Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Why is it that some of the surviving vihuelas/guitars have pegheads that taper in thickness, (thicker at the nut end)?  Is this just for looks?

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Many Italian baroque guitars have striped decoration around the side of the peg-head, usually made from slabs of a sandwich of different woods.  Unless the stripes at the sides taper, and those at the top end do not, the peg-head must remain more-or-less constant in thickness.  The French Voboam instruments, that I have seen, all taper and the sides are stained? painted? plain black.  This is of course a generalisation, and I'm sure that there are plenty of exceptions.  I believe that the Jacquemart André vihuela's peg-head is a complete sandwich.

Tapering looks more elegant but is less suitable for instant decoration, which perhaps echoes French and Italian makers' systems of working, and the music played?

Theoretically, as with tapered peg-boxes on a lute, there is more strain on the part closest to the nut due to the number of strings acting upon that part.  Not (hopefully!) enough to make that area uncomfortably thick, but enough to enable taper towards the area of fewer pegs?

So.  Probably!


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