What to look for when buying a new bow

June 24, 2017, 7:03 AM · Hi everyone, I'm looking for a new bow, but don't know exactly what to look for yet. My previous bow's hairs started loosening from the frog so that's all I know to ask the luthier for. Any tips? Thanks in advance!

Replies (23)

June 24, 2017, 9:16 AM · Hair is replaceable. It get my bow rehaired once a year. I think I already descrped my bow checking routine in this forum.
June 24, 2017, 9:25 AM · http://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/29390/
June 24, 2017, 12:17 PM · check the value of the bow, i suggest. rehairing itself costs around $50 and above (depends on horse hair quality). So, if it's a good bow, good quality and you like it, sure let it rehaired, but if it doesn't worth it let's buy a new bow.

Depends on what you like, wooden or CF. You should try out bows first before buying it. I suggest to look at the balance, fast responsiveness, the weight, etc.

My main bow is at the luthier now because it needs to be rehaired and my luthier is busy as it's almost vacation time and people brought their instruments and bows to be repaired before he's on vacation. So, until tuesday I have to play with my second bow. My second bow has a bad quality: it's pretty discouraging to play on a bad bow!

June 24, 2017, 12:32 PM · Old French bows, certified and in mint condition, will cost the most but will also be the best investments long term.
Don't buy CF. They handle ok but sound, in my opinion, horrible.

Cheers Carlo

June 24, 2017, 1:01 PM · I thinkthat somebody asking in an online forum how to test new bows is probably not looking for such an investment.
And there are other locations where good bows were made. Some old German bows are superb in both sound and handle but cost "only" up to 12k, to just name one example.
June 24, 2017, 3:06 PM · For an aid to testing, please visit my website and look in the "writings" section


June 24, 2017, 8:49 PM · Carlo, if you can only have one bow CF seems like a good choice since it's almost indestructable and is useful to have around for risky situations even when you have a good bow. But, bow number two should definitely be a nice contemporary pernambuco or even better old french bow.
June 24, 2017, 11:21 PM · @Jason. I disagree. If you can only have one bow, make it a good pernambuco one, or you will have one bow that sounds poorly.

Cheers Carlo

June 25, 2017, 12:32 AM · I own a Arcus S8, but if I had to choose id keep my Grünke for sure and get rid of the Arcus.
June 25, 2017, 7:25 AM · What to look for in a bow may depend on what level of technique you have. For example, if you are an advanced or professional player that needs to have every shade of spiccato or sautille, the way a bow bounces may be primary. If you do jazz or country styles and never need a Mozart-style brush stroke, you may not care. You may need a bow that has a clean ricochet, or you may not.

The balance point and flexibility of a bow influence how it bounces. But what if a student hasn't yet mastered or even studied how to bounce the bow? How can they be a good judge of it in the first place?
That's why you ask a teacher to help you decide. I've played many a bow which made sautille impossible (at least for me) because of the balance point. But only someone who can play sautille in the first place can recognize that.

Edited: June 25, 2017, 7:32 AM · The effect of the bow on the *tone* of the violin is one of those legendary controversies. Pros will swear up and down that it matters tremendously, and their experience and knowledge cannot be discounted.

I have a CF bow that cost about $500. About a year ago I had the opportunity to compare my bow to two priceless, pedigreed antique bows. There were slight differences in balance and playability, but I honestly could not hear any difference in the sound that I was drawing. The person showing me the bows (an excellent professional violinist) played my violin with the three bows, and then I could hear that *one* of the two antique bows sounded *slightly* different -- a little smoother.

So I think whether the bow affects your tone depends partly on your violin, partly on your ability to hear, and partly on your playing skill. The pro who showed me those beautiful bows told me that I'd have to spend thousands on a pernambuco bow to outperform my CF. So, if "pros know," then I think I'm all set, at least for now. When I am good enough to perform a Mozart concerto then perhaps I will re-evaluate my equipment.

June 25, 2017, 7:30 AM · And following up on Scott's comment, I once went to a dealer and picked out what I thought was an awesome bow. I took it to a local pro for his opinion. He tried it for 30 seconds and said, "Don't buy this bow. I can't play anything with it. I can't play sautille." Those were his exact words.
June 25, 2017, 7:50 AM · The OP is an intermediate-level teenaged player, to judge by their previous posts (they're at the Csardas level).

That seems like a level at which a decent, sub-$1k bow will do just fine. In that price range you can buy a CF bow that will pretty much do what you need it to, at a price that a teenager's parents probably won't object to.

June 25, 2017, 8:12 AM · Paul, it also depends on what your violin can do.
My wife clearly hears if I play my Arcus, Merz or my Grünke 3 rooms appart through closed doors.
With my picknick violin they really sound quite close to each other.
June 25, 2017, 8:44 AM · This is what I had to say about bouncing bows about 15 years ago: https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/161366-help-with-sautille-csardas/

Lydia also played a bit with that $100 Glasser Composite bow - it just unfortunately also had a $100 sound.

I have 10 violin bows but only 3 of them have great sound: an F.N Voirin, a R. Weichold, and a P.M Siefried. The best "bounce" at least in the Mendelssohn VC cadenza is a Berg Deluxe - and the only reason I bought that bow (list price at the time was $4,100 - which is not what I paid).

Sometimes (I'll bet oftentimes) there reason bows do not perform up to their potential is because the hair quantity is not matched to the stiffness of the stick ----or lousy hair.

June 25, 2017, 9:30 AM · When you come to a forum like this you get lots of random advice like "go spend thousand of dollars on an exotic antique", counterbalancing common sense like "you are at a level at which a decent, sub-$1k bow will do just fine." and practical guidance like the links included above.

I recently bought a Viola bow for my daughter who is second (moving to first) Viola in her local middle school youth orchestra. Here is my advice:

First, make sure your bow has decent hair. If any strands are loose, overlapping, or not straight, it needs rehair. Based on the value of the bow, it may or may not be worth it.

She played on a lower priced carbon fiber bow (Shar Presto Audition) that was just fine up to the point were she was ready for a full sized, performance quality viola. When she got an instrument that wasn't muffled, she realized the bow she had been playing wasn't so great.

What you really need to look for is the right shop. Hopefully you can go to more than one, but that is not always the case. If you have to order, you should still get a selection of at least 3 to choose from, and compare up to 6 from 2 different shops. Keep them for a couple of weeks and try them out. You pay in time (going back and forth to the shops) or shipping costs. From a parents perspective the time vs. shipping $ may be equivalent.

We had three choices. One only wanted to offer at 2x the budget that I had. Another offered three bows that were essentially the same, and all too springy (for her). An online shop told me that if I didn't have a good idea what I wanted, they wouldn't be able to help and I should go to a local shop (that was great advice and a sign of an honest dealer). A third local shop offered 4 bows that were in my price range ($600) and all had unique and distinct properties.

Advice from others (lots of internet research by me, an outside professional, and her teacher) was helpful in some ways, but not so much in others.

My advice is to ignore names, sources, and prices (as long as they fit your budget), and just play them. The bows that had minute kinks or blemishes didn't play well, while the CF bow was pretty good, so you probably don't even have to look at them!

In the end, she had a 'bow contest", lining them all up and then reordering them from left to right until she was satisfied. She had 4 definitely not (including her original bow in last place), and three acceptable bows with the carbon fiber at #3 and a clear winner at #1.

p.s. The coda carbon fiber performed well and was very controllable, BUT the wood bow did produce a distinctly different and we thought better tone. However, what you like and need is a mater of personal taste.

June 25, 2017, 5:14 PM · The first thing I look for when trying a bow is the frog. Then I put my hand there and try out the bow.
June 30, 2017, 10:26 AM · Marty, not to diss your joke, clearly the violin bow needs a handle.
The first thing I do is look at the head. It must be carved with confidence and character. I personally wouldn't buy a bow if it didn't match up to my ideals of beauty.

Cheers Carlo

June 30, 2017, 11:26 AM · In my short time here there's one thing I have never heard anyone say.

Maybe someone said this and I missed it," My CF bow sounds better than any wooden bow I've ever tried and I've tried many fine wooden bows."

Unfortunately CF seems to be a compromise but not like a night and day compromise.
The next question then is, can you live with a compromise?
I have two CFs and a fiberglass in addition to a few cheap wooden bows. I guess I lowered my standards temporarily in exchange for the ability to be more nimble. In hindsight, I still preferred the wooden bows.Everyone is different. To you it might not seem like a compromise.

There seem to be a few scales on this subject that tip more in one direction than another.

MOST people prefer a decent wooden bow when it comes to sound. That seems to be a given here at v.com so far as I can tell.

It usually comes across something like, " You need **** to get a good wooden bow. You really don't need a good bow as a beginner, so a CF will do for you."

June 30, 2017, 11:53 AM · There have been endless bow discussions in this forum. I own an Arcus S8, one of the better CF bows. It has some advantages, but in general I would never ever choose it as my only bow and also not recommend doing so.
If shopping around 2k-8k maybe look at some old German bows. Pfretzschner for example built superb bows or a buy contemporary.
If much less get what ever works, I have a china pernambuco bow that is okish. Or maybe CF.
Above that you may think about some french stick. I prefered my Grünke over the entry point old frenchs by far though.
June 30, 2017, 12:04 PM · It's never a bad idea to try out a bunch of bows, because shopping for bows and instruments is a process, and you don't always have all the information all at once. If your technique is up to it and you are playing music with more complicated bowings and bow-strokes, you will have a better idea of what to look for. Still, even if you are not, it's good to spend time over a number of sessions, see what is out there, and see if it is really that much better than what you already have.

Most shops are cool about you trying out bows and shouldn't be pressuring you, and you can usually be upfront that you aren't even looking to buy, and they will tend to understand.

If you have a good teacher, then let your teacher advise you on a bow before you buy it.

July 9, 2017, 6:59 PM · I have an old bow passed down through my family. It faintly says Tourte Model on it above the frog. Can anyone tell me about this bow?
July 9, 2017, 9:57 PM · Tourte was one of if not the most important bow maker. He made significant changes to bows that we still consider the modern bow.
There is an endless amount of copys of his bows available.
Bows built by him a worth a lot of money.
Yours got inspired by his bows, this can be anything between a brazil wood manufacture bow and a decend handcraftet one. Without context impossible to give you more informations about your bow.

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