History, Part 3
The Sixteenth Century
Beginning with the sixteenth century, however, we find much more direct evidence in the form of instruments that exist to the present day. Sixteenth century guitars are described as vihuela from the time of Luis Milan, Rizzio guitar from France, guitarra battente from Italia.
In its final form, the vihuela was a guitar with six double strings made of gut. The large type of vihuela was some four inches longer than the modern guitar. The neck had twelve frets.
One of the first vihuela players, whose publications are known to us was Luis Milan born in 1500. In 1535, he published a book, Libro de Musica de Vihuela de Mano Intitulalo "El Maestro". This was probably Milan's most important work.
The last known vihuela is dated 1700 and represents the instrument's final stages of development. Its frets are metal, the curves along the sides have deepened and the sound hole is oval type. The popularity of the instrument is evident from the large quantity of music still extant written to it. Music for the vihuela was written in tablature: in this system, each line of the staff represents a string of the instrument. In Spanish and Italian tablatures, the top string is represented by the bottom line, while in French and English tablatures, the reverse would be the case. The numbers on the lines indicate the fret to be stopped on that particuliar string. Notes values are indicated by various notes types placed above the staff. These are similar to our present day notes.
The first to publicate works of Spanish tablature for the vihuela were Luis de Milan in 1535, Luis de Narvaez in 1538, Alonso de Mudarra in 1546.This collection of tablatures contains the finest instrumental compositions of the Renaissance. The sixteenth century was golden age of Spanish vihuela music.
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