Medieval Musical Instruments Part Eight

It’s another stringed instrument this week: the rebec. It’s the one on the left in the picture above. Ignore the chap on the right if you can. In that it was a bowed instrument that could be held under the chin or against the chest or on the leg to be played, it was similar to the vielle. The main difference between them, however, was that the back of the rebec was rounded and it was carved out of a single piece of wood. Where the vielle was oval, the rebec was more pear-shaped. It was also narrower.

Like the vielle it had a long neck and the strings were attached to tuning pegs at the end of the neck. The piece of wood containing the pegs usually bent away from the neck. The rebec also had a bridge to raise the strings from the front of the instrument.

It could have up to five strings, but three was the usual number. It was, as you’ll hear in the videos, a very quiet instrument. It originated in the Arab world and you’ll probably hear that in the tuning. It arrived in Europe via Muslim Spain and was popular for a couple of centuries. It’s popularity was already waning by the early Renaissance.

Here is a lovely troubadour song played on a rebec.

This is a slightly jollier tune played on a larger instrument.

A History of Western Music by J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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8 responses to “Medieval Musical Instruments Part Eight

  1. Wow, the rebec has a beautiful sound!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow…theres quite a lot of instruments…and with such a sophisticated sound…at least compared to how imagine medieval music… I think we have a lost a lot of this craftsmanship…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Medieval Musical Instruments Part Nine | A Writer's Perspective

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