What kind of bow to upgrade to?

What kind of bow to upgrade to?

Alright, here I am…aimlessly wandering around on the web looking at full size violin bows. Then I came across this handy site of what seems to be knowledgeable music loving folks. Here we go.

Iv’e been playing violin for almost 16 years now. (Started when I was 4 through the Suzuki Method.) And until recently, I have discovered my bow is slowing me down…Ive been using a very heavy in weight, relatively cheap ($99), carbon fiber bow for the past 5 years or so and I feel I have used it to its potential and that it is time to upgrade. Knowing what I know as of a couple weeks ago, I went to my local violin shop and picked up a CodaBow Prodigy bow. I’ve played a few shows with it (accompanying country music) and have decided that I am going to return it and purchase something with a better response and maybe something with a lighter stick. Does anybody have any suggestions of types of bow I should keep an eye out for? I am in the $500 range and don’t want to go over too much. If the luthier was knowledgeable about bows, I wouldn’t be here…but he doesn’t answer any of my questions and get intimidated easily for what ever reason so I have turned elsewhere for input on this purchase. ANYWAYS!!! Any thoughts are appreciated. Thank you!

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

Hi Marcus…I hope someone has a happier reply than mine, but finding a bow with really good responsiveness … that lovely blend of strength and flexibility doesn’t usually happen at $500.
And are you thinking carbon because of the cost? Understandable, but the issue of quality remains.

In the world of upper end carbon bows, (for semi to professional players) I am a bit ignorant of many of the makes of the past 15 years, and I would love for someone here to show the way towards anything around $800 - $1000 that does a great job, as that doesn’t occur with wood sticks.

I owned one of the really nice early Berg Bows (Michael Duff) now sold to a student, but even in 1994? that composite stick was $2500. They were made to somewhat individual specifications. It actually felt a tiny bit heavy, but (re: your statement about weight) that is usually an issue of balance, and with that one…the frog. You might actually feel more “weight” in bows that are under 60 grams than others that weigh more. I owned a J.A. Beare bow that was 66g and felt like it could fly away anytime. It was too light for me, but a fabulous bow; beautiful balance. I guess with a factory composite all those specifications are consistent? So perhaps your question of brand could yield a consensus here.

Anyway…save your nickles, it will be worth it if you can spend more of course. And nothing can give you sound like a pernambuco stick. You might find some little gem on Ebay ;) But perhaps someone here can lead us both to a magical land of composite bows that are truly an extension of one’s arm for $800 or less. I want one to use for outdoor gigs. Inquiring minds definitely want to know!

I might continue to call around to luthiers in a wider area, say what you need and ask if anyone has anything on consignment, wood or carbon. You don’t need new. Sorry you seem to have run into a less than helpful person in a shop.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

After going through some fairly decent bows, and not really finding one I liked. I bought a Chinese bow for $50 and it’s been the best bow I’ve ever used. Despite what people say about Chinese violins and bows, the quality really is there.

Old Violin House(Top Seller in my opinion) sells some really nice bows which quite honestly compete to the bows in the $1000 - $1500 range easily. Try one of their $100 - $200 bows, really fantastic. Mine was discounted but I would price it at $100 - $150 there.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

I have a gorgeous German bow from c.1900, cost £150.

I also have a crappy bow from c.1990, cost £150.

You win some, you lose some…

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

When I upgraded my bow I went to my local shop and tried about 50 different bows until I found one that I was happy with. I definitely wouldn’t buy one without trying it alongside others at the same time as they all sounded so different on my fiddle.

ETA Mine is German c.1900 and was priced at £250

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

I have an expensive German pernambuco bow, silver mounted, valued at c. $2,500.
I have a silver mounted pernambuco bow made by an old friend I’ve been trying to find (Pat Barry- last seen in Colorado). The bow is worth c. $1,000. I’d love to find Pat Barry and tell him I like his bow.
I have an old nameless German Pernambuco bow, silver mounted, valued about $800.
I have a carbon Coda Classic, worth about $600.
Today I am playing my carbon Coda Aspire (nickel mounts), worth about $300.
There isn’t a huge difference between them regarding how well they play. They are all very good bows. The finish is different, and the weight and the balance aren’t the same. I can generally tell the difference of five grams, or between a ‘heavy’ and a ‘light’ bow. A lot has to do with the balance and where the weight is located. I notice the difference most when I play bowed triplets and when I bounce the bow. My favorite is the Pat Barry bow but I could live with any of them.
This is not to say that all bows are the same. My point is that a high price isn’t always an indicator of a good bow. But a weak stick, crappy old hair, and a poorly fitted frog will be signs of a bad bow. Silver mounts is a good sign that the bow mattered enough to the maker so that he’d spend the extra five or ten dollars using silver.
Why I have so many good bows is another story….

