This diminutive instrument was likely the first native Western European fiddle. The unfinished bowl, with a tailpiece hole but no indication of a mounted soundboard or even sockets for tuning keys, was found in the 10th century layer at Hedeby, a viking industrial settlement in northern Germany. The remains pose more questions than they answer, but applying some reverse engineering from the 12th century Guduk from Novgorod, and an understanding of the type of music played during this period, I have decided on a 3 string drone fiddle configuration that will cover the range of other instruments of the time and be consistent with manufacturing processes for strings and woodwork. Played much like a Jouhikko, this instrument has a sound bigger than it's size. .
The soprano rebec was the
highest pitched, eventually fitting a standard tuning
equivalent to d, a, e or the top three strings on a
violin. The next, and possibly most common size,
was the alto, tuned a fifth below at g, d, a. This
little fiddle was most often the solo instrument.
two lower range instruments in the family were the
tenor and the bass rebecs. The tenor was tuned
c, g, d like the bottom three strings of a modern
viola. The bass was tuned a fifth lower, to f,
c, g, which has no corresponding modern viol
tuning. This family did not have the range of
the modern viol family, instead having a family range
only a fifth larger than a modern five string
viola. It was, however, the most popular family
of bowed strings for centuries, the soprano / alto
combination 4 string rebec evolving into the
concertmaster's Kit, or Pochette..