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Inna D. Nazina

[basolya, bas]

Bass fiddle of Belarus and Ukraine. Some are the size of a cello; others are as large as a conventional double bass. The three or four strings are tuned in 5ths and 4ths. The three-string type is commonly used in the southwest of Belarus, while four-string basses are endemic to parts of the west, central, and northern regions. Both are used in folk instrumental ensembles that perform mainly dance music and wedding marches. In southern ensembles the basetlya typically accompanies one or more violins and a double-headed drum; in central Belarus it traditionally joins a violin, a dulcimer, and a frame drum; in the north it plays with a violin, a clarinet, an accordion, and a double-headed drum. The basetlya first appeared in the 18th century, when professional orchestras (‘capellas’) were developed at the courts of Belarusian-Polish magnates. Both sizes of basetlya were made locally by general woodworkers, not by specialized luthiers; hence their construction, appearance, and tone vary widely....



Patricia Matusky


Musical bow of the Iban people of central Sarawak, Malaysia. The single string is attached to the ends of the wooden bow. The bow rests on a wooden disc, which in turn rests on a ceramic or metal bowl that serves as a resonator. The string is tapped or plucked with a plectrum....



Frederick R. Selch

A bowed string instrument. Although in modern usage the term refers to a six- or seven-string instrument of the Viol family often called Viola da gamba , in the 18th and 19th centuries in the USA and occasionally in Britain ‘bass viol’ meant a four-string instrument tuned in 5ths like a cello. It was probably a shortened version of the term ‘bass violin’. Such instruments were of two kinds: the first like a cello except for certain local constructional details, the second of larger body size but with the same string length and fingerboard as a cello, with a short neck (accommodating playing only up to the second position without recourse to thumb positions). Instruments of both kinds were occasionally made with five strings, but no contemporary instruction book refers to the practice or indicates the tuning. The large-sized instruments are called ‘church basses’. Certain archaisms in construction reflect earlier European building techniques, the commonest being an f-hole in which small connecting bridges of wood are left at the turns, a groove or channel routed in the wood of the back and belly into which the ribs were fitted and glued, and the use of a foot-like extension of the neck block (almost always integral with the neck itself) projecting into the body and fixed to the wood of the back by a butted glue joint and a screw. A peculiarly American feature is the use of plank-sawn wood in the belly and back, giving the instruments a curious florid appearance; but the best makers used quarter-sawn wood according to traditional European practice....


Lucy Robinson and Peter Holman

(Fr. basse de violon; It. basso viola da braccio, violone)

The bass of the violin family in the 16th and 17th centuries. It originally had three gut strings tuned F–c–g. By constructing large bass violins with a string length of about 74 cm, it became possible to obtain lower notes, and in the mid-16th century a fourth string was added at the bottom, producing the B ♭′–F–c–g tuning found in many 16th- and 17th-century treatises. Such instruments were often pictured supported by a stool or resting on the ground. However, bass violins were also made small enough to be played standing or walking, supported, in the words of Jambe de Fer (1556), ‘with a little hook in an iron ring, or other thing, which is attached to the back of the said instrument’. They were probably tuned F–c–g–d′ (PraetoriusSM) or G–d–a–e′ (Banchieri, 1609, 1611, 1628), though Zacconi (Prattica di musica, 1592) assigned F–c–g–d′...



John Dilworth

(Fr. barre; Ger. Bassbalken; It. catena)

In bowed string instruments, a strip of wood glued to the underside of the belly beneath the bass foot of the bridge. It is of vital importance to the acoustical function of the instrument, and is complemented by the soundpost which is placed close to the treble bridge-foot. In modern practice, the bass-bar runs for three-quarters of the length of the belly, and is made from spruce carefully matched to that of the belly. It is fitted slightly within the outer edge of the bridge foot, and set at a slight angle to the centre line of the instrument, determined by the proportions of the upper and lower bouts. It is deepest at the centre, generally about 12 mm in a violin, and tapers towards the ends, being on average 265 mm long and 6 mm wide. The glued surface is fitted to the curves of the belly, although some luthiers shape it to a slightly tighter radius than the belly itself, known as ‘springing’, providing a certain amount of stress within the structure when glued in place. An undersized or badly positioned bar cannot provide sufficient stiffness to the front of the instrument and results in a dull, unfocussed sound (particularly in the bass register) and, in extreme cases, deformation and eventual collapse of the arching. Conversely, an oversized bar can stifle the sound, making the instrument unresponsive....



