Early Music: use of Open strings?
Hi! I am planning to join a local Early Music Ensemble, and am trying to teach myself to express more of an "early" style. I got myself a baroque bow as they recommended (but I think I don't sound any different playing it??) and I am also wondering about the use of open strings vs. the 4th finger in Early Music.
I already figured out that I need to tone down my use of vibrato, based on what I am hearing on the Early Music tracks. But, I can't discern whether they tended to use more open strings or not...?
I am taking a look at some of the Renaissance sheet music and trying to figure out whether to just use open strings or other fingers for the E, etc... Thanks for any insight!
Harriet I would wait until the first rehearsal you attend. During that rehearsal you can pay attention to how the concertmaster plays and emulate that. Because I think it varies greatly from ensemble to ensemble.
I'm no early music specialist, but yes, open strings are used far more in that style than you may be used to. This includes the open E, because in the Baroque era, E strings were also gut and had a far less strident sound than the modern metal E.
Also in those earlier times vibrato might not have been as full-bore as it is today. I'm not really sure. But if that's true then open strings do not stand out as much for lacking it. It is good to practice studies that have some open strings so that you can learn how to incorporate them, evening out their brightness into the passage. This will help you in all your Haydn, Mozart, Bach, early Beethoven, etc.
I agree with the previous responses. As far as we know, baroque playing involved less vibrato and more open strings. However, you want to be sure that your baroque group follows these guidelines. One question is whether you will be using a baroque instrument and/or gut strings. The answer may affect the choices you want to make concerning vibrato and open strings. Have fun!
Thank you all. That is a great point about gut strings perhaps making the open strings sound not so harsh, and about how if vibrato was used less, an open string stands out less. I did learn that in early times, the violin was not held with chin/shoulder but supported more with left hand...thus making it hard to do much vibrato!
Does your baroque bow bow inward like a modern bow, if so its not baroque at all, and that might explain the similarity.
There's no hard and fast rules about open strings — I've yet to come across a treatise that says you have to use open strings. If my open strings gets out of tune in concert I'll change my fingerings and used a covered them instead.
I agree with Dorian that this should not be as important as other things in Baroque performance. The most important thing is for the sound to be good and to your liking, rather than authentic, so choose whichever fingering achieves this.
The tuning is probably A-415. Good luck!
Irish fiddle music is dance music from the Baroque era and is traditionally played without vibrato. About twenty years ago ago, when I got involved in Irish music, on a number of occasions at workshops and in pub sessions you might hear the call "no vibrato!", usually directed at a classically trained violinist new to Irish music who was doing it without thinking. This didn't apply to me because classical violin for me was still a few years in the future. However, lately I have noticed that there are some very good Irish fiddle players of the younger generation who use vibrato more than one might expect. I suspect this may be because they may have been having a thorough classical violin training alongside their Irish fiddle activities, so there could be some cross-over.
Vibrato is an ornament or embellishment in Scottish traditional fiddle music, as well as Cape Breton music, but it us used quite sparingly, except in the performance of slow airs. A constant heavy modern arm vibrato, however, would be considered out of place. Often it is commenced part way through a note. This practice is quite similar to Baroque violin technique, from which it derives.
Lyndon, baroque bows come in a range of shapes and sizes, largely depending in which period of the lengthy Baroque Era they were used. I have two baroque bows, both modelled on a mid-18th century design, towards the end of the Baroque. With both bows, when the hair is de-tensioned they naturally bow inward. When they are tensioned for playing the sticks are straight. Other baroque bows from an earlier period of the Baroque may have a stick that is naturally straight or even outwardly bent all the time. The oldest designs expect the player to adjust the hair tension with his fingers as he plays.
Trevor I was referring to the fake baroque bows commonly seen on ebay that bow inward under tension just like a modern bow, these will not teach you anything about baroque bow performance, because they are not baroque bows.
Lyndon, I suggest that in today's context "baroque" applied to a modern bow is understood to mean a bow "made in the style of the baroque period", and there were many such styles. The baroque behavior is defined as I mentioned above by its baroque design and the wood (of which more below), and for the life of me I cannot see why such a modern bow cannot be described as a baroque bow.
If the "baroque" bow bows inward instead of straight or slightly outward under tension, it is indeed a fake baroque bow, baroque bows were not made that way.
I invite you to find a single painting or drawing from the baroque era that shows the bow bowing inward, you won't because that type of bow had no yet been invented.
Stanley Ritchie's Before the Chinrest and Barthold Kuijken's The Notation is Not the Music are pretty good starting points for those interested in learning about styles. It's always enlightening to read what composers and musicians of ye olden days wrote about their music.
Dorian, I agree. I've read Ritchie, but not Kuijken (yet). My pragmatic bottom line is, if the bow I am using can do the job of playing baroque music effectively then as far as I am concerned it is a baroque bow (regardless of the bend of its stick when not under tension).
There is a lovely collection of Baroque bows at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Some are convex, some are concave and some are straight.
The numbers are just an excuse not to make this flow better.
I think I will ask a friend who plays baroque violin on the subject of open E. Well, when I get the chance to do it. She lives in the UK and I live in Denmark, so it is not every other day we meet. But she is Danish and visit Denmark frequently often with her baroque band. Sending her an email would make sense.
Harriet - your Baroque bow won't affect your tone much. It can make a big difference to your articulation, but you need to learn the different articulation as well. I found I had to unlearn some of my assumptions about how to articulate many slurs and string crossings, which I'd learned through many years of playing Kreutzer studies smooth and evenly - Baroque playing is often the opposite. I recommend the books already mentioned in the thread, and also "Baroque string playing for the ingenious learner" by Judy Tarling.
This is all fascinating and educational!