The vihuela is an ideal instrument for anyone interested in expanding into the early literature of the guitar. All of the vihuela literature and any six-course lute music may be played on it. Its ergonomics and ease of playing in higher positions make it an excellent alternative to the lute. It has a large and fascinating repertoire of intricate and expressive Spanish and Italian music.
I have refined this design over more than twenty instruments. It makes for an instrument which is ideal for the guitarist who is attracted to the Renaissance literature, but may have reservations about the complications of the lute. All of the vihuela literature and any six-course lute music may be played on it. In some respects, such as the ergonomics and intonation of playing in higher positions, I feel it's clearly superior to the lute.
The sides and backs are steamed Swiss pearwood, a stable timber which may be planed thinly. The pegs are plum-wood, recommended by Thomas Mace in Musick's Monument as the best material for pegs. Plum polishes beautifully and retains its round shape in humid and dry weather. It's just soft enough to fit the peg hole perfectly. The pegs have a small diameter, assisting in tuning sensitivity. The stringing is entirely carbon fibre, which contributes greatly to the the tuning stablility and intonation.
The head is German-jointed to the neck (with a triangular projection seen in the photo detail) allowing the neck to be thinner, and the head to be thicker, thus improving the peg torque. This joint is difficult to execute, but worth the effort because of its superior strength. The quarter-sawn walnut heads are veneered in Koa and inlaid with tiles. The soundboards are either stunning old-growth Port Orford cedar (cypress), or spruce. I have left the tops rather thicker than a lute belly, partly because of the inlays, and partly because they have very few bars. This results in an extroverted sound, which is typical of the guitar.
The soundboards have parquetry ebony/hornbeam/pear tiles, with accents of abalone and rosewood around the bridge. Three larger tiles on the upper bouts and in front of the bridge are a Maltese Cross design. The fingerboards are macassar ebony, quarter-sawn to reveal the coloured grain which matches the pearwood body.
A new feature is a tatted rose by Susan Adams. Tatting is a beautiful form of fine-gauge needle lace. Fine lace was a long-standing tradition in the Iberian peninsula. The rose is stiffened with glue sizing, lashed to a ring and installed below the sound hole. The rosette is surrounded with ebony and holly tile inlays that reflect the points of the compass, a reference to the age of exploration.
The vihuela's stability and robust construction make it an excellent and lively instrument; the decorative elements make it a desirable and distinguished object.
It comes with a baltic birch fitted, lined, painted and varnished case with brass locking hardware.
Dimensions: all dimensions are approximate
Sounding String Length: 630 mm (with 2 mm compensation for the string knot in the bass)
Neck width at head nut: 55 mm (about 4.5 mm avg. clearance from the string band treble and bass)
Body length: 440 mm
Body width: 265 (upper bout), 245 (waist), bottom bout (303)
Body depth: avg. 75 (crowned at about 1/3 of the body length, near the bridge)
Length from body end to nut, excluding head: 720
“I have personally made and played this instrument consistent with the need to be sure it is in excellent playing condition. No other player has touched or used the instrument other than the maker. There may be small finger-marks or slight changes to string position on the nut or bridge, slight marks made by tying frets, or slight indentations in the soundboard made during adjustment. The instrument will be finely hand polished and immediately playable. These instruments have historically proper finishes--wax and shellac, so there is no thick varnish or coating to prevent tiny blemishes. I do not use sandpaper, so there may be tiny scraper marks. These are barely perceptible and entirely in the tradition of historical instrument making.”
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