What makes a violin bow play smooth? Rosin, horse hair, tension, or the bow itself?
I got to try a couple of bows today. One of them is totally brand new and never been played so my rosin got the opportunity to be the first on it. The other bow has been tested before. I kept playing with it, wiped the rosin off the string, then repeated the process until I'm barely wiping off rosin before I applied my own.
The bows blow my current one both in playability and sound quality. Both bows are very smooth to play and it makes using the whole bow a lot easier! The one that has been tested before is amazingly smoother to play. It makes me wonder if perhaps the rosin previously applied to it is a significant factor? I remember Lydia's story about still looking for that rosin used on one of the bows she tried before.
Then I start to wonder if it's the horse hair. That does mean that the bow will feel and play slightly different (not sound-wise) once rehaired? If not then it would be the bow itself, which is interesting because it doesnt even make direct contact with the strings!
P.S. Coming from a beginner, quality bow really does make HUGE differences. Almost feels like I'm cheating since playing got easier with added bonus of better sound from my violin. Just wow!
The essential feel of a bow should be the same regardless of the rosin and hair used. Neither of these two factors should influence purchase of a bow.
As Lydia says. But the player has an enormous influence too!!
A heavy bow, perhaps? If you are shopping for a new bow, ask your teacher for an informed opinion.
I agree, if you want to go to advanced technics make sure your geacher can play sautille, riccochet, etc on it.
The bow hair makes a massive difference. It took me 30 years or more to find that out. I had a bow with very old hair and it was like silk on your cheek. Had new hair and suddenly a sound emerged from my violin again.
Everyone, thanks for the input!
John, I believe bow hair and rosin do make some difference in terms of how smooth the sound you can hear and you can feel when you draw a bow. For instance, a bow that is badly in need of re-hair would be hard to draw the sound you need so you would work harder, and poor quality rosin makes the sound gritty. But I think the buttery sound some of us were talking about was the tonal quality. It is the deep and velvet character of the sound certain bow can produce on certain violins. I recently tried a bow (an old Hill) that produces deep and buttery sound to my Topa, but I didn't take it because it's not as responsive as my current bow. But these two are not mutually exclusive; some buttery-sounding bows are highly playable and responsive. I'm searching for one of those.
A really smooth draw is a playability quality, though -- the feel that the bow is tracking the string effortlessly in a straight plane.
Yixi, I havent seen my teacher in months. I don't want to see him just to have him try bows and then not continue with lessons. Though I don't really know anyone else besides another beginner friend who plays the violin. After another 2+ hours of testing last night, my impression is I prefer the well balanced bow over tip-heavier but better-sounding bow. It feels, as Lydia mentioned, like an extension of my arm. The tip-heavier one feels like some of my muscles are combating some of its weight. But again, that's me doing absolutely random bowing techniques I've seen online that I'm probably not executing correctly haha
John, I don't know your situation with you and your teacher so I can only tell you my experience with my teacher (we've been together for nearly 10 years), and how absolutely crucial to consult with her about instrument purchasing before purchasing:
Yixi's advice is terrific.
Yixi and Lydia, thanks for the advice! I'll definitely try looking for someone who can at least try the bows before I purchase. It just won't be with my teacher. My teacher is nice and very respectable, but I just don't think I suit well with his teaching style (I had a long post about this before). My last few lessons two months ago had been more on the traumatizing than enjoyable side. Again, not that he's a bad teacher or anything negative. I just don't work well with very very strict teaching. I may start looking for a new teacher, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to start taking lessons again at this time. I'm still catching up with practice from everything I learned last month from teachers abroad (2-3 hr lessons each day for 2 weeks straight). I will definitely need to start taking lessons again once I get stuck.
Oh geez... sometimes I don't realize until I hit the "Reply!" button that I'm posting novels.
My guess is that your playing is at a stage where you can't yet make a good decision about a bow over the long-term. The $70 Fiddlerman should be adequate for a while.
Lydia, Just wondering. When did you purchase your Avanti? Does it have a smooth flat grip or lizard skin?
