Start with a Baroque violin or a Modern one?

Edited: August 7, 2017, 3:27 AM · Dear Friends.

I am a classical guitar teacher, now 38 age.I would like to start the violin but i am mostly fond in Baroque music and sound of gut strings , plus i am always eager for baroque techniques etc.
Should i start Baroque violin for a starter or go directly to the Modern one.Do i gain anything with the Baroque approach directly? Also a silly perhaps question but do i need a baroque violin to start on or i can just start with a baroque bow.

Replies (26)

August 7, 2017, 3:29 AM · Well my opinion is that it could be hard to find a teacher for starters who teaches with baroque violins. Maybe it would be better to start with a modern one. Plus there was a reason violins evolved..
August 7, 2017, 3:54 AM · I have never heard of a beginner baroque violin teacher, or beginner baroque violin books. All the resources on baroque violin are aimed at people who are already advanced violinists. There are also no "beginner" Baroque instruments, the cheapest ones are in the $1000 mark - a big investment to make!

Edited: August 7, 2017, 4:51 AM · It can't be impossible. Before the modern bow, everyone learned on a baroque bow from the outset.

Modern violins can be strung with gut. They did that exclusively until well into the 20th century. If you want your modern violin to look more authentic you can take your sawzall and remove the last few centimeters of the fingerboard.

Just remember that the modern violin setup, modern bow, synthetic strings, chin rest, shoulder rest, suspension cases, and internally geared pegs represent technological improvements, sort of like anaesthesia, antibiotics, and dissolving sutures represent improvements in surgery. (I just said that to rile up the folks who like to do one or more things the older way, which is fine -- you do what you and your teacher find works best.)

I always chuckle when someone says $1000 is a lot to spend on a violin. Perhaps it's true, but a year of lessons will set you back a lot more. Then there are strings, music, bow rehairs, new strings, luthier adjustments to your instrument, etc. Violin is an expensive hobby.

Edited: August 7, 2017, 4:51 AM · Start with a "modern" violin and "modern" bow - both of which have been around for a long, long time. From there you can go anywhere once you are advanced enough. As to the bow, more than the violin, it was in a constant state of flux before Tourte.

Also, if you are assuming that there is"THE" Baroque approach, that is highly controversial, as witness this thread among others: William Natividad
What is your favorite period orchestra

August 7, 2017, 6:50 AM · Many people play with a modern instrument (tuned down to A-415), gut strings and a Baroque bow. Get a bow that curves out though - most cheap Chinese ones bow in as moderns do. A question - Do you use gut strings on your guitar?
August 7, 2017, 6:57 AM · If you find a teacher who plays on gut strings and baroque violin, why not? Follow your heart.
August 9, 2017, 5:19 AM · Many thanks all of you for your thoughts it really helps me to decide what is best or what is now.
I dont use gut strings on the guitar too ofter but yes the same is much better that the nylon ones we use since 1940.
Favorite period orchestra , too many outhere, there is no preferable , it depends on the piece.I respect as musicians of Baroque, Ton Koopman and Reinhard Goebel very much, but also John Holloway or some younger i hear often make the difference, so i believe we are going to see many good things in the future i think.
August 10, 2017, 5:03 PM · Hello Stavros, I am teaching myself to play violin and I play almost exclusively from baroque sheet music. The period has a huge repertoire, from easy to very hard virtuosic. Once you have learned where to find the notes on the fingerboard, baroque music is a lot of fun to explore as a beginner violinist. For beginners, I especially recommend "Baroque Violin Anthology" (Books 1 & 2), edited by Walter Reiter. That stuff is about the easiest baroque I found, and what seemed hard at first became easy after a few months, after which I started buying sheet music by single composers, such as sonatas by Corelli (relatively easy) and Handel (harder).

Regarding period-style instruments, here is the last page of an essay regarding the 2 violins that were custom made for members of the Gabrieli Consort to perform (and record) the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610. This page is especially pertinent as it describes the blur and even fiction of a single concept of a "baroque violin," because the instrument evolved a lot during the period from approximately 1600 to approximately 1760, not to mention regional differences in custom and individual differences among luthiers.

If this page is interesting, that whole website is great for learning more about the quest for authentic period instruments, using Venice 1610 as a case study.

Also here I link to an offering for a renaissance or baroque-style bow. I don't know how "authentic" it is in terms of strict imitation of design, but at least the shape is there. I am a self-taught amateur only 27 months in, with no expertise in judging bows except to say that I love MY 2 (very different) "baroque" bows, one of which is depicted below:

Finally, regarding strings, I tried my first set of gut strings several weeks ago and still try to play every day but the big fat G string sounds horrible. The set I tried was by Gamut strings, called equal tension heavy gauge. I've kept the strings on to force myself to get better bow technique, and perhaps I have learned to pay closer attention to pressure and angle of bowing, and I have improved, but often still I hate the sound that comes out of that G. I had no idea how comparably easy to play are the modern synthetic strings I'd always used, such as Dominants and Zyex! I'm getting pretty fed up with the terrible difficulty of getting any musical tone out of the fat bare gut G string, and expect I will soon switch out to at least a different G if not a whole new set of different gauge gut strings. But none of this heavy gauge gut string experiment do I regret, as the only way to learn is through experiment and experience.

