Bow weight change

June 30, 2017, 12:11 PM · I bought a new bow a few months ago that I'm happy with, but one thing about is becoming a bit of a problem.

It is very light, especially at the tip, which I at first loved about it because it felt so much easier to handle, but now I'm realizing it's difficult to get really in the string and pull out a nice sound at times.

Would taking it to a luthier and asking to add more weight at the tip be a reasonable thing to do in this situation, or would it ruin the bow? I like pretty much everything else about the bow.

Replies (17)

June 30, 2017, 2:03 PM · Miles,

Before modifying the bow, try modifying your grip and index finger pressure.

June 30, 2017, 2:14 PM · If the bow is too light, sell it.
What matters is balance . If you start messing with the tip, assuming that the bow is balanced, you will make it out of balance and start developing bad habits.
June 30, 2017, 7:20 PM · If you find the tip too light, change the lapping for a lighter one of tinsel or silk. A lot of old bows have silver wire lapping so that dealers can get the weight to the magic number of around 60grams. If it was never the makers intention to have a weighty lapping, this will throw the balance out of kilter.

Cheers Carlo

June 30, 2017, 7:39 PM · I'd recommend getting a new bow-perhaps bringing the original bow to a luthier or violin shop and asking for some similar bows. If you find the tip too light then there is not much you can do because every bow is quite unique in balance. Tampering with the bow will not be of much help and may actually make the problem worse. Eventually I guarantee it will become more expensive than just actually getting a new bow.

Hope this helps and good luck!

Edited: June 30, 2017, 9:21 PM · I have had the balance changed on 4 bows.
1. Excess silver lapping on a 19th C R. Weichold vln bow removed & replaced with faux whalebone to increase relative mass at the tip and reduce total wt. of bow by 3 grams -to 62 grams.

2. About one gram wt added inside tip of vln AND cello ARCUS bows to increase tip wt (that's 2 bows). Previously the owner of the ARCUS company had sent me titanium screws to replace the steel ones that came on the bows to try to achieve the same effect by reducing frog-end wt.

My experience with changing the balance of these bows was that it did not change the tone they could produce - but it sure helped the handling. I like enough weight at the tip that gravity can do its proper job. A tip-light bow may feel like part of my hand, but it doesn't do the job for me.

3. My late 19th C Albert Nurnberger cello bow came to me in 1949 with the silver back plate of the frog missing - in that situation it was in perfect balance - but over 50 years later Frank Passa (when I left the bow with him for a rehair) added a silver back plate which spoiled the balance - so I removed that (and just accepted the $40 loss that he had cost me). Actually meeting and spending a couple of hours with Passa was worth the price.

June 30, 2017, 8:33 PM · As others have said, it would ruin the bow. Bows are balanced in particular ways.

If the bow is too light, you'll have to trade it in for another bow that's more to your liking. (This is something of a cautionary tale for all students purchasing equipment -- as your technique matures, there's a significant likelihood that what you liked in the past won't be what you like in the future.)

Edited: June 30, 2017, 9:29 PM · If the purse can stand it, rather than trade than trade it in, put it in your bow case, and buy another. Collecting bows takes up rather less space than violins.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: June 30, 2017, 10:32 PM · Miles,
A standard balance point for violin bows is about 185mm from the frog when said frog is moved as far as it will go towards the bow tip (hair relaxed). (Note: This number is different for viola and cello bows.) Just balance it on your finger and measure it. My experience is that's a really good number. When the balance point is closer to the frog from that point the bow feels tip light. Balance point closer to the bow tip and the bow feels tip heavy. So it's not correct to say rebalancing will ruin the bow. It might be just what it needs. And bow balance is more important than bow weight. So first find the balance point, then decide what, if anything, needs to be done.
Edited: July 1, 2017, 4:19 AM · I like Mark B`s comment. He seems really knowledgable about bows.
I am a violin maker and professional player. I do not make bows, but I do repair, re-hair and balance bows mainly for the advance players.
Taking your bow to an experienced luthier makes sense to me. However, most luthiers do not have the bow knowledge and experience that you need to solve your problem. How about a bow specialist?
An example: Adding weight the the tip of your bow may or may solve your problem. It is guess work doing it that way. How about if one would find a bow that really works for them. Not to purchase, but to find that perfect balance, weight, stiffness and response. A bow that feels just right pulls the sound quality and quantity from your violin. Only after that do you have the right criteria to share with an experienced and knowledgable bow person.
July 1, 2017, 4:49 AM · Andrew, I am very interested in your Arcus tweaking. Did Bernd suggest how to add the weight or did you do after your own plans?
I am definatly thinking the tip could be (1-2)g heavier at mine.
Edited: July 1, 2017, 5:53 AM · Marc,

Bernd and I had a lot of email discussions about the balance question. For the first tweaks Bernd actually sent me the replacement Ti screws, to which I attached the screw caps that had come with my bows. All three of my ARCUS bows (vln,vla, vc) are of the original "concerto" design. The later weights were added inside the tips by my luthier's shop (Ifshin Violins) many years later.

I determined the mass I wanted added by determining the total mass of my bow (I have a gram scale for that purpose), measuring the CG and doing the simple algebra to estimate the mass needed at tip to shift the CG the amount I wanted.

I suspect the luthier determined the weight addition experimentally as well, although I did give him my numbers.But judging by the total mass of my bows before and after the change was close to my calculation.

I have used these ARCUS bows more, in the year or two since the weight additions, than I did in the previous 18 years.

Edited: July 2, 2017, 5:52 AM · As said before,you can change the lapping for a lighter one to get the feeling of more weight at the tip, not a big deal in my opinion as long as the bow is not too light already - say less than 60 gr. I have done it in a couple of good bows and half a gram can make a noticeable difference.
Edited: July 2, 2017, 6:35 AM · Thanks Andrew, I might test it with my Sonata and if it works well change on the S8 (I owned a Cadenza before that a befriended violinist wanted quite badly so we switched them).
I know what you mean, esp on the g string I often wish for a heavier head. With 48g of total weight it wont hurt to add another 1-3g.
Edited: July 2, 2017, 9:09 AM · Andrew, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when you and Bernd had your discussion about bow balance. I have three Arcus violin bows, and all of them balance at 175-176mm from the frog, which is "tip light" by traditional standards. But three for three tells me this was certainly by design and not by accident. I'm guessing that Ifshin's replaced your wood plugs at the tips of your bows with lead, as is traditionally done to move the balance point towards the tip (?). And I suppose that a bow modified in that way would require a new lead plug instead of wood at each rehair (?). I'm not inclined to modify my Arcus's that way at this time because the balance isn't a problem for me, but it's an interesting idea. I find tip heavy to be more problematic than tip light. What did Bernd say about his theories/principles of bow balance? Thanks.
Edited: July 2, 2017, 8:53 AM · Arcus bows are all tip light and there is some use to it. What is a bit of a problem is that I often have a different contact point when playing using the Arcus. As I also play as cm in a amateur orchestra bad enough for technical advices to other violinists this can be a real problem if people watch closely...
Edited: July 2, 2017, 9:25 AM · I had enough time with my ARCUS bows before paying for them to get used to the light tips. It took me about 1 - 2 weeks to acclimate. But as I got older I needed a heavier tip and, of course, when I switch to a normal bow I have to use different technique - so I tried getting the ARCUS bows tip heavier gradually - first lighter at the frog - then heavier at the tip.
July 10, 2017, 8:53 PM · Have a discussion with a really competent bow maker. Adding weight knowledgeably and skillfully should be safely reversible. It's also possible that some re-cambering might be in order - again, only by someone really competent.

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