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baroquecello

who invented the ferrule and when?

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The title sais it all. I'm asking since a reputed bow dealer posted some Pictures of according to him completely original early Tourte bows, dated between 1785 and 1795, and the ivory frogs have ferrules. I would not have expected that, but I don't know when they appeared.

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Before ferrules, it would seem that many violinists (or bowmakers) were already tying either a gut string or a wire around the front of the frog tongue to stabilise the hair ribbon, hence the little bump or wedge one sees on many pre-ferrule frogs. 

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4 hours ago, martin swan said:

FX Tourte around 1782-3, in collaboration with violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer ...

I had no idea they went back that far, it must’ve taken a long time for the idea to spread. On the other hand, Tourte was a skilled metal worker, was the typical bow maker also skilled in working with metal?

By the way, a friend has a viola bow that was allegedly a Dodd. The stick is not a Dodd stick, But the nice ivory frog is definitely English and conforms to much of what Jakob shares in his article on English bows. However, that frog has a ferrule, And I was curious as to whether that was original. Now it seems that it might be.

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Why do you think it took that long to spread? Plenty of ca. 1785-1790 bows have ferrules. Look at the Louis Simon Pajeots in the Raffin/Millant book, for example. By 1800, all the better quality bowmakers in France were making frogs with ferrules, from Lupot to Eury to Persoit et. al. and since all the top violinists who were in Paris around 1790 fled the French Revolution with their Tourtes to London and cities in Germany, the top bowmakers in those cities were making bows with ferrules by 1800 as well.

There's been a disturbing trend recently by certain collectors I know to try to raise the value of cheaper, junkier old bows trying to convince people that the bows of Beethoven's and even Schubert's time were so different from "modern" bows that we should all be looking for open-trenched Duchaines and Lagrosses in balsa wood or else we're missing out on the authentic sound. It's just a bunch of gobbledy-gook to raise the value of their otherwise useless junk bows. In 1790, some makers were making great bows, and others were making cheap junk. I shudder to think that in 100 years someone might be publishing a paper saying you can't get the authentic sound for playing Adams unless you have a Chinese made carbon fibre bow.

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53 minutes ago, Michael Appleman said:

There's been a disturbing trend recently by certain collectors I know to try to raise the value of cheaper, junkier old bows trying to convince people that the bows of Beethoven's and even Schubert's time were so different from "modern" bows that we should all be looking for open-trenched Duchaines and Lagrosses in balsa wood or else we're missing out on the authentic sound. It's just a bunch of gobbledy-gook to raise the value of their otherwise useless junk bows. In 1790, some makers were making great bows, and others were making cheap junk. I shudder to think that in 100 years someone might be publishing a paper saying you can't get the authentic sound for playing Adams unless you have a Chinese made carbon fibre bow.

Yes, this is a Problem, and not only for bows. 

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7 hours ago, Michael Appleman said:

Before ferrules, it would seem that many violinists (or bowmakers) were already tying either a gut string or a wire around the front of the frog tongue to stabilise the hair ribbon, hence the little bump or wedge one sees on many pre-ferrule frogs. 

I don't see how that would work. Du you think they used something similar to the mother of Pearl coated slide that they fixed by attaching it with a string?

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I'll see if I have a photo I can upload. When you look at ca. 1750-1790 open frogs, you sometimes see a bump or lip on the upper side of the hair extension. It's often assumed that this is just an ornamental thing, a little decoration, but I've come across some old frogs in fairly untouched condition with a bit of gut string, or in a couple of cases, a wire twisted to act like a ferrule and keep the ribbon of hair from jumping out of the channel. There's no slide involved nor traces of a mortice for a slide in the hair channel. of course it's impossible to know if these "proto-ferrules" date from the original period of the bows, but some frogs have bumps at the end and some don't, and it would make sense that the bumps served a purpose.

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I think it might be over-simplifying things to say that bows worked "very well" before ferrules. Among both types of bows there are lighter and heavier, softer and stiffer, brighter and warmer sounding, better sustainers and better bouncers. In short, there are bows that "work very well" and bows that don't in both categories.

