Baroque bow and beginners

November 18, 2015 at 03:20 PM · So, we're all familiar with how we learn something, for example math.

We start with most fundamental math, adding, subtracting, etc. which were done by cavemen and cavewomen. We then progress into more complicated multiplications and divisions. Further on in our education, we progress into Trigonometry, which is arguably over 2000 years old.

Basically we learn things the way that the humans as a whole discovered. We learn what cavemen did as children, what ancient mathematicians did in middle school, and 1600s math in highschool then 1900s math finally at upper university level.

Something that puzzles me in violin learning is that we are almost always starting with a modern bow, baroque bows existed before modern bows, so if we follow the logic of how we learn subjects as math, it would be logical to start learning to play the violin with a baroque bow then progress into a modern bow.

I also found that the baroque bows to make very articulate accented sound. Its grip is supposed to be a bit in front of the frog, which is suggested to not fear the "near frog" part of the bow for beginners. Also, overall shorter than a modern bow, making us to get accustomed to use the full bow at all times. Basically what you're asked for in Suzuki volume 1.

Also, we start by learning baroque pieces.

I'm just curious why do we start with modern bows instead of baroque bow?

I first saw a baroque bow being used by a violist at a concert and eventually bought a Chinese one, and I alternate between it and my favorite bow to cover almost everything I wish to learn.

Replies (22)

November 18, 2015 at 07:28 PM · I'm sure there are Baroque specialists here who can give a better answer--I'm not a Baroque player, but my knee-jerk response is that Baroque violin/bow and modern violin/bow are really two different instruments. It's really like asking why all flute players don't learn recorder first.

November 18, 2015 at 11:07 PM · Simply put, modern bows are used for modern ways of playing. They were invented early in the 19th century for good reason. Players such as Viotti, who played concerti in bigger halls, needed bows with more sustain, more weight, more power. Also, violin construction changed, requiring more power, especially as wound strings started to appear. Baroque bows were fine for Baroque music in small rooms, with instruments at lower tension and with quick-speaking gut strings mostly played in the low positions.

Yes, most people, especially Suzuki students, learn many Baroque pieces first, but they are learning the basics of playing, not the subtleties of Baroque performance practice.

Letting people start with Baroque bows would delay getting used to modern bows, which most people need for most music. I think all conservatory students should have training with Baroque bows in order to learn the subtleties of rhythmic emphasis so much a part of Baroque dance music.

But arguing that people should train with them first would be like saying you should begin tennis lessons with a racketball racket--yes, it's easier to swing, but not really productive in the the long run. Modern bows can be used for Baroque music, but Baroque bows are very poorly suited for Romantic and Modern music.

November 19, 2015 at 12:40 AM · Can you imagine 3-4 year old kids having to start on baroque instruments with no fractional sizes, short fingerboards with lower projection, gut strings, and no fine tuners? ;)

November 19, 2015 at 02:07 AM · incidentally, as far as I know , using a baroque actually requies a slightly different position and use of the arm. I heard this from my colleagues ar RCM who were learning on the side but wer afraid to tell their regular violin teacher because he got really angry about that.

cheers,

Buri

November 19, 2015 at 02:22 AM · The baroque bows you buy from China, are actually modern bows with baroque shaped heads and psedo baroque frogs, in that they bow down under tension; they function and work essentially the same as a modern bow, as a baroque bow they are fake, because a baroque bow is designed to bow flat or slightly outward under tension, and that is the major factor that makes baroque bows function differently, Chinese fake baroque bows do not function like baroque bows at all, and are basically the same as modern, so in that sense there should be no problem using them to learn.

November 19, 2015 at 03:29 AM · Well, the fake baroque bow sure as heck are easy to play with.

November 19, 2015 at 04:19 AM · You may play with a Baroque bow, but only if you at the same time wear stockings, a powdered wig, and a codpiece. Also dispense with indoor plumbing.

Don't narrow your philosophy (thy philosophy? Or thine?), to simply the bow. Next thing you know, you'll be discovering the joys of 415Hz tuning, no shoulder or chin rest, etc...

November 19, 2015 at 06:01 AM · "You may play with a Baroque bow, but only if you at the same time wear stockings, a powdered wig, and a codpiece. Also dispense with indoor plumbing.

Don't narrow your philosophy (thy philosophy? Or thine?), to simply the bow. Next thing you know, you'll be discovering the joys of 415Hz tuning, no shoulder or chin rest, etc..."

I'm not really sure whether to take this at face value, but the fact is that using a Baroque bow, even with a modern violin, does enable certain things. A good example is the d-minor gigue by Bach--Galamian bowed it as hooked for a modern bow. But I much prefer not to hook it. Playing the opening triplet pattern is possible but a little awkward on a modern bow, but entirely natural and more dance-like with a Baroque bow.

November 19, 2015 at 08:33 AM · Next thing you know, you'll be discovering the joys of 415Hz tuning, no shoulder or chin rest, etc...

Yep, been there, doing that!

November 19, 2015 at 12:24 PM · Scott, you forgot to mention installing a complete set plain gut strings to get the best out of a baroque bow (even the modern half-way house ones made in China).

