Bowed strings

The commonest of the bowed string instruments was the vieille (also known as the fiedel (fiddle), or viuola). It resembled a modern violin, but was played either at the shoulder or held downwards on the lap. It had a flat back, unfretted fingerboard, and several strings ranging from two to five or more. The vieille was used in public entertainments and often played in groups.

The rebec was another bowed string instrument, much smaller than the vieille, with a rounded back and pear-shaped body. The rebec usually had two or three strings, one of which was sometimes a drone. It was played at both informal and formal gatherings.

Mechanically operated strings

The hurdy-gurdy was a combination of stringed instrument and keyboard. The strings were enclosed in a box, and mechanically sounded by a wheel which rubbed against them. In order to change the pitch, the length of the strings was altered by pressing the keys on the outside of the box. It was operated by one or two players, and is still in use today for traditional music.