Jan Stęszewski


Bass fiddle of Poland. It can be from 100 to 140 cm long; the body is sometimes carved from one piece of wood, apart from the top. It has two to four strings tuned usually in 5ths, or 4ths and 5ths. For example, in the Tatra mountains the tuning is ...


(b Naumburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, Jan 1, 1805; d Leipzig, Germany, May 26, 1871). German bow maker. He studied violin making with J.B. Fritsche in Dresden and set up his own shop there in the 1820s. About 1830 he moved to Dessau where he remained until 1839, when he moved to Leipzig. There he ran a successful shop, but in 1861 he moved to Wiesbaden, where he was instrument maker to the court. In 1863 he returned to Leipzig. Bausch’s early bows show an influence from François Tourte; his later work shows a more elegant rounded head. His frogs loosely follow French models but have one-piece heelplates, pearl eyes closely encircled by metal rings, and often metal strips along the edges of the pearl slides. The buttons are generally divided, and the metal bands are much wider in his later works. His brand, ‘L. BAUSCH, LEIPZIG’, is found on the lower facet of the stick beneath the frog. On his death, he was succeeded by his son Ludwig (...



Ferdinand J. de Hen

Mouth bow of the Aïmeri people of the Watsa Gombari region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The string is sometimes coupled (braced) to the bow stave by a cord that divides the string into two unequal segments, thus obtaining two different pitches when the segments are plucked by the fingers; the bracing cord itself can also be plucked....





Philip J. Kass

Family of French bow makers. François Bazin (b Mirecourt, France, 10 May 1824; d Mirecourt, 1 Aug 1865) worked primarily for the trade in a style much influenced by Peccatte and Maire. His son Charles Nicolas (b Mirecourt, 24 April 1847; d Mirecourt, 6 Dec 1915), the finest maker in the family, worked on a modified Voirin pattern. His large workshop of fine Mirecourt craftsmen produced many bows of excellent quality. Much of this work was for the trade, although elegant bows branded ‘C. BAZIN’ (in various sizes) appear over his career.

Louis Bazin (b Mirecourt, 21 Sept 1881; d Mirecourt, 11 Nov 1953) was the son and successor of Charles Nicolas Bazin. He apprenticed to his father at the age of 12 and took over the shop in 1907. He produced many bows, primarily for the trade; they reflect the sturdier and more masculine character of post-Sartory bow making. Like his father’s, his shop employed many fine craftsmen. He used the brand ‘L. BAZIN’....



Charles Beare

revised by Margaret Campbell

English family of violin dealers and restorers. John Beare (1847–1928) became an instrument dealer in 1865. He was a friend of Elgar and published some of his early music in the 1880s. In 1892 he divided his business into two parts: Beare & Son, with his elder son Walter, at 32 Rathbone Place, London, and Beare, Goodwin & Co. at 186 Wardour Street. Beare & Son, later came under the direction of Walter’s son Richard Barrington Beare (b 20 July 1908), and moved to Dunstable. They are wholesalers of new instruments and accessories. Beare, Goodwin & Co. specialized in early instruments of the violin family, becoming John & Arthur Beare shortly after the turn of the century.

Arthur Beare (b Norbury, 14 Feb 1875; d Watford, 23 Aug 1945), the younger son of John Beare, trained as a violinist in Leipzig before joining the business (...


Laurence Libin

(Delmetia )

(b Coleman County, TX, March 18, 1899; d at sea nr Los Angeles, CA, March 30, 1941). American inventor of musical instruments. He was co-founder of the National Stringed Instrument Corporation and the Rickenbacker guitar company. He played the violin and the lap steel (‘Hawaiian’) guitar in vaudeville before settling in Los Angeles, where he worked with John and Rudy Dopyera to develop an acoustically amplified guitar, probably inspired by Stroh models. An early model with a Victrola horn failed, but trials using conical aluminium resonators within a metal guitar body (a prototype of the three-cone Dobro guitar) proved successful and attracted investors. Production of metal-body guitars under the name National soon involved Adolph Rickenbacker’s nearby tool and die shop.

From the mid-1920s Beauchamp also experimented with electrical amplification of guitars (including lap steel and bass guitars) and violins of unconventional shape, without normal resonators but using simple phonograph pickups. After his collaboration with the Dopyeras ended, in ...


