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Bowing

Baroque music makes much use of inequalities and opposites, such as strong/weak, loud/quiet, and slurred/detached. In string playing, inequality is inherent in the music as a result of the properties of a baroque bow. Its convex shape emphasises the difference between a strong down-bow and a weaker up-bow.

In this clip, Helen demonstrates the different qualities of down- and up-bow strokes produced with a baroque bow, and makes some bowing suggestions in relation to the Giga.

If you are playing the Giga with a modern bow (the properties of which 'iron out' some of the inequality between down- and up-bows) you will need to make a conscious effort to make your down-bows strong and your up-bows much weaker. Modern bows are very good at sustaining and producing an even 'singing' tone through the whole stick. When performing in a historically informed baroque style, however, we are aiming to make the bow 'speak' (i.e. imitate the inflection of the spoken voice) rather than 'sing'. This requires a more articulated way of playing, where we allow sounds to phrase off in the way our voices do when we speak.

To get used to playing in this style with a modern bow, try some of the following:

Practise playing some relatively short down-bow strokes on open strings, using the lower half of the bow. Then introduce some up-beats on up-bows, using the up-bow to bring you back to the heel for the next down-bow.
  • Practise semi-quaver passages in all parts of the bow, keeping the bow on the string rather than throwing it.
  • Add inequality to semi-quaver passagese.g. ta ra ra ra, ta ra ra ra, or ta ra ta ra ta ra, (emphasising the ta)
  • Practise changing between a really smooth fluid semiquaver (or quaver) stroke useful for phrases of conjunct (scalic) notes, to a more articulated, but not thrown, stroke useful for notes a 3rd or more apart.
  • Practise a long 'messa di voce' where you swell to the middle of the note and die away again. Try on up- and down-bows.
  • If all this feels unwieldy at first you can re-create the feel of a lighter baroque bow by holding your modern bow a few inches up the stick rather than at the heel. Work your way back to the frog as it becomes more comfortable.

Semiquavers

In this clip, Helen looks at bowing semiquavers. You will notice that not all the semiquavers are played with the same emphasis. The first of each group of six is given more weight than the other five.


Adjacent and detatched notes

During the baroque era, a number of violinists and other musicians wrote treatises (or instruction manuals) on performance style. Here, Helen mentions two such musicians, Tartini (an Italian violinist from the 18th Century) and Quantz (an 18th-century flautist from Germany), both of whom describe ways to approach the performance of adjacent and detached notes:


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