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spanish: vihuela
the oldest surviving vihuela from the 15th or 16th century
classification Chordophone
plucked instrument
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / parameter range missing
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / sound sample parameters missing Related instruments

Guitar , lute

The vihuela (derived from Latin fidicula , ' fidel ') is a Spanish plucked instrument that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. As a lute instrument with a resonance box and neck , it belongs to the box- neck lute . The Vihuela was spread beyond Spain and the Spanish areas of influence under the name viola also in Portugal and Italy. It can be seen as a predecessor of the guitar , from which it was superseded in Spain in the second half of the 16th century. According to Juan Bermudo, the only relevant difference between guitar ( renaissance guitar ) and vihuela was that the guitar had four string choirs , the vihula six.


The more oval body of the vihuela was slightly flanked on both sides and had a flat bottom, which was connected to the top by frames. The ceiling was provided with one or more sound holes and mostly artistically carved rosettes. On the ceiling there was also a cross bar (bridge) for fastening the gut strings - often decorated with ornaments. Maple was probably used for the back and sides, and spruce for the top.

The fingerboard had not yet been put on, but was made from the wood on the top and usually had ten to twelve frets . The strings were strictly stringed and, in contrast to the four- or five-string guitar at that time, usually had six, less often five or seven pairs of gut strings. The headstock was flat and, in contrast to the lute, had rear vertebrae made of wood.

As can be seen from iconographic representations and illustrations, many instruments were finely and lavishly decorated with inlays and inlays. This served as materials well ivory , tortoise shell , mother of pearl , ebony and precious cases even gold.


The general and probably the most widespread mood of the Vihuela corresponded in principle to that of the Renaissance lute . There were differences, however, in the fact that all vihuela choirs were tuned in unison, but the lute was tuned in octaves from the 4th choir. In addition, the vihuela usually did not have a chanterelle , i.e. a highest melody string, but was strung with a choir (with a pair of strings).

The mood for six-course vihuela was: quart - quart - major third - quart - quart. The tuning usually started from G or A or was based on the breaking point of the highest pair of strings. There were regional deviations and modifications of this mood. Juan Bermudo ( Declaracion de instrumentos , 1555), a Spanish theorist, also reports on instruments with seven choirs, but these may not have been of great importance.

Early sources and evidence

First of vihuela figures are in Cantigas de Santa Maria from the 13th century by Alfonso X to find. The first written mentions, mostly in novels, also come from this period. The following sources should be mentioned here:

  • Libro de Apolonio (around 1250)
  • Milagros de Nuestra Señora and Libro de Alixandre by Gonzalo de Berceo (13th century)
  • El Libro de Buen Amor (1330) by Juan Ruiz

In 1484 Johannes Tinctoris' treatise De inventione et usu musicae appeared in Naples , in which he described the vihuela as an invention of the Spaniards and clearly differentiated it structurally from the lute. It was also called viola da mano in Italy and, according to Tinctoris, was also played there with pleasure.

Sheet music and textbooks

El Maestro by Luis Milán (with an Orpheus playing the vihuela ), 1536

In the period between 1530 and 1580, the siglo de oro of the Vihuela, numerous tablature editions and textbooks were written especially for this instrument. Annala and Mätlik name eleven titles for the period of 42 years (1536–1578), including works by Luis Milán ( El Maestro , 1536), Luis de Narváez ( Los seys libros del Delphin , 1538), Alonso de Mudarra ( Tres libros de musica en cifra para vihuela , 1546), Enríquez de Valderrábano ( Silva de Sirenas , 1547), Diego Pisador ( Libro de musica de vihuela , 1552) or Miguel de Fuenllana ( Orphenica lyra , 1554). Seven of the most important books are available in a modern edition on CD-ROM.


Here vihuela is the original Spanish collective name for string instruments with neck and fingerboard:

  • Vihuela de Mano: It was plucked with the fingers and called the later "Vihuela".
  • Vihuela de Pendola, Péñola: It was played with a plectrum (bird quill ).
  • Vihuela de Arco: It was bowed with a bow and can therefore be counted as part of the stringed instrument family.

Preserved historical vihuelas

As far as we know today, only three historical vihuelas have survived.

The Vihuela Guadalupe , which was discovered by Emilio Pujol in the Jacquemart-André Museum on January 6, 1936 and is dated to 1500 and bears a stamp of the Spanish monastery of Guadalupe , could be a bass due to its very large scale length (800 mm) -Vihuela act, also because especially in the Renaissance many instruments were built in so-called families , i.e. in different voices. In addition, it cannot be a "standard size" (with a length of about 46 to 55 cm for a vihuela común ), since practical attempts to play solo literature from the vihuela books on it failed, whereas a bass style Instrument in a small orchestra is conceivable. According to Frederick Cook, this “vihuela” could also be a modified Renaissance guitar in the musical instrument science sense. The instrument rebuilt in the Baroque period is shown above. On his birthday in 1936, Emilio Pujol received a replica of the vihuela he found in Paris from the guitar maker Miguel Simplicio and on April 24 of the same year Pujol gave a concert with vihuela music on this copy for the first time in Barcelona and thus played vihuela music for the first time in recent music history on a vihuela.

