The Bowed cousin of the guitar: the Viola da gamba

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Blazer, Feb 20, 2016.

  1. bparnell57

    bparnell57 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Amazing history.

    I'm surprised a 6 stringed instrument did not remain in the violin family. I'm guessing that the 4 strings of a cello makes it easier to bow properly than the 6 on a viola da gamba? Any experience with this? Is the arc of the strings on a gamba a wider radius, similar, or a tighter radius?

    I'm also surprised with the fact that gamba's are quieter, considering some of their design carried over to the upright bass. Is it likely mostly due to the gut strings versus common metal cello strings used today?

    I want an electric viola da gamba...
     
  2. Devanatha

    Devanatha TDPRI Member

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    Solo music for the bass viol (which is the leading member of the family) is quite polyphonic. Often all six strings are played in a sort of arpeggio, and two strings are usually sounding at the same time. The whole bowing technique is completely different, the viol bow is held underhand (see the picture of me in a previous post), so up- and downstrokes are the opposite. Also, the hairs are held by the middle finger, which plays an active part in tightening and slacking the hairs. Much of the expression is done this way. I'd say the left hand is easier on the viol, the right hand easier on the violin family.

    Flatter. Here's a picture of the bridge of my bass viol.
    [​IMG]

    The violin family used gut strings too, up until early 20th century. But yes, metal is louder. But the main difference in loudness is because of the bowing technique, there is no way to put a lot of force on the strings when using underhand bowing, only the weight of the bow itself is used as a downward force.

    Oh, they exist.
     
  3. Diamond Dave

    Diamond Dave Tele-Meister

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  4. Bendyha

    Bendyha Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Andreas Amati made a quartet of violins for the king of france in the 1570's
    A second batch was also made, somewhat later.
    The french revolution was two hundred years later. The revolting french burned and stole and smashed many violins in the royal consort. They would not have been able to find a viola da gamba except maybe in the dusty backrooms or private study's.

    A tighter radius would be easier to play, but there just isn't room usealy , so we make it flater,requiring a very carefull & soft touch to the bowing , which must remain closer to the bridge so the string is not fingered down out of the line of bowing. It is always a compromise.

    Not all basses are gambas, but the thin flat backs do respond better to the low frequencies. Strings do make a difference, but the whole dispersion of pressures through string angles, the static of the arching, the proportions matching the more limited frequency range demands......and, and, and.. being different instruments, the violin not so much evolving from the gambas, as being another species, the whole functioning is other.

    The Gamba remained popular in northern europe for much longer than in the south, with many of the finest being made in northern germany , flanders and england long after the italians and french had shifted over to the more uncouth and loud violin family.
    The composer Montiverdi with those modern operas of his in Mantua where the reason for the shift taking place in the next door town of Cremona, where the first violins started to be made.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2016
  5. Devanatha

    Devanatha TDPRI Member

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    Well, of course. What I meant is that the French revolution marked the absolute end of the gamba æra. The instruments of the violin family were used side by side with the viols for centuries in composed music. The last great viol composer and virtuoso was Karl Friedrich Abel (1723–87). But the viols were the family associated with aristocracy. The latest addition to the family, the pardessus, was actually invented so aristocratic women could play violin music without having to touch a violin.

    This is true. Also, the frets give the sound more treble. So the viols are bass-and-treble instruments, while the violin family has a penetrating midrange.
     
  6. KevinB

    KevinB Doctor of Teleocity

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    The arpeggione was invented by Johann Georg Stauffer in Vienna, with whom Christian Frederick Martin allegedly apprenticed.

    And of course, Chris Martin (C.F. Martin IV) is still making some rather nice stringed instruments in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. ;)
     
  7. micpoc

    micpoc Friend of Leo's

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    Very please - and kind of surprised - to see this topic. I have not yet noticed anyone mentioning Tous les Matins du Monde ("All The Mornings Of The World"), a 1991 French film that fictionalizes the lives of composers Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and his pupil Marin Marais, both noted composers of music for the viol da gamba. Here is an except…

     
  8. Mike SS

    Mike SS Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    What an interesting thread! Thanks for the topic, and the amazing music!
     
  9. Devanatha

    Devanatha TDPRI Member

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    Great film! Except the guy playing Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe's attempt at mimicking viol playing. Ouch. Both Depardieus are doing a decent job, though.

    This is incredibly fantastic viol playing, a showcase of how virtuoso the gamba became towards the late 18th century:



    As a violist and Telecaster player I am really surprised and thrilled to find this thread. I thought I was the only one.
     
  10. Bendyha

    Bendyha Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Abel spent almost thirty years in london before dying there. His death maybe marked the end of a musical era, certainly the end to his composing for the gamba. The minor detail that the french revoluted during this turbulent era it is true... but.....Oh the times they are a changing.....the time had come for the violin. It was invented in the mid 16C.

    1712 – Thomas Newcomen patents the atmospheric steam engine

    1733 – John Kay invents the flying shuttle

    1745 – E.G. von Kleist invents the leyden jar, the first electrical capacitor

    1752 – Benjamin Franklin invents the lightening rod

    1764 – James Hargreaves invents the spinning jenny

    1768 – Richard Arkwright patents the spinning frame

    1769 – James Watt invents an improved steam engine

    1774 – Georges Louis Lesage patents the electric telegraph

    1775 – Jacques Perrier invents a steamship

    1776 – David Bushnell invents a submarine

    1779 – Samuel Crompton invents the spinning mule

    1780 – Gervinus invents the circular saw

    1783 – Benjamin Hanks patents the self-winding clock; Englishmen, Henry Cort invents the steel roller for steel production

    1784 – Andrew Meikle invents the threshing machine

    1785 – Edmund Cartwright invents the power loom

    1786 – John Fitch invents a steamboat

    1790 – The United States issued its first patent to William Pollard of Philadelphia for a machine that roves and spins cotton

    1791 – John Barber invents the gas turbine; Early bicycles invented in Scotland

    1794 – Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin; Welshmen, Philip Vaughan invents ball bearings

    1797 – Wittemore patents a carding machine; A British inventor, Henry Maudslay invents the first metal or precision lathe

    1799 – Alessandro Volta invents the battery; Louis Robert invents the Fourdrinier Machine for sheet paper making

    1800 – Frenchmen, J.M. Jacquard invents the Jacquard Loom; Count Alessandro Volta invents the battery

    1804 – Richard Trevithick, an English mining engineer, developed the first steam-powered locomotive

    1809 – Humphry Davy invents the first electric light – the first arc lamp

    1814 – George Stephenson designs the first steam locomotive; Joseph Nicéphore Niépce was the first person to take a photograph
     
  11. KevinB

    KevinB Doctor of Teleocity

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    I am thrilled too...to learn about these instruments. Thanks to Blazer for starting the thread.

    I played violin and viola (both poorly!) as a teenager and have always had an interest in stringed musical instruments, no matter how unusual.
     
  12. 61fury

    61fury Friend of Leo's

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    Great Schubert piece. Really great thread.
     
  13. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

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    RE: post # 14, I believe it's some sort of Stroh violin/viol or other some such Stroh variant:

     
  14. urizen

    urizen Tele-Afflicted

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    The Stroh violin was an attempt to use a horn to amplify the sound of the violin for the sake of recording it better in the early days of phonography.
     
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