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 Some historical instruments

Viola da Gamba

I am also a specialist in the French bass viol (viola da gamba), especially its literature from the late seventeenth-century. The bass viol was an important part of music making during the time, with an enormous repertoire of solo and chamber music. Composers who wrote for the instrument include Marin Marais, François Couperin and Louis Caix d'Hervelois. Here he is pictured a with a seven-string instrument modelled after Michel Colichon (Paris, 1683), made by the Francis Beaulieu.

Renaissance Lute

I also enjoy playing music of the later renaissance period. The instrument here is called a lute, which is a plucked instrument with a rounded back that is similar to the Arabic oud. This instrument is modelled after Magno Dieffopruchar (C45) and has 10-courses (single or pairs of strings of the same note). The lute is also an accompaniment instrument for renaissance songs such as those by John Dowland, John Danyel and Thomas Campion. This instrument was made by Wilma van Berkel.

Baroque Lute

The renaissance lute eventually developed into what we call the baroque lute, one of my favourite types of lute. This instrument has 11-courses and a different tuning from the renaissance one. Also, a different type of left-hand technique was used. The baroque lute has an enormous solo repertoire by French and German composers such as Ennemond Gaultier, Jacques Gallot, Esais Reusner and Sylvius Leopold Weiss. This instrument was also sometimes used as an accompaniment instrument, although most historical writers seem to agree that theorbo was the better for this purpose. This instrument was made by Jason Petty and is modelled after Hans Frei. 



The theorbo was a prolific accompaniment instrument of the baroque period. Its main purpose was the accompaniment of other instruments and/or voices by playing improvised harmony, a skill referred to as basso continuo. The theorbo was used in all sorts of different musical settings, but it is today mostly known for its use in the early Italian operas of the early seventeenth century. Its use in history was considerably more widespread. The German historical lutenist Baron remarks (1727) remarks how “some extant theorboes by him (Buchenberg) are the most splendid that can be found - oval-round, of very proportionate size, and with a very delicate, penetrating metallic tone. Whoever is fortunate enough to possess something by this special and splendid master can cherish it as a jewel of an instrument.” This instrument is modelled after Mattheus Buchenberg (Rome, 1614) and was made by Lauri Niskannen. It has fifteen courses and its six lower fingerboard strings are double-strung. 

Baroque Guitar

The baroque guitar was used as both a solo and accompaniment instrument. Unlike the modern guitar, it possesses five courses instead of six strings. Although many Spanish and Italian baroque composers wrote for the instrument, it had its heyday during seventeenth-century France, with composers such as Francesco Corbetta, Robert de Visée and Antoine Carré writing for the instrument. This instrument was modelled after the work of historical French maker Alexandre Voboam, and was made by Alexander Batov. 

Instruments not shown here:
English viola da gamba by John Hall
A six-string viola da gamba with a smaller body and string length than the Colichon pictured above. While an excellent consort instrument, it is particularly suited to English solo music such as those by Tobias Hume, William Corkine and Christopher Simpson. 

French theorbo by Jason Petty 
A fourteen-course theorbo that is single strung and used for both solo and chamber music. Many of the best pieces for solo theorbo were written for this instrument. Composers who wrote for the instrument include Robert de Visée, Estienne Le Moine and Nicolas Hotman.

Archlute by Jason Petty
Developed to accompany the trio sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli, the archlute is in essence a large renaissance lute with an extended neck like the theorbo. A useful instrument for music of the later baroque period, especially when one is required to play high melodic material as well as accompany.