Frequently Asked Questions about the Arpeggione-bowed guitar)

Tell us briefly about yourself?

My name is Pavel Goldberg
I am an experimentalist musician, composer and performer. By education I am an engineer-acoustician. Designer of musical instruments. I’ve been designing musical instruments most of my life.  I am the owner of a guitar workshop in St. Petersburg, Russia  
For several years I have been developing a project to revive and popularize the musical instrument “arpeggione”.   It is the rarest musical instrument of the 19th century.  

What kind of instrument is an “arpeggione”?

The instrument itself was made by me according to the plans of an historic instrument. This instrument was invented by the Viennese guitarist and violinist Johann Stauffer. He was a compatriot and contemporary of Franz Schubert. It is thanks to Schubert that we still remember this instrument. He wrote a sonata for arpeggione and piano.  One of the recognized masterpieces of classical music.

Why such a strange name for this musical instrument  – arpeggione?

Originally, the instrument was simply named “guitare-violoncell”  The first performer of the “arpeggione” sonata, Vincent Schuster, published a self-tutorial on playing the guitare-violoncell.  

The name arpeggione appears to belong to Schubert himself. It is based on the musical technique of the arpeggio.   Indeed, it is very easy to play arpeggio accords using all the strings.  In the famous sonata this technique is used many times.  

The instrument’s maker himself called it the guitar of love – «Liebes-Gitarre» . For its very lyrical sound. It seems to me the most logical way to name this musical instrument a bowed guitar.  

What is the peculiarity of the arpeggione (bowed guitar)?

Its main feature is that it combines the possibilities of the cello and the guitar.  You can play it with your fingers like a guitar and with a bow like a cello. 

So it’s two instruments in one.

The synergy of the two instruments gives even more different timbres. On the bowed guitar you can get a sound similar to pan flute and banjo.  

What is the scale of an arpeggione?

Historically, the arpeggione has six strings and an E B G D A E guitar scale.

I also had six strings on my instrument originally. But the distance between the strings was very narrow and I gave up one string. 

I am using an open B minor scale. It is not the final choice yet. I am experimenting with different scales. I’m looking for a scale that allows me to maximize the potential of the bowed guitar.  

In terms of playing arpeggios on all strings, the open minor scale is very functional. Major chords and split chords also have a simple fingering.  And it’s very comfortable to play with a bow on all strings.

I am creating a new type of musical instrument based on a historical instrument. I am developing a method of playing the bowed guitar. The scale is the basis of this school. 

What bow do you use?

The thickness and tension of the strings determine which bow you use.   I like the heavy violin bow the best. You can use different ways to play with a bow. 

The upper modern cello grip gives a more powerful sound. The lower, early method that is used when playing the viola da gamba allows you to control the subtle nuances more accurately.  

It’s like drummers. In rock you hold the stick up, in jazz you hold it down. I use both techniques depending on the piece of music.  But I like rosin for the double bass.

What is the difference between the arpeggione and the viola da gamba? 

The Viola da gamba was the predecessor of the modern cello.It also had six and sometimes seven strings and a guitar scale.  And it was also held by the feet.It didn’t have an endpin.   The main differences are The body of the arpeggione is slightly smaller.About like a 3/4 cello.   The body of the arpeggione is more rounded, similar to a guitar .  And the arpeggione has metal frets, the gamba has gut tied frets.The other differences are not so obvious.

What kind of strings do you use?

I use flat wire acoustic guitar strings. They give a brighter sound close to orchestral strings. Historically, when arpeggione was popular, there were only wire strings.  These, too, can be used.  They give a more vintage sound. 

What is the goal of your “Arpeggione Today” project?

The main goal of my project is to introduce musicians to this very functional instrument. I believe that the performance capabilities of the bowed guitar will be appreciated by performers and composers.  We also began manufacturing bowed guitars in Russia. And now anyone can order an instrument.

There are also ready-made bowed guitars for sale. 

What do you do in music?

I’m preparing several concert programs right now. One of them is dedicated to Franz Schubert. It includes the Arpeggione Sonata and other well-known works by the composer arranged for arpeggione (bowed guitar).   The second consists of modern popular pop and rock hits for solo performance with piano or band. I am also writing music for a solo album. 

How to order a bowed guitar – arpeggione?

To order your arpeggione, send a request by e-mail.