Charles Beare

revised by Philip J. Kass

American family of violin makers. Carl G. Becker (b Chicago, Sept 20, 1887; d Chicago, Aug 6, 1975) was the son of a prominent violinist and teacher, and his maternal grandfather, Herman Macklett, had been a violin maker. He began as a craftsman in 1901, and a year later joined the firm of Lyon & Healy, where he worked under John Hornsteiner until 1908. When Hornsteiner left to start his own business Becker went with him, staying as an assistant until 1923. By 1924 he had become an outstanding violin maker, repairer and connoisseur, and he took a position with William Lewis & Son, another Chicago firm; before 1924 he had already made about 100 violins in his spare time. After he joined Lewis he spent at least three summer months doing new work at Pickerel, Wisconsin; from 1925 to 1947 he made 389 new violins, violas and cellos, each with its serial number (100–488). For the rest of each year he supervised the repair workshop of Lewis & Son, or accompanied the president of the firm on his journeys in search of old instruments....


Kenneth Sparr

(Sueno, Svenno )

(b Askersund, Sweden, 1717; d Stockholm, Sweden, 1763). Swedish luthier, active in Stockholm from 1736. He made bowed and plucked instruments and was inspired by Guersan and the old Parisian school, as was his apprentice Johan Öberg. Some of his instruments are stamped ‘S. BECKMAN’ and numbered. In 1736–41 Beckman was apprenticed to Johan Fredrik Weidemann, who had a violin factory. Beckman cared for the instruments of the Royal Court Orchestra in 1737–8 and was a journeyman in Königsberg about 1739. In 1741 he received his license as a musical instrument maker, and in 1756 he was appointed musical instrument maker at the Swedish court. One exceptional instrument by Beckman is a guitar-cittern, dated 1757 (now in GB.L.cm). Several bowed as well as a few plucked instruments are preserved elsewhere. His instruments seem to be of varying quality.

B. Nilsson: Svensk fiolbyggarkonst (Malmö, 1998), 11–14.

See also...



Catherine Ingram and Wu Zhicheng

Lute of the Kam (Dong) minority people of southwest China. Names vary with dialect and instrument size; examples from Sanlong region, Southeast Guizhou province, are beeba ning (‘small beeba’; c68 to 92 cm long, c11 to 20 cm wide at the soundbox) and beeba lao (‘large beeba’; more than 114 cm long, 25 cm wide at the soundbox). The name beeba might be a loanword of the Han Chinese pipa. The pegbox, neck, and thick oval- or heart-shaped soundbox bowl are carved from one piece of fir or other locally available wood. Five or more soundholes pierce the thin wooden soundtable. The instrument is sometimes painted and/or decorated. The Sanlong beeba has four strings (commonly banhu strings) attached to lateral wooden tuning pegs and hitched to the tail by looped wires. Nut and bridge are about 5 mm tall. The fingerboard is fretted with two or three inset lengths of wire. ...



Ronald Lah

revised by Stéphanie Weisser

[bagana, bägänna, begenna]

Lyre of the Christian Amhara of central and northern Ethiopia. The most carefully crafted of Amhara string instruments, the beganna is noteworthy for its ornately sculpted crossbar and engraved arms. Its soundbox (gebeti) is either a square-face wooden bowl or an open box shaped as a truncated square pyramid, made of plywood in recent instruments. The open face is covered with untanned cattle skin sewn at the back of the soundbox. The ten sheep- or cattle-gut strings are bound with tuning levers and twisted around the crossbar. Their opposite ends are attached to a tailpiece held by two leather strips inserted through incisions in the skin head and fastened inside the soundbox. A hole, often shaped as a cross, pierces the back of the soundbox. The beganna is typically about 120 cm tall and the crossbar is about 45 cm wide.

Small U-shaped bits of leather (enzirotch...



Regis Stella

Term for both an idioglot bamboo jew’s harp (susap) and a musical bow of the Banoni people, Papua New Guinea. As elsewhere in Bougainville, the jew’s harp is a men’s instrument, the mouth bow a women’s. Men apply love magic to the jew’s harp to attract women. It is activated by jerking a string so that the player’s thumb strikes the base of the tongue. In a story a man named Marere learned to play it from a wild man. Women were so attracted to the sound that they would have sex with Marere instead of going fishing. Trying to escape from the women’s husbands, Marere dropped the instrument and turned into a stone; now other men can play the bekuru. The women’s musical bow, now obsolete, consisted of a string stretched between two ends of a strip of bamboo, about 45 cm long.

R. Stella: Forms and Styles of Traditional Banoni Music...



Obsolete bamboo jews harp of the Chamorro people of Guam in the Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia. It took the form of a bamboo stick in which a tongue was cut. The instrument was placed in the half-open mouth and its tongue set in motion by a finger.

G. Fritz...