Do bow prices actually affect how great a bow plays?
Help help, I really don't understand why the prices of bows really make a difference on the tonal qualities when played!
The thing is I was listening to a YOuTube video on a $500 bow vs 160,000 $ bow, in which I couldn't tell a damn difference.
I do know, the sound difference between a $20 and a $200 because anything below $70 is just bad and you might as well use a tree branch instead.
I've always thought the only thing affecting a violin bow apart from the stick not being deformed or too short or long was the bow hair. Either I must be tone deaf or something, I feel like the $400 Coda Bow I have sounds just like the $120 wooden bow I have. I really think it's a matter of the bow hair and not the bow itself.
Appreciate it if anyone explains this to me.
(This is the video link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mdx7OqrEpU)
My luthier says it's the wood. Anyway, go to a shop/auction and try a £400 one against a £2000 or so one. You should hear the difference.
A more expensive bow may or may not always produce better sound. That depends on the match between the bow and the instrument and player’s skills. On the other hand, more expensive bows (not factoring collectable value) will generally facilitate the technique, and therefore lead to better tone production with less effort. Simply listening to the sound of a simple demonstration won’t make that obvious. When you try a more expensive bow, the first reaction isn’t generally wow, it sounds so much better, but rather wow... it feels so much better, it is so easy to play.
Bows really do differ. Once I tried half a dozen carbon fibre of the same brand at around £400. They varied markedly. I bought the one I liked. I am sure most super-expensive bows are nice to use. Though the very high prices of course reflect collectability. Sound mainly comes from the player.
The price doesn't affect how the bow plays, but the reverse is often true.....
It's not something the audience hears. It's the qualities a bow has that lets the player do things they can't with a lesser bow. You have to be playing at a very high level to appreciate the marginal gains of a very fine bow.
With a good bow, you can get away with a lot more pressure - it doesn't slide up and down the string, and the stick stays away from the string.
"It's the qualities a bow has that lets the player do things they can't with a lesser bow. You have to be playing at a very high level to appreciate the marginal gains of a very fine bow."
Any player who can hear the differences between violins under their ear, should almost certainly be able to hear the differences between different bows on the same violin. It will be "different", not necessarily "better". Tonal match between bow and violin is unpredictable and not directly related to price.
When I brought a Joseph Voirin bow home on approval, I mentioned the price and that I wanted to buy it to my non-musician husband, whose immediate response was "no." (We were newlyweds at the time, living in what was essentially a two-room apartment, still paying off his school loan and my car loan.) So I played for him, first with my existing bow (a decent German stick) and then with the Voirin. The next words out of his mouth were, "You have to get this bow." The difference was that big.
From what I understand after heaving read 10 years worth of bow discussions in this forum and a few scientific studies: the quality of a bow has two aspects: handling and tone.
"The thing is I was listening to a YOuTube video on a $500 bow vs 160,000 $ bow, in which I couldn't tell a damn difference."
Mary Ellen: Awwwwww...that's soooo sweet! :)
Keep in mind those videos are playing on your laptop speaker (or whatever) and you'd hear the difference a lot more in real life.
Handling is affected by a ton of little things. I once had a good bow recambered (it really needed it) and I was really surprised at how much tiny changes in camber affected everything about how the bow felt in my hand.
I'm currently on a hunt for a new viola bow and there is definitely a difference between bows. Like violins bow prices aren't exactly linear, but there are some qualities of handling/sound that I am finding in the $4000-$5500 price range pretty consistently, that I have not found consistently present in bows in a lower price range. It is hard to describe, but I've found most bows in this price range have a certain amount of flexibility in handling and an ability to bring out a variety of tone colors.
"I want to hear more about that. What would you say are the (marginal) advantages of a 160k bow compared to a 1k bow?"
Of course there's some correlation between price and quality, but one should keep in mind that all of this is completely subjective, and that human perception is highly affected by by preconceptions.
another poster that takes us all for idiots for hearing differences
Esther Abrami, the woman in that video, is more than good enough to take full advantage of an expensive bow -- indeed, arguably, she is so good that she's going to control a $500 bow with precision, too. I don't know that YouTube is the best medium for sound tests, though. You can hear a lot of grit in the $500 bow, certainly.
"So I love Mary Ellen's story about the Voirin, and of course most Voirins are wonderful bows, but would her husband have heard such a big difference in sound if he didn't know how much the bow cost, and how excited Mary Ellen was about it?"
There's some debate about whether they actually used the best old instruments, but no doubt that they used the best modern instruments.
While the player will always scientifically be the ultimate factor in tone production and bowing techniques, one would have to be kidding himself/herself in saying that differences are that minimal. A difficult bowing passage that just comes out of the instrument naturally can be replicated with more effort and sound similar with another bow, but at what "effort cost"- is it worth the "savings" for the "hope it turns out OK" effect it can have in the player? A confident player will generally sound better than one who is "fighting" their instrument to get desired musical effects.
I listened to the youtube video mentioned in OP. I did hear differences. But the differences were more pronounced on G string - I can start to detect subtle difference when the price hit $90,000. For the E string, I cannot detect any difference until the price hit $160,000.
So, to answer the OP, yes quality makes a difference, ableit far less difference than you do as a player, and price has some relationsip with quality, albeit not a precise relationship. All replies are agreed.
My experience with bows has been limited to the 24 bows I own and almost 200 bows I purchase-tested in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mostly cello and violin bows were involved - and one viola bow. My own collection has included about 12 violin bows. 8 cello, and 4 viola bows. Represented makers of the better bows include F.N. Voirin, Richard Weichold, Paul Martin Siefried (1 vln, 1 vc), Albert Nürnberger and one violin bow by Carl Holzapfel that is very much like the Voirin. I don't think I tested any bows selling more than about $10,000.
