Buying a Bow

Buying a Bow

I am considering a new bow and will be near a location where I can make that purchase on Tuesday. I am not planning on spending big money but just want something that will make my playing a bit more enjoyable. What should I be looking for and what should I look out for that would not be in my best interest. All suggestions and help would be most appreciated

Re: Buying a Bow

Play with the bow on your instrument.

Re: Buying a Bow

You’ll need to try out a bunch of them to find one that is right for you. The balance and weight is different for every bow so don’t buy the first one that seems good, try all of them.

You probably already know this, but don’t buy a fiberglass bow, they are only good for youngsters who might break a wooden one. Your main decision is whether to get carbon fiber or wood.

I don’t play a carbon fiber one so I can’t really comment on them much, but carbon fiber bows have a reputation for outstanding performance for the price, so definitely give them a look.

Wooden bows are two kinds: brazilwood and pernambuco. Pernambuco is by far the best material for bows, but it’s expensive and those bows can go into the thousands of dollars.

You can find some lower-cost pernambuco bows from makers like Water Violet, thought, so you might want to look for something like that if you are looking in the $300-$500 range. All things being equal, pernambuco is the best bow material if you can afford it.

Brazilwood bows are cheaper because they are made from a lower grade of wood. However, it’s very possible to find a great brazilwood bow; it’s not all about the wood, if it’s made well a brazilwood bow can be very good.

If looking at a wooden bow--especially a used one--sight down it to make sure it doesn’t lean or twist to either side (a tiny degree of warpage is somewhat normal, but it should be very slight). Also, look at the cambre (arch) of the bow when the hair is loose: the stick should come down and either touch the hair or come very close about 2/3 of the stick from the frog end.

In any case, it really comes down to trying a bunch of them and finding one that plays well in your hand and fits your budget. If you can’t afford anything more than $200 then I recommend waiting and saving a bit more; you usually have to spend several hundred dollars for a bow that is worth trading up to.

Oh, as for fittings, nickel is the way to go unless you just want to pay for some bling. Gold and siver fittings are just for looks and don’t make the bow play any better, so don’t let a salesperson try to tell you differently.

Good luck. Take your time to find the right one. Upgrading the bow can make as much difference as upgrading the fiddle, you may be surprised at how much of a difference it will make.

Re: Buying a Bow

You don’t say what level of fiddle-playing experience you have. If yours is no higher than intermediate I’d seriously recommend you take an experienced player along with you to help. Be prepared to spend a couple of hours at the dealers. A good dealer will also allow a prospective buyer to take two or three bows away for a week’s trial - which may well be needed to make a good choice. There will usually be a small cover charge for insurance purposes.
An inexperienced player choosing a bow is faced with a next to impossible task because they don’t yet have the bowing skills to enable them to distinguish properly between bows.
When checking a bow for twist or lean, do it when the hairs are slack. It sometimes happens that tightening up the hairs will cause a slight lean in the stick because of uneven tension across the hairs - it’s not usually serious, and you wouldn’t notice it when playing. It can easily be rectified by a luthier