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Violinist.com Interviews: Vol. 1

Our exclusive, one-on-one interviews with 27 of today's best-known violinists, including Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, David Garrett, Anne Akiko Meyers, Maxim Vengerov, and others.


Bow effect on tone quality

Instruments: Bow effect on tone quality

From Reynard Hilman
Posted April 24, 2011 at 03:12 AM

Once I had this problem, my violin just sounded so harsh. I tried everything, even changing the string, with not much success. then I tried different bow, and suddenly it sounded good. I bought that bow right away, it's much cheaper than my old bow. Then I rehaired my old bow, and started using it again. and now it's starting to have the same problem, my new cheap bow sounds so much better now and I haven't rehaired it (but maybe I didn't use it as much as the old one this past year). 

But I'm just wondering what is it in a bow that makes so much difference in sound quality. Basically what makes the sound good or bad is the bow hair, not the wood right? Does rosin build up make a difference too? Does rehairing makes the sound better? I know some people suggest rehairing at least once a year? Do you clean your bow hair often? just by wiping it? 

 

From John Cadd
Posted on April 24, 2011 at 09:52 AM

Message deleted.

From Franz Zinfandel Janito
Posted on April 24, 2011 at 01:12 PM

John Cadd wrote "It works really well".

This must be one of the most irresponsible posts I have read in a while. 

You futz around scratching 1 bow based on the musings of a web-journal; you are not sure whether to coat with linseed oil, and then you write that statement,

Have you worked through the implications of others following your lead?

From John Cadd
Posted on April 24, 2011 at 01:39 PM

Message deleted.

From Jon Hess
Posted on April 24, 2011 at 06:05 PM

 The wood makes a very big difference, the sound quality can change very just through getting another bow.

The hair and the rosin also makes a small difference, but mainly when the hair is too old, because it then sounds bad. But still the quality of the wood and the bow maker is the most important.

I rehair every three months, but I also play very much... 

From Julie Wilson
Posted on April 24, 2011 at 06:41 PM

 I have heard that different bows (like violins) have their own 'voice.' It's likely due to the type and springiness of the wood used, and also the camber (bend) in the bow. My old German bow is more flexible, and my newer 'student' bow is a bit heavier and stiffer - this results in different sounds depending on which bow is being used, due to their different weight and 'rigid-ness'. 

I can also tell you that for me personally, if the bow starts sounding scratchy or harsh, sometimes it's just because there's too much rosin built up and if I clean off my strings the bow 'magically' sounds better. So, is there a possibility that the older bow just has more rosin on it?

From Gene Wie
Posted on April 24, 2011 at 07:03 PM

The bow makes a bigger difference than most people would think. I often get students (and parents) who express a huge amount of surprise after hearing the differences between a $30 fiberglass student bow, a modern ~$1000 Brazil bow, and a $10,000+ French bow (early 1900's), all on the same instrument.

In that same vein, I always encourage people looking for a new violin to consider that from a monetary standpoint, an upgrade to a better bow can in many ways yield more noticeable benefit on a limited budget.

From Reynard Hilman
Posted on April 24, 2011 at 09:36 PM

yeah probably I should try removing rosin from my old bow to fix the scratchy sound.  

I was also surprised by how much difference a bow makes on the sound but still trying to figure out what actually makes that difference. my $80 bow is lighter and makes a softer mellow sound, my $250 bow is heavier and makes a bigger sound but generally more scratchy (which I'm not sure if it's caused by too much rosin or the hair). I have also tried $800 john horst bow, but surprisingly I think I still like my $80 bow the best. I have yet to try the $10000 bow :)

From John Cadd
Posted on April 25, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Have a close look at the hairs on the scratchy violin with a magnifying glass and a bright light. Come back and tell us what you notice .I won`t say any more till you have done that. One tip.  Look at any shiny hairs in particular.Look at the shape of each hair.It`s a detailed job to give a smooth sound.