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Vihuela, Mystery Instrument

Vihuela, Mystery Instrument

by Wally Eubanks

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Quarterly, Volume 8, #3, 1980

Vihuela is an unusual name for an instrument. It is known today only to a few musicians, some luthiers and not at all to the average person. Pronounced vee-whey-la, it is the Spanish name for a stringed instrument of the Renaissance age.

This guitar-like instrument was used in the Iberian peninsula, in Italy and to a small extent in western Europe during the period of the late 1400s to the early 1600s. It was the virtuoso instrument of its type to Spain as the lute was to the rest of Europe in the same period. Spanish nobles cultivated their favorite maestros. Individual musicians vied for attention and favors from the ruling class and developed tablature and special music for the instrument. Several of these composers wrote and published books of instruction and music in tablature.

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