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

‘Why I have so many good bows is another story….’

Ah, so, another sad case of ‘instrument aquisition syndrome’?

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

I used to be an instrument dealer. I am left with some that are rubbish, overlooked, or just not worth a lot -- and others that I can’t bear to sell.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

But at the end of the day you really have to play some to see what you like

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

@Marcus, listen to Whitty.

You’re in TN, right? Are you near any violin shops? Go, take your fiddle, and play every bow you can find that’s within your range. Take your time, don’t rush. Don’t think that a new composite bow is going to be any better than an older wood bow just because it costs more -- or less, for that matter.

Play everything, find a few you like, then see if you can take them home for a few days to try them some more. This may or may not be possible, but at least you can ask.

Posted by .

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

…the thing I forgot to say …

“Knowledge” on the part of the luthier has little to do with finding a good bow, I think. It’s not an intellectual exercise -- as Diane suggested weights and numbers don’t mean as much as you might think they do. What you need to know about a bow you can find out pretty easily -- is the stick straight? Is it lively or dead?

Most important is how it feels and plays for you.

FYI -- interesting discussion on bow tension, with some references to a “noodle,” what I would call a dead bow, just FYI:

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?id=9733

Posted by .

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

I recently bought a second baroque bow (wood) - don’t ask, but I like playing the baroque bow - from a local store for £50. It’s probably of Chinese origin but it weighs only 55gm and moves like the wind, ideal imo for trad folk fiddle music of the British Isles. Incidentally, what I paid is well in the ballpark for what I’d pay for a rehair locally, so go figure what I’d probably do when a rehair is needed!

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

This works: Visit a busy violin shop with a large inventory of bows in your area or when traveling to a place where there is such a shop: the larger the inventory the better. Ask them to show you all the bows in the range of 500-1000 and then spend a few hours trying them all with your own fiddle (important). If you do this required work, you are much more likely to find a single bow that compliments your playing style and your unique appreciation of the timbre. An offer of cash below the tag price may be accepted. While your at it, perhaps play some bows in a higher price range if only for the educational experience.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

@Ergo; was considering including a link from violinist.com but I’m glad you shared first 🙂 It can be a bit like a “how to play your instrument” thread from this site. hehe.

But here’s another if anyone wants more experiences from CF users and can dive into the carbon vs wood debates. http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=18368
Even a this carbon vs that carbon thread:
http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm%3FID%3D15879
And you can just put Carbon bows in the search bar on the site and have at it.

I think it’s great that many of these carbon ones are almost comparable to very expensive wood ones. They certainly are in how they handle. They still do not have the physical ability to create, if you will, the layers of sound that truly fine wood can, but for most session work I don’t know that it’s even that important. Frankly, I’d be very happy to have a really good bow that is practically unbreakable when I’m in the bar to play tunes. I’m careful, but those venues ain’t exactly the most sedate. 🙂

And just on aside…there are some really good threads there from people asking about playing fiddle. I just put in Irish fiddle and found all sorts of advice. I even found one of our own helpful members! ;)

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

It’s interesting that people say that a carbon fibre bow will never be comparable to a wooden one.

Whilst I agree CF and wood will always produce a different sound, I think the advance in technology design will get to a point that the CF bow will be able to produce a truly excellent sound.

I’d even go so far as to say the sound quality could overtake that of wood.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

It may not be an option where you are, but another vote for going to a decent shop and trying different bows, on your own fiddle, of course.
Good advice from Nick Woodward of Bristol Violin Shop (UK)
“Go up the range until you can’t tell the difference any more.”
“Only compare two or three bows at a time, and keep eliminating the one you like least,” (plus your own bow for reference.)

