About the Viol

The viol (or viola da gamba – ‘leg’ viol) originates in the 15th century and is not an ancestor of the violin family, a common misconception. The instrument is held between the legs, not unlike a modern violoncello, the instrument was also played with an underhanded bow-hold. The viol was used in consort music (ensemble music), but also as a rich solo literature tradition.

In chamber music, some of the traditional instrument sizes include:

Pardessus (high treble), Treble, Alto, Tenor, Bass & Violone


p style=”text-align: center;”>While the treble, tenor and bass viols were most often used in consort music,
the violone would evolve into what is used in modern orchestras as the double bass (also referred to as a string bass and contrabass). Unlike the violin family, which is tuned in 5ths and has four strings, the viol family is typically tuned in 4ths with a central 3rd and typically has six strings.


p style=”text-align: center;”>Treble Viol – d”-a’-e’-c’-g-d Tenor Viol – g’-d’-a-f-c-G Bass Viol – d’-a-e-c-G-D-(A’)
G-Violone g-d-a-F-C-G’ D-Violone d-A_E_C_G_D’

For more information on the viola da gamba, visit http://www.vdgsa.org/.