The ‘rabel’ is a stringed instrument similar to the violin, with a
variable number of strings, between 1 and 5. The sound is obtained by rubbing
the strings with a bow while the instrument rests on the shoulder-chest, on the
side, on the thigh of one leg or between the two legs. It can be played
standing or sitting.
It was introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by the Arabs, extending and
reaching its peak of popularity during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,
used by both troubadours and minstrels.
In its artisan construction, a piece of hollowed wood is used in
customized ways to take different forms. There is no unique pattern. Usually it
is made with more than one piece.
The main material used to make it is wood. Depending on the area, other
materials are used for the covers, such as skins, tin or the wood itself. For
the strings of the ‘rabel’, some animal guts can be used although today there
are metallic strings that provide better sound and easier tuning. For the bow,
a rod is traditionally sought, which can be bent, and for the ropes, horse hair
is used. Currently, the mane can be replaced by very fine nylon that, once
curled, makes very good rubbing.