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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For the guitar-like vihuela native to Mexico and used in Mariachi groups, see Me
xican vihuela.
Vihuela built by Khalil Gibran (early 20th century)
Vihuela sample
A vihuela playing 'Jamaica' from Playford's The Dancing Master (c.1670)
Problems playing this file? See media help.
The vihuela (Spanish pronunciation: [bi'wela]) is a guitar-shaped string instrum
ent from 15th and 16th century Spain, Portugal and Italy, usually with six doubl
ed strings.
Contents [hide]
Surviving instruments
External links
Orpheus playing a vihuela. Frontispiece from the famous book by Luis de Miln.
The vihuela, as it was known in Spain, was called the viola da mano in Italy and
Portugal.[1] The two names are functionally synonymous and interchangeable. In
its most developed form, the vihuela was a guitar-shaped instrument with six dou
ble-strings (paired courses) made of gut. Vihuelas were tuned identically to the
ir contemporary Renaissance lute; 4ths and mid-3rd (44344, almost like a modern
guitar tuning, with the exception of the third string, which was tuned a semiton
e lower).
Plucked vihuelas, being essentially flat-backed lutes, evolved in the mid-15th c
entury, in the Kingdom of Aragn, located in north-eastern Iberia (Spain). In Spai
n, Portugal, and Italy the vihuela was in common use by the late 15th through to
the late 16th centuries. In the second half of the 15th century some vihuela pl
ayers began using a bow, leading to the development of the viol.
There were several different types of vihuela (or different playing methods at l

de mano: 6 or 5 courses played with the fingers

de penola: played with a plectrum
de arco: played with a bow (ancestor of the viola da gamba)
for 6 course vihuela de mano (44344):

C F B? D G C
The vihuela faded away, along with the complex polyphonic music that was its rep
ertoire, in the late 16th century, along with the other primary instrument of th
e Spanish and Portuguese Renaissance, the cross-strung harp. The vihuela's desce
ndants that are still played are the violas campanias of Portugal. Much of the vi
huela's place, role, and function was taken up by the subsequent Baroque guitar
(also sometimes referred to as vihuela or bigela). Today, the vihuela is in use p
rimarily for the performance of early music, using modern replicas of historical
instruments. Today, instruments like the tiple are descendants of vihuelas brou

ght to America in the 16th century.

Vihuela bodies were lightly constructed from thin flat slabs or pieces of wood,
bent or curved as required. This construction method distinguished them from som
e earlier types of string instruments whose bodies (if not the entire instrument
including neck) were carved out from a solid single block of wood. The back and
sides of common lutes were also made of pieces however, being multiple curved o
r bent staves joined and glued together to form a bowl, made from cypress with a
spruce or cedar top.
Vihuela (and violas da gamba) were built in different sizes, large and small, a
family of instruments. Duet music was published for vihuelas tuned one step, a m
inor third, a fourth, or a fifth apart, as well as unison tuned.
The physical appearance of vihuelas was varied and diverse; there was little sta
ndardization and no mass production. Overall and in general, vihuelas looked ver
y similar to modern guitars. The first generation of vihuela, from the mid-15th
century on, had sharp cuts to its waist, similar to that of a violin. A second g
eneration of vihuela, beginning sometime around 1490, took on the now familiar s
mooth-curved figure-eight shaped body contours. The sharp waist-cut models conti
nued to be built into the early-to-mid-16th century, side by side with the later
pattern. Many early vihuelas had extremely long necks, while others had the sho
rter variety. Top decoration, the number, shape, and placement, of sound holes,
ports, pierced rosettes, etc., also varied greatly. More than a few styles of pe
g-boxes were used as well.
Vihuelas were chromatically fretted in a manner similar to lutes, by means of mo
vable, wrapped-around and tied-on gut frets. Vihuelas, however, usually had ten
frets, whereas lutes had only seven. Unlike modern guitars, which often use stee
l and bronze strings, vihuelas were gut strung, and usually in paired courses. G
ut strings produce a sonority far different from metal, generally described as s
ofter and sweeter. A six course vihuela could be strung in either of two ways: w
ith 12 strings in 6 pairs, or 11 strings in total if a single unpaired chanterel
le is used on the first (or highest pitched) course. Unpaired chanterelles were
common on all lutes, vihuelas, and (other) early guitars (both Renaissance guita
rs and Baroque guitars).
Example of numeric vihuela tablature from the book Orphenica Lyra by Miguel de F
uenllana (1554). Red numerals (original) mark the vocal part.
The first person to publish a collection of music for the vihuela was the Spanis
h composer Luis de Miln, with his volume titled Libro de msica de vihuela de mano
intitulado El maestro of 1536 dedicated to King John III of Portugal. The notati
onal device used throughout this and other vihuela music books is a numeric tabl
ature (otherwise called "lute tablature"), which is also the model from which mo
dern "guitar tab" was fashioned. The music is easily performed on a modern guita
r using either standard guitar tuning (44434), sometimes called "new lute tuning
", or by retuning slightly to Classic lute and vihuela tuning (44344). The tabla
ture system used in all these texts is the "Italian" tablature, wherein the stop
ped frets are indicated by numbers and the lowest line of the staff represents t
he highest-pitch course (or string), resembling the neck of the instrument in pl
aying position; Miln's book also uses numbers to indicate the stopping of the cou
rses but exceptionally it is the top line of the staff that represents the highe
st-pitch course, as in "French" tablature.
The printed books of music for the vihuela which have survived are, in chronolog
ical order:

El Maestro by Luis de Miln (1536)

Los seys libros del Delphin by Luis de Narvez (1538)
Tres Libros de Msica by Alonso Mudarra (1546)
Silva de Sirenas by Enrquez de Valderrbano (1547)
Libro de Msica de Vihuela by Diego Pisador (1552)
Orphnica Lyra by Miguel de Fuenllana (1554)
El Parnasso by Estevan Daa (1576)
Surviving instruments[edit]
There are three surviving historic vihuelas:
The 'Guadalupe' vihuela in the Muse Jacquemart-Andr
The 'Chambure' instrument in the Cit de la Musique
A relic of Saint Mariana de Jess (1618 1645), kept in the Iglesia de la Compaia de J
ess de Quito.
Modern versions of the vihuela continue to be made. Performers adept with the vi
huela include the Scottish composer Robert MacKillop[1] and the American artist
Crystal Bright.[2]
Madonna Enthroned altarpiece by Girolamo dai Libri
Fresco depicting a Spanish vihuelist painted by Bernardino Pinturicchio in 1493
Angel-musician playing a vihuela (anonymous author)
Sophrano vihuela (anonymous author)
Viola da mano, engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi, c. 1510
Bass vihuela, by Juan de Juanes
Contrabass vihuela (fresco)
Ronald C. Purcell: Classic Guitar, Lute and Vihuela Discography, Belwin-Mills Pu
blishing Corp., Melville, NY, 1976, 116 p., LC: 75-42912 (no ISBN) ("There are m
ore than 100 artists listed as well as approximately 400 composers and 400 indiv
idual records.")
Ian Woodfield: The Early History of the Viol, Cambridge University Press, Cambri
dge, 1984 (includes much early vihuela history; viols are bowed vihuelas)
^ The words vihuela and viola are etymologically related.[3]
Jump up ^ Batov, Alexander (2012). "Vihuela de mano index". R
etrieved 9 June 2013.
Jump up ^ Mellor, JG (2012). "Crystal Bright and The Silver Hands a