November 19, 2015 at 12:50 PM · My D, A and E are gut. G is gut core copper wound (invented in the baroque).

November 19, 2015 at 03:51 PM · "The baroque bows you buy from China, are actually modern bows with baroque shaped heads and psedo baroque frogs, in that they bow down under tension; they function and work essentially the same as a modern bow, as a baroque bow they are fake, because a baroque bow is designed to bow flat or slightly outward under tension."

I've seen that said on here before, but it is certainly not true of my Yitamusic baroque bow, which does in fact bow slightly outward on under tension.

November 19, 2015 at 05:02 PM · Strikes me as an odd thing to do.

A baroque bow needs largely different right-arm technique to a modern bow, and has difficulty with some fundamental aspects of playing the post-Baroque violin.

Staccato, martele, and sforzandi are all so vital to late-18th, 19th and 20th century repertoire that it's a bit weird starting someone off on a bow that isn't that capable of them (let alone spiccato and ricochet).

Also - the logic you suggest doesn't really work, to be honest - with a handful of exceptions, we don't actually learn things in the order they were "discovered" ;)

November 19, 2015 at 05:38 PM · re Seraphim Protos's post about wigs: This is what's referred to as the "wig problem" in historically informed performance circles. Yes, to play unaccompanied Bach, you can get an instrument set up in the manner of the early 18th century (though not 1720s Leipzig, probably) and you can read Quantz and L Mozart and Geminiani and carefully follow their stipulations (which were written 30 years later for different music).

But still the impact of your performance will be completely different than it was to the people who first heard it, to whom it was just another sonata, not a Towering Canonical Work that you have to study for eight years before approaching, who haven't heard it played for decades and decades by hundreds of people, who aren't familiar with all the other composers of the past 285 years and the influence this work has had on them. What's more this work would have been performed by people in wigs, and if you're a woman then the whole idea of performing it is hugely inauthentic, and anyway whoever you are you probably died before you were 10 from now-eradicated childhood illnesses.

Basically - however hard you try you will never be "authentic" and your performance will always be more modern than it is anything else.

This is all true, to my mind, but it's also not a reason to abandon the Baroque instruments and the study of Quantz, Leopold Mozart and so on. :)

November 19, 2015 at 07:42 PM · I think I can get close. The audience?? Who cares? They're the same Philistines who brought about the end of the Baroque. 'Tunes' indeed!

November 19, 2015 at 07:51 PM · My new fiddle:

Still waiting on the codpiece.

November 19, 2015 at 08:29 PM · Greetings,

Ive always found cod pieces delicious with chips and ketchup

cheers,

Buri

November 20, 2015 at 12:13 AM · Thanks for the visual, Buri.

November 20, 2015 at 12:14 AM · Well, I learned quite a lot in this thread, I rest my case.

November 20, 2015 at 12:20 AM · My snakewood "baroque" bow is listed as a replica of a 1750 French bow, so is at the end of the Baroque Period and clearly starting to give hints of future development into something gelijk the modern bow, but not yet Tourte (who was still in the future). Haydn, Mozart, the young Beethoven, and many others would have been familiar with such a bow. Unlike a true Baroque bow (of which there are many different designs and lengths) it is, in my experience, equally happy with anything from Bach through Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven 9 and on to the late Romantics.

My second "baroque" bow I bought a few months ago as a spare. It is neither snakewood nor pernambuco and weighs 56gm as against the 61gm snakewood. It is close in design to the snakewood bow, although there are several subtle differences. It may possibly be of Chinese origin. It is equally as attractive to play as the snakewood bow, but produces a softer and yet projective tone. Although I bought it as an inexpensive spare I find myself using it more and more in orchestra. I said it was inexpensive - yes indeed it was, and slightly less than a bow rehair locally. I saw the bow advertised on the website of a well-known and established chain of music stores in the UK that tends more towards the folk music side of the business, so I called in at the local store, inspected the bow, liked what I saw, and bought it. The bow has its own trademark so is not a completely anonymous product.

November 22, 2015 at 01:59 PM · I am a small-fry hobby fiddler who plays only folk & baroque music, but I can't help joining in this interesting discussion. (Sorry!)

My teacher is a baroque specialist (HIP) & wanted me to have a baroque bow. I have one of those Chinese bows that are said above to be inauthentic. However, it did help me with baroque bow strokes & makes me sound more to my teacher's taste. I don't find it easier to use than my tourte bow, because I use a three-quarter for my folk music, as it's so much wieldier.

However, what I do find with my Chinese baroque bow is that when I am playing in front of friends - the most 'performing' I ever do! - it does help to stop or reduce bow shake. I think it's the quasi-triangular shape, which is much more stable and doesn't transmit my nervousness as easily.

November 22, 2015 at 02:08 PM · I have just looked at again the store's receipt for that second bow I bought a few months ago. It is referred to therein as a "baroque bow", as it was also on the printed label tied to it in the store. This confirms my suggestion that this bow, as with the snakewood bow, is a replica of the very late baroque design of the mid-18th century.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Virtual Sejong Music Competition
Virtual Sejong Music Competition

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe