Violin Pedagogy: How Did They Learn?

Early Violin Pedagogical Material

by Dr. Robin Kay Deverich

As mentioned earlier, during the sixteenth century, music for the violin primarily consisted of consort music for dancing.[18] Some scholars have observed that some of this consort music may have been used for pedagogical purposes. "Surviving manuscripts suggest that, in Elizabeth I's reign, consort music was used for didactic purposes as much as for social recreation."[19]

In the seventeenth century, a new form of violin music emerged: solo violin music. Zaslow described this occurrence:

In the early 17th century, in Italy again, as the polyphonic style was giving way to a new style of solo singing in madrigals and motets as well as in the newly-created genres of opera, the violin struck out on its own. Italian composers began to write autonomous music for one, two, or more violins, usually with basso continuo. No longer supporting singing and dancing or serving as an anonymous member of a consort, the violin. . . aspired to the same flights of fancy and bursts of virtuosity granted the heroes and heroines of opera.[20]

In addition to the development of solo violin music, the seventeenth century also marked the emergence of pedagogical directions for violinists. Treatises such as Francesco Rognoni's Selva de Varii Passaggi (1620), provided explicit musical examples and directions for violinists to follow in order to perform passagi properly, and Gasparo Zanetti's Il scolaro . . . per imparar a suonare di violino, et altri stromenti (1645), contained numerous bowing indications, as well as a violin tablature of the music. Pedagogical information relevant to the violin can also be gleaned from instrumental treatises written for other instruments such as Ganassi's two-volume viol tutor : Regola Rubertina (Venice, 1542, 1543), one of the most significant instrumental treatises in the 16th century. Technical instructions provided in Ganassi's tutor included: posture, bowing and fingering techniques, string crossing, shifting, double-stops and diminution guidance.[21] General musical directions for a variety of instruments were also present in treatises such as Giulio Caccini's Le nuove Musiche (1602), one of the earliest codifications of ornamentation, and embellishment treatises such as those by Diego Ortiz (1553) and Giovanni Bassono (1585).