1. First Post

Hello, and thanks for tuning in. My name is Rob MacKillop, and I am based in Edinburgh. I’ve created this blog (of not so vile words) in order to help promote the viola da gamba, the artists involved, recordings, books, videos, etc, and also my own studies. There will be blog posts and also “fixed” pages. Comments/enquiries welcome. If you are a viol player or viol-related organisation, do let me know if you would like to be mentioned on the site. 

It’s not my intention to talk much about myself, but as this is the first post, I thought I might give a little background as to how I arrived here.

I started playing lute after leaving the Royal Scottish Academy of Music as a classical guitar player some thirty years ago. I immediately launched myself into the world of Early Music playing archlute with the Scottish Early Music Consort on a tour of the UK playing Monteverdi songs and excerpts from his operas. I was new to the world of figured-bass realisation, to lute playing, temperaments, etc, and even ensemble playing – classical guitar players in those days rarely played much ensemble music. In short, I was thrown in the deep end, but it was a great education.

Over time I recorded some solo CDs, and became associated with the Scottish lute repertoire. In 2011, I recorded a duo album with the gamba player, Jonathan Dunford, called Love Is The Cause (ALPHA 530), with Jonathan playing the lyra way, and myself on baroque guitar. Someone put a few of the more guitar-featured tracks into a video:


This was the first time I had worked closely with a single viol player, and it reminded me very much of the film, Tous le matins du monde, which focussed on the contrasting worlds of two viol players in 17th-century France. Our recording is devoted to 17th-century Scottish music, and indeed there is much French influence in the Scottish lute genre.

So, I hatched a plan to one day get a viol to explore these deeply-moving resonances myself. Unfortunately life got in the way, and almost ten years have passed since making that recording. But I now have a beautiful 7-string bass viol by Anthony Edge, who lives on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

I debated and agonised with myself over whether to buy a 6- or 7-string viol, and came to the firm conclusion that I wanted six strings. I was intending to explore the numerous tunings of the lyra-viol repertoire, and through much YouTube stravaiging (a Scot’s word for searching) I discovered the late baroque/early classical works of Carl Freidrich Abel. So, a 6-string it was! Anthony Edge was selling three six-stringers, so I paid him a visit…and came away with a 7-string!

It’s a beautiful instrument, in a restrained way – little ornamentation save for a lion’s head. I’m trying to resist calling  it Leo! Maybe Aslan…hmmm…too religious. Maybe just “the viol”. Suggestions welcome!

So, I now have a viol, and will attempt to fashion myself into a viol player (violist?). Being an experienced musician, I will relate here my reviews of the various educational materials that come my way, perhaps even pluck up (bow up?) courage to share some of my playing.

I will be using the 7-string for everything, I’m afraid, from Renaissance consort music to the easier pieces by Abel – at least that is my intention – and I recognise this won’t please most viol enthusiasts, but I am a beginner, so who knows what lies ahead. As for the lyra tunings, they might not lie so well on a 7-string, but standard tuning is one of the variants, so I will at least be able to explore those pieces.

But before all that…I have to learn how to use the bow, and I’ll deal with that in another post.

Thanks for reading this far. Drop by another time to see how much the site has grown.

Rob MacKillop
6th June, 2019

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