Rebec (wood, horse hair, tin wire)

Rebec (wood, horse hair, tin wire)
Rebec from Campoo, Cantabria.Lydia Zarceño. 'Copyleft' Luis Á. Payno y Lydia Zarceño

Rebec (wood, horse hair, tin wire)

Rebecs are bowed instruments which are still in use in the Iberian Peninsula, especially in areas near the old transhumance routes: Gredos, Sierra de Francia, Sierra de la Demanda, Campoo, (between Cantabria and Palencia), North León and South Asturias. There is a wide variety of shapes, sizes and tuning.

The rebec shown was made in Reinosa (Cantabria) by Tomas Macho from wood of the ivy trunk and is magnificently carved.

Making rebecs has adapted to the surroundings and available materials. Originally, they were made from a single trunk and the soundbox and neck were carved in one piece, with the tuning keys at the end of the neck.

The soundbox was hollowed out and a tautened dry skin covering was put on it. The strings, between one and three, were made from horsehair (from the mane) or intestines. When tins appeared, this material began to be used as it is more durable. The skin was replaced by tin from old cans. When possible, a thin wooden sheet was used instead. The same happened with the strings, which were later made from metal wire, taken from bycicle brake cables.

They are played using a bow made from a thin branch with horsehair on it, the hair being impregnated in resin from the sap of certain trees. However, other materials were used like fishing line and umbrella ribs.

Nowadays, some modern rebecs are made suing luthier techniques.


Sound of rebec: click on black triangle