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What's the best material for bows to be made of?

Instruments: Wood/carbon fibre/fibreglass?

From Aysha N
Posted September 5, 2008 at 05:38 PM

E.g rosewood, brazilwood, carbon fibre or fibreglass? I currently have a fibreglass bow and i really like it, but am thinking of getting a new one. What's the best sort?
Aysha

From Tobias Seyb
Posted on September 5, 2008 at 06:07 PM
None of the above. Still the best is pernambuco wood.
There is nothing such as "brazil wood", this is only a label for cheap substitute woods for pernambuco.
Second choice would be a carbon bow. Seems they offer mor for the money at lower price levels.

If you need advice, it's a good idea to be more explicit. A pro has other needs than a advanced student or a beginner.

From Brian Hong
Posted on September 5, 2008 at 08:13 PM
Aysha, I have not heard of a bow made by rosewood. That's a first.

The best quality would be wood. Pernambuco, to be exact. That's the strongest, most flexible wood. The next best thing would be brazilwood, but its not as strong nor does it pull as sweet and powerful a sound.

The next tier would be carbon fiber. No carbon fiber bow can match the sound of a pernambuco, but some can go beyond the abilities of a wood stick technique wise.

Do not use fiberglass. Lol. You may like it, but that's the lowest tier and its very weak, though durable. I would upgrade at least to a carbon fiber, specifically bows from the Jon Paul line or the Coda line.

From Andrew Victor
Posted on September 5, 2008 at 08:08 PM
While the general answer is that a really, really good ("fine") pernambuco bow is to be preferred, there are many really good bows made of other materials.

Sometimes a particular "lesser" bow will be the best of a group of bows for a particular instrument.

Fiberglass bows are generally considered to be the least desirable bows, and are priced accordingly, yet sometimes you can find one that works really well with a particular instrument.

I have had my hands on some "Brazilwood" bows that did a decent job for me (at least on a cello).

Right now I'm using an ARCUS Concerto bow on the violin I'm currently playing (also carrying a Rolland Spiccato, a Vorin, and a Berg Delux in the case.) If I change to a different violin (for one reason or another), I will change out some of the bows in the case for others.

My answer would be try as many bows as you can over a wide price range to see what the differences are and then try to get the best you can afford.

Andy

From Dottie Case
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 01:40 AM
Aysha, I note from your bio that you've been playing for 11 years. Given that, I'm surprised that you are playing on a fiberglass bow, as they are typically used for early beginners. Has your teacher never suggested an upgrade before this? Just curious...
From Roland Garrison
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 04:33 AM
I had a fiberglass bow I gave to my grandson; he uses it to 'conduct' when I practice.
I had a decent 'brazilwood' bow (there really is no species of tree that gives this type of lumber), and it was decent for me as a student.
I had rosewood bows that came free with a case, and they were worth what I paid; not much more. They tend to twist sideways after you play with them a bit.
I went to a local luthier, and he let me practice with a number of pernambuco bows in my price range. I found one that was much better than any of the bows mentioned above (price range was $100 +/-). I am very happy with that bow; it is light but strong, and I find it very easy to maintain tone from tip to frog.

So, find a good source, but try them out!

From Aysha N
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 11:26 AM
Hello, thank you all for your responses. Ms Case, no my teacher has never suggested an upgrade, i didn't know fibreglass bows were used mainly for entry level! Are pernambuco bows expensive? I am a student you see, so i don't have a lot of money =(
From Aysha N
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 02:45 PM
From Roland Garrison
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 03:53 PM
Pernambuco bows can be expensive, but they start around $100 or so. I am a student also, and when I upgraded my bow to a basic entry level pernambuco, I was really suprised at how much my playing improved.
Comparing a pernambuco bow with a fiberglass bow is similar to comparing a truck with a sports car; the lighter bow is much more nimble, it is easier to keep a consistant tone. I notice it much more at the tip, where I do not have to really change much to keep a volume or tone by changing the pressure I am trying to put on the bow; I can be much smoother because of it.
But, that said, not very bow matches every violin or player. The local shop I used to frequent was not willing to let me try the bows before I bought, and the first one I bought blindly was not as good as the bow i was using. I changed music shops, went to somewhere they let me try the bows on my violin, and from 8 bows in my price range, I was able to pick out the one I felt was best. If my budget was $1500 for a bow, I will go back to the same place; I really appreciated how I was allowed to take my time.
From Andrew Victor
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 08:48 PM
It is not weight, i.e. "lightness" or "heaviness" that makes the difference in what we feel and do with a bow, so much, it is the balance. All violin bows weigh "2 ounces give-or-take," mostly just about 1/7 ounce heavier.