The number one factor in smooth bowing, especially smooth starts and smooth bow changes and well-tapered phrase endings and ultimately spectacular effects is the player's control. The people who can do this often/usually show the ability quite early in their studies. If this were not so it would not be so easy to identify them as early as we can. Super bows may only make it better, and it is true that there are bows that make life easier for us hackers - but they are not the secret.
OP, The short answer is: the bow! You are over thinking this issue too much. Getting regular lessons and diligent practice will make everything better!
Bows don't play smooth, but may be played smoothLY.
I got my JP Avanti back in early 2015. I'm not by my violin-case at the moment, but I recall the grip as being smooth-ish but not totally smooth.
Quite recent then. I don't know exactly JP's product line history, but I suspect they added more models in the past 5-8 years that are similar to the Avanti. If that's the case, then the sticks are sorted into more different categories. Right now looks like there's 4 similar models. Sorted from cheapest to expensive; Corona, Avanti, Muse, Carrera. If in the past there was only Avanti and Carrera, then "Corona" and "Muse" bows could get sorted with the Avanti, giving you a chance of testing a higher quality "Avanti". Hmmm I think too much lol
I wrote about that bow-buying experience in this thread: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/26604/
Interesting read. By the way, did you get your violin repaired or does it still have a crack on the soundpost?
My personal belief is that the benefit you get from a change in rosin is marginal at best in any objective sense, but can have a big effect in the placebo department. From everything I've read, hair can stretch out slightly, and it can get clogged-up with oil or too much rosin (then you can just use less), but the hair doesn't lose it's ability to hold rosin over time. I try and avoid the impulse to rehair unless my hairs start breaking, because I believe my time will better be spent practicing. I somehow doubt that you'll find too many rosin fetishists among the top soloists, but even they can be superstitious, I suppose.
Everybody not believing in the rosin influence should be given a cake of those $50 violin sets. I legitly cannot make my bow create any sound when using this (tried with a cheaper bow after rehairing).
When someone talks about a "soundpost crack" it's not the soundpost that's cracked -- if it were, it would just be replaced.
Marc, I'm inclined to believe you more than my post may admit. I've just seen enough threads around here where beginners are looking for the right gear to do this or that, and while I understand the impulse, I think that they should mostly put aside stuff like rosin and strings until they are like 5 more years into it. I just see it as an aspect of magic thinking that actually keeps people from progressing, because I think that once people start to understand the value of truly practicing consistently, thoughtfully, and putting time in, the appeal of "quick fixes" loses its luster.
I do agree that a lot of people think to much about the equipment and not enough about practising and learning.
In my opinion the quality of a student's equipment should be a very strong concern of the teacher. When I was teaching I did everything in my power to assure my students had instruments and bows that would not hold them back - even to the event of going with them to select their first rental instrument (at no charge for my time). Of course their were students who had "jumped the gun" and had already purchased their equipment before they ever contacted me. But even then I always tested their equipment to be sure it was something I could play on (or something they could do to improve it) -- and at every lesson I always checked the bridge angle - you don't want any bridges bending or falling down.
With regards to equipment and experimenting, I guess it depends what people play the violin for.
I don't think there's any harm in it as long as you are conscious that your time and money are not being efficiently spent.
Andrew, I agree that a good equipment for students is something a student deserves and my son is learning with way better equip than I did. But I seriously doubt that rosin (as long as it is not a trash one) matters that mouch unitl you reached a certain point in bow technic.
No worries. I'm aware of it. I'm meticulous when I make buying decisions so I don't ever regret my purchases. Once I finish getting all the tiny probably-not-even-important details on equipment and the different variables, then I can focus practicing with a clear mind.
I think one of the points I've been trying to make is what seems good to you as a beginner is not necessarily what you will want as an intermediate player, and then not what you'll want as an advanced player (if you ever get to that point).
I should be safe with my violin since it has 100% return towards future upgrade at the shop as long as it's well maintained. The bow is more of a gamble for me in that regards, though I don't see myself becoming an intermediate for at least another 2 years.
Update on history of the JonPaul models (nothing important).
Been testing the 2nd Avanti that arrived. Can confirm that there's definitely in-model variation. Here are the weight and balance from the bottom.