I don’t doubt that a high quality wooden bow will potentially beat carbon fibre, but at realistic price levels for most of us, good carbon fibre makers can consistently turn out an extremely good bow. Wooden bows at the same price will be a lottery.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

I just got a CODA BOW LUMA. Love the sound and weight.
Good luck.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

As someone who makes part of his living repairing and restoring wooden bows it pains me to say so, but I think TonB-R is right. In the price range we are talking about carbon bows are likely to be superior to any wooden bow at the same price.

When a bowmaker makes a wooden bow, the quality of the end product is dependent not only on his skill, but also on the qualities of the wood he starts with. Every bow he makes is different, and a bow turns out good he will sell it for £1,000+, if it is priced less than that it is because it isn’t that good.

But with carbon bows it is a manufacturing process, once they have designed a good bow they can make 100s exactly the same, so the very best carbon bows are still affordable. And a carbon bow won’t bend or lose it’s camber a year or two down the line.

The best pernambuco bows may be better than the best carbon bows (though I doubt that many people who read this forum play violin at a high enough level to appreciate the difference) but if you are working within a budget you will always get a better carbon bow than a wooden one at the same price.

The other factor that people might (or might not) want to take into account is the ethics of wooden bows. Caesalpinia echinata, the tree that Brazilwood and Pernambuco come from is almost extinct, and subject to export controls. Makers in the US and Europe are using up old stock, there are some bowmakers in Brazil who are licensed to export finished bows made from old felled timber such as fence posts, but other than that any new Pernambuco or Brazilwood bow you buy (i.e. all the reasonably priced ones from China) will have been made from illegally felled and exported timber. You may or may not want to be part of that trade.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

Jim and Mark…I do agree with you both. (Didn’t know that about the China timber Mark!) Jim, it just makes me a bit wistful (is that the term?) but when/if carbon overtakes wood in every way it will be a good thing for several reasons, not the least of which is Mark’s point about wood. :( Tom, I had in mind the playing needs/level when I wrote of layers of sound. You guys are all right on; I personally want that carbon that “does it all” and then some. I will say that there is nothing more fun than having 20 plus bows lined up to try out and hearing the differences that each each one can pull out, or not, from any particular fiddle. (Same with trying out violins of course) but with bows…I wonder if 20 CODA (for example) bows of the same type would all produce the same sound on the same fiddle. IDK, kind of like having everything too digitized, perfect, so on. I find myself not wanting a yes answer.

20 CODA bows of the same type …

“I wonder if 20 CODA (for example) bows of the same type would all produce the same sound on the same fiddle.”

Not in my experience. It seems to be the case that the same model varies from bow to bow. Good quality carbon bows are finished by hand; the difference of .1 mm can make a big difference.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

I have an old octagonal pernamuco bow which I sue now and again. It’s not great quality, but it’s light, and has a kick like a mule.

I love my Arcus M4 carbon fibre bow, and although it has the kick of a tired mule, all the other qualities more than make up for it.

The bows in the Arcus range are hollow, with varying degrees of wall thickness.

There’s a huge amount of detail about their bows - not really sales spiel, but factual information on the manufacturing process and the different models available for different player requirements.

If you want a decent bow, I reckon it’s worth having a look at their site :

http://www.arcus-muesing.de/homepage.html
http://www.arcus-muesing.de/design.html … and navigate your way around.

There’s a price tag for every bow too, in euros, so you can compare what shops are selling them for.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

[*I personally want that carbon that “does it all” and then some. *]

Hi Diane, I just cross-posted with you. If you have a look here, then follow the ‘Find out more’ link in the ‘History’ section, there’s a bit of an answer :

http://arcus-muesing.de/concept.html

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

Thank you Jim!
David, that makes sense, and isn’t it amazing? .1mm!

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

I bought one of those inexpensive (around $70.00) Chinese baroque-style bows last year and just loved it. It needs re-hairing now and I’m back to a carbon-fiber bow until I get around to re-hairing the baroque bow. The Chinese bow is short, light, and well-balanced, and I think it is great for fiddle music.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

Take a day. Go to a shop. Play every bow in sight. If there isn’t anything good enough in your price range, something’s wrong.

It doesn’t even have to be a good shop, as long as they have some bows. You might get lucky, who knows.

Re: What kind of bow to upgrade to?

A fellow fiddler tried out my new inexpensive baroque bow at a session this evening. His comment says it all - “It feels so natural”.