Which bow would you go for?

Edited: October 27, 2017, 6:19 PM · So which would you go for?

I have in my possession two bows. One is carbon fiber and offers superior spicatto and faster response and balance; the other pernambuco which feels 'heavier' in my hand but pulls a wonderful full sound. The differences are noticeable to my ear and bow control and undeniably so. Not having the money or justification yet to find a 3rd bow with both characteristics I am stuck with these two as my options. So far I use the c.f. bow for when I play music that requires speed and balance and the pernambuco when I play slow pieces or pieces I can really dig down into such as Xmas music and pull a wonderful sound. I tend to use the carbon fiber (c.f.) in orchestra and pernambuco in quartets or when I'm practicing.

But in a concert which demands both control and full sound I can't very well switch bows. It's one or the other.

I really want to just play one bow so I have tried playing with one and trying to compensate. For example, loving the sound of the pernambuco I tried overtightening it as it seems to help with the faster response but has its limitations. I tried diff. adjustments with my bow hold but...

On the other hand, I tried playing closer to the bridge and more pressure on the c.f. to get more tone and sound but that has its limitations as well. I even tried changing strings to get a louder sound and I do get louder but the hollowness of the c.f. bow does not disappear. It lacks that wooden focused sound of a pernambuco.

Maybe I should just stick with one and learn to master it and compensate its failures?

I am curious to see how you would respond - What do you think? Do I switch back and forth or pick one over the other and if so which? Is is that another option - maybe tricks to make one more like the other and vice versa?

Trivial problem in light of things but it really bothers me. Have you been in a similar situation?

Replies (13)

October 27, 2017, 6:32 PM · I would consult with a bow expert to learn if both bows are optimally haired. There is a relationship between the proper amount of hair for any bow and the stick stiffness properties.
October 27, 2017, 6:49 PM · Also consider trading in both bows in order to get a more satisfying bow.

Never overtighten a wood bow. You will damage it.

October 27, 2017, 9:02 PM · What does your teacher say? Is it really your bow or your bowing technique needs upgrading? When you play in orchestra, do you have solo moment? If not, I don't see why you need a more powerful bow than what you've got. Did your conductor think you don't produce a full sound or it's your own impression?
October 28, 2017, 4:35 AM · I would second Lydia's suggestion.
October 28, 2017, 6:07 AM · I have seen several videos of Gil Shaham with his bow so tight the camber has disappeared and there looks to be a inch and a half gap between hair and stick. I tend to prefer a tighter bow tension.
October 28, 2017, 6:59 AM · I've seen some of those Gil Shaham videos, too. Perhaps his bow was designed with that much smaller camber? It must work, otherwise he wouldn't be using it.
October 28, 2017, 7:29 AM · I advise always to keep a spare bow in the case, ready in the event of accidents. In the OP's situation I'd be inclined to keep the CF as the spare, and get a better pernambuco bow - or snakewood? - now there's a thought. My favorite bow for all performances is my replica snakewood transitional bow, which is a late 18th design in the changeover from Baroque to Tourte. It is a design that would have been familiar to Haydn, Mozart et al.
Edited: October 28, 2017, 10:16 AM · If your bow bows in under tension its a fake transitional bow that never existed in the time of Haydn and Mozart. And if its Chinese its not going to be real snakewood, probably, either.
October 28, 2017, 10:14 AM · Ian, your dilemma is exactly why I have both as well. Ditto on Lydia’s suggestion. You may well be able to find a better Pernambucco in your area that can give you more of the playing characteristics that you want.
October 28, 2017, 2:04 PM · It's also possible that every luthier who watches Shaham play with that much tension on a fine bow cringes when they see it. I don't tend to think of myself as playing with that much tension on the bow (just about a pencil's worth of gap), but it's still enough that it can earn me sharp reprimands from luthiers -- too much for fine French bows, apparently.
October 28, 2017, 4:41 PM · Dear all,
Thanks for the inputs.

Andrew next time I'm at the shop I will ask them to take a look although I had them rehaired before and no one has said a thing. I think it's the stick and not the hair.

Lydia et al, I will look into possibly trading in bows and looking for a better one although I am not sure about this as I figure I will only recover half the costs of the two bows and end up with something just as similar and now only one bow without a spare.

Well if a pro does it (overtightening) then it must be okay right? Not sure if I'm going to do that because it just wouldn't be good for the bow. Maybe I will use a slightly more tightening but not so much that it's flat!

What's snakewood? I'll have to look that up.

Yixi, I haven't taken lessons in a couple of years and have struck out on my own. So no input from teacher.
No solos here in orchestra (not intentionally anyway ;) ) and the conductor has not mentioned anything but he has other things to worry about I'm sure. It's my own perception and it bothers me. It's noticeable and I wish it wasn't - the playability between the two bows.

At present I guess my current plan is to continue with switching when it behooves me to. Just curious if others had similar issues and possible tips.

Thanks y'all!

November 14, 2017, 12:22 AM · snakewood. I always loved the smoothness, dark and strong sound that they draw from violin, always slightly heavier though.

Personally, I always told myself to go for a bow with better handle, but always end up going for the bow with better sound.

Over time, I learned to compensate/adjust for a good sounding bow by technique, and knowing what its limits are, and avoiding certain techniques from it.

For example, my main bow, is frog heavy-ish, and frog was cracked(and repaired) but playing near the frog is tricky for downbow. Also, there is this really "pinch" spot, that makes the hair to really loosen when I try to play. I strictly avoid that part until staccato.

November 14, 2017, 12:47 AM · Over-tightening a bow will ruin it in the long run, especially under lots of heavy playing. The stick will warp!

Some bows are quite flexible and do require more tension to function properly. Others are more stiff and don't require a lot of hair tension to do what is necessary.


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