Lyra viol

Lyra Viol

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Lyra viol

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The lyra viol is a small bass viol, used primarily in England in the seventeenth century.

While the instrument itself differs little physically from the standard consort viol, there is a large and important repertoire which was developed specifically for the lyra viol. Due to the number of strings and their rather flat layout, the lyra viol can approximate polyphonic textures, and because of its small size and large range, it is more suited to intricate and quick melodic lines than the larger types of bass viol.

The lyra viol has been favorably compared to both the lute and the violin, by Tobias Hume and Roger North respectively. The name lyra viol came into use because the playing style of bowed chord is similar to that of the lirone.Frank Traficante. "Lyra viol", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed May 20, 2006), (subscription access).


The structure of the lyra viol has been fluid throughout its history. In seventeenth century England sympathetic strings were added. This may have led to the development of the baryton, but it was not a lasting development for the lyra viol. The most common lyra viols had six strings, but there were also viols with four and seven strings. John Playford describes the lyra viol as the smallest of three types of bass viol: the consort bass, division viol, and lyra viol. Christopher Simpson wrote that the strings on the lyra viol were lighter and the bridge flatter than...
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