Springy bow advice

Springy bow advice

I got a new bow after spending a few hours at my closest local luthier (Duane Lasley for anyone in Seattle). It had come down to two but I chose the “easier” one.

I kept thinking about the other one so after about six weeks I chatted with Duane. He’s now given me the runner up bow to try and I can switch it out if I want.

After spending a few days with runner up bow I find it makes better sound but is a bit more challenging.

That’s okay, but what makes it more challenging is it’s super bouncy. Like there’s a very small tightness window (it’s right on the edge of being nearly too loose) for it to hit its awesome sound.

I am going to keep both for a bit longer, but am nearly certain runner up bow is my keeper.

I was wondering if any fiddlers have any suggestions for springy bows or things I should be aware of that may not be apparent.


Re: Springy bow advice

Want to clarify.

It’s not bouncy because it’s wound too tight.

It’s pretty loose. It just… bounces

Re: Springy bow advice

Things that cause bow bounce:
1. Nervousness and tension in your right hand. It may simply be that you are tense because you are playing with an unfamiliar bow.
2. Playing too quietly. The new bow may be louder than your old one and you are unconsciously throttling back.
3. Overtightening. You’ve already eliminated that one.

Generally, good, responsive bows are more prone to bounce than cheap heavy ones. I’d be inclined to stick with the bouncy one, or at least keep it on trial for a couple of weeks while you find how to keep it under control and adapt to it before you make a decision.

Re: Springy bow advice

Vechey, do you do regular long bowing exercises (son filé)? If not you might find it surprisingly helpful.

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Re: Springy bow advice

Vechey, I could add a 4. to Mark M’s (good) advice - pay more attention to the pressure you apply with your 1st finger. Maybe you will need more than normal with a springy bow.

I have an Arcus M4 carbon fibre bow, and an old lightweight, unbranded hex pernambuco one. With the latter I find I need more 1st finger pressure to stop unwanted bounce and ricochet.

I second Calum’s advice too.

Re: Springy bow advice

More agreement from me. All the advice so far is spot on.

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Re: Springy bow advice

On the bow.

I’m definitely keeping it. Over the past two practice sessions I’ve gotten and found more out of the tunes and was able to play nearly ever tune I know (four, what a number) better than I ever have rhythmically and the high notes have a softness that my previous bow lacked. So it’s no question really.

But it wobblies and bounces. It doesn’t bounce off the strings, so contact with hair to string doesn’t have the bounce, it’s the wood is all jumpity, or vibraty. I lack words.

Maybe it doesn’t matter? I think it does a bit, or at least for me to know when and how to minimize it.

I do do long bowing exercises. I do long ass bows on open strings, speed up, speed down, and play tunes with all the slurring that I can fit into one bow. I’m going to focus more on them for a bit with an eye towards the bounce. It is more pronounced in the middle of the bow, which seems natural.

1. Nervousness and tension in your right hand.

Paid attention, and I think my left hand is pretty loose. I’ve played with this bow now for 6+ hours so I am not nervous, though I’m always excited to be playing.

2. Playing too quietly. The new bow may be louder than your old one and you are unconsciously throttling back.

Okay. This was interesting as it is louder than my other bow, and I think I was unconsciously throttling. Now that I’m aware of it I’m just playing more loudly, but it still is bouncy mcbouncerton.

3. Overtightening. You’ve already eliminated that one.


4. Finger pressure

That seems to have little effect.

And thanks for ideas and suggestions - they’ve all been helpful and thinks to keep aware of so I appreciate it. I’ll try anything else suggested.

Re: Springy bow advice

If you’re only four tunes in then it’s likely that the bow is better than you are. Stick with it, and you’ll find that as you get better, so does the bow. 🙂

Re: Springy bow advice

That’s definitely true!

My focus at the moment is very much on gaining rhythmic understanding and rhythmic expression of tune types over adding more tunes.

Maybe my focus is misplaced, but I think I’ll be well served by being able to play three polkas well more than doing six, nine or whatever polkas that I can’t play properly.

I also don’t mean to characterize the bow as a problem. It’s amazing and my understanding and capabilities are going up, but I also know that it’s bounciness is extreme (the luthier warned me), so all these perspectives help in giving me additional things to watch and learn about it and bring intention and awareness to (including "just stick with learning and you’ll get more facility").

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For all the years I’ve been on this site I have rarely, more likely NEVER , found any flaw in Mark M’s advice. You really need look no further Vechey. And from my own personal experience, this all sits true. Like Jim, I have a carbon bow (Coda diamond) and an "unbranded hex pernambuco". I’m not sure which I love the best, but I have learnt to control the springy pernambuco to the degree that I prefer it for fast, clean bowed triplets and the like. I use it more on fast ornamented tunes. You have to learn to be ‘light’ with it and let it float (under experienced control).

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Re: Springy bow advice

You might also want to double check you are happy with your grip, certain ways of gripping make it easier to stop the bow bouncing on fast passages without introducing unwanted tension on your fingers.

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Thank you everyone!

Here’s what my plan is:

-Bring more awareness to bow grip tension and bow pressure

-Try different bow holds and see what changes

Most importantly:

-Just keep playing, practicing and learning. As Mark pointed out the bow will improve as I do

Thanks everyone. I appreciate the help on my never ending journey

Re: Springy bow advice

Ergo, I notice the video shows how to manage the bow at different points, and for different bow travel, but all the examples show him beginning each phrase with the bow sitting stationary on the string.

I wonder in future videos if he will show how to avoid bow bounce when the bow initially contacts the string (by setting the bow in motion before contact).

I suppose it’s something experienced players do without even thinking, but maybe not so for beginners.

Re: Springy bow advice

Lots of fine responses, all.

The O.P. brings to mind an exemplar that the great violinist Oscar Shumsky would occasionally use to address any student’s complaint of an overly "bouncy" bow. Oscar might ask to see the bow, he’d look it over and then set it on a table and wait for it to bounce. They would observe that the bow did not bounce, and Oscar would then gently suggest that the problem may possibly lie in the student’s technique.

There seems to be a propensity of folk players of all sorts who "choke-up" on the bow — i.e., hold it by the winding, or grasp it even further up the bow. When I eventually got round to trying it myself, the reason for it was immediately obvious: the bow won’t bounce. I couldn’t even make it bounce like that. However, this approach kills the tonality and response of the bow, which becomes more like a truncheon in the hand. The bow is not a mere accessory, but ought to be allowed to do the work it is designed to do. It can work for you and set you free.

The "Franco-Belgian" bow hold seems to be, more or less, the most popular bow-hand posture taught nowadays. I was lucky enough to pick it up as the attending parent with my son at his Suzuki lessons back in the ‘70’s. It appears to be what we see in the work of a number of advanced folk fiddlers nowadays.

For me, that’s sort of where it begins — with the bow hold. Here is a link to a brief Y-T of Perlman demonstrating the Franco-Belgian bow hold: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6r0WW-KN6VM&t=1s. BTW, one important thing he does not mention is to keep the thumb bent, at least a little bit; and place the tip of the thumb between the frog pivot and the leather grip.

Drawing a straight bow at 90° to the strings is important as well, as is practicing in front of a mirror to monitor progress. It doesn’t take but a few hours or days for all this to take hold. It’s not as hard as it might seem starting out. For me, a bit of attention to technique starting out is simply the easiest way to quick learning.

Re: Springy bow advice

"I wonder in future videos if he will show how to avoid bow bounce when the bow initially contacts…"

I don’t think he does that. That’s a whole other issue 🙂

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