The modern Cittern is generally understood to be a 10-string instrument with a large body and a mid-range scale length although there can be very many variations around this theme. The Cittern that I make has a scale length of 58cm and is built around the large body format I also use for the Bouzoukis.
Tunings can vary too, but GDGDG, GDADA, ADADA, GCGCG are standard and can all be used.
The Cittern is a very versatile instrument and is equally suited to melody, rhythm or accompaniment, making it ideal for pub sessions, live playing or recording. Tonal characteristics are similar to the Large Body Bouzouki. The top end has clarity and definition, the middle and bass have added depth and power while the projection and sustain of the instrument is superb.
I often build the Cittern with a Cedar top. Cedar is a beautiful wood and when used with Indian Rosewood gives the instrument a warm character to the tone, while still retaining a clarity and brilliance to the top end.
The modern Cittern instrument sits very well with traditional Celtic music, but although it is very loosely based on the original renaissance instrument, shares few characteristics with its historic cousin. It has much more in common with the Bouzouki and could also be described as another variation of that instrument.
Standard specification: Top - European Spruce Back and Sides - Indian Rosewood Neck - Brazilian Mahogany Fingerboard - Ebony Bridge – Ebony Saddle & Nut - Bone Machine Heads - Gold-plated Gotoh Tailpiece - Solid Brass Adjustable truss rod