Expensive bow = better?

September 14, 2016 at 05:29 AM · I was just cruising and I thought of another question. This doesn't apply to me, just a question...

Instead of buying a expensive violin, is it better to buy a bow with that money instead?

Like if someone had $5000 dollars to spend, instead of spending $4500 on the violin and $500 on the bow, is it better to spend like $3500 on the violin and $1500 on the bow? Will that optimize your sound and playing more? This is not about me, but I was wondering if it is better investing in an expensive bow and decent violin rather than investing in an expensive violin and decent/cheap bow?



Replies (13)

September 14, 2016 at 05:50 AM · There isn't a simple answer to your question. A fine bow will make any violin sound better, but it won't make a violin sound better than its maximum quality.

Acquiring a violin and a bow to make the best possible sound in any given price range is basically like maximizing an equation with two variables.

September 14, 2016 at 08:41 AM · @David. Your maths is correct. 1/3 to 2/3rds is about the correct ratio of spending, bow:violin. This can only be a guide as once you get to very expensive violins, the ratio will change.

Cheers Carlo

September 14, 2016 at 10:21 AM · The only thing that's guaranteed about paying more for a violin or bow is that it will cost you more money. You might find a cheaper bow or violin that is better for you, and you might easily find a more expensive bow or violin that is no good for you. Best thing as you have been told repeatedly David, and still don't seem to comprehend, is to try multiple instruments, bows etc, don't rely on brand names etc. But generally a $500 bow should not usually be a good enough match for a $4500 violin.

September 14, 2016 at 12:43 PM · Yes, you will play better with a better bow; my violin sounds better with my good cello bow than with my cheap violin bow!

Trying many other instruments and bows as you gain skill in playing is very important to gaining the knowledge necessary to trade up. I would go out on a limb and say that without experiencing different instruments and bows, you will never gain the knowledge necessary to trade up wisely.

Trading up will be less expensive if you buy directly from the player/owner than if you buy from a shop. Getting to know many players and their instruments will be a great benefit to you... you will know whether you need to spend more on your next bow, or on your next instrument!

September 14, 2016 at 01:51 PM · Listen to Lyndon.

September 14, 2016 at 01:54 PM · This isn't about me, I was just wondering

September 14, 2016 at 05:17 PM · Mary Ellen is correct -- you're basically trying to maximize an equation.

Broadly, though, in terms of bang for the buck, bows are cheaper. For $1000, you can buy a pretty good bow, especially if it's carbon-fiber. For $6000, you can buy an awesome contemporary bow. For $10,000, you can get an excellent old bow. For $20,000, you can buy a very fine old bow.

That matters a lot when you're looking at an upgrade budget. Upgrading a $2,000 violin to a $3,000 violin probably buys you basically nothing in improvement, but upgrading a $100 bow to a $1000 bow likely results in a huge improvement. Similarly, upgrading from a $20k violin to a $30k violin might not net you much, but upgrading from a $1000 bow to a $10k bow would likely be an enormous difference.

The problem is that bows are matched to violins, so if you are budget-constrained and you buy a great bow that you love, it might not work on the next violin you move up to. If you buy a bow that holds or improves its value over time, or buy from a shop with a trade-in policy, this might be less of an issue -- you just change bows when you change violins -- but it's something that everyone has to keep in mind.

September 15, 2016 at 03:37 AM · I'm fairly inexperienced so my opinion doesn't hold much weight. However, when I went to by a new violin and bow I tried out about 12 violins and chose my favorite that cost about $1200. Then when I went to try bows I tried about 5 or 6 ranging from $100-600. The $160 Arcos Brasil carbon bow that I was testing each violin with beforehand I already had a bit of a liking to. I tried out a $250 carbon bow, but it was rubbish and was oddly thick like a viola bow producing way too harsh of a sound. The other bows were alright, but nothing impressive. I was quite surprised when I went to try the $600 Pernambuco bow. I believe this spoke to my skill level as a player, and is why there is no real point in investing in a bow above one's skill level. I could not for the life of me play the bow well. It felt nicely in my hands, and I felt a lot of confidence holding such a nice bow, but I was very shaky and uneven whilst playing it. I'm almost positive this was due to my lack of great bow control and stability. Possibly it just wasn't a great bow, but I think that the issues were with my technique.

September 15, 2016 at 03:45 AM · Wow, leave it to the Principal Second to distill a violin question down into algebra! I love that.

All good comments on this thread. I even agree with Lyndon, as strange as that may seem. :)

On the other hand my general feeling is that at the low end of the spectrum CF bows offer better value than wood bows, just because it's easy to make a mediocre CF bow. I play on a $500 CF bow with a violin that's probably worth about $11k and so far my teacher thinks I'm not limited by my bow. I am bow-curious however, so I might explore that a little next time I'm in a good shop, with my violin.

I remember bringing a few bows home from a shop, they were in the $2000-3000 range. One of them I really liked. I felt like I had the power of God in my hand playing this bow. I showed it to an excellent professional violinist that I know, and he played it a bit, and he handed it back to me and said, "Don't buy this. I can't even play sautille with it." So I didn't.

September 15, 2016 at 04:52 AM · Cheap bows are cheap bows, I don't think it matters much if they are CF, brazilwood, or "Chinese pernambuco". Good CF, and I speak in terms of playability, not tone, cost hundreds of dollars, Cheap CF built by factories that know next to nothing about bow design are going to have more in common with fibreglass bows than quality wood ones or the more expensive CF ones IMHO.

That being said there are always those people that sware by their fibreglass bows!

September 15, 2016 at 01:17 PM · Some bows are terrible. Even incredibly expensive bows can be terrible. So it's not always your skill that's a limiter.

A good player can basically use a club if they have to, but a bad bow will make you work hard to get what you want out of it.

Problematically, even manufactured carbon-fiber bows aren't really consistent within the same model, and you'd think that they would be.

September 15, 2016 at 01:28 PM · I have yet to see or hear anyone having anything negative to say about Fiddlerman's $67 carbon bow.

September 15, 2016 at 02:02 PM · "Wow, leave it to the Principal Second to distill a violin question down into algebra! I love that."

Why, thank you. :-) My other degree is in math. I have, however, been informed by an expert (my 15-year-old daughter) that my explanations of her Algebra II homework leave a lot to be desired.

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