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The violone (literally "large viol" in Italian, "-one" being the augmentative suffix) is a musical instrument of the viol family. The largest/lowest member of that family, the violone is a fretted instrument with six strings (although some versions had five, or, more rarely, four strings), generally tuned a fifth or an octave below the bass viol. Thus, the violone can properly be called a contrabass instrument, being tuned lower than the bass instrument.


[edit] Usage

The violone is most often used today as the contrabass bowed string instrument in early music groups performing Renaissance and early Baroque music. Only a few players specialize in the instrument, with most using contemporary reproductions rather than actual historical instruments.

[edit] History

After the decline of the other members of the viol family, the violone continued to have a place in orchestral music and, for example, Bach scored his cantatas for violone as the contra-bass instrument. It was eventually ousted by the modern double bass.

The term violone is sometimes used to refer to the modern double bass, which belongs almost as much to the viol family as to that of the violin, having sloped shoulders, a flat back (often) and tuning in fourths. The double bass, unlike the original violone, is an unfretted instrument.

"Violone" is also the name given to a non-imitative string-tone pipe organ stop, constructed of either metal or wood, and found in the pedal division at 16' pitch or, more rarely, 32'

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