Bows, Bows, Bows, Moving up for a Beginner
First, I must apologize to those of you who are far ahead of me on this violin journey. Probably what I m asking is really basic.
Once again, I'm attempting to come to terms with my fascination with violins. I'm an old bar band player -- guitar and pedal steel guitar -- but I'm retired now from both the bars and my day job and so I have the time to hurt myself with my violin... smiles.
I have a selection of bows my dear friend and violin shop owner kindly calls "crap." Indeed they are. But I also have an older Coda bow that I play. My question is: as a beginner still struggling with scales and bowing, what would be my best course for a better bow?
I don't mean a thousands dollar version, but something that would hold up for the next while. The Coda bow is fine I guess, certainly better than the bow-like objects in my case. But it feels a bit dead. How about a well-made new bow from China? Or?
Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated. Thank you.
You could try some carbon fiber bows or a cheap wood bow.
Which Coda bow model do you have? What do you mean, more precisely, when you say that it feels "dead"?
"Etudes and repertoire ?: Not there yet. I'm struggling with the basics. By "dead" Ella, I mean it just feels lifeless.
I have a very early Codabow (1996) and it has been described as a "very good bow" by my teacher (20 years ago and my luthier last year when I had it re-haired). I find it responsive and my other bow (another carbon fiber, but I don't remember the name) feels like a baseball bat in comparison. Maybe a new bunch of hair will make the bows you have a bit more comfortable. "Good" bows tend to be rather expensive... as a retiree, most are out of my reach financially :)
A Coda Classic is normally a good-quality carbon-fiber bow. The Classic has been retired, I think, but if I recall correctly, they used to be about $700.
Thank you Bob and Lydia. Back to my scales...
Be sure there is not TOO much hair on your CODA bow. I was not enthralled by my first CODA - back circa 1997-98, It was a "Classic" but since it was the first CODA model they had not yet given it that name.
For a beginner you can get a decent CF bow for under $200.
I have had many bows over 70 years. I still have the 63 gram bow that I bought in Kitchener Ontario Canada when I was in High School in the mid 40’s. It is wooden and cost $50! No idea what make it is.
I managed to acquire a Sarasate bow a while back. They tend to run a little expensive and are hard to come by but I absolutely love my bow. It seems lighter than a lot of the cheaper bows I have and more comfortable. I’ve also heard that those newer carbon fiber bows are great too but I stick to my Sarasate and just get it rehaired because bow shopping is so overwhelming and pricey. I know this probably isn’t much help to you but if you stumble across one, definitely try it out ! I’m definitely interested in knowing what you end up with because I am looking for a new bow myself.
All of these answers are of immense help. Big and sincere thank you.
He already doesn't like a $700 Carbon Fibre bow, why would a much cheaper CF bow be any better.
I play with a $1300 bow, but my backup one is a no name $70 bow that in a pinch I can easily live with for a while. Don’t let price throw you off, I’ve tried some $500 bows that I wouldn’t trade for my cheap bow. No matter the price, it’s what feels right and at your level you can easily find a bow that will feel right. In theory your Coda should be perfectly fine, but perhaps the weight or balance is throwing you off and may take some time to adjust. Give it a good try, change the hair if the stick feels good but can’t get it to bite enough. Compare with other bows if you have access to a shop until you find the right feel. Don’t buy without trying. As you get better you will find that the bow isn’t doing the work for you and is holding you back, but it sounds like you have a long way to go still before that becomes an issue.
When we upgraded my daughter's cello bow last time we did dollar-for-dollar comparisons between good silver mounted Brazilian bows with Coda and Arcus, which turns out to be the top of the Coda lineup and entry-level for Arcus. From a sound/tone standpoint, at least in our case and at least for cello, carbon fiber did not come close. I see a lot of folks here recommending CF in that price range so will try to keep an open mind...
yes, it appears quite obvious the people recommending CF bows aren't actually comparing the sound quality of CF to good affordable pernambuco bows.
Lyndon, I don't have an expensive violin, it's a 19th Century French large-pattern Strad copy but it did cost $7.5K.
Thomas, there are a lot of teachers in Santa Rosa. It might be a commute but it's potentially worth it just to occasionally have someone point you in the right direction, whether it's regarding technique, repertoire, or equipment (as in this case).
Erik, there's a good chance I'll trade the beautiful coast, fog and isolation of Fort Bragg for the potential fires and heat of Grass Valley or some such. It would be beneficial in so many ways.
Actually, for a beginner, you have an exceptionally expensive violin. Most beginners pick instruments in the sub-$1k range and eventually trade up to something in the $2k-4k range. Most amateurs never bother to buy anything more expensive than that.
Lydia, I have a fiddle that was my dear friend Roger Johnsons' (Johnson's Stringed Instruments, Newton MA) personal violin. It's an 1867 Asa White Maggini copy, probably a bench-made German box Asa no doubt bought in the white. Roger collected American and especially New England early violins for years.
I second the recommendation for a Brazilian Pernambuco bow if you want a new bow, although at many violin shops, old German Pernambuco bows with nickel silver mount would be in that price range or less and they usually have many of them to choose from.
With you being a musician already I do not really see a problem with upgrading your bow so early on if you have the finances to do so. You already know your not liking what you feel in your hand and hear under your ear so your more experienced in that regard than most violin beginners.
