The sixteenth-century basse de violon: fact or fiction? Identification of the bass violin (1535-1635). Page: 57
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In 1618, Michael Praetorius brings all of the available evidence together in a convincing
way. His Tenor-Geig is tuned c-g-d'-a', the usual tuning for the alto/tenor members of the
family according to other writers. The author describes both tunings F-c-g-d' and C-G-d-a as
different pitches of the Bass-Viol de Braccio or also spelled as Bas-Geig de bracio. 153 Yet with
different labeling, Zacconi, Praetorius and Hitzler all confirm both tunings of the bass violin in
their accounts. Accordingly, the bass violin employed two basic tunings in the sixteenth century;
a higher and a lower one.
The tuning of the higher-pitched bass violin seems to have been either F-c-g-d' or G-d-a-
e'. It was designated Bassus of the Polnische Geigen by Agricola, basso da viola da brazo senza
tasti by Ganassi,154 tenore da viola da braccio by Zacconi, primo violino per il basso by Adriano
Banchieri, Bas-Geig de bracio by Praetorius, Tenor Geige by Daniel Hitzler,155 and basso di
viola or violone by Athanasius Kircher (Table 2.1).156 Martin Agricola provides the tuning F-G-
d-a for the bass violin, yet states that some players like to tune the bass a fifth under the middle
member.157 Since the lowest string of the tenor/alto is marked C, this tuning would be F-c-g-d'.
The F-tuning is restated by Zacconi in 1592,158 Praetorius in 1618159 and Hitzler in 1623.160 An
152Hans Gerle (1532), Giovanni Maria Lanfranco (1533), Jambe de Fer (1556), Ludovico Zacconi (1592),
Daniel Hitzler (1628), Marin Mersenne (1635).
153Praetorius, op. cit., 39 and plate xxi.
154Ganassi, Lettione Seconda, op. cit., Plate xxiii.
Kory, op. cit., 126.
Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia universalis (Rome, 1650 Reprint. New York: G. Olms, 1970), 487.
Agricola, op. cit., 107-8.
Gerhard Singer, op. cit., 171.
Praetorius, op. cit., 39.
Kory, op. cit., 126.
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Erodi, Gyongy Iren. The sixteenth-century basse de violon: fact or fiction? Identification of the bass violin (1535-1635)., thesis, August 2009; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc12121/m1/65/: accessed January 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .