I. Introduction and research process


The starting point of this research derived from my first experiences as a double bassist playing the basso continuo line in early music ensembles. In some of the music I was asked to play, I had doubts about playing along: The double bass sound seemed too heavy and not suiting the music, so I did my best to play as light as possible or leave out some notes or sections. Other pieces the double bass fitted well in the ensemble but it was hard to pinpoint why this was the case. When discussing this topic with colleagues I found out that many double bassists recognized this, which made me decide to look into it further.

Moreover, I had the impression that musicians often tend to go for the same option when it comes to instrumentating the basso continuo group: harpsichord and violoncello. Learning about the variety of bass instruments and situations in the early eighteenth century, it seemed unlikely to me that this combination of instruments was used as much as we do nowadays.


In October 2016, I played three of the VI Concerti Armonici by Unico van Wassenaer with violinist Antoinette Lohmann and her students from the Utrecht Conservatory. The instrumentation for the basso continuo group was not given by the composer and every option we came up with seemed to have a downside. Since I was also intrigued by the beauty of the piece, I realised that Van Wassenaer's piece was a very interesting research subject. 


Although my starting point was rather concrete, it took me more time than I expected to translate my thoughts into a research format and to articulate a research question that reflected those thoughts. Going along in the research, I realised that more information raises more questions and ideas. This made the process of researching both fun and frightening: It was great to aquire more knowledge and to see a world unfolding. At the same time it created a growing mountain of research work that can still be done, making me wonder how much of that work I was supposed to do for this research.

At a certain point I drifted somewhat away from my own standpoint as a player, as I was trying too hard to not only do a decent research into performance practise, but also to connect my research to nowaday's concert practise and to serve a large audience. I am grateful to Johannes Boer and Maggie Urquhart, who prevented this research from becoming a too theoretical one. For some time, I was not sure about the research format and I was considering to make a guide for bassists how to decide on doubling the continuo line. I decided not to do this because it would probably become too generic and therefore not connected to my research topic.

This research took an unexpected turn when the possibility of using an 8 foot violone violone started to look like a serious and historically very likely option. I saw myself more as a double bass player and this was a moment that I had to let go of some of my initial plans and take up the violone. This slight change of direction was a good lesson for me to find a balance between staying focused and being open and it has brought some very interesting musicals results. 

With this paper, I hope to contribute to the research that is being done on performance practise in the Netherlands of music from the 18th century. There is still a lot of work to be done in this field, especially about the variety of large bowed bass instruments and their playing techniques.


I would like to thank my supervisor Johannes Boer and my main subject teacher Maggie Urquhart for their guidance, expertise and sharp questions. I would also like to thank Kathryn Cok and my fellow students from the Master Circle for the great feedback and the good vibes we need in order to learn. Thanks to them, this research has not only increased my research skills and my knowledge on historical bass playing, it also brought me a lot of self-knowledge and social skills. Furthermore, I am very grateful to Rudolf Rasch, Elske Tinbergen and Jaap ter Linden for sharing their knowledge and answering my questions.

Last but not least a very big thank you to my wonderful colleagues and friends who played in the musical examples; Menno Euwe for recording them and the NoyzBoyz for providing the equipment.