The specimen found in Quito also dates from the 16th century. With the Spanish explorers, culture and music and thus the tradition of the vihuela also came to South America.

Well-known vihuelists and composers for vihuela


  • Juan Bermudo : Declaracíon de instrumentos musicales. Osuna 1555.
    • especially: Dawn Astrid Espinosa: De tañer vihuela. Translated into English ( On playing the vihuela. ) In: Journal of the Lute Society of America. Vol. 28-34, 1995-1996.
  • Victor Anand Coelho (Ed.): Performance on Lute, Guitar, and Vihuela: Historical Practice and Modern Interpretation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997; Reprint ibid 2005, ISBN 0-521-45528-6 .
  • Carlos González, Gerardo Arriaga, Javier Somoza: Libros de Música para Vihuela 1536–1576 . CD-ROM. Ópera Tres y Música Prima, 2003, ISBN 84-95609-41-X .
  • Frank Koonce: The Renaissance Vihuela & Guitar in Sixteenth-Century Spain . Mel Bay, Pacific 2008, ISBN 978-0-7866-7822-8 .
  • Luys Milán: Libro de muscia de vihuela de mano. Intitulado El maestro. 1535/1536.
  • Wolf Moser : Vihuela, guitar and lute in Spain during the 16th century - Part I: The sources - The Vihuela. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 3, No. 2, 1981, pp. 18-27.
  • Diana Poulton, Antonio Corona Alcalde: Vihuela. In: Grove Music Online. 2001.
  • Oliver Schöner: The Vihuela de mano in Spain in the 16th century. (= European university publications. Series 36. Volume 198). Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1999, ISBN 3-631-35117-8 .

Web links

Commons : Vihuela  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Adalbert Quadt : Guitar music from the 16th to 18th centuries Century. According to tablature ed. by Adalbert Quadt. Volume 1-4. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1970 ff .; 2nd edition ibid 1975–1984, foreword (1970).
  2. Frederick Noad: The Renaissance Guitar. (= The Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology. Part 1) Ariel Publications, New York 1974; Reprint: Amsco Publications, New York / London / Sydney, ISBN 0-7119-0958-X , p. 14.
  3. ^ Hermann Leeb: The guitar. Considerations by Hermann Leeb. Part 1. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 2, Heft 2, 1980, pp. 34-40, here p. 38.
  4. Frederick Cock: The Vihuela: large or small scale length? In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 2, Heft 3, 1980, pp. 14-18, here: p. 14.
  5. Wolf Moser: About the differences between guitar and vihuela in Bermudo. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 2, Issue 5, 1980, pp. 32-43, here: pp. 36 f.
  6. ^ Hermann Leeb († 1979): The guitar. Considerations by Hermann Leeb. Part 2. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 2, Issue 3, 1980, pp. 32-41; here p. 32 f.
  7. Hannu Annala, Heiki Mätlik: Handbook of Guitar and Lute Composers . Mel Bay, Pacific 2007, p. 10.
  8. Frederick Noad: The Renaissance Guitar. (= The Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology. Part 1) Ariel Publications, New York 1974. (Reprint: Amsco Publications, New York / London / Sydney, ISBN 0-7119-0958-X , p. 12 f. ( Music for the Vihuela ).
  9. ^ González, Arriaga, Somoza 2003.
  10. Wolf Moser (1981), p. 21 f.
  11. Koonce 2008, p. 11ff.
  12. Frederick Cook: The Vihuela: Large or Small Scale Length? In: Guitar & Lute. 2, 3, 1980, pp. 14-18; here: p. 15 f.
  13. Frederick Cook: The Jacquemart-André-Vihuela: unresolved questions. In: Guitar & Lute. 5, 1983, No. 3, pp. 177-182.
  14. ^ Pujol's life data. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 8, 1986, p. 51.
  15. Wolf Moser: Vihuela, guitar, Christmas gift? The “absurdity” from the Jacquemart André Museum. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 5, Issue 4, 1983, pp. 276-278; here: p. 276.
  16. ^ Emilio Pujol: The Vihuela and their players. Edited and translated by Wolf Moser. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 8, Issue 2, 1986, pp. 47-50; here: p. 47.
  17. Frederick Cook: Again: The Jacquemart-André-Vihuela. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 6, Issue 1, 1984, pp. 74-77; here: p. 74.
  18. Wolf Moser (1983), p. 277.
  19. Wolf Moser (1983), p. 277.
  20. Frederick Cook (1983)
  21. Frederick Cook (1983), p. 178.
  22. ^ Pujol's life data. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 8, 1986, p. 51.