Fiddle Bows….

Fiddle Bows….

I know a good bow is light and good quality wood/hair but does it actually make a difference to the tone?

Sam

Re: Fiddle Bows….

Oh, yes! It can make a remarkable difference. That’s why some players pay more for the bow than the fiddle.

Re: Fiddle Bows….

Yes, it can make a great deal of difference to the tone, although really it’s the player who makes the most difference — a good bow is not necessarily light. A good bow FOR YOU is a good comfortable weight FOR YOU. Also, the bow may be weighted more towards the frog, tip, or middle of the bow, depending on the individual player’s preference.

Re: Fiddle Bows….

F’r instance, I bought Mike Dugger’s old bow — it’s lovely, a Japanese hand made in the French style, a bit on the light side, but not too, and weighted slightly oddly. It worked beautifully for Mike and it works beautifully for me.

But Sean Smyth was looking for a bow to borrow at one point for a concert (his was losing hair at much too rapid a rate and he couldn’t get a re-hair there) and I handed him mine to try, and he hated it! — not that he’d have ever said so, but he said, "Oh, that’s much too good a bow for the likes of me." 🙂 Translate on your own.

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Yep, the bow is as much the instrument as the fiddle is. To find out just how much the bow can affect tone, take your fiddle into a good violin shop and ask to try out a range of bows. You’ll get everything from weak, thin tone to big phat rich tone you didn’t know your fiddle could make.

Fiddle bows range in weight from 50 grams up to near 70 grams, with anywhere from 59 to 63 grams being the most common. But more important than weight is the balance, as Zina says, whether the weight favors the tip, frog, or middle. A 58 gram bow weighted toward the tip can feel heavier in playing position than a 65 gram bow weighted toward the frog, and it will handle very differently.

The camber of the stick is also critical, greatly influencing the bow’s stability and responsiveness at playing tension.

Quality of the hair and rosin also makes a difference in tone. Lots of variables to tinker with over the years to discover what works for you.

Posted .

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As a general rule the more you pay the better the bow, but don’t take this as gospel - try all the bows you can, and you might just be lucky: my favourite bow cost me just £40 from new a couple of years ago, and I wouldn’t exchange it for any £500+ carbon fibre or wood bows I’ve tried. It’s quite heavy but is perfectly tensioned to allow me to do my own very unique bowing techniques that I’ve not managed to do on another bow. Someone once described to me how bows like mine are made: "carve the tree and stick a horse to it." This has, needless to say, since become a tune ;o)

Posted by .

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“Lots of variables to tinker with over the years to discover what works for you.”

And to drive you crazy.

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LOL, yeah, it’s more like "lots of variables to tinker with over the years to discover, repeatedly, what does not work for you."

The thing about shopping for bows is that you need to be an experienced fiddler to understand what suits you, so for the first 20 years you either get lucky and find a decent bow, or you slog along with difficult bows, not knowing any better. Which can lead to bad habits and a sense of familiarity with traits you really don’t want to be familiar with. Sigh.

One way out of this is to play as many different bows as you can get your hands on, just to sample the possibilites. It’s worth spending a day in a fiddle shop if you can, and to swap bows amongst willing friends. Eventually, you start to figure out what feels right in your hand. And then you develop as a player and get to go through the whole process again, and again.

Posted .

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And again. 🙂

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I guess the better the player, the less the bow quality matters.

When I was shopping for my fiddle and bow, I had just been playing on a rental instrument for two weeks or so. I had my teacher with me to help me pick.
I was amazed that I was able to hear so many nuances in quality after such a short time. In fact, without my teacher, I probably would have ended up with the same bow and fiddle.

When we got to the bow, my teacher recommended I get a 60 Dollar bow. She was happy with its quality and her playing sounded beautiful. However, when I tried that bow and compared it to the one I later bought, I could hear a huge difference in my tone. So I’d rather spend 6 times the amount for the bow, and never regretted it.

Posted by .

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Get a flute. That *would* make a difference to the tone! 😀

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Heiki, I’m not so sure. A good player can get a decent sound out of a bad bow, by knowing how to counter its defects, but a good player is also far more able to feel and use the subtle and not-so-subtle refinements of a better bow.

