Zachary Taylor has based his stunning Vihuela design on the instrument that is displayed in the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús in Quito, Ecuador. A truly remarkable piece, it is thought to be a relic of Saint Mariana de Jesús.
Very few existing Vihuelas are known of but the most famous one is the so-called, ‘Guadalupe’ Vihuela in the Musée Jacquemart-André, in Paris. It was probably made around 1500 by an apprentice luthier or cabinet maker as a test piece. Comparatively large, with a narrow neck suggests that whilst appropriate for playing single-note continuo, it would not be suitable for solo performance repertoire or accompanying a vocalist.
Although the body of the Vihuela was shallower and lighter than the modern guitar, the scale length was often much longer. The strings were of gut and silk and the frets, which were tied around the neck, were also of gut. Tied frets represent a strong reference to the original instrument but are sometimes troublesome. Changes in humidity, temperature, and clumsy handling can cause changes in the fret location, making replacement difficult for an inexperienced player. For these reasons, the designer, maker and suppliers decided on metal frets as a standard feature. Customers who prefer the more traditional tied frets may request them to be fitted when an order is placed.
With six ‘courses’ of strings, the Vihuela has them arranged in pairs and these are usually tuned in unison, although variations were known that used ‘octave’ tuning on the lower-pitched strings, similar to the lute. When used in the musical sense, the word ‘course’, refers to more than one single string and possibly as many as three.
Music for the Vihuela was written in tablature, as stave notation was not used for fretted strings in those days. Tablature works well, provided the tuning of the strings is known. Many players prefer tablature as a music reading medium because the composer shows the string and fret where the note is located.
Much of the lute repertoire may be played on it, due to its similar interval string tuning. A bonus is that by tuning up the third course by a semitone, the Vihuela has the same intervals as the regular 6-stringed guitar — the repertoire of which spans about the last two-and-a-half centuries! It can also be used to play music intended for the Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic guitar, all-in-all, a most versatile instrument.
For reliability and security of intonation, this 6-course Vihuela is fitted with eight, fixed, solid nickel silver frets. For the more traditional players, these instruments are available with tied nylon frets which are adjustable to the player's preference. The tied nylon fret models are available on a special order basis with production time being approximately 9-12 months.
Modifications were made to the original design, including the reduction of inlaid decoration, which contributed little to the guitar’s sound or functionality. Close attention was paid to the basic construction and materials to create a remarkable representation of this intriguing guitar.
The vihuela comes strung with the Roosebeck™ 6-Course Vihuela String Set (Item Code RBSVH6C), with the recommended tuning being G3 G2 C4 C3 F3 F3 A3 A3 D4 D4 G4 G4 (gG c'c ff aa d'd' g'g'). Each vihuela comes with a Roosebeck™ Vihuela Hard Case which provides exceptional protection for your instrument. This case features a rugged, faux leather exterior, plush cushioned interior, and a locking fastener. The Roosebeck™ Vihuela Hard Case (Item Code RHCVH) can also be purchased separately.
Back: Rosewood & Maple
Head Stock Plate, Sides, Fretboard and Bridge: Rosewood
Soundboard Bracing: Spruce
Nut: Buffalo Bone
Scale Length: 648mm
Overall dimensions: 924mm length, 239mm width, and 86mm depth
Fretboard Width: 56mm at the 1st fret and 67mm at the 8th fret
Weight: Approximately 1.16 kg or 2.55 pounds.
It is very important that the instrument is stored in a humidity controlled environment, especially where the relative humidity is less than 50%. A Case Humidifier (Item Code OH-6) is a great way to protect your investment. It may be necessary to re-oil the fretboard every few months with Lemon Oil (Item Code PW-LMN). A Pick Guard (Item Codes SS-1P-C and SS-2P-C) is not included, but, can be added for protection.