August 16, 2017, 10:06 AM · Playing in the baroque style on a baroque instrument is a completely different experience. I joined a baroque ensemble in college and found it was a huge adjustment. Personally, I like a more modern setup and style (I just couldn't get use to not being allowed to vibrato, and I know, I know. You're not supposed to vibrato in baroque music). But it's really just a matter of preference and finding a teacher who is willing to teach beginning baroque. I think that will be your biggest challenge. Other than that, I agree that you should follow your heart.

Just remember that it's very different from a modern.

Edited: August 16, 2017, 11:36 AM · Re: vibrato - I guess you (and the tutor) have not read your Geminiani.
Edited: August 16, 2017, 12:04 PM · Listen to Raphael - he is RIGHT!

The most prized violins existing today were made during the "Baroque" period and are the models/designs most copied since then and even today. Modern improvements over the centuries include some modified bridge shapes, longer fingerboards and necks plus add-ons like tail[iece design improvements, chinrests - and string materials that better resist temperature and humidity fluctuations - and believe me there are going to be more anymore of those! (I played on gut and gut core strings for my first 25 years.)

The Baroque bows made and sold today are typically shorter and lighter than the modern (Torte-based) design and you can get a useable one for about $100 to add to your quiver. Some violinists I've watched in the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra just hold their modern bows a bit further from the frog to get more the balance and length of the typical Baroque bow.

I believe Ifshin Violins (El Cerrito, CA) has had its China workshop modify basic Jaay-Haide violin designs to Baroque style for some customers upon request - I bet you have to pay something in advance, sight unseen and unheard. I don't remember where I heard that - might have been at their shop.

August 17, 2017, 7:03 AM · Amen to what Raphael said. With a modern violin and bow, you can more or less approximate the Baroque approach (or what passes for it with the A-415 crowd) by using gut strings, holding the bow a bit further from the frog, sticking as much as possible to first position, using open strings, and limiting vibrato. You can also get a relatively inexpensive baroque bow instead of modifying your grip on a modern bow. You probably won't be totally authentic (whatever that means) but it will give you a good deal of the experience.
August 17, 2017, 8:04 AM · The $100 baroque bows are not authentic, they bow in rather than out, so they don't teach you anything. Buying a historical baroque transition violin is not that hard, I have sold quite a few around $1000-`1500. The two most important factors are gut strings and a proper baroque bow, the idea that you can just change the hold on your modern bow is not real science.
August 17, 2017, 10:23 AM · Nothing about HIP is real science either - mostly speculation. BTW if anyone is interested and gets the Strad, check out the Letter of the Month in the current issue.
August 17, 2017, 3:06 PM · Lyndon - I only said it approximated the baroque approach. You can certainly get a sense of what it is like to use a baroque bow by doing what I suggest, although it does not give the total experience. I agree with Raphael - with all due respect to the A-415 crowd including my late relative Wanda Landowska, there is a lot of speculation. And, I agree with Lyndon that the gut strings and baroque bow are probably the most solidly based aspects of HIP. The rest of it is subject to considerable discussion and probably regional diversity.
Edited: August 17, 2017, 3:36 PM · I said that the proper baroque bow and the gut strings are the most important, a proper baroque violin set up would be a close third, and no that is not all made up mumbo jumbo!! Baroque violins vary, but most of them have some similar characteristics, different from modern violin.
August 19, 2017, 5:42 AM · Modern start with a modern.

Read up on the baroque violin.
Flat neck. No bass bar. Different arching on top flatter. Shorter fingerboard

All the great instruments were changed to accommodate modern playing.

If u play a baroque instrument you'll play it right not with sacrilege.

Start with a modern one. To get the feel then try out the other one for baroque pieces

Edited: August 20, 2017, 2:36 AM · Modern start with a modern.

Read up on the baroque violin.
Flat neck. Thinner bass bar. Different arching on top flatter. Shorter fingerboard

All the great instruments were changed to accommodate modern playing.

If u play a baroque instrument you'll play it right not with sacrilege.

Start with a modern one. To get the feel then try out the other one for baroque pieces

August 19, 2017, 8:15 AM · Sorry but that's not right, Baroque violins often have slightly shorter necks, usually set at less of an angle to the body which requires a wedged not flat fingerboard, they do have bass bars but usually lighter in dimension than modern, and yes you are right the fingerboards tend to be shorter, as to arching, higher arching is more common on older violins not flat arching, which is a more modern thing, even though Strad introduced a flatter arching than Amati.
August 20, 2017, 2:03 AM · Surely if you prefer Baroque style then get a Baroque fiddle and teacher. If you want to play a modern instrument with a wide repertoire (including Baroque music) then get a modern fiddle and teacher. You could of course do both - although it's probably best to learn on a modern first and then take up Baroque at a later stage when you have some modern violin technique. I don't know anyone personally who has stated on Baroque without modern experience first, but I'm sure there must be someone.
August 20, 2017, 2:07 AM · Bach, for instance???
August 20, 2017, 2:37 AM · Lyndon i was reading up on tarisio that's where i got my information :P
August 20, 2017, 4:55 AM · Obviously not a very good source then!!
August 20, 2017, 10:35 AM · :P it had some images so i observed. I'll post where i saw these things later.

I only saw 1 baroque violin in my life at my luthier. Didn't play it. Didn't feel like it.

August 20, 2017, 11:34 AM · Unlike most modern luthiers, I specialize in restoring baroque and transitional violins to historical specs.
August 20, 2017, 8:55 PM · Nice :) have u ever seen someone dare put a shoulder and chin rest on them? Never seen that personally

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