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Baroque Viols


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Pardessus after Nicolas Bertrand, Paris 1714. The interior views show the light corner blocks and liners typical of 18th-century French work.

Front view
Back view
Side view
Rough arching
Interior


Northern-European Baroque Viols

Viol making is a surprisingly different art from violin making. Many techniques such as the making of five-piece bent-stave tops are unique to viol construction and the whole enterprise has a much freer, improvisatory feeling to it.

Unlike Cremonese violins, which were conceived right from the beginning as repeatable, standardized instruments, viols in the classic period are highly idiosyncratic, with strong national schools and a great deal of variation in construction details from maker to maker. In England, it is rare to find two instruments whose dimensions match closely, even by the same maker.

This has led me to base each of my viols closely on a specific original antique rather than design my own instruments in a generalized style. I feel that close copying better serves the player who is searching for a truly historical sound. Please see the page Workshop Principles for more discussion of viol construction.

My instrument models cover the major viol types that were in use in the 17th and 18th centuries in England, France, and Germany. If you are interested in a copy of a particular instrument that is not listed here, please contact me to discuss feasibility.

Please note that string lengths are slightly variable depending on the exact placement of the bridge.

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Pardessus de Viole

  • Six-string Pardessus after Nicolas Bertrand, Paris 1714 (Cité de la musique, Paris), string length c. 31.5 cm.

  • Five-string Pardessus after Louis Guersan, Paris 1754 (private collection, USA), string length c. 31 cm.

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  • Treble Viols

  • Consort treble after John Hoskin, England, 1609 (National Music Museum, Vermillion SD), string length c. 40 cm.

  • Treble after a fine anonymous French instrument c. 1690 (private collection, USA), string length c. 37.6 cm.

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  • Alto, Tenor, and Small Lyra Viols

  • Alto (or 12-foot treble) viol, Henry Jaye, Southwark 1629 (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg), string length c. 45 cm.

  • Consort tenor or small lyra viol after Richard Blunt, London 1605 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), string length c. 57 cm.

  • Consort tenor or small lyra viol after John Rose, London 1598 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), string length c. 57 cm.

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    Constructing a Lewis division viol. Lewis was one of the first English makers to employ an inner form and build two-piece tops 'digged out of the plank.'

    Interior
    Completed scroll
    White instrument from front


    English Division Viols and Consort Basses

  • Six string division viol after Henry Jaye, London, 1624 (Cité de la musique, Paris), string length c. 65 cm. This small bass is well suited to playing

  • Six string division viol after Barak Norman, London, 1697, (Staatliches Institut fuer Musikforschung, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz), string length c. 67.5 cm. This instrument is a classic English viol of the later 17th century, with clear roots in the tradition of Jacobean viol making.

  • Six string division viol after Edward Lewis, London c. 1717 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), string length c. 69 cm. This handsome Queen-Anne instrument represents a progressive type of early 18th-century viol made with a two-piece carved top.

  • Six string consort bass after John Rose, London, 15?? (private collection, USA), string length c. 71.5 cm. This very large, deep, and handsome Elizabethen bass has a five-stave bent top. Rose viols were prized for as long as the viol was played and his large instruments such as this probably served as models for the large French bases at the turn of the 18th century.

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    The head of a Bertrand seven-string viol ready to join to the body. Here, I am using a mortise and tenon joint to make a secure connection.

    French Seven-String Viols

  • Seven-string viol after Nicolas Bertrand, Paris, 1720 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), string length c. 72 cm. This quintessentially French instrument has a very long body, very deep sides, and a fairly long string length. The original has a two-piece carved top but otherwise closely resembles the earlier work of Colichon, who may have been Bertrand's teacher.

  • Seven-string viol after Nicolas Bertrand, Paris, 1687 (Cité de la musique, Paris), string length c. 68 cm. This is an earlier instrument with a somewhat shorter string length than the 1720 Bertrand although it is otherwise quite similar shape and style. This instrument is probably a better choice for a player with a smaller hand.

  • Seven-string viol after Michel Colichon, Paris, 1691 (private collection, UK), string length c. 70 cm. A classic French viol whose highly idiosyncratic construction includes a bent-stave top, a construction technique adopted from English viols. This instrument is a fraction larger than the 1720 Bertrand viol.

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  • German Bass Viols

  • Six string bass after Gregorius Karp, Königsberg, c. 1690 (private collection, USA), string length c. 68 cm.

  • Six string bass after Joachim Tielke 1692 (private collection, USA), string length c. 67 cm.

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