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Interesting podcast!
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (5 votes) 

March 13, 2024 - 5:16 pm
Member Since: October 4, 2021
Forum Posts: 167
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 Today I listened to another podcast in the “Rosining the Bow" series, this one an interview with historian William Monica. So interesting!

I thought I understood something about violin history, but Mr Monical had some information that was totally new to me, including:

- The chinrest was invented by a fiddler (violinist) who wanted to use vibrato as a standard part of playing, not just an ornament. So he invented the chinrest to free his left hand to vibrate as much as he wanted. 

- At one time standard pitch varied widely, depending on location. It ranged from A=392 to A=672, dramatically changing the nature of the music. The French were languid down low and Vivaldi sparkled up high.

- Also, standard pitch is going up: some orchestras now play at A=443. He noted that modern devices, such as cellphones, do not reproduce lower tones very well, so the upward shift may make some music more available to some audiences.

- In the old-old days a rite of initiation was for a prospective knight (fiddler?) to go to the forest to find a branch that could make a nice bow. That bow was then his (her?) own magic wand.

- And great modern violinists may be happy with their fiddles but they often have a lifelong search for the perfect bow. (Could this be true?)

Anyway, this is a recommendation for this podcast:

If you have an hour to spare, or can listen on earphones, this might be worth your while...

Sacramento, California

March 13, 2024 - 9:03 pm
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 1712
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I don't think the A ever went anywhere near 672 Hz -- that would be above the modern E. The highest tuning A I've ever seen described was somewhere around 520 Hz (I don't remember where). The lowest I've seen quoted was at Versailles, where they tuned to A = 390 Hz.

In the Baroque era, the variation was because string players typically tuned to the local church organ. It could vary quite a bit even within the same town if it had multiple churches: the A sometimes varied by as much as two whole steps within one city.

Today, while most orchestras tune to As in the 440-442 range, there are a number of other tuning standards. Many British brass bands tune to 452 Hz, and Scottish pipe bands tune to 470-480 Hz. There are also some lower tuning standards: Cuban orchestras tune to 436 Hz to extend the life of strings in the humid tropical climate. Modern-day baroque orchestras have settled on 415 Hz as a standard, though a higher A (460-470 Hz) is sometimes used for German baroque choral music.


March 13, 2024 - 9:52 pm
Member Since: February 10, 2019
Forum Posts: 4006
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Great episode.. in the middle of listening.  Im hoping Joe will produce some more of these!   I binged on alot of them after discovering and asked if he had plans for anymore.   It was around covid time so it didnt seem like it.  But the door didnt seem completely closed to the idea... It was more of a wait and see..and i havent felt comfortable asking again. keeping fingers crossed.

Thanks for posting.   Gonna continue in the morning with it.  good stuff!

Sacramento, California

March 13, 2024 - 11:34 pm
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 1712
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To put an approximate date on it, the chinrest was invented some time around 1820 by Louis Spohr, who was very closely connected to Beethoven. Spohr played violin in the premieres of many of Beethoven's works. He was also a noted conductor and a prolific composer. The chinrest wasn't his only innovation: as a conductor, he was the first to insert rehearsal letters into pieces to save time in rehearsals.


March 14, 2024 - 8:52 am
Member Since: February 10, 2019
Forum Posts: 4006
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21:00 - 23:00 talks about tuning and concert pitch.


At around 37:00 he discusses the development of the chin rest by



one thing thats interesting.  as far as bowed instruments..alot more was being done with them back during this time period as far as experimentation.  6 strings.. different was of holding them.  etc..  @elcbk youll like this dischssion i think

The talk about the roaches and wasps was funny


March 14, 2024 - 5:34 pm
Member Since: June 10, 2020
Forum Posts: 8068
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I finally got to finish listening to the William Monical podcast today! 

Enjoyed it, but most of it I've already come across while poking around in Baroque music, Gypsy music (Indian origins), early bowed string instruments, music history of Spain & different parts of Europe this past couple years. 

I think there's thought (maybe post interview) that the 'Ravanahatha' (of India) might be the violin origin - spread by Western Indian Gypsies & Arab traders, then developed into the Rebab.  Some even had a couple sympathetic strings!

...AND, btw - didn't the music examples played in the podcast sound HEAVENLY?  The secret is MORE STRINGS - means sympathetic resonance! 😉

Glad he touched on Japan - there is MUCH more to the history of Western Classical music in Japan that's really interesting. 

I really don't think it makes any difference tuning a couple Hertz below 440 vs 442 - it's just too small to notice - unless you have PERFECT PITCH.  Now, if changing the tuning equal to at least a quarter-step or half step, like 415 - that is something everyone can hear (and I do LOVE Baroque tuning)!  Anyway, not so sure the tuning 'UP' has anything to do with violin - or mobile phone listening... going to blame orchestras tuning to an oboe and maybe other woodwinds for that! 

The stuff about the wasps was very cool, but the thing that made me laugh was about the 'Court Ladies' - couldn't tilt their head to hold a violin because their wig would fall off! 🤣

@Strabo , @ABitRusty  -

Thanks so much for keeping focus on the podcasts! 

I appreciate there's always some wonderful info!

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