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Vihuela

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.
Vihuela sample
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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]
1 History
2 Construction
3 Repertoire
4 Surviving instruments
5 Gallery
6 Bibilography
7 Notes
8 References
9 External links
History[edit]
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-like instrument with six doubl
e-strings (paired courses) made of gut. Vihuelas were tuned identically like its
contemporary Renaissance lute;4ths and mid-3rd (44344, almost like a modern gui
tar tunings, with the exception of the third string, which was tuned a semitone
lower).
Plucked vihuela, being essentially flat-backed lutes, evolved in the mid-15th ce
ntury, in the Kingdom of Aragn (located in north-eastern Iberia (Spain), filling
the gap that elsewhere in Europe was taken up by the lute; for the Spanish and P
ortuguese the lute was too close to the oud. In Spain, Portugal, and Italy the v
ihuela was in common use by the late 15th through to the late 16th centuries. In
the second half of the 15th century some vihuela players began using a bow, lea
ding to the development of the viol.
There were several different types of vihuela (or different playing methods at l
east):
Vihuela de mano: 6 or 5 courses played with the fingers
Vihuela de penola: played with a plectrum
Vihuela de arco: played with a bow (ancestor of the viola da gamba)
Tunings for 6 course vihuela de mano (44344):
G C F A D G
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 Portugal Renaissance, the cross-strung harp. The vihuela's descend
ants that are still played are the violas campanias of Portugal. Much of the vihu
ela's place, role, and function was taken up by the subsequent Baroque guitar (a
lso sometimes referred to as vihuela or bigela). Today, the vihuela is in use pri
marily for the performance of early music, using modern replicas of historical i
nstruments. Today, instruments like the tiple are descendants of vihuelas brough
t to America in the 16th century.
Construction[edit]
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 viola) were built in different sizes, large and small, a family of
instruments. Duet music was published for vihuelas tuned one step, a minor third
, a fourth, or a fifth apart, as well as unison tuned.
The physical appearance of vihuela was varied and diverse;there was little stand
ardization and no mass production. Overall and in general, vihuela looked very s
imilar to modern guitars. The first generation of vihuela, from the mid-15th cen
tury on, had sharp cuts to its waist, similar to that of a violin. A second gene
ration of vihuela, beginning sometime around c.1490, took on the now familiar sm
ooth-curved figure-eight shaped body contours. The sharp waist-cut models contin
ued to be built into the early-to-mid-16th century, side by side with the later
pattern. Many early vihuela had extremely long necks, while others had the short
er variety. Top decoration, the number, shape, and placement, of sound holes, po
rts, pierced rosettes, etc., also varied greatly. More than a few styles of pegboxes were used as well.
Vihuela were chromatically fretted in a manner similar to lutes, by means of mov
able, wrapped-around and tied-on gut frets. Vihuela, however, usually had ten fr
ets, whereas lutes had only seven. Unlike modern guitars, which often use steel
and bronze strings, vihuela were gut strung, and usually in paired courses. Gut
strings produce a sonority far different from metal, generally described as soft
er and sweeter. A six course vihuela could be strung in either of two ways: with
12 strings in 6 pairs, or 11 strings in total if a single unpaired chanterelle
is used on the first (or highest pitched) course. Unpaired chanterelles were com
mon on all lutes, vihuela, and (other) early guitars (both Renaissance guitars a
nd Baroque guitars).
Repertoire[edit]
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]
Gallery[edit]
Madonna Enthroned altarpiece by Girolamo dai Libri.

Fresco painted by Bernadino 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).


Bibilography[edit]