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A Dictionary for the Modern String Player

A Dictionary for the Modern String Player

by Jo Nardolillo, T.M. Larsen (Illustrator)

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String players face a bewildering array of terms related to their instruments. Because string playing is a living art form, passed directly from master to student, the words used to convey complex concepts such as bow techniques and fingering systems have developed into an extensive vocabulary that can be complicated, vague, and even contradictory. Many of these


String players face a bewildering array of terms related to their instruments. Because string playing is a living art form, passed directly from master to student, the words used to convey complex concepts such as bow techniques and fingering systems have developed into an extensive vocabulary that can be complicated, vague, and even contradictory. Many of these terms are derived from French, Italian, or German, yet few appear in any standard music dictionary. Moreover, the gulf separating classical playing from fiddle, bluegrass, jazz, and other genres has generated style-specific terms rarely codified into any reference work. All Things Strings: An Illustrated Dictionary bridges this gap, serving as the only comprehensive resource for the terminology used by the modern string family of instruments. All of the terms pertaining to violin, viola, cello, and double bass, inclusive of all genres and playing styles, are defined, explained, and illustrated in a single text.

Entries include techniques from shifting to fingerboard mapping to thumb position; the entire gamut of bowstrokes; terms found in orchestral parts; instrument structure and repair; accessories and equipment; ornaments (including those used in jazz and bluegrass); explanations of various bow holds; conventions of orchestral playing; and types of strings, as well as information on a select number of famous luthiers, influential pedagogues, and legendary performers. All Thing Strings is expertly illustrated with original drawings by T. M. Larsen and musical examples from the standard literature. Appendixes include an extensive bibliography of recommended reading for string players and a detailed chart of bowstrokes showing notation and explaining execution.

As the single best source for understanding string instruments and referencing all necessary terminology, All Things Strings is an essential tool for performers, private teachers, college professors, and students at all levels. It is also an invaluable addition to the libraries of orchestra directors and composers wishing to better understand the complexities of string playing. With the inclusion of terms relevant to all four modern string instruments played in all genres—from jazz to bluegrass to historically informed performance—this resource serves the needs of every string musician.

Editorial Reviews

Players of bowed stringed instruments–violin, viola, violoncello, double bass–have a well-developed yet complex array of terminology related to the construction of, composition for, and performance on their instruments. While these instruments have long and well-documented histories, a dictionary of formal and vernacular terminology has been lacking. Nardolillo's long-overdue work includes terms ranging from parts of instruments through biographical entries for key performers, composers, and builders of instruments. The volume's concise definitions include language of origin, boldfaced cross-references, and see also references. In addition to biographies, entries include terminology, instrument names, titles of musical works and books, and performance techniques unique to the bowed string literature. Accompanying some entries are drawings by T. M. Larsen, depicting instruments and parts of instruments, that help readers visualize the related definitions or concepts. Musical examples illustrate, for example, the performance of ornaments, articulations, and bowings. The author is a violinist and violist with numerous concerts, premieres, and writings to her credit. A table of bow strokes relates terminology to actual performance. This work concludes with an excellent list of additional readings. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners.
The complex and multilayered art of music making includes a bevy of tools and terminology – not to mention a sea of genres. It's wonderfully overwhelming and daunting to think that one book could capture all of this information in a logical arrangement within a portable casing. But. . . .Jo Nardolillo and. . . .T.M. Larson set out to tackle just that with All Things String: An Illustrated Dictionary. With encyclopedic breadth, they caalog instruments, techniques, musical terms, gear and accessories, and include short bios for prominent luthiers, teachers, and musicians.
The Strad
Ambitious in its scope, this illustrated dictionary bills itself as a one-stop resource, covering all the terminology a modern string player could ever need. . . .The book is elegantly set out, packed with invaluable nuggets of knowledge and dotted with helpful instructions by double bassist T.M. Larsen. It’s a lovely book to browse through. . . .All told, it’s a great resource for students and teachers and even includes a huge list of book for further reading.
American Musical Instrument Society
Nardolillo has produced an excellent resource for bowed string players and those interested in bowed stringed instruments. It is a valuable reference work for school libraries, to be sure, but also the private libraries of teachers, performers and students.
Fiddler Magazine
All Things Strings is set up in the style of a dictionary. Included are alphabetical listings of hundreds of musical terms, many translated from their original Italian, French, and German. We find brief biographies of exemplary luthiers, violinists, teachers, and composers. Many obscure bowed stringed instruments, including the trumpet marine and rehab, are described and well-illustrated. A violinist and violist herself, Ms. Nardolillo’s knowledge of popular, jazz, and folk styles in addition to the world of classical music has allowed her to produce a comprehensive reference work. . . .Fascinating and highly recommended!
Australian Journal Of Music Education
With All Things Strings – An Illustrated Dictionary, Jo Nardolillo has created a comprehensive reference book and a fascinating read for anyone interested in the string tradition. . . .While the design of the book will appeal to students and teachers, this should not deter others from venturing within its covers. The book is a valuable resource for any string player. It is well-researched and informed by the author’s professional experience, and is clearly designed to foster understanding and communication across cultures and genres. . . .In compiling this book, Jo Nardolillo makes a fine contribution to the diverse world of string playing. All Things Strings – An Illustrated Dictionary will find a place not only 'at the side of the veteran performer, the experienced teacher, the avid student, and even the curious intermediate player' but equally at the side of the passionate amateur musician or individual appreciator of the string tradition.
American Reference Books Annual
As the title indicates, this reference work cover terms of interest to violin, viola, cello, and double bass string players. The book places historical terms in a modern context and serves to meet the needs of the classical as well as the bluegrass and jazz string students and performers. The work is very comprehensive in nature and covers topics such as: bowing, shifting, fingerboard mapping, instrument structure and repair, accessories, and types of strings. Select famous luthiers, teachers, and performers further inform the reader concerning stringed instruments. A large number of terms in the book are of French, Italian, and German origin, and these are often difficult to locate, but can be found with ease in this work. Terms and instruments are illustrated with line drawings that often cannot be found elsewhere. There is a classed bibliography of further reading at the end of the book. Tables include: bow strokes (e.g., slur, shoeshine) and a stringed instrument pitch chart. General reference libraries and music collections will find this work indispensable.
Reference Reviews
[The book] is a pleasure to dip into, stands reading purely for interest as well as to find a particular definition and would certainly find a place both in public and educational libraries, not to mention instrumentalists’ private collections.

Product Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
Dictionaries for the Modern Musician Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Violinist and violist Jo Nardolillo has performed throughout the United States and in Europe. She has commissioned, recorded, and given the world premieres of many new works, and is a founding member of the innovative new-music ensemble TangleTown Trio and the eclectic jazz sextet Touché. She is author of The Canon of Violin Literature (Scarecrow Press, 2011), and holds a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music.

Illustrator T. M. Larsen is a professional double bass player active in the Pacific Northwest. He has performed with the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Opera, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, and the Northwest Sinfonietta. As a jazz bassist, Mr. Larsen has been a member of the Jim Baker Band and the Northwest Sinfonietta Jazz Quintet.

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