Beginner’s Baroque Violin!

My name is Kirsty and I have also recently started to delve into the past and study the baroque violin. After dabbling in playing a lot of baroque repertoire on my modern set up, I decided to take the stylistic aspects of the music a bit more seriously this year, playing on an instrument similar to one that might have been used at that time. Luckily for me, the RNCM provided me with a beautiful Andre Mehler violin and a Baroque-style bow, and also with some lessons from Polly Nobes, who has previously led the Academy of Ancient Music, and Annette Isserlis, a founder member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Here is a picture of the violin, and another showing the maker’s stamp on the back:

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Needless to say I was excited to get going, however it quickly became apparent that there was a lot for me to learn! While the baroque violin looked fairly similar to my own modern one, there are a few significant differences.  For example, the lack of a chin rest or shoulder rest to secure the violin in place means that your left hand needs to crawl around the instrument, as opposed to playing on a modern instrument where the violin stays put under your chin and your left hand is fairly free to move around. Also, the strings made from gut as opposed to synthetic materials, which produce a very different sound, and also look quite different too:

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These differences made it harder for me to shift to different notes, and even just play them in tune to begin with! Additionally, whilst the shape of the baroque bow inherently made playing in the right style easier, it feels a lot lighter than my modern bow, and therefore requires a very different type of control. Polly has given me a few exercises to work on these different aspects of playing the instrument, and hopefully I’ll be able to update this blog with my progress…

However the instruments themselves aren’t the only thing we will need to learn about during this project, and Amy and I are looking forward to exploring much of the repertoire and tradition surrounding Baroque music, and continuing to share what we learn here!

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