Revising the Origins of the Brazilian Seven-string Guitar Through Musical Analysis

Lars Rosager

Pursuing a single pure, untainted source from which a musical current can be shown to derive is a difficult task—nearly impossible, in fact. The idea of a plural source is especially pertinent to guitar music, which not only draws heavily from vocalcomposition, but also defines itself in large part by arrangements of various instrumental textures. Innovation’s flame builds from sparks that fly at the meeting of disparate traditions.

Throughout the following study, the guitar’s reputation as an instrument that bridges musical and cultural divides is portrayed by the Brazilian violão de sete cordas (literally, “guitar of seven strings,” or seven-string guitar).1 The impetus for my research stems from two main ideas: first, that the seven-string guitar was taken to Brazil from France and/or Russia; second, that applications of this instrument’s extended bass register came about primarily as a result of the extension itself—instead of viewing idiom as a result of changes to the guitar’s construction, I will show that stylistic influences from instruments other than the guitar need to receive due attention.

These notions turned my mind to a guitar tradition to which the modern classical school, as far as I know, does not refer at all—the Mexican guitarra séptima (literally, “seventh guitar,” or again, sevenstring guitar). Responding to speculation on the Brazilian seven-string guitar’s French and Russian provenances, this paper will demonstrate that a better explanation of the instrument’s history takes shape through interlacing Mexican and Brazilian plucked string traditions from colonial times to the present day.
Revising the Origins of the Brazilian Seven-string Guitar Through Musical Analysis

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