Of all types of instruments, Grocheo says the string instruments predominate, and of all the string instruments, he says the vielle is the most prevalent. The French term vielle is the most common today for this important bowed-string instrument. The Germans called it a fiedel, the English, a “fiddle,” the Spanish a vihuela, and the Italians a viola.
Vielle. Worldes Blis: English songs of the middle ages. Ensemble Sequentia. Margriet Tindemans, vielle. EMI Deutsche Harmonia Mundi CDC 7 49192 2 (1988). Track 8 Improvisation on an English melody.
Basically, the vielle appears in pictures to have been about the size of a modern viola, with a slightly rounded rectangular body and four or five strings. From its appearance around the l0th century until about l400, it was probably constructed so that the lower strings could function as drones.
Other vielle shapes included ovoid and even one with scalloped sides that has been dubbed “holly leaf.” Mostly, vielles are shown being played at the shoulder, although a few are held between the legs like the later viol family.