In Europe, the plucked string instrument was of a more recent vintage.  The invasion of the Moors from North Africa in 711 to 1492 brought about the creation of the Arab kingdom of Al-Andalus, which dominated almost all of the Iberian peninsula, leaving a lasting cultural and social character on the Spanish environment. The guitar was one of the offshoots of this cultural meeting, having been brought by the Moors in the 8th century in the form of the four-string ‘ud.  By the 1200, two instruments were called “guitars” in Spain: the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) and the guitarra moresca (Moorish guitar).  The guitarra Latina exhibited  one sound hole and  narrow neck, while the guitarra moresca had a round back, with wide fingerboard, and several sound holes. By the 14th century both instruments were referred to as simply guitars.  A guitar-like instrument is the Spanish vihuela, which in the 15th and 16th centuries, influenced the development of the baroque guitar. It had six courses of strings.  By the 16th century, the vihuela developed its shape into the modern guitar, although its popularity gave way to the European lute.  In the meantime, the five-course Baroque guitar from the middle of the 16th century to the 18th century, gained popularity in the Spain, France and Italy.


In Catalunya, Aragon, Murcia and Valencia, emerged the rondalla, an ensemble of plucked or plectrum instruments, deriving its name from “ronda”, meaning serenade.  “Rondas” or round songs were used to serenade young women at the windows of their houses, or the public in general, and its form is an alternation of solo and chorus.  The main instrumental accompaniment was provided by the rondalla which also supplied the music for dances. The instruments of the old rondalla were Mozarab-influenced: the guitars, flutes and vihuelas, mandolins, panderetas, castanets, tambourines triangles and a large earthen jug.  In the present times, rondallas have assumed vibrant lyrics, although still expressively melancholic in love and still done in evening serenades. In the 13th century, university students grouped themselves into groups called tunas to play and earn money or food, or serenade young ladies. Today, the tunas still exist, playing the bandurria, lute, guitar and tambourine, to entertain audiences.

Plucked chordophones in Portugal constitute the rich variety of musical instruments.  Guitars are called violas.  A small guitar called cavaquinho is popular in the northwest, and it has been exported to Brazil, to Hawaii where it was called ukulele, and to Indonesia known as kroncong.  The guitarra Portuguesa is a pear-shaped instrument with six double courses of strings, and it came from Great Britain during its occupation in Oporto.  Portugal has also the tunas that are found mostly in the north, a plucked string ensemble consisting of different sizes of mandolins, violas or guitars, and viola baixo (bass guitar).

In Russia, the most popular instrument is the balalaika, a three-stringed lute with a triangular sound-box.  It comes in different sizes: the piccolo balalaika, prima balalaika, secunda balalaika, alto balalaika, bass balalaika, and contrabass balalaika, with the prima balalaika as the most commonly used, and played with a plectrum. The term balalaika was first mentioned in a document that dates back to 1688. The earliest mention of the term balalaika dates back to an AD 1688 Russian document.  The domra, on the other hand, has been known in Russia since the 16th century although plucked instrument has been observed as early as the tenth century.  The domra was re-designed from a broken instrument found in 1896, and it has three strings and played with a plectrum.  It now provides the main melodic materials in balalaika ensembles.

In the late nineteenth century, the balalaika, a long-necked plucked lute also with triangular body became popular in eastern Ukraine, which comprised common ensembles that included a mandolin, a guitar, and a bandura, an instrument with 68 strings.  In Romania, the cobza is an old instrument that resembles the ‘ud from the Middle East, having 8 to 12 gut or metal strings and used to accompany melodic instruments.  It plays fiituris or rhythmic formulas named after dances and musical forms.  In Georgia, the plucked instrument is called panduri which are long-necked fretted lutes that are popular in accompanying dances, songs, as well as folk poetry competitions.   The chonguri, on the other hand, is non-fretted  medium size lute with four strings, and accompanies singing and dances.  The tambura or tamburica are instruments of Serbia which are grouped in ensembles, and these long-necked lutes can be found among the Croatians, Hungarians and Serbs.  They were brought into the Balkans after the invasion of the Turks in 1300.  In Bosnia, there are the long necked lutes like the tambura, šargija, karadjuzen, and bugarija, although the urban population prefer the saz which are used to accompany Islamic singers, and may have also come from Turkey.

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