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The Weekend Vote

V.com weekend vote: do you play, own or love a 'funky fiddle'?

August 2, 2008 at 12:18 AM

Rachel Barton-Pine has me thinking about "funky fiddles."

She mentioned quite a few of them in her interview with Violinist.com this week; in fact she said she aspires to own every kind of stringed instrument played with a bow and held with the arm.

I did a little research, and er, Rachel, this goal might involve a bit of travel and also some serious dinero. Check it out! I'm not even beginning to list them all, but I did compile a list of links to inform you about a few of the most "common" such instruments, just in case you see a few unfamiliar names in here:

  • ajaeng
  • arpeggione
  • banhu (China)
  • baryton
  • bazantar
  • bowed psaltery (violin zither)
  • baroque violin
  • crwth
  • dahu (China)
  • dàn gáo (Vietnam)
  • erhu (China)
  • gadulka (Bulgaria)
  • gaohu (China)
  • ghaychak (Iran)
  • gudok (Russia)
  • gusle
  • haegeum (Korea)
  • Hardanger fiddle (Norway)
  • huqin (China)
  • jingu (China)
  • kemenche (Turkey)
  • morin khuur (Mongolia)
  • nyckelharpa (Sweden)
  • psalmodikon, rebab
  • rebec
  • sarangi (Nepal, Pakistan and India)
  • sarinda (India)
  • trumpet marine
  • vielle
  • viola da gamba
  • viola d'amore
  • viola pomposa
  • violotta.

    BTW making that list of links made me completely bug-eyed, even if most of them come from wikipedia...=8-I

    What I'm asking, here is: have you ever in your life encountered any of these instruments in any way? Have you played one? Heard one? Did you pick one up in your travels and now have it in your studio or on your wall? Is one of these instruments part of your family? And if you say yes, please tell us below what this instrument sounds like, where you got it, what it means to you, what makes it interesting, etc.


    From Karen Allendoerfer
    Posted on August 2, 2008 at 11:20 AM
    I don't own one, but there is a teacher at a local music school, Powers Music School who started a program in viola da gamba for kids. It looks very cool, but my daughter said she wanted to stick with violin.
    From Anne Horvath
    Posted on August 2, 2008 at 12:28 PM
    I own an erhu. My Mom brought it back from China for me. I can't play it, but I enjoy watching the talented erhu virtuosos over on the Youtube.

    I have my hands full practicing my regular fiddle...

    From Ruth Kuefler
    Posted on August 2, 2008 at 9:22 PM
    I just own a violin and a viola, but I'd love to get my hands on an erhu some day. I love the sound it makes . . baroque violin would be fun too.
    From Pauline Lerner
    Posted on August 3, 2008 at 7:35 AM
    I used to play in a ceilidh band (Celtic music) which included a viola da gamba. How's that for unusual? I have heard a Hardanger fiddle played live and tried playing it, but I did not especially like its sound (even when played by an expert). I've tried playing a couple of bowed psalteries, but there was only one whose sound I liked. I've also heard nickelharpa and rebec played live.
    From Paul Grant
    Posted on August 3, 2008 at 7:49 AM
    Hmmm...very interesting... I wonder if there's a relationship between the arpeggione that you've mentioned and the "Arpeggione" Viola Sonata by Schubert...

    Book 4 Suzuki training is intense. We're just now learning about all the new editions and the errors in many of the older versions.

    From Kylie Svenson
    Posted on August 3, 2008 at 5:18 PM
    I've come across baryton, rebab, rebec, sarangi, sarinda, and viola da gamba in performances, and I've played an erhu (humbling experience), vielle, and baroque violin. My freshman and sophomore years of college I was in an early music ensemble which primarily performed medieval repertoire - so I got to spend quite a bit of time getting friendly with the battered school vielle. You'd think that two years with an instrument so similar to violin would get me somewhere, but it turned out I just didn't have an aptitude for the thing...I certainly came away with a profound enjoyment and appreciation for the repertoire - and a firm resolve never to be parted from my shoulder rest again!
    From Laurie Niles
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 3:08 AM
    I love the fact that people actually know and play these instruments; I have to confess that many of them were totally foreign to me! I aspire to own a Baroque bow...that's as far as I've gotten!
    From Royce Faina
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 10:15 AM
    Within this past year I looked up bowed instruments and found a list much like your list here Laurie. The only 'funky' fiddles I've been close too are the hand made fiddles made from the old wooden cigar boxes that dotted fiddler's festivals when I was a kid. Some passed down to grandkids made sometime in the 1800's. What get's me today, is how many actualy have a decent sound!
    From Hope Chow
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 1:23 PM
    Does the hurdy gurdy count? It's bowed, just with a wheel.

