From Rowell Jao
Posted June 24, 2004 at 06:41 PM
Anyways, I have this octagonal pernambuco bow and I've tried to compare it with other bows that have equal to lesser price value.. and I've also had others try my octagonal bow and compare it with their octagonal bows. So far the round ones I've compared seem to be better than the octagonal one I have.
I'm not the only one who thinks this.. a friend has an octagonal bow and a round bow as his secondary.. from what I've heard and from what he's told me, the round one he has seems to be better than the primary ocatgonal bow he uses.
Ok, before I rant on any more, I wanted to know if anyone can give me detailed, specific info and research on the qualities between octagonal and round bows.
I've heard that octagonal bows are better and pricier than round bows but I don't think that's true.
I purchased it for about $400, and there certainly round bows which cost more than this!
I did, however, send the bow to Michael Vann to be restored (rebalanced, rewound, rehaired, and gold mounted)
The bow is most likely worth more now, about $2500-$3000, however, there still are round bows that cost ians more!
It really would have to depend on the bow, for example, the weight, balance, density of the wood, quality of the wood and craftsmanship. Not to mention the country it is from. French tend to be more than English, English more than German, with Chinese at the bottom rung on the price. This normally has to do with collectability. Of course, a tortiseshell/gold mounted English Hill bow could run more than a silver mounted French Voirin. I am just speaking generally.
So, don't judge completely on octagonal/round when looking for a bow.
Some bow characteristics also tend to be subjective when you look for a bow.
Do you want light or heavy?
Right now, lighter bows tend to be in demand, so they may be priced a bit higher.
To "judge quality" of the bow, I'd suggest the following:
1.) Where is the bow balanced? A balance of 9.5 inches up the stick is ideal.
2.) The grain of the wood. How "tight" is the pernambuco's flame? A closer grain suggests denser wood.
This brings me to 3.) Is the bow made out of Pernambuco? After many different experiments with various woods, pernambuco tends to be the absolute best material. A close runner up is carbon fiber, however, there is a certian price range where carbon fiber bows level off at. Pernambuco will almost always run higher (considering the bow is of very good quality), especially because CITES has listed it as an endangered species of tree.
4.) How does the bow respond to the string? Is the sound immediate, or delayed? If delayed, make sure there is sufficient (but not TOO much) rosin on the bow. If the sound is still delayed, and the bow just "feels" sluggish, then it is most likely not such a great bow. I happen to know a violinist who likes delayed sound, but, that is more or less an exception to the rule.
5.) Elasticity. The bow should feel elastic as it is being drawn. I am not speaking of the technique here, but a "feel" of the bow. Does it bounce properly? Can you do a riccochet on the bow relatively easy? When you try the saltando bowing, do things feel oddly heavy at the tip (this ties in with the balance point)?
These are just some general suggestions, but if you follow this method to evaluate a bow, it should prove fairly reliable.
As was mentioned in the previous post, any differences between bows having round and octagonal sticks isn't because of the shape of the stick but rather due to quality of wood, construction, etc. There are good (and bad) bows in both camps.
I'm in the same boat, looking for a new bow to go with my new fiddle, and I've tried lots of different bows. I've also asked reputable luthiers from around the DC area what their take on bows was.
Basically, there isn't any difference between round and octagonal bows. It's just the maker's preference on what he feels like making at that time. Usually an individual maker makes only round or octagonal bows. Not that either one is better, but that's what the bowmaker likes to make.
That having been said, if you're looking for a new bow, go to a reputable violin shop (Gailes' in College Park or Perrin in Baltimore are two close to us... just ask me for the phone numbers), and give them a price range and they should have something like 20 bows for you to choose from. Then pick a few bows that you like and that are easy to play with. Then take them to Olivia and Marc and they'll tell you how they are.
But, when you get high up in price ranges, Sartory, and later Pecatte, how would those compare in bounciness? The ones I have seen were all round sticks.
a very interesting subject. A "good" bow is a very individual thing because is has to fit
Price is a very poor guide, because it is sometimes paid for things (gold trimmings, fancy frog design) that don't really influence playability.
My best bow might be your worst stick and vice versa.
That said, octagonal vs. round is a tradition thing. French bowmakers used the best wood for round bows and for lesser quality bows will leave the bow octagonal.
German makers used to use the best wood and the ultimate craftsmanship for their octagonal bows, building round bows only as a "class b product". (According to "Geige spielen" by Annemarie Jochum).
Nowadays, you can get both octagonal and round bows from top makers and in top quality, but the choice is still up to the individual.
Recently I tested for viola bows with my teacher - without telling him the absolute prices, just that from cheapest to most expensive there was a USD 1,200 difference.
We both came indepently to the same results:
So I saved 800 USD (Euro, actually) and bought a bow almost as good.
By the way, I prefer octagonal sticks (in all the price ranges I tried).
...I too read that octoganal was better and then read that all bows start out as octoganal and then are rounded off...implying more work goes into making the bow...
...at the lowever end of the pernumbuco bow range...I have both, and prefer the playability of my round bows, and the look of my octoganal bow...
...but these differeneces are very minor...
I have a couple of bows that are both functional and very pretty...it gives me pleasure to look at them...as well as play with them...
For those who need to know...check Andrew Victor's web pages for clues on mechanics of materials...he's the only person I know who speaks music and physics.
He and I have spoken years ago. He used my ideas of putting a mike on the frog and plugging the input to a tuner in order to find a fundamental note. I even suggested to him to suspend the bow by the frog and hunt for tap tones and sweet spots along the bow by gently tapping it with your fingers without making the bow swing wildly. Cheap bows have a sweet spot toward the tip...no surprise, good bows have one near the frog too, excellent bows are pretty much sweet everywhere...like a graphite tennis racket.
Everyone thought I was crazy when I thought up these things.
I learned...get this, you can put a strong thread around the threads of the nut, screw down the nut, tighten the bow appropriately, let it hang by the thread over a soft pad, wrap the string around your finger and...and...put the finger in your ear...no I'm not kidding...you can make a kids string phone and actually hear the bow as you tap it. Shopmen will wonder and be fearful but I assure you, cheap fiberglass bows are or used to be tubby with one main deep note. Expensive bows have a wide range of harmonics. But Victor says you have to tune the hair to the right tension...I should have known. Of course! He got me there.
I was totally unprepared to spend lots of money on bows so I did my homework. Now my ears are tuned.
My cello friends and I are in a heated debate over French bows versus English bows. I prefer English bows in general, but my friends say that the French have the market cornered on bows. What do you think?
After boring me to absolute tears, I thought about how your question could apply to my world, and me, and I was finally able to elucidate a response. Although I find the French insufferable, I have to go with your friends. My French bow practically plays itself, and the English bow I had for years performed at its best when I used it for kindling one stormy night (I had long ago retired it to pasture). By the way, have you ever wondered why they call it "the frog"? The French also have the market cornered on food, save for some unspeakable odors emanating from a lot of their weird cheeses.
I bought a Chinese octagonal pernambuco with a nice frog for $105 from my luthier, for my viola. It's quite amazing how well I can do staccato with it compared to any other bow I used. It might of only cost me $105 but it looks as good as my Gotz octagonal pernambuco bow that's worth $400, and performs better on my viola than that Gotz does on my violin. So Chinese bows aren't bad at all like someone mentioned above.
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
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