QUOTE(sarah123 @ Oct 27 2007, 12:04 AM)
What is a viol?
A viol is a stringed instrument that was popular in various forms during the renaissance and the baroque periods. They were often played in groups or consorts and many families would have chests in their houses with compartments that would house several viols of different sizes. A chest of viols was considered an essential for the more well off households. They would be played as after dinner entertainment. The advantage of having a set made by the same maker was that they would sound well together, rather like recorders from the same maker do today. They had frets made of gut (not fixed as the frets of the guitar) and these could be moved a little making it possible to tune them to match the key of the piece being played. They were held on the lap or between the knees and an end spike was not used, even for the larges sizes. They have flat backs like most modern double basses rather than rounded ones like the violin and this helps to give them their distinctive, nasal sound. The double bass of today is actually a large viol rather than a big violin.
When the orchestra grew and developed the viol began to fall out of use, and was kept more as a domestic instrument, living happily alongside the violin until it eventually died out. There is a huge revival in viol playing today along with many other early instruments and the demand is there from musicians who want to make music in an authentic manner. Do try to listen to some viol consort playing if you can. The sound is pure and haunting.