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    Land of winds > The people > Language | Issue 16 (Sep.-Oct. 2013)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Luthiers and violeros


Luthiers and violeros

Luthier is a term widely used to describe those who make musical instruments, regardless of whether they are professionals or artisans. It is a French-rooted word whose origins date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The term was originally used to designate lute makers, while the profession was referred to as lutherie. The latter derives from luth, lute, which in turn would derive from the Arab term al-ud.

During the Renaissance, the word widened its meaning to include all stringed instrument makers (including rubbed string instruments, violin, and plucked string instruments, lutes and guitars). However, it was not until the 17th century that luthier became an umbrella-term which is used to cover all musical instrument makers (wind and percussion included). In fact, the Furetière and Maillard's Dictionnaire de Musique (París, 1690) describes it as "Artisan qui fait et qui vend les instruments de musique, come luths, violons, guitarres, etc. On les appelle aussi faiseurs d'instruments" [Artisan who makes and sells musical instruments such as lutes, violins, guitars, etc. They are also called instrument makers]. And the Diderot and D'Alembert's Encyclopédie (1751-1756) features luthier as the only term accepted term to refer to the profession of "instruments' artisan maker".

Violero was the term most used in Castilian for guitar (vihuela) and bowed instruments (viola) maker, since the Renaissance until the mid-19th century, when it was replaced by luthier. However, the word violero still appears in some dictionaries (e.g that of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) as "stringed instrument manufacturer". In addition, the term guitarrero, which specifically refers to guitar makers, also gained popularity since the 18th century.

In many countries of Latin America, the preferred term for instrument maker in general and stringed instrument maker in particular is laudero (a literal translation from French luthier). Guitarrero can also be used to refer to both the guitar maker and the guitar player (instead of "guitarrista", which usually designates the guitar player who has studied music). While violero is not used in the sense of "maker", but as an alternative to guitarrero ("viola player", viola being a deformation of vihuela, used to refer to the guitar).


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