Featured Harp Guitar of the Month

A Unique Lacôte Décacorde *

 by Françoise Sinier de Ridder
November, 2008
with Gregg Miner

All images copyright Françoise Sinier de Ridder

This Lacôte décacorde, made in Paris circa 1830, features something rather interesting and unusual - a bridge without holes or pins.

To our knowledge, it is the only guitar made by Lacôte in this way. We know that during his career, Lacôte made custom instruments for players who requested special arrangements or measurements, but this particular bridge is a real mystery.

When we restored this decacorde, we had to open it because the braces had come loose, and there were two small cracks on the belly under the bridge. And, surprise - the top was not drilled. It really was the original bridge! 

Non-drilled top Typical Décacorde top

Who did Lacôte make this particular guitar for? Perhaps Aguado, who always said that he did not like bridges with holes and pins. He preferred Spanish-style bridges, as we can see on the two guitars (one Lacôte and one Laprevotte) that he bequeathed to his home town, Madrid, which both have non-original oval bridges without holes (we think Aguado asked to change those bridges).  

The rest of the guitar follows the usual template for a decacorde in the Legnani style, except that it is smaller than usual. Measurements are: total length: 89.5 cm; body width: 30.2 cm; body length: 42.5 cm; string length (fingerboard): 59.2 cm.

  The inner construction displays Lacôte’s usual traits, including the same blocks, bracing, neck, purflings and woods. The body is of rosewood, the back is veneered with beech, the neck and head are solid mahogany, and the belly is made of spruce.

We would be very grateful if someone could tell us something about this curious bridge that mixed the French old style for knotted strings (where each string has a  countersunk hole for each knot) and the Spanish method of a non-drilled bridge. If someone knows another bridge like this one, please let us know !

- Françoise Sinier de Ridder

Note the unusual configuration of this décacorde's ten strings: 7 strings on the neck and 3 sub-basses. 

Was it still tuned to specified décacorde tuning of (low-high) C, D, E, F, G floating and then A, d, g, b, e1 on the neck? 

Or did the client (Aguado or other) tune the top six strings standard to include E, with the remainder tuned to the Vienese 10-string bass tuning?

Or other?

- GM

Since Françoise created this article for our site, their book La Guitarre was published, which includes this instrument plus many other multi-string Lacotes and other spectacular guitars.

About the Author

Françoise de Ridder met Daniel Sinier at art school when they were students, and since 1971 have devoted all their time to restoration of historical musical instruments, especially guitars and mandolins.

The duo, who go by their workshop name of Sinier de Ridder, have done work for public Museums and private collections in France and in Europe, and also for players who desire to play on ancient and original instruments.

Françoise de Ridder (left) & Daniel Sinier with two more Lacôte harp guitars

* Technically, some scholars require that this read "Attributed to" (att), as the instrument is not labeled and therefore its provenance is still an open question.

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