In short, for myself at any rate, a better bow has become more important to me as I’ve become a better fiddler.

LOL at Conway. After 25 years of fiddling, I *did* get a flute, in large part to enjoy a different tone than what I’d been listening to all those years. And I love it—not only do I enjoy playing flute, but it helps me re-appreciate what I can do on fiddle.

Posted .

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Good to hear that Will, there’s hope for all fiddlers!

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the balance of a bow can make more difference than weight…whan I was bow shopping 2 yrs ago, I checked out 2 Pereiras…the one I picked as lighter was actually heavier than the one I had picked for heavy…I went with the one with better balance

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Flutes are the same way regarding balance. My delrin tank apparently weighs the same as many wooden flutes, but it’s top heavy, and so feels considerably heftier than any wooden flute I’ve tried.

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Top heavy? Are you sure? What I notice is that my Seery feels heavier because there’s more weight at the *lower* end of the flute, yet overall it is almost the exact same weight as my Copley blackwood. The lined headjoint of the Copley counterbalances the rest of the flute, making it feel lighter in my hands.

Posted .

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I had been using a fiberglass bow w/ my chinese fiddle (under the illusion that nobody is likely to steal them. I got lent a 200 year old fiddle scottish last week (under the illusion that it’s better off being played by someone like me than sitting in the closet. The instument itself sounds kind breathy, like there was no rosin on the bow, but the bow is delightful. Light and springy: Articulate on the pointy end and noticably more powerful on the frog end. I put it to my own fiddle and was very pleased so I think the lack of tone on the lended fiddle may be partially due to neglect and the soundpost being too far aft. I’m going to play it for a week or two before I start diccan with it.
Nice,nice bow.

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I’m the lucky possessor (courtesy of my lifelong habit of rooting around in junk shops) of a 1920’s French bow that is simply divine, but I bought one of these to take down the pub:
http://www.phbows.com/
the one I got is number 1552 on this page http://www.stentor-music.com/catalogue/html%20strings/34.htm
and it’s fine - I get on well with it and it wasn’t anywhere near as pricey as a Coda bow. My fiddle playing is, shall we say, "developing", but the French bow does immediately make an acoustic difference. However, I can mistreat the carbon fibre one, lay it down in puddles of beer, etc

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One thing about composite bows (Coda, etc) is that they are more reproducible than wood bows, with significantly less wastage in the manufacturing. Having said that, there can be slight variations in the balance of otherwise identical composite bows, usually due to the non-composite frog..

Trevor

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Next time you buy a bow, ask for one in the price range you’re willing to pay, and then ask for one that runs about $40 or $50. And then ask for one at least $1000 more than what you’re looking to spend; if available, get one that runs at least $2000, more if possible. If the shop won’t let you do this, go to another shop.

Play through each bow, playing the exact same tunes or scales on each. You should hear, and definitely feel, a big difference. If not, buy the $50 bow and use it until you hate it—it feels heavy, your arm hurts, you can’t play more difficult phrases though you feel like you’re able. Then go back to the shop and do the exact same thing over again.

I’ve come to realize that the quality of the bow is easily just as important as the violin, though this seems counter-intuitive; I’m starting to think that the quality of the bow may even be much more important than the violin. Or, actually, bows are more subjective. Consider this: as the quality of the violin rises past a certain point, you never see violins and bows being sold together.

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We have been very successful with Incredibows - artificial sticks and hair, and Tartini Rosins seem to work well with them.

About 90% of people like them once they get over the initial look of the thing (a bit like a baroque frog) and the weight (about 39g) - and about 10% of people really don’t get on with them at all.

Interestingly, we’ve found that people who don’t initially like the idea of a lightweight bow do in fact get on with it very well. In the case of one person with ME, he found he could play for a lot longer.

You can get them from various outlets (including us but do try other places if you’re not in the UK) and most suppliers will let you try them for 60 days and return them if you don’t get on with them.

Something to consider anyway - the "cheap" ones are £59 (about $99) and are worth a go!