Liutaio Mottola Stringed Instrument Design

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A Bass for Kids, Based on the Canotto
Savart Style Upright Bass

Italian luthiers Francesco Arecco and Paolo Raiteri were commissioned to build some instruments by children's orchestra conductor Carluccio Chiddemi to be used in the early instruction of young children. The maestro had some unusual but perfectly reasonable requirements for the instruments, given their purpose. He asked for cello sized basses, with frets, only two strings, and that could stand up on their own. An implied requirement was that they be relatively inexpensive and quick to build. The luthiers built small variants on the Canotto bass theme and they appear to be very well regarded.

Last updated: Saturday, November 25, 2017

Here's a picture of two of the basses. The family resemblance with the Canotto can readily be seen. The luthiers call the instrument Bassotto. The one on our left is being played by one of the bass teacher's students, while the one on the right is played by the great Italian cellist Luciano Girardengo.

Luthier Francesco Arecco plays one of the instruments pizzicato. Note that the f holes are in the shape of dachshunds. The two strings are tuned to C and F. Construction and materials are similar to those of the Canotto, but these instruments use bolt on necks and sound posts. How do you get at the screws that attach the neck? Through an access door in the bottom panel of the instrument. This panel also makes it very easy to adjust the sound post.

To me, one of the cutest features of these instruments is that the bottom panel of each one is hand painted with a picture. This one is called "The Garden Door" and the door in the picture is the access port mentioned above - it actually opens.

Inside is a little bird! The bird is removed to get at the sound post, neck bolts, and other parts of the interior.

Seeing both the Canotto and Bassotto basses here, early instrument builder Paul Butler informed us that the Bassotto was very similar to what may be the earliest graphically depicted bowed stringed instrument. Called a medieval viol or guitar fiddle among other things, this instrument is shown in the following manuscript:

Mozarabic manuscript S. Beati de liebana explanatio in apokalypsis S. Johannis. Spanish
c.920-30. Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, Hh58, fol.127r

As you can see from this reproduction there is a striking resemblance to the Bassotto.