Early Bowed Strings from my workshop






I can offer the following bowed instruments:


all types of medieval strings



Medieval Strings


I build all models from the very early ones to the late ones (14th and 15th century) with a body carved from a single piece of wood. The species of wood that work best are poplar, birch, willow, ash and maple as well as different fruit woods.


"Lira" over the centuries has many meanings, it can mean allmost any stringed instrument. Typical for the club-shaped lira of the high middle ages are three strings tuned either in a pair of fifths or in a fourth and a fifth.

"Vielle" or "Fiddle" to me is the work horse of the medieval bowed instruments: An instrument of various shapes with four or five strings, well documented in sculptures and pictures from c. 1250 to the end of the period.

"Rebab" is an slim, club-shaped instrument that came to Europe from oriental cultures. It's top is from parchment/animal skin.

It was used in southern France and Spain. Although not very loud the tone is penetrating and blends in well with voices.


Next to these instruments several different models appear in art documents. I am always happy to build one of these less common instruments!



G. Bellini, Madonna of the Doge Barbarigo, detail, 1488


Vielle / Fiddle

14th and 15th century, 4 or 5 strings, open string length c. 350 - 360mm




AUDIO: O. v. Wolkenstein: Wes mich mein bül (1422)

Benjamin Bagby, R. U. and Elizabeth Gaver, Barbara Thornton.




Looking at depictions of medieval musicians it is fair to assume that vielle players struck more than one note at the same time when playing a tune: most of the bridges show flat tops and in some cases we see fiddles without any bridges at all but with a simple wooden wedge slipped under the string holder.

One type of vielle I build after sculptures on the Moissac cathedral in southern France has two courses of strings and a drone string running over a flat bridge tuned in a mixture of fifths and ovtaves. In addition to the melody we hear a rich sound of parallel and even irrational notes. It is possible that some of the fiddle music soundet like that some 800 years ago...


AUDIO: Improvisation on the Moissac -vielle


The Moissac-vielle (12th century) with 5 strings in two courses and a drone string, the courses tuned gg' and d'd''



Tendencies c. 1500


Around 1500 we find the new and the old types of bowed instruments next to each other (see: History I): The old-fashioned ways of playing with drone notes or choosing a chordal playing system were still used for some time. This last sunset of Lira-style playing was performed on imaginative instruments with a humanist touch provoking associations with antiquity.



A lira - vielle in Renaissance style with two exchangeable bridges


AUDIO: B. Marini, Capriccio à modo di Lira (per il violino), op. 8 (1629), Rainer Ullreich and Hubert Hoffmann



At the same time Italian workshops began to produce more and more stringed instruments of the new type: Assembled from small, thin sheets of wood these proto-violins were musically speaking more flexible and easier to carry for travelling musicians. Some of those instruments had both top and back from flat boards as we can see in depictions.


My reconstruction of a proto-violin (2014)

With the depictions of the painter Gaudenzio Ferrari and his school from 1529 onwards we find the first specimens of violins that are "true violins" with the following details:

Body built from single pieces of wood, glued together, three bouts, top and back vaulted, neck with pegbox and a scroll,

3 or 4 strings tuned in fifths.

If those types of early violins had any barring or a soundpost inside we do not know. I build my reconstructions without any additional technology in the body and get a well balanced, reedy and at the same time bright sound.

 my reconstruction of an early violin after Gaudenzio Ferrari, c. 1530


The idea that around 1540 / 1550 in Cremona a genius like Andrea Amati could have developed the final shape of the violin as we know and love it (with a purfling of three layers, a sophisticated vaulting of top and back plates, ff - holes, pegbox and scroll in the classical tradition, etc...) for all times is exciting! Too bad that it is highly unlikely that this hypothesis will ever be supported by evidence...





Depending on the model and details between Euro 4.500.- and Euro 8.000.-.