11th Century Rebec 

The Rebec is a descendent of the Rebab, a bowed instrument of the Middle East in the 9th century.   Artistic renderings of  the transitional instruments and the well defined Rebec begin to appear in the middle to late 11th century.

This is sort of a tangent project for me, as I was not expecting to start building instruments beyond the Hurdy-Gurdy projects that I tackled simply to build working machinery.  But thanks to Baron Master Master Pavel Fiddleovitch, the Lawrence Welk of the Steppes, the Nelson Riddle of the Grimfells, I felt some compulsion to build one of these instruments.  And after completing that one (pictures will be added later, when I get the rebec and the camera in the same place), I felt I had to do another one.  This is the result.

Several individuals more 'bow savvy' than myself have played this instrument, and it looks like I have no choice but to build at least 2 more.  Because I was not set up to photograph the construction steps of this instrument (or the First one, for that matter), I will be adding construction phase photos of the next instrument(s) as I build them.  But that will have to wait, as I am in the process of building a Citole at this time, and it will take up the better part of the next few weeks.

One of the most interesting parts of this project was building the bow.  The flat-hair-ribbon bows typical of modern instruments cause so much buzzing in the instrument that it becomes hard to play with the action set as low as it should be, and besides, they don't look right.  I looked at several period images, and the standard high-arched bow seemed to be the answer.  Because these bows had no foot, and only a rudimentary frog, there was no way to hold the hair in a flat ribbon - it simply stretched as a  round skein.  This limits contact with the instrument strings, and reduces the drag and heavy induced vibration, making the Rebec a little harder to play and intone, but a lot sweeter sounding.

This Rebec is strung with silver wound strings in the pictures, but I am re-stringing it with gut to make it even more period sounding.

Here's some pictures and some other info

Click here for a sound sample of my rebec.  This was a quick recording of an improvised piece by Pavel's instructor, Nancy.

This is the rebec and it's bow.  One of the major differences between this instrument is the substitution of a rosette instead of the smaller round soundholes or c-holes at the sides of the soundboard.  After building Pavel's instrument with c-holes, I wanted a more ornate soundhole, so opted for a rosette so the delicate cutwork would be somewhat protected under the strings.

Another view - the back of the rebec.  One of the defining rules of a rebec is that the instrument (except for the soundboard and fittings) is carved from a single piece of wood.  This instrument was carved from cherry and hollowed out to form the soundbox.  A small piece of ebony was added at the base of the instrument as a saddle, to take the pressure of the tailgut and keep it from cutting into the spruce soundboard.

Side view of the rebec and bow.  The tailpiece, bridge, and fingerboard are made of walnut.  The tailpin and tuning pegs are purpleheart.  The nut is antler.  The action on this bow is very low and very fast, but requires using a bow without a lot of contact area.

Here is a view of the soundboard, rosette, tailpiece, and bridge.  I installed precision fine-tuners on this tailpiece, as a convenience.  I have a second tailpiece without fine-tuners for times when more authenticity is needed.  The fine-tuners allow playing for a longer time without the need to constantly mess with the pegs.

The peghead and purpleheart pegs, along with the nut (and the frog of the bow).  These are temporary pegs, when I find the ebony that I intend to use for the final pegs I will replace them.  The grain in this piece of cherry is beautiful, and sets off the instument in every view.

Here I am with the instrument.  It is a lot of fun (though I am just now getting to where I can play a scale on it with any confidence - this is my first bowed instrument and I have only had it a little over a week).  It has a very strong tone, and will be louder and speak more cleanly when I get it strung with gut.  The bow was a special challenge, and while the next one will be done differently, I like the way this one plays.  It is a little tight at rest, but I don't know that that is a problem, it is just different from what some people have told me it should be like.  But it works, and that's what counts at this stage of the game.