Bow price, has only a very indirect impact on playing. But a better way to phrase the question might be, what unique playing characteristics does a bow have that can affect playing? At least three (and I think this is a paraphrase of something I originally read here, but it also definitely speaks to my experience):
Great bows are as difficult to come by as great violins. Further, a bow has to not only sound good, but feel like an extension of your right arm. There is also that mystical quality that makes a bow feel like a magic wand for one player, but not another.
Francis - that's very convincing, but you seem to imply that the grossly inflated prices paid for some bows have little or nothing to do with their playing qualities. Did the "great" bow makers like Tourte know they were imbuing their bows with certain qualities, and if so how did they manage to reproduce those qualities with all the variations they would have had to cope with in the properties of the wood? Is there any reason why the same qualities can't be achieved using carbon fibre?
When I was in my early teens my teacher showed me a new expensive bow he had purchased. I can't remember the maker, but at the time I was chocked at the price. And I remember asking him what he could do with that bow that he couldn't with another bow. "Nothing", he answered, "But it is a lot easier".
Those stupid clickbait YouTube videos are so annoying.
I tried my violin with two fine bows that would easily go into Scott's "jaw dropping" category. The fine bows were a little more playable than my current bow, a decent CF. Then the owner of the bows, an excellent pro violinist, played my violin with my bow and the two fine bows. I could not hear any difference. It could be my hearing, which is not very good (my ears ring constantly).
I don't think there's any way to make CF sound as good as Pernambuco, CF is inherently a dead material acoustically compared to Pernambuco, there's no way to get around that, now playability is another thing and I think CF can do as well in that, maybe not, I'm not sure.
A lot depends on how a carbon fiber bow is made. A bow which claims to be carbon fiber can run the gamut from something which has a cosmetic carbon-fiber-appearing coating on the surface, to various orientations of actual carbon fiber in the resin matrix.
So far they haven't invented a synthetic substance that sounds and resonates like wood.
Man this is a lot more complex than I thought. All I know is that a modern Glasser fiberglass bow is terrible because it's hollow. It's got okay control but when I play it compared to my 'Carbon fiber' bow, I do know there is a handing difference between the two types.
The main problem I find about bows is its subjectivity. There are obviously good, mediocre, bad and outstanding bows but within each category different players may rate two bows differently. And that should not happen. If qualities of a bow (resonance, elasticity...) are scientifically measurable, they should be perceived objectively by everyone. It happens continuously that a very good bow, used by a good player, doesn't work for another player in the same level.
I think that sufficiently skilled players may be able to describe what about a bow is good, but also be able to simultaneously say that this bow is not to their taste.
After playing for 47 years to date, I still am somewhat ignorant of how the bow stick actually functions.Does it vibrate when drawn or is it the muting effect of different species of pernambuco that give the differences? Although they both weigh exactly 60grams, my Charles Peccatte pulls a completely different sound than my Jean Joseph Martin (Peccatte is rich and "chewy", Martin silvery and "sopranoish")
I'm not suggesting that bows by the truly great makers don't have exceptional playing and sound qualities (and for the record, I am just an advanced amateur and have never played anything anywhere near the quality of a Tourte). I also have never played solo with an orchestra, so there's a whole level of "have to cut through a wall of sound" problem that I have no experience with firsthand.
PS regarding carbon fibre, my only experience so far has been in-store playing with a Jean-Paul Avanti and a couple of Codas. I found the Avanti to feel like a decent wood bow, but not the type of one I personally click with. The Coda Gold GX I found to be quite decent, though not obviously better than the wooden ones I already owned. The Coda Luma, I loved the handling of, though I found that it ran out of resonance in really high positions (near the top of the a four octave arpegio), but that may also have been my limits, as I didn't know the instrument I was using and may not have been bowing close enough to the bridge.
When I went bow-shopping (a bit more than a year ago), I ended up blowing my budget because I just couldn't find anything that I really liked that was less expensive. And I looked at a
I moved to California some 55 years ago with 3 "good name" 19th century bows - 1 cello and 2 violin (1 French and 2 German). About 10 years later I began to try and buy (and sell or give away) some more bows (violin & cello) and over the next 35 years (or so) I bought, sold, and gave away a number of bows including some Glasser fiberglas, Glasser"composite," CF Durro, ARCUS, Coda, Spiccato, Berg deluxe, Jumeau, Marco Raposo, Paul Martin Siefried, plus a number of other pernambuco bows I have since sold.
When comparing bows, the differences are often very very subtle. Possibly lesser than the difference one is likely to see after a simple bow re-hair. A slight difference in hair characteristics, length and number can change how a bow plays and sound. That includes balance point, as the frog may not end up at the exact same location to achieve a same hair tension as before a re-hair. So when choosing between a more and less expensive bow, one should be aware of how a simple bow re-hair could sometimes change which is #1, and it may not be worth to fork the extra money if the differences are subtle. Also, over time the wood of the stick will “relax”, hence some brand new bows are sometimes purposely made initially stiffer as the maker aims for optimum performance 2-3 years after the bow is made (and used). Hence when testing a bow, you also need to be aware of whether it is a brand new bow, or one that has been played for a while (and that is not to mention the effect of possible recambering).
I feel like this problem might never have a solid answer based on what you all have been suggesting. Very interesting to hear from so many professionals!
Generally speaking, yes.
Thanks for that Andrew.So true.Just enjoy what you have.Life is short indeed.
Peter: Otto Hoyer did that too - with a picture of Paganini. I had a friend with such a bow - it was really a fine bow, even though it was German! It did everything.