minstrel: Re: minstrel-digest V1 #882

Fred Ross fred at horace.ls.net
Sun Apr 23 13:42:23 PDT 2000

On Sun, 23 Apr 2000, Greg Lindahl wrote:

> Um, most period bowed instruments require much more precision than
> modern ones. So I wouldn't make arguments based on that if I were
> you. Why not start with "hey, are there any surviving examples,
> illustrations, or descriptions?"

The first question is, indeed, are there any examples.  Paging through the
history chapter of Heron-Allen's 'Violin Making as it was, and is'
(before he heads off into techniques of cutting and trimming f-holes and
carving backs and bellies) I find original source illustrations from 
carvings, books, and sketches from the primitive lyre and ravanastron to
the Welsh crwth and the violin (the two major bowed families).  There is
not a single mention of multiple strings per course.  He was looking at
this with an eye to the modern violin, though.  Bowed instruments were
known to the classical world, so someone must have tried multiple strings
per course at some point in two thousand years.

The Harvard Concise Musical Dictionary goes into a little detail on 16th
century lute coursings, but mentions no bowed instruments.  I haven't
quick access to a Groves at the moment, so this really isn't decent

A more likely area for courses in 'bowed' instruments is the hurdygurdy.
I know it's not strictly bowed, but the principle is the same.

Period bowed instruments did require more precision to play.  This is why
they were replaced.  Similarly the guitar has replaced the lute.  <waits
to be assaulted brutally by outraged lutists and violists>

> > For my part I am going to go on playing my Stradavarius style instrument
> > until someone feels like providing me with a period instrument of similar
> > quality (which probably means an investment of $10,000...any takers?)
> That's a pretty big chip on your shoulder, there.

Indeed it is, but I just seem to stop practicing instruments that aren't
as nice as my violin.  Recorder and guitar have fallen by the wayside
mostly.  Besides that, I usually have my wrists swathed in ace bandages in
the evening from the amount of time I spend on the violin.  Then we could
get into the problem of finding instruction in this area...which will be
far less of a problem after I head off to college.

Fred Ross
s.k.a. Philippe de Minerve
a.k.a. Sgath

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