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date: 08 April 2020

Viol [viola da gamba, gamba] (Fr. viole; Ger. Gambe; It. viola, viola da gamba)locked

  • Ian Woodfield
  •  and Lucy Robinson


[viola da gamba, gamba] (Fr. viole; Ger. Gambe; It. viola, viola da gamba)

A bowed string instrument with frets; in the Hornbostel-Sachs system it is classified as a bowed lute (or fiddle). It is usually played held downwards on the lap or between the legs (hence the name ‘viola da gamba’, literally ‘leg viol’). It appeared in Europe towards the end of the 15th century and subsequently became one of the most popular of all Renaissance and Baroque instruments and was much used in ensemble music (see Consort and Continuo). As a solo instrument it continued to flourish until the middle of the 18th century. In 18th- and 19th-century American usage the term Bass viol was applied to a four-string instrument of the violin family.

Ian Woodfield

During its history the viol was made in many different sizes: pardessus (high treble), treble, alto, small tenor, tenor, bass and violone (contrabass). Only the treble, tenor and bass viols, however, were regular members of the viol consort. The ...

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