Carbon fiber bow?
I am an intermediate to advanced student looking for a bow, probably around $300. I've been trying carbon fiber bows but a lot of them seem really stiff. I'm wondering if wanting a more flexible bow is a product of inexperience or if I am right to either keep looking for a more flexible carbon fiber bow or get another wood bow. Also do more flexible bows have a higher action, because I also fiddle and all the carbon fiber bows sounded scratchy when I fiddled, but I tried a few wood bows and did not have this problem.
Wood bows tend to sound better than CF, CF's forte seems to be their playability according to players.
It might help if you tell us which bows you've tried. Carbon fiber is more consistent within a brand than wooden bows, so many will have a general idea of what you mean. I'd be willing to say that by the intermediate-advanced stage you should have a good idea what feels comfortable for you - if it feels too stiff for you to be comfortable then I would say it's likely too stiff.
Michael I'll be keen to know what you think of it. That bow (the Eastman Cadenza 305) is around $450 and the OP wants to spend $300.
I wasn't taking about new Pernambuco bows out of China in the OPs price range, those are not real Pernambuco, I was speaking of older German bows back when genuine Pernambuco was readily available.
Used Glasser braided carbon fiber- round is fuller, octagonal is brighter and slightly more lively. (I own both in viola and violin, round cello and round bass-I double.) Excellent value. By using the round violin and viola sticks, I can easily go back and forth with little effort or thought. Codas are ok, but comparable level sx or gx is pricier.
Pernambuco might not be necessary in a $300 bow...
CF bows can break, even if that is a fairly rare occurrence. Back in my folk-fiddling days I bought a CF bow for the excellent reason that I expected it to be resistant to accidental damage in certain folk music venues. After a few months I noticed that when I tightened the hairs there was a curious bending that shouldn't have been there just short of the tip. Worried, I took it back to the violin shop and they immediately gave me a replacement by a different maker - a fine bow that I still use. It turned out that the shop had had 4 or 5 bows, all from the same source, brought in with the same problem, and one had actually broken at the tip. I don't think the shop used that source again.
Well, of courseevery product can be faulty and I suggest it was the maker not the material in this case.
Christina, if you just want another bow, sure, make your choice and get one.
Hrm. I was just realizing that the OP says they are "intermediate to advanced", which means that they should be reasonably competent to determine what they need and like out of a bow. If that $300 represents an upgrade, their current bow is pretty certain to be inadequate, and for a student at that level, spending more in the upper end of the $500-$1k range makes more sense -- get a JonPaul Avanti or another CF bow in that class, or a Marco Raposo pernambucco bow, or the like.
Personally I have never tried a CF bow that I liked the sound off. IMHO, wood just sounds better.
I found a decent stick for $500 at Cleveland Violins. They sent three, and they did sound noticeably different from each other. Because I couldn't draw firm conclusions about the sound while playing, I asked for opinions from family (who found one they very much preferred). I haven't compared it to the JonPaul line, so I can't be helpful there (yet).
@Michael. For the record "Ettore" after my Italian grandfather, who was a tapestry weaver in Florence.
Oh, I like. That's a good one. :)
One thing I have noticed with my CF bows is the same thing Christina A. mentioned. The tension is higher on the stick for any given adjustment.
A good wooden bow is also able to hold the tension. Cheaper ones are usually a bit too soft, which helps the sound but kills playability.
I still prefer my pernam bow for my chamber music sessions. I agree, I CAN get a much richer and more nuanced tambre. That said, I don't like it or need that sort of sound when playing in orchestras, especially when switch-hitting viola and second. That's when I prefer the easier playability and homogeneous sound of carbon that is more forgiving of any bow placement, angle, and pressure faux pas.
A top quality job of rehairing a bow will take account of the thickness of the stick and the physical properties of the hair. For example, for a soft stick, less hair should be used, while for a stiffer stick more hair may be required to optimize the hair tension and stick restoring force and flexure.
Very interesting research Andrew.
Andrew Victor is a national treasure. Who else would do that?
Andrew, how did you measure stick stiffness? I'd assume by suspending the stick from the ends and measuring deflection per unit of force from the middle. And what range of values did you see?
I received the bow I mentioned above on Tuesday and have to say I wonder more and more how much of the wood vs. cf debate is placebo/tradition instead of fact.
"I wonder more and more how much of the wood vs. cf debate is placebo/tradition instead of fact. " -- what exactly made you start wondering about that after you received a CF bow? Did you find no difference for the better or worse?
Stating that they are different beasts is just as strong a statement as suggesting that the perceived differences may be a placebo effect. Make up your mind! ;-) (I assume that we're talking about handling and sound, not looks and material, because those are obviously different.)
