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up or down?
the origins of the down-stroke


REVERSING THE BOWING TECHNIQUE OF THE VIOLONCELLO, 

A RESEARCH PROJECT BY MARIANNE DUMAS

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without authorization fo the author.

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Cello VS Viola da Gamba
INTRODUCTION

In October 2014, because of the similarity between the bass viol and the cello, I tried to reverse the technique of the violoncello in the Bach Cello Suites. During this experiment, I instantaneously felt a better response from the instrument and by consequence, more resonance. This experience led me to start a research about the origins, the setup, and the bowing technique of the violoncello in order to understand the influence of the bow-hold and the bow strokes on the sound of the instrument, as well as understanding the origins of the "down stroke".

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BOWINGS

TWO RULES for the violoncello before 1752

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HISTORICAL RESEARCH

UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING AND THE USE 
OF THE "DOWN STROKE"

HOW OTHER INSTRUMENTS PLAY CHORDS, ARPEGGIOS, STRONG BEATS


LUTH

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GIVE A STROKE toward THE SOUNDBOARD

The movement of the arm follows the order of the strings, toward the instrument, using the natural weight of the arm, without adding pressure on the string for the bowed instuments.


Then, on a cello it coincides with 
Rule N°2 (Quantz)

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QUANTZ

 BUT THIS TECHNIQUE IS ALSO MENTIONNED BY J-B BREVAL AND DIDEROT

"The cello is similar to a violin because of its 4 strings and the tuning in fifths but but it is held the contrary way of the violin. This results on the opposition of the order of the strings. For that reason, the bowing technique should be opposite as well."

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BRÉVAL, Jean-Baptiste - Traité du violoncelle, Op.42 (Paris, 1804) .

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D. DIDEROT - Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers- Paris 1765

" There are two ways to hold bowed string instruments. One is like the basse viol, it is also how we hold the bass violins, contrabasses, and other big instruments. 
The other way is to hold the instrument the same way we hold the violin and all the instruments no longer than the arm.
There is a general rule, one plays down bow what we play we play up bow on the others. Therefore, on a bass viol and a bass violin, we play up bow on the long ones , and the opposite on the violins and other instruments held the violin way. 
The reason of this difference is that the strength for the basses is on the up bow and that on the violin it is on the down bow, because of the way the instruments are held."

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BY CONSEQUENCE

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"UP-BOW"

"DOWN-BOW"

THE VIOLONCELLO, influenced by the BASS VIOL AND THE VIOLIN

The bass violin / violoncello in the baroque era. 

The baroque period marks the development of virtuosity, and it is also the period of the basso continuo. 

During the first half of the baroque period, the violoncello was referred as a bass ("la basse" in French), used for accompaniement while the violin became an instrument of virtuosity. 

During the second half of the 17th c., the word "violoncello" appears in Italy, it referred to a bass violin of a smaller size. WIth a smaller string length, bass violin players could access virtuosity. Among the first viruoso : Francesco Alborea. Alborea had a major impact in the development of virtuosity of the cello in Italy and across Europe. This period coincides with the disappearance of the viola da gamba during the second hald of the 18th century.

The bowing technique of the violoncello was influenced by both the violin and the viola da gamba due to its similarities with both instruments.

CELLO & VIOLIN

Similarities:
  • Members of the same family 
  • Shape
  • Tuning is in fifths.

CELLO & VIOLA DA GAMBA

Similarities:
  • size, register, posture
  • Instruments of the contino. 
  • About the shape: there were (and still are) viola da gamba with violin shapes.

my conclusions on the topic

Have we chosen the best bowing technique, bow-hold and set up for the cello and its evolution?


By this publication, I would like to encourage cellists to start rediscovering the cello with the same pleasure I had during this project. Johann Sebastian Bach left us a treasure where everything falls naturally into place when playing the basses notes on an up bow, following the technique of the viols, without having to add pressure through the bow. The bowings have an impact on the vibration of the instrument.

To illustrate this publication and research, I recorded the Six Bach Cello Suites applying mostly the same bowing motion of the viols, following my analysis of the manuscript copies of the Suites. 

My goal with this project is to share and open new doors on cello playing and also cello making, bows making and set up, it is by no means any kind of search of an absolute answer.


More TO COME... (END OF OCTOBER 2018)



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Questions: Contact

CHAPTER II THE EVOLUTION OF THE CELLO

FROM 1600 TIL 1800

Cello methods 
1764-1840

Cello methods 
after 1840


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Subtitles in FR-EN-DE-IT-ES               

Understanding what led me to this project

This research started in 2010, My goal was to get a deeper understanding of the the sound and the technique of the cello.
Choosing to reverse the bowing technique in the Baroque repertoire was the result of this research.

PART 1 :
THE CELLIST


BIOMECHANICS OF CELLIST
Between 2010 and 2014: understanding the impact and the influence
  • posture 
  • movement 
  • breathing 
  • the mind 
have in cello playing and in the sound of the cello, always taking the Bach Cello Suites as a reference. (visit The cello practice helper)

PART 2 
THE CELLO


ORIGINS OF THE VIOLONCELLO
2014: I recreated the most authentic set-up with the help of specialists in baroque instruments in Germany.

  • 4 Strings cello: Daniel König, Leipzig
  • 5 strings cello: Johannes Löscher, Köln
  • Strings: Valentin Oelmüller, Potsdam
  • Bow: Hans Reiners, Berlin

PART 3
THE TECHNIQUE

THE TECHNIQUE OF THE CELLIST ACCORDING TO THE MECHANICS OF THE SOUND OF THE CELLO
Once I had the most authentic set up, I observed which movements had a positive impact on the sound of the cello, down, up, when, how, etc. always taking the Bach Cello Suites as a reference.
The set up of the instrument made me reconsider the bowing technique. I noticed that the cello sounded better when the strong notes / bass notes were played on an up bow.
down-stroke