Unprofitable Instruments

Medieval instruments
hand crafted by
Kate Buehler-McWilliams,
champion of the tromba marina.

“Your work is incredibly beautiful. You seem to have a rare gift for working with wood. I believe the bow and the rebec will be as wonderful to hold as they are to look at, something which allows for the deepest pleasure in making music with them.” Mark E., 2002
“It's gorgeous! I meant to just sit and make sure it was all working and had arrived safely, and once I'd tuned it, I ended up spending three hours tonight, just playing medieval songs on it to see how they would sound. I am going to love this instrument so much.” Ree S., 2010
“I was SO IMPRESSED with your monochord measuring session. I’ve never seen it done more clearly. Did I say that I was SO IMPRESSED!” Susan Hellauer, 2011
“What a lovely instrument! Thank you so much for everything that you did to produce it, and also for packing it so carefully for its safe transport and arrival. The vielle and bow are both here, in fine shape, and I’m very very pleased with them. It will take me some time to get used to playing this new instrument, but I like the sound very much, and it’s such a beautifully-made work of art.” Joel S, 2017
“The lyre is fantastic! I’m beyond pleased with the sound and the playability of the instrument and the tote bag. Thank you so much for everything, I look forward to playing this instrument for many many years to come.” Tristan B, 2018
“I received the vielle, it’s absolutely wonderful! The sound is great and the varnish is beautiful. Thank you so much, this vielle is amazing and I’m excited to use it in so many of my projects!” One month later, “In the meanwhile, self-isolation has been wonderful with the vielle.” Isabelle D, 2020

"I consider and deem as unprofitable instruments those such as the rebecs and the trumpet marine."

When Sebastian Virdung set about writing an instrument manual in 1511, he described the rebec and the trumpet marine as "unprofitable instruments," a disparaging remark indeed. However, his only real complaint was that he was unable to describe how to play them — the only way for a person to learn that was to practice! Having built rebecs and a trumpet marine, I found the possibility of using Virdung's appellation too good to pass up, though please note that I do not share his opinion. With a little bit of practice, these instruments are sure to please.