New bow advice
I'm slowly improving my violin skills, and I'm slowly improving my gear. I've recently posted some threads asking for strings and rosin advice. And now I want to ask you about bows. And your answers are important for me, as I have no idea of how to choose a decent bow. My current one is a Yamaha generic bow that came in a €400 violin set (Yamaha V5). Things to consider:
a) I'm currently perfectioning vibrato and 3rd position, to give you an idea of my level. I'm currently learning a Corelli Op. 5 allegro.
b) My budget is flexible. I've thought €200-400 can be a good starting point, given my current level. I can spend more if it's really worth it.
c) I love classical music and I consider this a lifetime hobby. I'm not a professional, and I don't plan on studying any kind of musical career.
d) I've asked my teacher today and he's given me some general advice. Also, he offered to come with me for trying bows at the shop. I'll probably go with him, but I'd also like to learn a bit, and that's one of the reasons I'm posting here.
And now, some questions:
1. Should I get a carbon fiber bow or a wooden bow? Can I find a decent wooden bow with my initial budget range?
2. Is there any specific brand (or maker) to look for in the shop?
3. What should I look for in the bow "physically" at the shop? In other words... what does a good bow look like, and how to distinguish it from a defective one?
4. Any other advice is welcome.
Sorry for the long post (I've tried to keep it tidy), and thank you!
If you bring your teacher and your own violin to test the bows on you should be OK. Try to notice if there is a cozy relationship between your teacher and the shop personnel because sometimes some teachers get a financial kickback for leading buyers to their shop.
I would look at a JonPaul Bravo or Avanti - these are good carbon fiber bows to learn on at your skill level. Andrew is right, you can find a good wood bow for that price, but it's a bit more difficult...and as your skill level improves, your tastes in bows might change. Anyway, I'm sure your teacher will have some strong opinions ;). Good luck!
Are you happy with your curreq bow? I'm assuming you aren't. At this stage, a bow that's well-balanced, sturdy, and otherwise easy to work with (can't elaborate on that at this point, sorry) should be good enough. Try a bunch of affordable bows (as you will) and see what suits you best. You don't need the world's greatest bow for now.
Thank you for your replies.
Generic bows of the kind which go in auction for pennies, or with old violins in classified ads, are sometimes OK, though I accept yours is probably not OK. One option might be to find a bow like that, or a cheapish carbon fibre, to tide you over until you have a different violin, on the basis that there is something to be said for matching the bow to the violin. Personally I am more sceptical than most here about paying too much attention to hardware. However, I have to admit the match between bow in violin does make a difference, not least because some violins--often those made with thick plates--tolerate, and indeed require, more arm weight (i.e. a bow which is stiffer, and possibly heavier) than others.
If you're learning, trying new bows is pointless. You can't tell what's good. You have to know what's good ahead of time and grow into it. But good bows come at a price.
Thanks for your sensible advice, Tom. Given my current level and situation, the meaning of the word "good" applied to a bow changes a bit. What may be a good bow for me, will be a terrible bow for anyone who plays professionally or at a high level. At this point, I think it's completely pointless to spend 4k or 6k on a bow whose quality I can't determine and I can't enjoy. But, as an amateur I think I can improve slightly better if I get a more playable bow than the current one I have, which is terrible.
Hi Miguel. I noticed that no one has responded to your question #3 yet. This might be obvious, but if you look down the shaft of the bow starting at the frog, it should be straight. You might find wooden bows that are slightly warped -- that would be no good.
While basically I absolutely agree with John in that we should not pay too much attention to hardware, I cannot resist throwing in my own two cents here...
@Tom: Grünke bows from Germany start at €2,3k. And they're great...
Nuuska has a point, except that the violin matters too. That's for later down the line. Great violins are very expensive, so you slowly trade up.
And lastly, a $600 bow took me all the way to the Brahms Violin Concerto. I just never mastered bow bouncing because of it. I have a gold-mounted Fuchs bow now, and it opened a world of opportunities.
I have to sharply disagree with pretty much all of Tom's posts in this thread.
Agree with Lydia 100% on all counts.
If you're gonna learn, then learn it right. It doesn't matter what professionals can do. They've already mastered the basics, the intermediate, and the advanced.
Telling a beginner to go spend a ton of money on professional gear is terrible advice. There are good times to upgrade, and players who can afford it should probably do so when they enter the window where the next step up is a good idea, but premature upgrades aren't optimal for learning.
My advice was to buy from a store that has 100% trade-in value. He can start at whichever price point he wants and upgrade as needed. He's better off with advice regarding what to buy, rather than us bickering back and forth about professional bows. I grew up with an Alfred Knoll bow. I realized today it was 64g, too stiff, and hindered my learning ability. I don't know of an excellent maker sub-3k. The 2.5k bows I tried was just as terrible as my $600 bow. Perhaps you know of a few makers.
I've TALKED TO medal winning bow makers, one of which was trained by Espey. I didn't come up with these numbers based on a google search. The real answer is, it depends on the properties of the wood and what you're trying to do with it. But that gets into Shaolin monks theoretical wood spirit that I won't understand. I just let the bow makers do their thing.
A 45g CF bow, really? Who makes those?
For those of you who are looking for a very good cheap bow, I really like this one:
An Arcus S-series bow is 49g. It feels quite different initially, although with a few minutes of getting used to it, it doesn't feel like it's too light. That's why I noted that the Arcus bows are outliers.
Miguel: Great advices from Lydia. I agree 100% when she says that one of the best things of CF bows is that their characteristics are very predictable. It is an engineered item with specific numbers (elasticity, resonance...), whilst a wooden one has more random characteristics. That said, a bow, more than almost anything else in violin, should be played before purchase. And a normal bow purchase involves testing a lot of them. In that regard, I am concerned about the availability in your shop. Recently you said they didn't have many rosins or strings to choose. I doubt they will have enough bows for you to make an informed and tested purchase.
Well, I didn't expect such a discussion on this matter...
Miguel, a violin and bow are best if they are a tonal match, and therefore it's usually better to buy the violin and then buy a bow to match.
Coda bows are fine, too. If you're looking in the sub-$500 range, I prefer Coda over the other brands that I've tried. I traded in a Coda Colors, plus some cash, to get my JP Avanti. (And I traded an Arcus Sonata to another player previously, to get his Coda plus some cash.)
Miguel -- I'm an amateur too. I own two Codabows (GX and Joule) and like them, but I mainly use my ~US$750 pernambuco bow for classical music. After reading many comments on V.com about the JP carbon fibre bows, my curiosity is piqued. Most say that the JP is better than Codabow. If I ever spring for another bow, the JP is probably the next I would try.
Sometimes a bow will seem like a dud just because it is not haired properly. Too often bow technicians just install a standard "hank of hair" and that's it! To the contrary, the amount of hair on a bow should be related to stiffness of the stick. Too much hair on a soft stick is pretty unplayable.
Miguel -- My pernambuco bow was made in Germany and sold by Shar under the name "Klaus Becker" (probably not a real person). Shar has a nice trial program. For $20, they sent me 4 bows to try out for a couple weeks. After the 2-week period ended, I kept the one I liked and shipped the rest back. I'm not sure how or if the trial program works outside the US, however.
When I bought a carbon fiber bow last autumn as spare bow I tried a few models - CodaBow GX and Marquise and JonPaul Carrera - both the firm and softer model. I much prefer the JonPaul over the Coda both in handling and sound quality and ended up getting the firm JonPaul Carrera. Since then I have tried a few other CF bows from friends and my advise based on these trials is to choose a JonPaul over a Coda in the same price range.
I have the same question regarding of bow