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This is a reboot of a previous thread I started in the Scroll. (link: http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/334412-early-violaviol-da-gamba-purchased/)

 

I purchased this instrument recently, and I'm interested in restoring it, as it seems a worthy instrument. It has seen moderate to heavy intervention in the past, so previous owners of the instrument have felt the same.

 

Linked below are photographs I've taken. If anyone wants to see something in specific, I'll do what I can! Here's a link to my complete Photobucket album, with 24 pictures. http://s1348.photobucket.com/user/andrewmcinnes/library/Viol%20da%20Gamba

 

Dimensions are as follows:

Body is 520mm or 20 1/2" 

Overall is 850 mm or 33 1/2"

Rib height is 55mm or 2 1/4" 

 

 

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Edited by Andrew McInnes
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It looks like it needs more work than I originally thought. I'll stick with it being a very large viola, has all the features of a violin family instrument. Nothing to do with violas da gamba. I'll also sick with North East American 19th century, by one of the church bass guys. Everything looks like this including some of the "Brescian" features. Perhaps it was strung lower than a normal viola and used for a "bass" so that a fiddle player could play it?

 

Of course I could be wrong, you might want to send pics to Fred Oster in Philly, he's seen a lot of these type of instruments.

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Moving information here from the previous thread.

 

 

you made it! and  welcome to MN. I saw this instrument right before leaving on my trip .Anderew you might get more views starting this topic in the pegbox, many of use don't spend much time in the auction scroll .  without pic's I'd Like to give something of a description and a few points I thought of interest , 

 1 no purfling , not even inked 

2 the neck is set with intrigel through block, the ribs inlet into sides of the block , as well the ribs appear to be set into the back as well , there are reminants of the trench clearly showing on the back. 

 3 the scroll seems to have a very Brescian look about it , with a very open throat area and little to no chamfer.

4 there are connecting "rods" from the tips of the ff wings to the arch, they appear original , one seems to be a repaired replacement . 

5 there are no linnings , never were , the replacement lower bout measured in at 2.37 mm

6 the varnish has some chipped areas on the back reveling a clean ground , 

7 top seems like it might be slab cut , but there is a lot of grim obscuring details . 

8 feels old , not master made , but made with some background in luthier work.

NMM has one that is very similar in the rawlins gallery called  a violin cello picalo.

 

This has all the features of a violin family instrument, and nothing that suggests to me that it has anything to do with the viol family. But you never know what the maker may have intended when you see a viola this big. 

 

It looks to me to be an American instrument from New England, New York, or Philly area. From one of the guys that made "church basses".   

 
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It looks like it needs more work than I originally thought. I'll stick with it being a very large viola, has all the features of a violin family instrument. Nothing to do with violas da gamba. I'll also sick with North East American 19th century, by one of the church bass guys. Everything looks like this including some of the "Brescian" features. Perhaps it was strung lower than a normal viola and used for a "bass" so that a fiddle player could play it?

 

Of course I could be wrong, you might want to send pics to Fred Oster in Philly, he's seen a lot of these type of instruments.

 

I appreciate your comments. I'm also looking at this possibly being a tenor viola, as it has the proportions thereof. I'll send Mr Oster an email query!

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I'm also looking at this possibly being a tenor viola, as it has the proportions

 

It is absolutely a gigantic tenor viola of some kind.  20 1/2"!  Holy moly! (Mine is 17.75") If you restore it, maybe string it EADG, octave below the violin.  If you are used to buying standard-length strings, know that it's not very hard to talk to a string maker and get them to make you the perfect strings for your instrument.

 

deans is right that it doesn't look gambaish at all, however, it might be more easily played da gamba than da braccio, if ya know what I mean.

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It is absolutely a gigantic tenor viola of some kind.  20 1/2"!  Holy moly! (Mine is 17.75") If you restore it, maybe string it EADG, octave below the violin.  If you are used to buying standard-length strings, know that it's not very hard to talk to a string maker and get them to make you the perfect strings for your instrument.

