The French Corrette baroque bow by Andrew Dipper

Michel Corrette (10 April 1707 – 21 January 1795) was a French musician and author of many musical method books. the violin, cello, bass, flute, recorder, bassoon, harpsichord, harp, mandolin, and voice. They carried titles such as l’Art de se perfectionner sur le violon (The Art of Achieving Perfection in playing of the Violin), le Parfait Maître à chanter (The Perfect Mastersinger) and L′école d′Orphée (The School of Orpheus), a violin treatise describing the French and Italian styles. Corrette’s music tutors are valuable because they give insights into playing styles and techniques of the 18th century.

By the mid 1700’s the French playing style started to be influenced by the one used in the Italian theatre. The Italian taste in music was in turn influenced by the Italian public’s enthusiasm for Italian poetic metrical structure. In order to achieve better expression in virtuosic performance, bows were lengthened from the 60cm length of the ordinary Corelli bow to around 68cm. The bows were finely regulated in thickness and more flexible than their predecessors. High quality snakewood (Brosimum guianense) from French and Dutch Guiana became the material of choice for French bows. Stick profiles could by completely cylindrical in the Italian style or octagonal at the frog end, slowly achieving a cylindrical profile before the balance point of the stick. Some high-quality bows were also cannulated.

Andrew Dipper  bows are of the type illustrated by Corrette in his violin tutor. This depicts a bow with a so-called swan head which is an adaptation of the lower Pike Head type of the Corelli bow This medium sized bow head allows for a hair ribbon barely wider than 7mm. The hair ribbon is also cambered by the shaping of the frog’s hair channel, which gives the bow very different playing characteristics than the modern bow with its flat hair ribbon. The Hill collection at the Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, England has examples of this kind of bow. The weight range of the Corrette bow is from 52-54 grams and its frog is adjustable by means of the usual screw and button. The stick of the bow is regulated in diameter to enhance poetical expression within the music.

The frogs on Dipper modern reproductions of these bows are usually made from amourette wood or various other hard and heavy tropical hardwoods because of the necessity for strength and the fine and accurate shaping of their geometry. The historical bows often used ivory or bone as a frog material because it offers great resistance to wear through daily use. Corrette writes that the bow hold of the Italian bow was substantially higher up the bow stick than the French hold and nearer the balance point of the stick. This made the articulation of the bow on the string somewhat easier in the nuanced passages of the music.