What IS this instrument?

November 1, 2019, 6:41 PM · The link is to a public picture on FB for a local chamber orchestra. What IS the instrument she is playing? It looks like a Da Gamba small enough to hold like a violin (I don't think they come THAT small), and it appears to have far more pegs than than the 6 or 7 strings I can count.

Very curious to know what this is, and if anyone here has played a similar instrument.


Replies (14)

November 1, 2019, 7:13 PM · viola d'amore
November 1, 2019, 7:14 PM · The first thing I would do with that monstrosity is put gear pegs in it.
November 1, 2019, 7:16 PM · Yes, probably a viola d'amore. Read this violinist.com article: https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/201510/17082/
The viola d'amore is also held between shoulder and chin like a violin.
Edited: November 1, 2019, 9:09 PM · Thank you, it looks huge! I will check out the article link for more information.

edited - 14 strings, half of which are actually playing strings! I knew there were 14 pegs, I'm just pondering how difficult THAT fingerboard must be to learn, even if not all of the strings are meant for direct playing. Hopefully this instrument will be included when I attend one of their performances in January.

November 1, 2019, 9:58 PM · I think there are other YouTube videos where you can see it being played. It's rare but not exceedingly rare.
November 1, 2019, 10:05 PM · you don't need geared pegs for gut strings, they wouldn't work
Edited: November 2, 2019, 7:27 AM · Interesting, Lyndon. Why wouldn't they work? I got the idea originally from a picture on the Perfection Pegs website of a viola d'amore with gear pegs fitted.
Edited: November 2, 2019, 8:14 AM · I agree and disagree with you, Lyndon. You don't need gear pegs, but they do work.
I have been trying out a couple of viola d'amores recently. One was a "real" flat backed viola d'amore with 7 playing strings and 7 resonance strings - both sets tuned A D A D F# A D. It takes a while adjusting to having different intervals between strings. Especially the F# string is mind boggling.
That instrument did not have gear pegs and the resonance strings (steel) were difficult to tune.
The other instrument was a normal viola body fitted with a new neck by a local luthier and having 5 playing strings and 5 resonance strings. These were both tuned C G D A E and therefore much easier to adjust to.
That instrument had gear pegs for all strings and they worked just fine - also for the gut playing strings. Being geared I off course had to turn them more than you would a friction peg, but it worked OK for me. And for the resonance strings it was a huge advantage having gear pegs.
The real d'amore was harder to play but also more fun and it was better sounding than the rebuilt viola. The latter I think would have benefited from having the resonance strings tuned different from the playing strings - as is common on the hardanger fiddle. And it was probably better suited for folk music than for baroque.
November 2, 2019, 4:28 PM · The F# string is often tune to F natural, which complicates fingerings no end!
In fact the four highest strings were often treated as violin strings in coloratura.. e.g. in Ariosti's 6 Lessons.
November 2, 2019, 6:59 PM · I thought the resonance strings are supposed to be gut, may not be a historical set up you're talking about, and why not use geared pegs on gut, because you'll be turning forever to make a very small difference in pitch.
Edited: November 2, 2019, 7:36 PM · I agree with Lyndon. The process of replacing gut strings on seven geared pegs could make you go quietly, or perhaps audibly, mad.
November 2, 2019, 9:14 PM · I do agree that changing strings is unpleasant with gear pegs. However Wittner provides a crank that makes it faster. Guitar players have been dealing with this forever, and that's how they solve it too.
Edited: November 3, 2019, 11:35 AM · The sympathetic strings are usually steel (or brass?), and a PITA to tune with pegs!

And I learned some interesting French swearwords while my luthier tried to pass curly, used wire strings down inside the hollow neck..

November 3, 2019, 2:30 PM · All d'amores I have seen have steel strings for the sympathetics. And the lowest 2 or 3 of them copper wound (depending of wether it is a six or seven string instrument). That may not be the way it was originally, but it seems to be the way it is now. Have a look at pictures on the web - I have yet to find one that has gut sympathetics.
Regarding the gear pegs - they are not needed for the gut playing strings, but really useful for the sympathetic steel strings. I can accept that the luthier decided to use them for all strings to keep the pegs matching. For daily tuning it is not a problem so I could accept the extra job for changing strings.

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