I have had the experience of owning and playing a very, very "well working" bow with its original open frog as well as a modern ferrule-equipped replacement I commissioned. The bow was already a dream to use as an open trench bow, and I could have continued to use it that way just fine, but since I wanted to preserve its over 200 year old ivory frog from possible damage I had a new one made and I was curious if adding a ferrule would change its characteristics. With the ferrule, the bow became even better for my use of it, more precise and controllable at the frog, a greater range of available articulations in the lower half. It wasn't a night and day difference, just more precise and confidence inspiring for all sorts of repertoire, from Bach to Contemporary music. Of course, this is just one anecdotal story, about one bow and one violinist, but it helped me see how the ferrule became the norm, and why quality sticks gradually stopped being fitted with open frogs. 

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"With the ferrule, the bow became even better....." 

This is surely the issue. The bow worked differently with a ferrule but not necessarily better. Maybe historically and today the softer articulation has been preferred. A matter of taste rather than progress.

On another point, bows without ferrules have another solution to preserving the contact of the hair with the end of the frog.  The trench is angled slightly away from the stick.. This has a similar effect to tying the hair to the frog with string etc and removes the need to do this.

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Musicians voted with their wallets.

Presented with a choice, the ferrule kind of "different" won in a landslide.

Conclusion : ferrule = better.

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I'm sure there were some who preferred the more "forgiving" nature of the open trench frogs and others who preferred the more precise controle of bows with ferrules then as today. I'm always a bit sceptical about the notion that players and tastes were so radically and uniformly different at a certain time compared to today. If one looks at the whole range of playing styles today, even among players who only use post 1800 style equipment (I hate to use the term "modern" since what we refer to as modern is really a 200 year old spec) you can find every kind of combination of articulation/sustain/tone colour combination, depending on the players' taste and technical command. I have trouble imagining that there was some sort of uniformity among string players at a certain time in history, that they all played with a certain style of articulation for instance. In the end, I believe there's nothing one can do with one type of bow that one can't do with the other. Our results depend on our conception of sound and articulation more than the characteristics of our equipment.

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22 hours ago, Mark Caudle said:

"With the ferrule, the bow became even better....." 

This is surely the issue. The bow worked differently with a ferrule but not necessarily better. Maybe historically and today the softer articulation has been preferred. A matter of taste rather than progress.

Again, this is one anecdotal case concerning one bow and one player, so I don't want to suggest this is some sort of universal truth. I wrote that it got better "for my use" and I can imagine that someone else might have preferred it with its originale frog.

For me, with this bow, the softer attack at the frog was not "lost." I could still get it at will with flexibility in my fingers, and strong attacks were available without the ferrule the same way strong attacks at the tip are available where there's no ferrule. What I gained was greater ease with precise, pianissimo attacks and bow changes at the frog, the feeling that the bow was a direct extension of my fingers and that I could feel what the string was doing in a more precise way. The bow gained in precision, not power or harshness.

To complete the story, I should perhaps explain that the bow in question is a ca.1780 NL Tourte that was certified as a viola bow because of its weight and size. It is definitely heavier than most of the violin bows they were making at that time which seem to range from 48-56 grams in general. This bow came in at 65 grams (with either frog, of course, the replacement was made to have the same mass as the original) but its balance and stiffness/flexibility characteristics made it work fantastically with both violins and violas. The first time I used it in a concert was to play the Messiaen "Quartet for the End of Time" and if you know that piece, you know the last movement is a monstrous challenge of sustaining incredibly long notes and hiding bow changes. That concert convinced me I HAD to have this bow as it sustained and staid glued to the string like nothing I had ever owned. I continued using it with its original frog for a year or more, playing everything from solo Bach to "l'Histoire du Soldat" on it and I got a kick playing 20th century music in public with an 18th century bow. Putting a replacement frog on it was not really about improving it, but preserving the old ivory frog, button and screw, and my bowmaker was dubious about making a frog with a ferrule since the bow worked so well aith an open frog. In the end we went ahead with a ferrule out of curiosity, and the result, for me, on this particular bow, was an improvement.

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1 hour ago, Michael Appleman said:

(I hate to use the term "modern" since what we refer to as modern is really a 200 year old spec)

Just as explanation - in an historical sense "modern times" started somewhat between 1775 and 1789, so this term isn't wrong. After Modern came Postmodern, and actually some may guess we are living in Posttruth.:ph34r:

Otherwise great information, I agree that the question of better or improvement can be judged from a personal point of view only. Here is a frog with the sort of bump you were describing, also the slight angle downwards is visible. I'm using it for fixing the hair with a small clamp or ribbon, too, when heating and bending such stick, to avoid getting them into a mess when removing the frog..

IMG_4073.JPG

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