Viola da gamba

Literally, a stringed instrument played on the legs, rather than the arm or shoulder. Also known as viols, these instruments were among the most popular in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods.

Viols typically have 6 strings and frets, like the modern guitar, but are bowed. Unlike the violin family, viols are played with an underhand bow grip, with fingers on the hair.

As with most instruments, there were several sizes. Today we mostly see treble, tenor, and bass. This allowed them to play music in consort, which was a favorite pastime across Europe, and especially in late 16th/early 17th century England.


The early trombone was generally known as the sackbut in English and French speaking countries. The word comes from the French words at the time meaning to push and to pull, describing the motion of the slide.

The biggest difference with the modern instrument is the size of the bell, which is much smaller and does not flare. The brass is also a bit thicker. This gives the instrument a much darker and mellower sound, which allows it to blend well with strings and voices.

Sackbuts were most popular in groups with cornetts playing the upper parts. Cornetts are wooden instrument similar to recorders, but played with buzzed lips like brass instruments.


Recorders are the most familiar of the instruments to modern audiences, having encountered them in elementary school. Deceptively simple, it takes a great deal of skill to play these instruments well, but when done so the result is lovely.

Historically, recorders also came in families and in many different keys and sizes. We typically use soprano, alto, tenor, and bass recorders playing in consort.