Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Notice the beautiful "flutted" back of the vihuela.
Remarquez le magnifique dos cannelé de la vihuela.

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Comment by Alexander Batov on April 11, 2009 at 20:17
Thank you, Jelma. OK, I understand and sorry about my mis-interpretation of your original question. First of all, this guitar is not an exact 'copy' of the original (which is in the St-Petersburg museum) but rather 'modelled' on it. This means that all the body dimensions are replicated, as well as some design features (such as bridge moustachios, for example) but not the soundboard decorations, neck and peg head veneer patterns etc. I would love to do it all as in the original but that would make the instrument rather expensive indeed, unless of course if somebody asks specifically for a more or less 'exact' replica. As you well know, the question of affordability is perhaps one of the most important one for a modern musician!

As for the choice of different wood types, the main purpose that I can think of that stays behind it is to create a kind of attractive design, a certain visual impression of the instrument. One of the earliest sources that gives the actual instructions for the maker to use differently coloured woods is "Dos Regimento dos Violeiros 1572": "And the owner of such shop would have to make a six-course viola (vihuela) with sides of black or red wood ..." (also see this page: http://www.vihuelademano.com/regimento.htm).

However, whichever wood combination is used for the sides, body and neck it's the soundboard (with its thickness distribution, barring arrangement, bridge, rose etc ... the whole lot!) that largely determines the sound. Anyway, this is a very complex subject so I hope my rather brief answer here is sufficient but if you have more specific questions I'd be glad to answer.
Comment by Jelma van Amersfoort on April 11, 2009 at 10:07
Hi Alexander, no, I meant the guitar, not the vihuela (and I am familiar with your very beautiful & informative website :-)). I noiced that you are one of the few makers who build guitars with different woods for back and sides. I know that there are historical instruments made like that, but I've seen very few copies in that style! I wonder what would have been the reasoning (for the historic guitar makers) behind the combining of different woods ?
Comment by Alexander Batov on April 10, 2009 at 23:06
Or, if you mean the first one (on the foreground), here is the page with more detailed images of this instrument and the list of woods it's made of:


The body is a rescaled (enlarged) version of that of the Belchior Dias, 1581 vihuela, in particular such parameters as both the longitudinal and transverse curvatures of the back ribs of the original etc.
Comment by Kernoa Patrig on April 8, 2009 at 21:04
Kopie van een anonym franse gitaar , XVII eeuw (St Petersburg musik instrument museum).
Spruce soundboard, parchment rose, rosewood sides, curle maple back, bubing neck and peg head.

Meer inlichtingen bij Alexander Batov, vriendelijke groeten, Patrig
Comment by Jelma van Amersfoort on April 7, 2009 at 18:02
That guitar looks very interesting & beautiful. What are the different woods and why? Was is made after a specific historic example?

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