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Six string 'cello??

Posted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:49 pm
by de Coverley
I recently danced to a band with what looked like a six string 'cello.

What is it properly called, can anyone describe it's period, evolution, tuning etc. Viol? da Gamba?

The band also had fiddle and lute, and what looked like a fiddle played like a 'cello! Their music was Playford era.

Re: Six string 'cello??

Posted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:10 pm
by mem001
Sounds like a bass viol, also called viola da gamba. It has 6, sometimes 7 strings and frets, It's tuned a little like a guitar, in 4ths with a 3rd between the middle 2 strings. A six string bass viol has the tuning D2 G2 C3 E3 A3 D4.

The viol family seems to have developed out of the early guitar, hence the similar tuning and was common in the Reniassance through to 17th Century. In the Elizabethan era viols of differing sizes played in consorts, similar to recorder consorts. The family consists of Pardessus (very small), Treble (2 octaves higher than the bass) Alto, Tenor, Bass, Great Bass or violone. This last instrument eventually became the Double Bass of the modern orchestra.

If you'd like to know more and weed out any errors in my late night typing, go to

Re: Six string 'cello??

Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:23 pm
by de Coverley
Thank you. Yes exactly like a bass viol.

Re: Six string 'cello??

Posted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:40 pm
by Jack Campin
The Playfords were operating for three generations - the viol was declining when they started and extinct by the time they stopped. More appropriate than the accordion (as one local bozo uses for it) but not really ideal.

The "violin played like a cello" might have been a pardessus de viole, which was common in France during the Playfords' time but I think not much in Britain. Interesting things.