 

deans is right that it doesn't look gambaish at all, however, it might be more easily played da gamba than da braccio, if ya know what I mean.

If you string it EADG it would be similar to Carleen Hutchins' "tenor" of her Octet Violin Family series of instruments and some old instruments which you might have. I made one and of all the instruments I've made it was by far my favorite to play. Its note spacings on the strings were wide enough that my large fingers could fall naturally in tune without narrower or wider shifting. Super Sensitive makes strings for it.

On the other hand, other than for compositions written for the Octet it is pretty much useless. Old music may have had parts for it but modern high position cello playing covers its playing range so it became obsolete.

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I would agree with deans assessment of one of the "church bass guys".  Looks like a Prescott or similar.  New Hampshire would be my guess.  Cool.

I've heard of the "church bass guys" , but don't know much about them , would you mind sharing more? like what years , prior training , ethnicity? 

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If you type in "American Bass viol" in wikipedia you will get a concise summary. I'm sure there are others on this board that know more than that and know far more than I. I used to see them from time to time when I lived in PA, some are still used as cellos, but I think most are a bit off dimensionally. They have distinctive folksy style, some can be very well made. Go to Fred Oster's web page under "historical" and you will see a half dozen or so for sale. There are many other images on the internet as well.

 

I'm curious to know exactly how they were used musically, they were to accompany singers, I wonder if anyone is out there trying to reproduce the period sound.

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It is absolutely a gigantic tenor viola of some kind.  20 1/2"!  Holy moly! (Mine is 17.75") If you restore it, maybe string it EADG, octave below the violin.  If you are used to buying standard-length strings, know that it's not very hard to talk to a string maker and get them to make you the perfect strings for your instrument.

 

deans is right that it doesn't look gambaish at all, however, it might be more easily played da gamba than da braccio, if ya know what I mean.

 

It's quite the handful. Obviously it's falling apart right now, but I've put it up on my shoulder a couple times. Thank God for my long arms, because I believe I'll be able to play it on the shoulder. If I should keep it, I'll probably set it up with standard viola tuning... and then maybe bolt from the first violins in orchestra for the viola section.

 

[insert cackle here]

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I would presume this is the sort of small church bass of which Deans et al. are thinking: http://www.trocadero.com/allinsts/items/936475/en1.html

 

A few observations in comparing this example to my own instrument, with the understanding that I am a player, not a builder, so apologies if I make a terrible blunder.

 

The arching on this bass is significantly less interesting than mine. The scroll is likewise crude and has none of the influences of the old gamba style (ie the "hook", if you will, at the neck). My instrument's F-holes are experimental and more confident than what this church bass exhibits. My instrument has a two-piece back which seems to be maple, and as I looked it over today, appears to have a two-piece top.

 

In general, from what I've seen online, church basses seem to be overall less derived from the common models of instruments. Looking at Prescott instruments, for example, he seems to be more interested in consistency than experimentation.

 

All that said, I'm here to learn. :)

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If you type in "American Bass viol" in wikipedia you will get a concise summary. I'm sure there are others on this board that know more than that and know far more than I. I used to see them from time to time when I lived in PA, some are still used as cellos, but I think most are a bit off dimensionally. They have distinctive folksy style, some can be very well made. Go to Fred Oster's web page under "historical" and you will see a half dozen or so for sale. There are many other images on the internet as well.

 

I'm curious to know exactly how they were used musically, they were to accompany singers, I wonder if anyone is out there trying to reproduce the period sound.

 

I've heard of the "church bass guys" , but don't know much about them , would you mind sharing more? like what years , prior training , ethnicity? 

 

 

I heard back from Fred Oster:

 

 

Certainly not a church bass from the body length. Perhaps a tenor (large viola). Not a gamba. Segmented soundholes imply either folk-American, or more likely, Germanic of the early "Alemannische schule".

 

 

The saga continues.

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I can see the "Alemannische" possibility but I'm still thinking its one of the early New England makers. I'm not saying it was a church bass itself, just that it was made by a maker that also made church basses.

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