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The rebec (sometimes rebeck, and originally various other spellings) is a bowed string musical instrument. In its most common form, it has narrowboat shaped body, three strings and is played on the arm or under the chin, like a violin.



The rebec dates back to the Middle Ages and was particularly popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. The instrument is European and derived from the Arabic bowed instrument rebab [1] and the Byzantine lyra[2]. The rebec was first referred to by that name around the beginning of the 14th century, though a similar instrument, usually called a lyra, had been played since around the 9th century.[3].

A singular distinguishing feature of the rebec is that the bowl (or body) of the instrument is carved from a solid piece of wood. This distinguishes it from the later period veilles and gambas known in the renaissance.


The number of strings on the rebec varies from one to five, although three is the most common number. The strings are often tuned in fifths, although this tuning is by no means universal. The instrument was originally in the treble range, like the violin, but later larger versions were developed, such that by the 16th century composers were able to write pieces for consorts of rebecs, just as they did for consorts of viols.

In use

In time, the viol came to replace the rebec, and the instrument was little used beyond the renaissance period. The instrument did remain in use by dance masters until the 18th century, however, often being used for the same purpose as the kit, a small pocket-sized violin. The rebec also continued to be used in folk music, especially in eastern Europe and Spain. Andalusi nubah, a genre of music from North Africa, often includes the rebec.


  • The original Michael Nyman Band included a rebec before the band switched to a fully amplified lineup.
  • Les Cousins Branchaud, a folk music group from Quebec, Canada, includes a rebec player.
  • Ensemble Micrologus, an Italian medieval music group, has a member who performs on rebec.
  • Tina Chancey is a multi-instrumentalist specializing in early bowed strings like the rebec. She also plays in Hesperus, an early music and folk music group.
  • Dominique Regef is a French musician, composer and improvisor who performs on, among other instruments, the rebec.
  • Giles Lewin, while being more famous for his work on violin and bagpipes, also plays the rebec in the Dufay Collective.
  • Rossen Genkov is a rebec virtuoso. He appeared onstage with the Bulgarian band Epizod.
  • Sisters Shirley and Dolly Collins have released a number of albums that include the rebec.
  • Oni Wytars, a European music group, often includes the rebec in their performances.
  • Helen Johnson plays the rebec, and its close relative the violetta, in the British early music group Cancionero.
  • Siba de Oliveira Veloso, from Mestre Ambrósio and Siba e a Fuloresta, and Antônio Nóbrega plays the rabec in a very Brazilian folcloric way, which has a large number of players in its north-east part.
  • Swedish progressive rock band Älgarnas Trädgård list rebec as an instrument used on their 1972 album 'FRAMTIDEN ÄR ETT SVÄVANDE SKEPP, FÖRANKRAT I FORNTIDEN'

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