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The vihuela was the principal plucked instrument played in Spain during the sixteenth century. It developed in the fifteenth century, probably as a multi-purpose instrument that could be either plucked or bowed. Around 1500, maybe as much as a decade before, makers developed new models that were designed specifically to be either plucked or bowed, known respectively as the vihuela de mano and the vihuela de arco. From this time the vihuela de mano developed its own repertoire that included arrangements of polyphonic vocal music as well as original music, most notably fantasías and variations, or diferencias as they were known.


There is also a substantial number of songs surviving for vihuela and voice. These are the oldest songs to survive in western music to be composed with independent accompaniments, rather than being arranged from other polyphonic music composed originally for vocal ensembles. The authors who published music for the vihuela are Luys Milán (1536), Luys de Narváez (1538), Alonso Mudarra (1546), Enríquez de Valderrábano (1547), Diego Pisador (1552), Miguel de Fuenllana (1554) and Esteban Daza (1576).

The main areas of vihuela research revolve around the instrument itself, its music, its use and other aspects of its social context, its players and makers, and its geographical spread beyond Spain to other parts of the Spanish empire in both Europe and the Americas. 

In this section of this website you will find pages on

  • Current Research — some of the most recent research published in the last three years

  • Vihuela bibliography — a select bibliography of sources and writings organised by research areas

  • Vihuela database — a comprehensive database of all information about the vihuela [coming soon]

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