Wood sounds like wood, CF sounds like some kind of plastic, artificial, unnatural. While they're called Carbon fibre, the carbon fibre make up a small part of a bow made up mostly of some kind of epoxy resin, which holds the carbon fibres suspended, at least from what I understand.
You're right Han, and I am of course referring to sound and handling - cosmetics are secondary to performance, although as I've discovered CF bows come in forms that look like wooden bows, making appearance even less a factor.
I'm not sure what wood sounds like - kind of "wooden" I guess. Likewise plastic. Not so much a circular argument as a zero-dimensional one.
Han, I can guarantee you that the sound of bows is a characteristic of the stick.
I used to read hifi magazines in which much debate was made over the degree to which the sound was affected by such factors as the speaker wire. One influential writer strongly advocated painting the edge of CDs green. I guess some of use just don't possess the physiological apparatus to perceive these subtleties, thank goodness.
Its all fun to you, but you accuse serious parties with years of experience of being delusional about the tonal differences between wood and CF, may I postulate that its also possible to be delusional about the idea that there are no tonal differences between wood and CF, otherwise known as being tone deaf.
Fair enough. I was encouraged to detect a faint note of scepticism in Michael's posts so couldn't resist sticking my oar in. Unfortunately words can never adequately describe subjective sensations in a way that each of us will comprehend. Therefore every perception should properly be described in terms of opinion and shouldn't be confused with fact.
I worked for years in the audiophile loudspeaker business(and no, I'm not talking about speaker wire nonsense), we also sold "rock and roll" models, that had more distortion, less flat response, but more bass and treble, I was always made aware that only a small percent of the population has highly developed ears that can detect subtle differences in sound, other people are easily fooled by louder but less refined sound, same goes for violins and bows in my experience, not everyone can hear the differences between bows relative tones, calling those that can hear a difference as being delusional or suffering from placebo effect, just exposes your own lack of perception, not that of the ones that hear the differences.
Han N, I measured the deflection by holding the frog end of the horizontal bare stick (frog removed) in a "jig" and measuring the deflection of the stick with a certain fixed weight a fixed distance from the frog (almost at the tip).
I should practise what I preach and not attempt to put myself into anyone else's head. I shouldn't even doubt that some "golden-eared" individuals are able to make unlikely-sounding acoustic discriminations that defeat the rest of us. Consider only the waveform of an orchestra - to my knowledge no machine is able to analyse the signal (consisting of a single dimension of sound pressure against time - mono is good enough) into the simultaneous "sound objects" that go to make it up; violins, flutes, trombones, what have you. This is a phenomenally clever but often overlooked function of the human brain. I know my brain can do it and I tend to assume that everyone else's can, but it wouldn't be surprising to find that people possess the capacity to differing degrees.
Thanks for that Lyndon, ad hominem attacks are always appreciated and do nothing for civil discourse.
Heya Andy, you could put the spreadsheet up as a Google Sheet. That would probably be the easiest way to have it hosted these days.
Andy shared his spreadsheet and I've converted it to a Google Sheet:
Wow Lydia that's a superb reply and exactly the sort of discourse I was hoping to get on this topic. Thank you very much for posting it.
That's an amazing amount of data,
Michael, Lydia has said over and over on this forum that she prefers her wood bows to her CF bow, if you can't hear the high end sizzle of CF bows, maybe your hearing is lacking in high frequency response, I don't know, poster after poster in this thread has said they prefer wood bows to CF, its not all in their head, and frankly I find the inference that it may be in their head to be quite insulting.
Yes, I'm sure it is all down to brain processing rather than just the frequency response of the cochlea. Lydia's description of the sound of CF bows is the best attempt I've yet read of an attempt to explain colour to the blind - maybe I'll try it one day. I find it easy to hear differences between violins under my chin but a lot harder at a distance. When it comes to recordings, they might all be playing the same instrument (just occasionally one stands out as distinct). I don't think I'm alone, because you very seldom find the reviewer of a concert or recording comment on the tone of the instrument. I suspect this is a capacity which is acquired over time by (some) players.
So you're in denial of half the things you have said in this thread????
That what sounds good is a matter of preference, and that preference is strongly influenced by traditional sound and the expectation of what one expects to hear? That is the only thing I can think of that you can be bent out of shape about, and in that case absolutely not.
Han, I'm a beginner (6 months) so take my words with a grain of salt. I'm doing home trial for 2 CF bows right now. I don't have a tool to measure flexibility, but there's a bowing technique where you bounce the bow on the strings. I consider my current CF bow very flexible and it's very hard to control the bounces. I keep getting more bounces than I want. The other two are much better. One of those two is very obedient with 1-3 bounces, but would need more effort if I want more bounces. I've never played a piece that requires that technique, so I dont know what I would prefer when I get to that level.
