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viola da gamba $6,500

Bass Viola da Gamba

Built for Dennis Báthory-Kitsz by Fred Carlson, Plainfield, Vermont, 1982


front of viola da gamba $6,500

This bass viola da gamba was created by Fred Carlson at Dennis Báthory-Kitsz's request to build an instrument that adhered to traditional fingering, sound, and feel, but with a fanciful design from Fred's own imagination.

One of the country's most imaginative instrument designers and builders, Fred set to work. He followed the curve of the original wood to create the scroll, made heart (or spade-) shaped tuning pegs, a whale's tail for the fingerboard, a five-petal rose, a bridge of hearts, and delicate finned f-holes. The instrument itself is symmetrical but flowing, with several complementary species of wood, and using all natural materials, including the glues and varnishes.

Dennis forsook playing the gamba in the late 1980s. This instrument was restored and adjusted by Peter Tourin in 1997.

General Views

gamba travel case closed gamba in its travel case The gamba travel case fits in the back seat of most vehicles, except very small compacts. The case is rugged for gigging, but not for shipping.
Front and back view of the gamba, showing the elegant curves, wood textures, and fine natural finish. The edge has a fine, unraised veneer. front view of gamba back view of gamba

Closer Views

gamba bridge and tailpiece gamba in its travel case Gamba bridge and tailpiece are both fanciful but musical designs. The back of the neck is narrow, and a vertical stripe of dark wood follows downward.
Side view of the gamba shows dramatic curves making up the bouts. The finish work again attends to the nature of the wood, while projecting a silky sound. side view of gamba 1 side view of gamba 2

The Scroll

gamba scroll 1 gamba scroll 2 The scroll raw state determined its shape. Fred saw a person hiding in the grain and curvature of the original stock, and decided to bring him out.
Aside from the scroll, the heart-shaped pegs and gently curved housing for the pegs give the visual aspect of the gamba a unique life. gamba scroll 3 gamba scroll 4

The Neck

gamba nut gamba tuning peg box The six strings pull evenly but not too shallowly across the nut for flexible pitch; note the tied-on frets. The heart-shaped pegs are local cherry.
A full view of the neck at the far right, and a look at the back of the neck where the scroll begins. Again, the original shape of the wood was followed as the traditional back opens upward. gamba scroll back gamba neck

The Back and Peg

gamba tailpiece and peg gamba closeup of back Like the nylon frets, the tailpiece ties to the peg with modern materials. The closeup shows the grain of the wood, and the dark decorative stripe that runs down the whale's back.

The Bridge, Rose, Tailpiece, and F-Hole

gamba bridge 1 gamba bridge 2
The maple bridge of hearts is standard in all but its appearance.
gamba fingerboard fishtail gamba fingerboard fishtail and rose
The fishtail end of the fingerboard does not interfere with traditional playing, and almost conceals the 5-petaled rose.
gamba fingerboard fishtail gamba f-hole
Strings tie to the fin-like tailpiece, and pass by the similarly fin-shaped f-hole. The entire instrument has the sense of moving water and sound.

The Back of the Neck and Lower Body

gamba back of neck 1 gamba back of neck 2
The upper body and back of the neck are elegant without losing strength at the crucial joints.
gamba back of neck 3 gamba bottom near the peg
Third view of the neck. Also, the curved lower bout as it turns toward the pin and tailpiece.

The Beauty of the Rose

gamba back of neck 3 This gamba by Fred Carlson is immensely beautiful, with traditional sweet sound from standard gamba playing technique. You may contact me at Contact Form, or at 176 Coxbrook, Northfield, Vermont 05663 USA.