On musical instruments the soundboard is of vital importance at the time of creating the sound generated by the string.
According to the building method used, we will create an instrument with a distinct sound.
On viols the soundboard can be made using different methods.
This building technique works well for solo playing instruments, to play thorough bass or to play along with other kind of instruments.
It usually gives quite a "character" to the instrument and this kind of instrument is not advised for playing in a viol consort.
Two adjacent pieces of spruce are glued together.
Then the outline of the instrument is drawn up and the shape of the soundboard cut.
afterwards in the inside, as we can see on this image.
Already in the Ordinances for the craft of violeros of of Lisbon of 1572,
mention is made to this way of making the soundboards:
This type of instrument is recommended for those who want to play in the most varied ways. They work well for solo playing,
to play thorough bass or in a viol consort.
The soundboard can be made of five or seven pieces like English (Jaye, Rose, Meares...) and French instruments (Collichon).
Soundboard is built bending and glueing wood strips, the same way a lute back is built.
First the central strip is bent and then the rest are bent following the arching and joined at the sides .
The strips are cut so that they follow as closelly as possible the fiber of the wood.
Having the fibers of the wood all along the strip gives strength to it so the soundboard can be made fairly thin, therefore light, without loosing the strength .
It also can be built in three pieces, like in the English, French and German instruments. In the same way as above, first the central piece is
bent and afterwards the two lateral pieces, previously bent, are glued.
It is well known how in the examinations to become master instrument maker in Spain one was requested to make an instrument using only
a paper template, designed "in situ",in the home of the examiner, using for that, compass, ruler, square and a knife.
Yten que a de açer un biolin tiple de los que se usan y a de dar traçados los demas que faltan para el juego entero que son tiple tenor conttraalto y conttravaxo.
Yten que para azer los tres
le a de dar de termino seis meses y los a de açer en casa del exsaminador y
de otra manera. (2)
The first [of the] three instruments is a plain,
six-course vihuela with its [due] proportions, rules and [due musical]
range and it is understood
that first of all [he]
must make a paper témplate, which must be done in the presence of the overseers and examiners so that [they] can see it being made and it must be done only
using a knife, *in front of him* a pair of compasses, a ruler and a set-square without recourse to any other pattern, but only drawing on his experience and understanding
of the said craft [...]
The use of a mold to bend the ribs comes from the lute making tradition. We can found them in the "Inventory and valuation of the workshop contents of the violero Mateo de Arratia of Toledo" from 1575.
the XVII-XVIII century violin making traditions.
This method asures that all instruments made on the same mold
are identical (at least the soundbox proportions).
Anyway, there is no evidence that this way of building was used
for viols nor have survived any mold.
Even in the Encyclopédie, they show molds for cello
but for viols there are just "false soundboards" (?) (perhaps used as "soleras" ?).
The sides or ribs of the instrument can be built without a mold, as it was probably done by the instrument makers when making viols. This building method avoids creating tensions when glueing the ribs.
it is very difficult to get it totally
symmetrical (as it can be done using a mold) but
gives much more freedom at the time of innovating or making
variations in the design (so much as to improve the
sound or to answer to the needs of the player). This
lack of symmetry and the variations in the models of a same maker has
been studied by Dr. Michael Fleming in his doctoral
In this case the corners are not joined on a block but mitred and reinforced on the inside with cloth strips
This method was used on many instruments, plucked and bowed. Nowadays
we can see it on classical guitars.
On this case we do not use a mold, but neither are the ribs built "in the air".
We first make the back of the instrument and cut a groove to glue the ribs in.
These are inserted in the groove on the back and in the neck.
It has no corner blocks, and the corners are very long to have enough glueing
surface for the ribs.
Strips of linen are used as reinforcement.
The instrument before being varnished.
We can see the long corners and inlay/purfling decoration tipical of the Alemanische Schule