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Classical guitarist Paul Galbraith was born in Scotland and currently resides in Brazil. He has recorded brilliant arrangements of Bach, Haydn, and Brahms on his 8-string guitar, which he calls the Brahms guitar. He also plays with the Brazilian Guitar Quartet.

His double CD of the Complete Solo Bach Violin Sonatas and Partitas on Delos was nominated for a 1998 Grammy Award in the category of Best Solo Instrumental Album, and reached the Top 10 of the classical charts in Billboard.

The "Brahms guitar" derives its name from Paul Galbraith's own arrangement of Brahms' Variations on an Original Theme Opus 21A for piano, which he transcribed originally for the 6-string guitar. Worried by a certain incompleteness in the bass and the fact that his left hand was stretched to its limits for much of the piece, he thought about increasing the range of the guitar (not a new idea, for even in the 19th Century guitarists played and wrote for the seven string guitar, which carried an extra bass string strung below the traditional six) and felt that one extra string, tuned to a low A (a fifth below the low E string) yet also flexible enough to stand tuning up to a low C, would be sufficient to give the sense of "completeness" in the bass that he was looking for.

Following a discussion with his friend, the Italian guitarist Stefano Grondona, it was suggested that in order to increase the available range within one position, and therefore also reduce the stretching, an eighth string could be placed above the high E string, tuned a fourth above to a high A. This would also balance the instrument, as the additional strings would effectively surround the (unaltered) traditional six strings.

Realising the potential of such an arrangement, he approached David Rubio, the English luthier, who was extremely enthusiastic from the moment the idea was mentioned, but recognised the undoubtedly difficult challenge of adding an extra octave range to an already perfectly balanced instrument without sacrificing tonal quality. Rubio' s inspired solution to the problem of designing such an instrument was based on the Renaissance model of the "Orphereon," which was unique amongst fretted string instruments in that it gave a staggered, rather than uniform, length to the strings, which was achieved by using a slanting bridge and nut, opening up in length towards the bass, with the frets "fanning out" over the complete length of the fingerboard.

Rubio' s prototype was an outstanding success: the two outer strings sounded like "normal" guitar strings and integrated beautifully with the original six. The whole instrument was amazingly full and rich in tone over its entire range, and very natural to play because of some fine adjustments to the width between the strings and thus to the overall width of the neck. During performance, it is supported by a metal spike, similar to that of a cello, which rests on a wooden acoustic box.

Galbraith's recordings as of March 2003:
  • Music For Solo Guitar by Manuel M. Ponce (1990, Eclectic Records)
  • Introducing The Brahms Guitar (1996, Eclectic Records)
  • Bach: The Sonatas & Partitas For Unaccompanied Violin (1998, Delos)
  • Paul Galbraith plays Haydn Keyboard Sonatas (1999, Delos)
  • Lute Suites of J.S. Bach (2000, Delos)

Galbraith's complete repertoire as of March 2003:


J.S. Bach:
The Complete Lute Suites
Prelude, Fugue and Allegro
The Complete Violin Sonatas and Partitas

Béla Bartók
"For Children" Hungarian Folk Tunes, Volume 1

Benjamin Britten:
Nocturnal on J. Dowland

Yannis Constantinides:
Miniatures on Greek Folk Tunes

Claude Debussy:
Children's Corner

Joseph Haydn:
Keyboard Sonata No.46

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser:
Five Hebridean Folksongs

Joaquin Nin-Culmell:
Six Tonadas on Spanish Folk Tunes

Maurice Ravel:
Mother Goose Suite

Franz Schubert:
(early) Sonata for Piano in A major

Nikos Skalkottas:
Violin Sonata, Op.1

Federico Moreno-Torroba:
Five Aires de la Mancha

Three Preludes


Arnold: Concerto Opus 67
Berkeley: Concerto Opus 88
J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto in E major
Giuliani: Concertos Opus 30, 36, 70
Ponce: Concierto del sur
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
Fantasia para un Gentilhombre
Tedesco: Concerto in D major
Vivaldi: Concerto in D major


Boccherini "Fandango" Quintet
Castelnuovo-Tedesco Quintet
Zurab Nadarejshvili: Georgian Rhapsody (co-commissioned by Paul Galbraith and St. Petersburg String Quartet)

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