    Viola da gambas are cool. the closest I ever got to seeing one was a brocheure for a viola da gamba concert.

    From Kay Pech
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 2:33 PM
    how about my 5 string violin/viola? I love it
    From Frank Self
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 2:44 PM
    I can't play any of these, but I own a sarangi. It's construction is unusual in that it directs the sound forward, but not to the sides or rear. Fascinating.
    From Virginia Jones
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 3:43 PM
    I have seen a Hardanger fiddle up close while a friend was making one. It has sympathetic strings under the fingerboard that vibrate while you play it. They are usually quite decorated with inkwork under the varnish. I would like to own one.

    Ginny J.
    Bedford, IN

    From Joel Jacklich
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 3:26 PM
    For Paul: Yes, Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata was written for the arpeggione (also known as the "guitar violoncello"), a six stringed, 24-fretted bass instrument, played with a bow, and tuned E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4 like the guitar. It was also shaped like a guitar with gently rounded guitar bouts rather than the violin family's sharply pointed "C" bouts.

    I own an Oktav-Geige, the last one ever made by Johann Reiter of Mittenwald (and assembled for me in 1969 several yeras after Reiter's death by Erich Sandner, who took over Reiter's shop after his death). I have either no. 103/103 or 104/104. Whether it is 103 or 104, it is the last one ever made. The body is shaped like a cello, but it is the size of a 17" viola, and played under the chin (but without a regular chinrest, just a very narrow and thin ebony strip of a chinrest to keep you from damaging the belly of the instrument with one's beard and body oils. When struing with Oktav-Geige strings (from Otto Infeld, and tuned an octave below the violin), it sounds like a cello. Some people string them with fractional-sized cello strings and tune it like a cello, some string it with regular viola strings and play it like a viols. Because of its larger sound box, it sounds quite nice as a viola (perhaps better than a viola, again owing to the size of the resonating chamber). I keep mine tuned as an Oktav-Geige G2 D3 A3 E4. I usually play it with a cello bow, sometimes my viola bow. I love the deep cello-like resonance.

    From Laurie Niles
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 3:58 PM
    How could I forget the Hurdy Gurdy! Apologies...
    From carlos majlis
    Posted on August 4, 2008 at 10:17 PM
    I've Felix Draesecke's quintet for 2
    violins,viola,violotta and cello. As far
    as I know, it´s the only work who used
    that instrument. Lovely piece!
    From Jenny Fischer
    Posted on August 5, 2008 at 11:18 AM
    My grandparents brought me an erhu back from their trip to China. I can play really basic stuff with somewhat decent tone if I'm playing it with my DVD "teacher."

    One time, a Chinese chamber ensemble came to Austin and I figured it was the chance of a lifetime to have an expert look at my erhu so I brought it with me. After the concert they let people come up on stage and look at the instruments and ask questions and such, so I asked the erhu player to look at my erhu. She asked me how much it cost. "Twelve bucks," I said. She looked real skeptical, but she started playing it and it really sounded nice when she played it.

    Last semester at college I had the opportunity to pick up the soprano viol da gamba and I played in a quartet with two of my classmates and the guitar professor. I learned how to tie frets, too. That was fun. When one of the gut strings breaks, you save it for fret material and after you tie the knot you have to burn the ends off. Mmmm... burning sheep gut... wonderful aroma... :)

    From NeaL Brooks
    Posted on August 5, 2008 at 3:45 PM
    I got to try an erhu, once and also enjoyed a performance by a haegeum player.

    I asked what the difference was between the two instruments. They looked identical to me but have different names.

    I think one is the Chinese name and the other is the Korean name for the same thing. There also was some explanation about gut, metal, or synthetic strings being a part of the different names.

    From NeaL Brooks
    Posted on August 5, 2008 at 3:50 PM
    I guess a Hurdy Gurdy be not be considered to be a bowed instrument. It uses a rosined wheel for similar effect.

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