Appendix / Glossary

(for instrument essays from A Christmas Collection)
by Gregg Miner, as part of

Course refers to a set of one, two or three strings tuned and played as a unit representing one note on an instrument. Strings in a course can be tuned in unison or octaves. Example: the mandolin has eight strings arranged in four courses – meaning four pairs of strings, the two strings of each pair being tuned the same and played together as a single “note.”

Frets are all those little metal bars positioned along the neck of a guitar, known as the fretboard or fingerboard. Pressing the strings against the frets with your fingers changes the pitch of the strings to create all the different notes. Some instruments, such as lutes, have gut frets tied around the neck, while others, like the violin, have no frets.

When giving tunings, I use the following standard system:
First octave above and including middle c: c’ to b’
Second octave above middle c: c” to b”
First octave below middle c: c to b
Second octave below middle c: C to B
Third octave below middle c: CC to BB

Tunings are given left to right as the instrument’s strings appear in my photos. This is generally low pitch to high. However, it is standard practice to refer to the high string (far right) as the first string of an instrument, counting up to the left. This wasn’t my idea. Example: standard tuning for the guitar would be written: E, A, d, g, b, e’. The first string is e’.


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