Search:
corilon violins

Search

Information archive

More detailed information about stringed instruments and the history of violin making.

Enter archive

corilon violins

The Baroque bow (violin bows, part I)

The Baroque violin bow as part of a musical revolution: violin making, music and bow making in the 17th and 18th century.


The development of the Baroque violin bow is a story of attempts and errors, an interplay of craftsmanship and music during the course of which widely varied models were designed, modified and improved. When the baroque violin was invented in the late 16th century, the art of creating stringed instruments reached a zenith that triggered a musical revolution. The violin's predecessors were predominantly used to keep time on the dance floors of weddings and festivals, but this newer form of the instrument quickly liberated itself from its disdained origins. At first, however, the early masters of violin making paid no thought to the issue of a proper bow, so people continued to play using the fiddle and rebec bows of the late middle ages. Many of these violin bows were very clearly designed as rhythm instruments. Some of them were only 20 to 30 cm (8-12 inches) and had a strong convex curve; their length was further restricted by the player using an underhand or closed-fist grip.

At first, French Baroque music in particular stayed close to the styles in the canon of dance music, so it had little reason to re-examine how the bow was used and constructed. In Italy, however, there was vivid interest in cantabile playing. People there preferred the overhand grip, which opened doors to new sounds and ways of playing the violin: the “Italian” grip (as opposed to the “French” underhand grip) allowed the player to bow with greater sensitivity and modify the sound. Legato and spiccato techniques became more widespread as music grew more soloistic in nature, and longer violin bows meant that longer tones and sequences were now possible. By composing pieces which relied on the long Baroque bow, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) made fundamental changes to the character of the violin; its aural ideal came to resemble that of singing more and more.

The introduction of a longer violin bow triggered a series of changes in construction, especially an increase in the height of the head so as to achieve a more even distribution of weight and playability along the full length of the bow. Bows with less of an arch gradually became more popular until eventually the straight to slightly concave line evolved. Players once determined the pressure of the bow by modifying their grip, e.g. by applying pressure with the thumb, but over time, the detachable frog and "toothpick"-style bows made a greater variety in tension possible, until at last the frog with an eyelet and screw established itself as the standard. These technical improvements were accompanied by more sophistication in the aesthetic design of the Baroque bow. Premium woods, especially the very hard amourette, were processed with great artistry, sticks were fluted, and frogs and heads were shaped into fanciful designs and decorated. No uniform standards emerged on a widespread scale, i.e. in this context one cannot speak of there being a typical model of a Baroque bow. What is, however, typical of Baroque-period bows is the diversity of shapes and designs.


Figure 1: Contemporary baroque violin bow

Related articles:

The Classical bow/

Overview: “The violin bow”

François Xavier Tourte, founding father of the modern violin bow

Jean-François Raffin: ten hours - and not a word

E. Sartory: the modern classic of bow making

The Ouchard dynasty of bow makers

J & A Beare, Beare's and Charles Beare: expertise in changing times

H. R. Pfretzschner

Ernst Heinrich Roth: a rediscovered master

Hopf: a dynasty of Vogtland violin makers

Product categories:

Old and antique iolins

Master violins

Children's violins

Violin bows

Violas

Old Cellos

Fine cello bows

Fine violins



Corilon violins · Lilienstrasse 2 · D-81669 Munich
Phone: +49 (0)89-444 19 619 · Fax: +49 (0)89-444 19 620
mail@corilon.com · www.corilon.com

New arrivals in our catalogue:
  • Good sounding student violin
  • H. R. Pfretzschner: viola bow, a strong player
  • Fine gol dmounted cello bow, Markneukirchen
  • German violin, Saxony, approx. 1940
  • Georges Adolphus Chanot, soloist violin no. 119
  • Ernst Heinrich Roth, master violin, 1923
  • Excellent Czech viola, approx. 1940
  • Modern cello bow, after Morizot, Conrad Götz
  • Southern German viola for soloists, 19th century
  • Magnificent Italian roundback mandolin, Ermelinda Silvestri, circa 1900
  • Violin from Klingenthal, approx. 1820
  • Auguste Sébastien Philippe Bernardel, Bernardel Père: fine violin
  • Eckart Richter, contemporary master violin
  • Roger & Max Millant, petite modern French violin
  • Mittenwald violin with a bright, somewhat gentle sound
  • Robert Barth, Stuttgart: attractive viola
  • 3/4 - French violin, JTL or Laberte
  • Hand-crafted violin, Saxony around 1960
  • Czech/German violin after Matteo Alban
  • Hermann Dölling jun., German violin from Markneukirchen
  • Quality violin from Saxony, late 19th century
  • German viola bow, French model, a soft player
  • Mittenwald violin from 1952
  • Hopf violin from Klingenthal, approx.1900