Printer-friendly version weekend vote: Do you have a Baroque bow?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: January 30, 2015 at 8:20 PM [UTC]

We already had a vote about whether or not your have a "broke" bow, now I'd like to ask: Do you have a Baroque bow?

Baroque bow

When I was chatting with Rachel Barton Pine about her Mozart concertos for our interview this week, we did go off on a little tangent about Baroque bows. She was talking about how she had a replica of a Classical-era bow, and that it really informed her about why Mozart's original bowings are the way they are. A Classical-era bow doesn't have quite the volume of sound as a modern bow, so for a soloist to use one, the orchestra would need to use them, too. But they are much more rare than Baroque bows; "you're not going to find a whole cache of Classical-period style bows for an orchestra to use," she pointed out.

But Baroque bows are a different story.

"The Baroque bow is more critical -- it's scandalous that we are continuing to graduate hundreds and thousands of young string players every year who have never even held a Baroque bow in their hand, and yet we are teaching them Bach," Rachel said. "I'm not saying everybody has to be a period instrument player, but you can use a Baroque bow on a modern violin, and it brings you 75 percent of the way there. It makes it easier, makes it more musical. They're not expensive, so why has it not caught on more than it has? The fact that you go to a conservatory and you don't see every kid having a Baroque bow in their case -- I thought that by now we would."

This got me thinking: where's the Baroque bow in MY case? Not there! And I play Bach all the time. I want a Baroque bow! So here is the vote: Do you have a Baroque bow? Do you wish you did? And if you are more of an expert, where are these "inexpensive" ones? If I were to get one, I'd like to get something that's a good bow, but seems like if it's a Baroque bow, it should be a little bit ornamental (no ivory of course!). I welcome your comments and ideas.

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From Laura Dalbey
Posted on January 30, 2015 at 10:02 PM
I LOVE my bow that I purchased from David Kerr shop in Portland. Very affordable and good for the price. I've gotten to use it in performance only once, but practicing on it has made a difference for my Bach :)
Posted on January 30, 2015 at 10:15 PM
I have TWO Baroque bows.....both purchased at very reasonable prices at Metzler's in Glendale. One is a violin bow and it solves SO MANY bowing problems for me (and I loan it to my students so that they can discover how much better it is). The other is a gamba bow (a little heavier) and it is perfect on my viola and my 5 string electric.
From Kevin Keating
Posted on January 30, 2015 at 10:37 PM
I have a Baroque bow that I bought on ebay (yikes!) for $30. Honestly, it's a really good bow. Since Baroque bows aren't standard in sizes I searched until I found one that was as close to my 4/4 modern bow as possible. It's about 2 inches shorter.

I love it. It's easier to control than my modern bow. Also, on hot humid days when my fiddle tone sounds a bit heavy or muddy, the Baroque bow seems to lighten the tone up just a bit because of its lighter weight. I'm not a really great seasoned player so when I play in front of an audience I like the Baroque bow because it's easier to control and get back under control if nerves get to me and make me shake. It's easier to recover if things get sloppy.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on January 30, 2015 at 11:31 PM
I clicked "yes" because the "Baroque" bow I use is a snakewood replica of a 1750 French Baroque bow, right at the end of the Baroque era and at the beginning of the Classical. It does not have the convex bend of the earlier Baroque bow, but something closer to the Tourte bend. It is 2" shorter than my modern bows, and like Baroque bows, has a pointed tip, no windings round the frog end of the stick, and no metal or plastic/ivory bits at the ends of the hair, but does have a hair tightening screw. Is this the "Classical" bow that Rachel Barton Pine was referring to, for it looks very similar to what Haydn and Mozart would have used? Is it what is also called a "Transition" bow (the transition period between Baroque and Tourte).

Mine is light, responsive and stiff (that's probably the snakewood) and is ideal not only for my chamber orchestra playing which is mostly classical and late Baroque (although I wouldn't use it for Brahms or Dvorak, for instance), but also for playing 17/18c English folk and dance music in a band.

Posted on January 31, 2015 at 1:27 AM
I have two Baroque bows - one I requested under Christmas present just over a year ago - The other I got this past june - I attended Bach Camp - part of the Boulder Bach Festival (scheduled for June) and I ordered another one then. One is in my case with regular violin with gut strings and the other is in with the violin I use more often - Neither one was expensive but I really enjoy using both of them and they react differently on the different instruments.

I am still trying to decide if I'm going to get a Baroque viola bow - although I haven't put gut strings on it as the music I've been playing recently is more suited to modern strings (not gut). However,my first viola used gut strings. I found a little glassine bag from my first (14") viola and it used gut strings - at least on two or three of them.

Barbara, Colorado

From Paul Deck
Posted on January 31, 2015 at 3:22 AM
I dont see why the orchestra has to have the same type of bow as the soloist. Just play more softly, or furlough the last couple of stands. If you had a child prodigy soloist, would all the section players go out and buy 3/4 violins too?

Or, maybe there is an opportunit here for the folks at Coda Bow.

Posted on January 31, 2015 at 4:00 AM
I actually do love using my Baroque bow (a gift) which has allowed me to experiment and enjoy using composers original and so called modern bowings with it. Mine fortunately combines a very responsive stick and while rather light weight it makes playing Bach, Haydn etc. pleasurable. Since receiving it I have tried several others all fairly similiar, some pricey some not. As with all bows it is best to try several until you find what you like. I got lucky.
yes, Kerr is a good place to seek one. Re all students should have an ideal world maybe but certainly by college/univ level would be great if the advanced student has encountered one but not necessary to own one. I speak from experience of over 42yrs performing in Oregon Symphony NEVER ONCE was a Baroque bow required equipment. Save your money for the best possible quality bow you can afford.
From David Beck
Posted on January 31, 2015 at 8:40 AM
If it ain't baroque, don't fix it.
Posted on February 1, 2015 at 3:35 AM
I'm thinking hard about buying one. How do they work with modern (non-gut) strings? I'm not wanting to change out my whole violin set-up at the moment . . .
From David Stern
Posted on February 1, 2015 at 5:08 AM
I picked up a decent quality Pernumbuco Baroque bow from Shar Music a couple of years ago, and it was a worthwhile experience playing baroque music with it. Sure, the sound volume is less than with a modern bow, and I don't use it in orchestras. But it's good for solo Bach, and it was hard to resist trying one for around $100.

From Kevin Keating
Posted on February 1, 2015 at 7:54 PM
Although I like my Baroque bow, a luthier told me that it has too much hair for violin. He says it has at least a viola's worth wad of hair and suggested taking some of it out. So when buying a Baroque bow I guess it pays to buy first hand from someone who knows them. I still like mine and use it more than my modern bow. In the future I may have the amount of hair reduced when it's time for a rehair.
From Dorian Fu
Posted on February 2, 2015 at 8:02 AM
Talking about baroque equipments, it's funny the illustration is a rebec, which is an medieval instrument and went completely out of fashion by the baroque...
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 6, 2015 at 6:27 AM
Dorian, I'm afraid it was the closest illustration (public domain) that I could find with a pre-Tourte bow....what kind of bow was used with a rebec, I wonder?

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