Michael, I'm that horror you speak of =P I think I'm just about to get roasted here for admitting to that =s
Don't worry John,
I think "sizzle" is a good word to describe that carbon-fiber sound -- a surface noise that really is akin to frying eggs. Some of the sticks don't have it as prominently, or it's less prominent in combination with a particular violin. But it's a trait that seems to me to be pretty CF specific. I've never heard it in a wood bow, and fiberglass bows sound different but not like CF.
Lydia, that warmth you're speaking of wood bows having, that CF don't is what I referred to as a "wood" as opposed to "plastic" sound. Violins sound best when made of wood, CF violins sound somewhat artificial and inferior by comparison, why would bows be any different, wood is the superior material for instruments like this.
Lyndon, have you heard the top-of-the-line CF sticks? They sound much closer to wood than the lower-end models -- close enough to wood that I expect the typical listener to not know the difference, and good enough tonally to compete with wood bows.
Lydia, I had those exact same thoughts last night about manufacturing as I was comparing two bows of different models from the same manufacturer. The two looks almost identical, but they sound and play differently. One is almost double the price of the other.
I dont think one could recognize my S8 for beeing CF only by listening to the sound. I would not own it, if it was not a good bow. Cheaper CF bows are less close to wood than the good ones from my experience.
Bow preference is extremely personal. Bows have certain playing characteristics that are objective, but the subtleties of what instinctively feels good is different for each player.
Carbon fiber is yet another foray into an attempted improvement of a pre existing idea that for all practical purposes worked fine.
The point is, the demand for good pernambuco (not talking about low grade wood gor manufactured bows) is too high. It cannot get satisfied, therefore I think it is an good idea to think of alternatives (does someone remember the bamboo violin bows?).
I'm not a player but I can assure you the shrill scratchy sound of CF, and the lack of warmth in the midrange of CF can be heard from 10 ft away, that's how I came to my conclusions.
As far as I know, a lot of current pro orchestra players use CF bows on an everyday basis. It's not universal that the unpleasant quality can be heard.
A lot of players in the orchestra play on relatively crappy violins, they still make up what we consider the orchestra sound, not that they couldn't have bought a better violin. Its hardly a justification for crappy violins or crappy bows.
The physics of the bow is well understood, which is why we live during a time when many good players find some engineered bows to be just as good for playing as well-regarded crafted wooden ones.
I dont know of which professional orchestras you speak, but I dont know crappy violins in the local one. I would guess that the average value is at about 50k value for each violin (no bows included), somewhere between 15k and 300k for each. The sound of a section highly depends on the instruments, thats why you simply wont make it into it with a crappy one.
I was speaking more of our local symphonies, not top professional ones like the LA Philharmonic.
There is no longer a tonal difference. (I used to be in the "CF sounds inadequate" camp myself.)
Which Marquise do you have, Jeewon? Really curious about this bow -- I don't know anyone who has one.
Jeewon now you know why I don't like camping. :)
Paul, I don't mind a variety of camps... But I guess it does mean we must suffer the dogmatic "fundy" camp.
It means God Stick. It's that good.
If I read that marketing BS I'd definitely shop elsewhere, on principle
But Steve, you have to try them! They're full of beauty from tip to button! It appeals more than any other!
I already discovered I'm not a "discerning player", being unable to distinguish between the sounds of my CF and pernambuco bows (I'm willing to accept that some people can!), so that lets me out
My bow experience has lead me to believe that the tonal problem is that "worse" bows mess up some frequencies and that "better" bows don't have that problem. In the cases of my experience the problems have also been instrument related, "so the "better" bow on a particular instrument may not be better on another one.
I've been looking at various bow websites yesterday. I think CodaBow does a good job with marketing hence their popularity despite constantly getting beat by JonPaul based on majority of what I read from reviews. JonPaul's website, on the other hand, can use some improvement. I don't mean adding a gazillion buzzwords like CodaBow though.
I always prefered the Arcus line, although a bit more expensive. His descriptions of the bow quality however are verry bold.
Lydia, that is hilarious. I wish I had seen that.
Andrew, Lowendall is not Mittenwald although he may have commissioned higher end instruments to be made in Mittenwald, he operated in Dresden then Berlin, although certainly his cheaper instruments originated in Markneukirchen/Schoenbach.
Lyndon - sorry about that (it is my Carl Sandner that was made in Miitenwald - or so says its label). My Lowendall was not in playing condition from 1963 - 1990 and I bought the Sandner to replace it. After I finally found a maker who would repair the Lowendall for an affordable fee I started loaning it to adult students until it finally returned to my home in 2014. I guess I had not looked inside it for a very long time.
Lowendall made some good instruments, the better violins can be worth up to $5,000 or more, but there are also some cheaper instruments with his label that aren't worth much, 1877 would be the Dresden period, these tend to be worth more than the later Berlin period.