2. Review: The New Bass Viol Technique

[The above image has been taken from the publisher’s website]

Having a daily routine of exercises can be beneficial only if they cover the mechanics of instrument playing in a stimulating and well-ordered way. This book has become part of my early-morning “wake up and warm up” routine, along with the Complete And Progressive Method For Viol from Ut Orpheus editions, about which there will be another post soon.

Panofsky’s book has changed considerably – I surmise – from its first text-book style edition (1991), which I have not seen. For some reason the author has taken out much of the text of the earlier book, and has reordered the exercises while introducing new ones. As such it is now leaner and more focussed, though each chapter has a well-written single-page introduction, giving the why’s and wherefores of the exercises that follow. I found this helpful, and suggest you read each introduction before sitting with newly-rosined bow, eager to play, as you might be tempted to skip ahead to the exercises. Knowing the context and reason for any particular technique will aid in your development of it. As the great Emile Grimshaw wrote in his “How To Excel On The Banjo” (yes, even banjo method books are worth reading!) “The way to learn is to think – to understand”.

Naturally the book commences with open-string exercises, and the concern is where, when and how to give subtle accents depending on the note’s position within a bar. Bow Division is discussed, “…think of the whole note as being divided into four unequal lengths on the bow, one for each quarter-note count. The first count of your whole note at the tip needs very little bow, but as you travel, each count will need progressively more bow length (i.e., speed). The process is reversed for a whole note that starts at the frog.” Useful advice from an experienced teacher.

Chapter 2 – Fingering in First Position

Chapter 3 – Moving across strings in First Position – includes more open-string exercise, including diads on adjacent strings

Chapter 4 – half Position and Downward Extension

Chapter 5 – String crossing and Dotted Notes

Chapter 6 – Upward Extensions – the 6th fret

Chapter 7 – Five Major and Three Minor Scales in First Position – open and closed varieties of each

Chapter 8 – Slurs, Hooks and Specialized Bowing

Chapter 9 – Increasing Left-Hand Facility in First Position – includes Baroque trills, 4th-finger barre, Horizontal Fingering

Chapter 10 – Creeping – includes intro to Alto Clef, 2nd Position, and moving in and out of the positions

Chapter 11 –  Second Position: Shifting on the First Finger

Chapter 12 – Shifting on All Fingers and High-Position Scales – ventures above the frets

Chapter 13 – High-Position Scales in Overlapping Thirds – includes Measured Trills In Scales

Chapter 14 – Scales Above the Frets and Chromatic Fingering Patterns


Well, I’m on the earlier chapters, and the thought of playing above the frets brings on a nose bleed! But by the time I reach those heights, I trust this book will have me well prepared for the journey.

I would like to add that my warm-up routine also includes improvisation – an essential part of being a  musician. Simply making up melodies, exploring sonorities, with and without an imagined chordal underpinning can be really stimulating. Technique and imagination should go hand in hand. This book covers the former, the latter is up to you!

Rob MacKillop
7 June, 2019


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