Instrument families, both then and now include
Some medieval and early modern string instruments were
The viola da gamba
The viola da gamba literally translates to “viol on the leg.” It is held between the legs and bowed, as a cello is, but the viola da gamba lacks an endpin to stabilize it. The tone quality is also mellower than a modern cello.
The viola da gamba increased in popularity during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and became, in some ensembles, part of the core continuo. The viola da gamba is increasing in popularity again now, especially with the rise of early music ensembles.
See this essay for more details on the viola da gamba and the viol family in general. Viols were the instruments used in the popular consort song genre in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Find a catalog of images of the rebec as well as a step-by-step description of recreating and building this rebec here.
For the hammered dulcimer, pictured above, the strings are hit with the wooden mallets shown. Other dulcimers may be plucked. The hammered dulcimer is especially common in the British Isles and Ireland.
The strings (especially in western Europe) were generally made from animal intestines. You can see the process in the video below:
For other resources on medieval and early modern western instruments, see
- Iowa State Guide to medieval and early modern musical instruments
- Building Historical Musical Instruments
- Essay on Renaissance music from Metropolitan Museum of Art (see additional linked essays on specific instruments)
- Essay on the origins of the lute from Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Lute’s Progress, blog of a lute maker
- Metropolitan Museum of Art collection of musical instruments
- This guide from Medieval Life and Times