Gaïta Medieval Instruments

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by Chris Elmes

Medieval Fiddle (Vielle)

Citole picture
The medieval fiddle (vielle or viella in Old French) was the most respected instrument of the Middle Ages and, along with the harp, the most common. It was described as being able to play all types of music from the highest art music to popluar dance music.

 This instrument is based on an early 14th century Italian fiddle, but it is also very similar to English and French instruments of the same period. It is well suited to the music of 13th and 14th centuries in accompanying song, playing solo instrumental and dance music and mixing with other instruments, particularly the most commonly depicted combinations with harp, citole, or percussion.

The 5 gut strings can be tuned GCcgc' (Jerome of Moravia's 2nd tuning), CGcgc' (a non-re-entrant version of Jerome's) or DGdgd' (well suited to dance music) and the bottom string can be off the fingerboard. Other tunings are also possible.

The fiddle has a very warm tone in the middle register and brighter in the top. It has a good dynamic range and can be played quite loudly if needed, i.e. being heard over a number of singers or for dance music. The instrument will fit in a standard violin case that has an oval-shaped insert.


length:  630mm
width:  190mm
depth body: 50mm
depth overall: 95mm
string length: 360mm

These instruments are no longer being made commercially

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Contact: Chris Elmes
(Edinburgh, Scotland)
(+44) 0131 557 2397

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Last updated 1st October 2007