I have had my hands on some pretty bad pernambuco bows - even in the $400 range, which is why I would be very leary of $100 "pernambuco" bows. In that price range, some of the composite (ostensibly carbon-fiber/epoxy) bows are often a better bet.

I had a good adult student who had a W. Seifert bow (a pretty well-known German pernambuco workshop brand) that was an impossible bow for doing a spiccato or sautille stroke. I let her try the Glasser Composite I had at the time and she whipped out a fine spiccato right away. On the other hand I have a W. Seifert viola bow that is better for me on my viola than my Coda Classic or my Arcus Concerto (viola bows all).

In general, really good pernambuco bows provide a bonus for tone quality on some instruments - but I think you have to get above $1,000 to get this benefit by any means other than trial and error and lots-a-luck! And always be sure to take your own instrument along when you shop for bows.

Andcdy

From Aysha N
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 07:42 PM
I don't think i'll be able to afford a pernambuco then, my budget is about £40, roughly $70? Low i know, but when you've no cash...! I've seen some carbon fibre bows that have good reviews, i think it's best i go for one of those, just until i can upgrade further?
From Marc Bettis
Posted on September 6, 2008 at 08:55 PM
At such a low end-a carbon fiber bow would be a better bet.

Aysha, be aware that your budget for your entire bow is barely more than the cost to rehair it 6 months or so down the line. A rehair in the US usually costs ~$40 USD for labor and hair, for perspective.


At $70USD don't expect more than an elongated pencil with synthetic hair....octagonal/round will likely make little difference. Try lots of bows--you can usually find something that works best of the options, at any price points.

From Andrew Holland
Posted on September 7, 2008 at 08:20 PM
Marc, even the cheapest violin bows (around $25) at Shar,for example, come with real horsehair.
From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on September 8, 2008 at 03:15 AM
Fiberglass is probably the best material if you plan on using your bow in a sword fight. Like everyone else, I suggest pernambuco. I was able to get a decent bow for the price at $350.
From Conrad Jacoby
Posted on September 8, 2008 at 03:54 AM
Bow material depends entirely on the conditions under which you are playing. For outdoor or tropical conditions, I used a fiberglass bow for many years, (relatively) recently switching over to a medium-grade carbon fiber bow. For playing an instrument in high school or elementary school conditions, fiberglass or carbon fiber is the way to go.

On the other hand, nothing draws out the best possible sound out of a violin like a good pernambuco wood bow. Cheap ones (e.g., "Chinese pernambuco") are much worse than a comparably priced carbon fiber bow. Good ones, on the other hand, are simply marvelous.

I'd suggest that if your budget is below $400, look for a premium-grade carbon fiber bow. Above that, you can start to find some decent to very decent wooden bows.

From Anthony Chi
Posted on September 9, 2008 at 01:44 PM
Has anyone ever heard of bows made from the Manilkara-kauki tree? Here is a link:

http://www.dick.biz/dick/product/150211/detail.jsf

Are they any good?

From Aysha N
Posted on September 10, 2008 at 10:35 AM
Hmm that sounds like a bit like a "brazilwood" bow. But i could be wrong! I now have a premium grade carbon fibre bow, and i love it! Thanks to all for your advice!
From Timothy James Dimacali
Posted on September 11, 2008 at 10:51 AM
The best bows are made out of silk ribbon!

...sorry, couldn't help myself! It was just waiting to be said LOL

From Aysha N
Posted on September 11, 2008 at 05:03 PM
Haha, I like that =)

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