I'm sort of in the same situation that you are in. I'm a long time part-time professional guitarist and also play a few other instruments. I have played violin for a few months. I think I have a good ear and good beginning technique. I started with a Fiddlerman CF bow and it served me well but I eventually desired a better tone so I went on the hunt for a good affordable WOODEN bow because I had heard they typically sound better. After a few Ebay experiments I wound up with a Fiddlerman 2-star Pernambucco and I am very happy. You can spend much more and not find a better bow. These are Chinese bows but Fiddlerman auditions them all and filters out the junk. It definitely sounds better than the CF bow. They have an even better 3-star model but it was not in stock when I was shopping. I still practice scales and such with the CF bow but I use the Pernambucco when I want to sound and play my best.
The chinese bows Fiddlerman sells are Pernambuco in name only, at least in the cheaper range.
J Ray, are you saying anything that costs less than $4,000 is not a good bow? Okay. The initial question I had was what would be a better bow than my current one. As I said, I'm 72. My biological clock is ticking and I don't mean that way, I mean as in croaking. If I want to play with a bow or a violin "too good" for a beginner, hey that's my choice. I was a vintage guitar fanatic for years, I've owned literally hundreds of instruments including all of the expensive ones. I can still pick well enough.
Thomas, I owe you an apology for making wrong assumptions about time available and perhaps about continuing income. I wouldn't claim that a good bow must be expensive -- there are far too many bows and prices for anyone to really know what they're all like, but the odds definitely go up with certain price levels. I hope you enjoy what you find, at whatever price.
Hello Thomas. I think I understand your point of view. For me it is also very important to love my tools and that doesn't always come from its quality. The truth is that at my level the very good quality of a violin or bow gets lost because I don't have the skills to bring that level of excellence. However that doesn't mean that one has to settle with average or mundane.
J Ray I think that’s very kind you apologized....because I felt like yours and many other responses were a bit harsh. I think a lot of these typical responses from a few posters that are more accomplished is what detours newbies and lurkers from posting/asking questions regarding equipment, upgrades. No adult wants to be told they do not deserve a better bow/fiddle, ect based on what level they are playing at when asked by other members.....especially the question never stated “should I get one”.....the first poster was just asking for recommendations.
Okay, apparently your budget is very different than what most people (including myself) would have assumed.
No biggie, and thank all of you for your input. FWIW, I am not rich, probably because I lived the working musician's life for many years. So I have a modest pension and SS. But I don't have children, I drive a 26-year-old truck or ride one of the Harleys. My household is five ancient, once-abandoned cats and four pooches with similar life stories. I live in a 106-year-old house in Fort Bragg CA about 400 yards from the Pacific Ocean. I want for nothing, not because I am rolling in $$$, but because musical instruments have been my whole life. No golf, tennis, travel, country clubs etc. Blue jeans, a good garden, lots of friends and a sense of humor -- that's plenty.
By the way, this is one of the best "violin videos" I've seen on youtube to date:
Both my kids binge watch 2 set, and that one's my personal favorite. "I've got this." :-) The girl can play.
The advantage of the Brazilian bows, is oweing to the embargo on exporting genuine Pernambuco, the Brazilians have access to the best Pernambuco, and are allowed to export the bows but not the wood. A genuine Pernambuco blank to make a bow costs at least $100 and will be going up, so you won't find many Chinese bows using genuine Pernambuco, even though they claim that is what they are using,even on cheap bows.
thank you Lyndon. :- )
imho 4k is where you want to be. That gets you a broad selection of good bows from living makers ( ie doug raguse) , as well as very good french or german shop bows. you can spend less, but the choices and probability of getting your "bucket" list bow goes down
The OP has explained that he is an amateur violinist that I do not think needs a $4000 bow, there are some very good bows for $1000, I imagine that would be quite good enough for the OP if he had enough bows in that price range to compare and choose from.
I think this is almost blind luck at the OP's level. You need some reasonable level of technique to choose something that is objectively a good bow (even if that bow might not be to the personal taste of small players). He needs to just go shopping and find something that feels good at a not-outrageous price point ($1k is fine), and if it stops feeling good later, he has the funds to go buy another bow that feels good again.
If you want to try up and down the quality spectrum, and are willing to take a drive, Ifshin’s has a broad selection and will probably be able to offer you a decent trade-in should you change your mind later on.
Thank you Stephen. I should take a drive to Santa Rosa (110 miles) and visit my old and very good friend Mick Loveland. We go back 40 years. His shop has a wealth of violins and bows plus he is very knowledgeable.
My experience with Mick Loveland was stellar!
Mick is a great guy, an art collector and a heck of a good surfer. His house of many years, unfortunately, was a victim of that Calistoga fire last year.
Lyndon, none of us "need" to buy a 4000.00 bow.
You shouldn't be considering a $4000 bow till you can play well enougth to tell a good one from a bad one, and since bows are intensively personal; one persons good one is another person's bad one, so no, the OP is not really in a good position to be selecting a $4000 bow IMHO.
To quote the OP:
Thomas, I would strongly suggest you just take your collection of bows to a violin shop, or to a friend who is an experienced fiddle player. It may be that one or more of your wood bows is not "crap" but just needs new hair or TLC. The Codabow might need hair as well and might be much better after a rehairing.
Thanks Royce and Thomas, The French violin sounds terrific. B-I-G sounding violin. The Asa White has lower action. Sounds fiddly but I think if it was set up differently with different strings it might be more of a "violin."
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