitar, and I don't want it to look and sound like everyone else's. What can I do with shape or materials or bracing patterns to make it unique?
  • Can I make a change in the design?

Repairs

  • Can I fix it myself?

Carrying Cases

  • Can I build my own case? Where can I find plans?

Stringed Instruments

Scale length and Compensation

  • What is scale length?
  • What is compensation?
  • How do I determine in advance how much compensation I need?


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Last modification: 17 de septiembre de 2010
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