I often see very talented baroque bass colleagues in concert, on TV, on the internet, in conservatories and universities … and depending on which country you or they are in, you’ll see bass players playing overhand (“French”) or underhand (“German”).
So let me just say one thing right off the bat: there is, as far as I know at the time I am writing this article, zero – zero – evidence that any overhand bass bows ever existed during the baroque era. The reason people call them French is because they were developed and made popular in France – in the mid-nineteenth century.
You like playing overhand and think it’s best for you, musically speaking? I don’t think any bass player who takes playing on period instruments seriously should ever do that – but it’s up to you. A lot of baroque bass players play very well using overhand, even though it’s completely bogus. The object of this short article is not to knock these players’ musical abilities, let’s be completely clear about that.
Do not call it original or period, because it’s not. Overhand “baroque” bass bows are phonier than three-dollar bills. And please, stop pretending you are being “authentic” when you are anything but.
Written and added on February 13, 2015