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Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 11 years ago

This page is about the eleven-string instrument also known as the alto guitar. For other instruments by that name see alto guitar.



The eleven-string alto guitar or altgitarren (Swedish for alto guitar, plural altgitarrer) is an exended-range classical gutar invented by Swedish luthier Georg Bolin in collaboration with guitarist Per-Olof Johnson. It was intended for playing renaissance and early baroque music originally written for the eleven course lute, and this is still its main use.


Bolin built both eleven and thirteen string versions, but the eleven string version is the one that generally caught on and is now manufactured by other luthiers. Original Bolin instruments now command high prices.



The scale of strings 1-7 is about 22", equivalent to that of a standard guitar with capot 3. Strings 8-11 progressively increase in length, the ninth string being three frets longer (so standard guitar scale), and the tenth and eleventh longer still. This fingerboard extension is fully fretted. 


The Bartolex Alto 11 model has a scale length of 21.9" for strings 1-7 increasing to 28.7" for string 11 (530-730mm).


The Asturias Bolin model alto guitar has scale lengths given as follows:


Strings 1-7: 22 10/16" (573.8 mm)

String 8: 25 8/16" (647.7 mm)

String 9: 26 15/16" (684.2 mm)

String 10: 28 9/16" (725.4 mm)

String 11: 30 4/16" (768.4 mm)




  • Bb' - C - D - Eb - F - G - c - f - b flat -  d'- g' (all strings open)


Retuning of the bass strings to match the key of the piece is common, as with the lute. 


String gauges


Strings 1-6 can be strung with a standard classical (nylon) guitar set. Strings 7-11 are often simply identical to string six, or one grade harder (thicker).


Strings ten and eleven being longer than standard guitar scale, some brands may be too short! However the distance from head nut to machine head is very short for these strings, so other brands do work.


External links


http://altoguitar.com/ definitive site

http://www.guitarzone.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t40544.html background


http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/altgitarren/message/53 gauges

http://sologuitarist.net/altgitarren_links.html lots of links

http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/altgitarren/ now closed Yahoo! group but some interesting archives



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