Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Viols.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.71
Tuning: D G C E A D
Region: Western Europe.
Description: The baryton is a bowed stringed instrument in the same family as the viols. It is distinguished from the viol family such as the viola da gamba in that it has extra plucked strings. The baryton can be seen as a sort of augmented bass viol. It is similar in size to the latter instrument and likewise has six or seven strings of gut.
Origins: There are only about 50 historical baryons for which we have evidence, either in the form of documents or the instrument its self. Many of the latter have been modified from their original form. Thus, tracing the history of the baryton is a difficult task.
Concerning the origin of the baryton, Pamplin suggests that the instrument probably originated in England in the early 17th century when the characteristics of two instruments, the viola da gamba and the bandora, were combined into one hybrid instrument.
Playing Techniques: The baryton differs from the bass viol in having an additional set of wire strings. These perform two functions. They may vibrate symmetrically with the bowed strings, enriching the tone. They can also be plucked with the left thumb by the performer, creating contrasting tonal quality.
The bowed strings are placed on the right, where they can be easily fingered by the player’s left hand. The plucked strings are on the left side. they can be reached by the players thumb from the rear. While, the back of the instrument’s neck is left open.
Tuning: Typically D G c e a d’ although scordatura were used, arranged over a fretted fingerboard and played with a bow. The instrument is held vertically and is supported by the player’s legs rather than with an end-pin as in the modern cello.
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