Phantasm – Viol Consort

Phantasm – Viol Consort

It’s a different family of instruments because it’s got a flat back instead of a curved one, and it’s got six strings rather than four. And here we have some tied old strings that are frets like a guitar, but not inlaid – they’re movable. We always hold these instruments at whatever size, the viol it’s called, between our legs and use underhanded bowing. It is very similar to other bows from the 17th century in that it’s a lot heavier at one end and then tapers off to the other end you might see a similar bow being played by a baroque violin for example. But what we do is to hold it underhand as Laurence mentioned, which means you’ve got a very close contact with the sound production. You’re actually touching the hair, which means you can feel the contact with the string much more closely and we bow back to front as well. One of the other oddities of the viol family is that the strong stroke is in this direction rather than in that direction so everything is a little bit reversed. It takes a little while to get used to that when you come from violin family instruments but it does give you a wonderful kind of contact with the string. It’s actually an older family traced back to Spain, the medieval period, and back to Arab instruments and the like. They were really in competition with the violin family Instruments. These were the aristocrats and the violins were the plebs.

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