December 2006

How do you tell...Carbon Fiber or Wood bow?

December 28, 2006 17:41

Today I bought a bow. A Coda (carbon fiber) Aspire. I really wanted a higher end one, but this one seems to be alright (it arrives in a few days). At any rate, it will be much better than what I currently play with. I got a viola bow despite the temptation to go with a violin bow (cheaper). I'm sure they are priced more because there is more a good way. It was hard to tell from pictures of ANY of the bows I looked at in the last few days how the balance was. I like a very thin stick until about the middle of the bow. Most didn't look like that, but it was hard to really know.

After all that...looking at my violin looks incredibly similar to the carbon fiber bows I saw (the ones that didn't have a "net" look to them). How can I tell if a bow is carbon fiber or wood? I know that sounds like a dumb question, but it is very very smoothe, is a very dark shade, very uniform. The part of the stick behind the grip is octagonal, but the rest of the stick is round. It has occaisional problems with the bow not loosening in dry weather. I can unscrew the button (?) almost all the way off sometimes and the bow still stays tight. Then when I open my case at home, it is loosened and fine. I have been told that maybe it was rehaired with not long enough hair to compensate for climate changes.

The look of the bow, though...

and there are no stampings, markings of any kind.

Without taking it to a luthier, does anyone know how to tell the difference?

I bought it from my teacher for $800.00 around 2002. I can't remember exactly what he said about the bow and can't get ahold of him about any of my instruments or bows lately. I'm sure it is worth 800 dollars. I'm not concerneda bout that at all.

Maybe I was and don't remember. Benefit of the doubt is always called for in my case.

I'm glad that I am very happy with my violin bow. It doesn't really matter too much. Just curious.

I practiced quite a long stretch today, and the whole time, I could hear myself way too loudly. It all sounded harsh, even playing very quietly, or flautando. I finally blamed it on the environment and weather. Relative dryness, humidity, temperature, water condensation on the walls. Anything.

I'm not playing any differently. Just hearing differently. It is hard to get past that sometimes in order to practice...such a distraction!!!

Hm...I'm making bread. The timer just went I go!

Jennifer Warren

9 replies | Archive link

Violin bow on Viola??

December 26, 2006 07:50

I received some Christmas money and am, of course, going to spend it on getting an acceptable bow to play the viola with, and viola (possibly violin instead...) lessons for this semester.

There are several choices I could make for the bow. I could get my real viola bow rehaired. I don't know anything about this bow. It is clumbsy for me, heavy, and awkward. It doesn't get into the strings well (which might be remedied by a re-hairing), and has a harsh-ish sound to it.

When I tried my crappy bow, not touched since 1997, missing 2/3 of it's hair, the viola had such a smoother, more subtle, gentler, rounder sound. And I had more fascility and control and flexability in my bow. Huh. So I do know that this violin bow is not great. But it somehow works for me on the viola.

The other thing to throw around is getting a new viola bow. I'd not be able to afford a bow above student range, and I feel that since I play professionally and at a post-masters level (is there such a thing?), a student bow would not be adequate, either, and then I'd just have two viola bows I am not happy with.

I'm leaning towards getting the violin bow rehaired and giving that a try.

Any advice? Do people DO that? Use a violin bow on the viola? Is it because I'm small, my viola is short, but heavy and wide, and I'm used to a violin bow because I was first a violinist? Or is it truly a sound preference and issue of personal desire for certain weights, balances, and feel?

I don't know what each bow weighs, but the viola bow is very thick, with not much gradation at the tip. My expensive violin bow is very thin, with most of the weight in the frog-half. The violin bow I'm thinking of getting haired adn using on the viola is a big thicker than my expensive violin bow, but it seems very light. Perhaps that is why I cna control it well, using my body for the weight when I need it, without a heavy bow to work around? My expensive violin bow doesn't work well on the viola, on the other hand...

Or is it something completely weird, like a bow with very little hair is something new and that I mistake with sound and agility?


I've only got a few hundred dollars to spend on the bow, if I'd like any work done to the viola as well (some shaving of the neck).

One last thing is that I read that a viola bow should be about the length of your viola. My viola is short, and I know a viola bow is longer than a violin bow. I don't use the last inch or maybe more of the viola bow anyway, because it would require inhumane twists of the bow wrist and go-go-gadget-arms to get far enough away to use it...
Decisions, decisions...


5 replies | Archive link


December 21, 2006 18:40

That is in "screamfont" (I'M GOING TO PLAY THE DVORAK ROMANCE WITH AN ORCHESTRA) because my brain is screaming it...

The conductor just called me from the road. She listened to the two Beethoven Romances and the Dvorak, and she wants to do the Dvorak. I'm very excited. I worked the first couple of pages for fingerings and bowings today and was secretly hoping she would pick that one. It is probably more difficult, but oh, the harmonic movement and melody(ies) and it's voice!

My t-shirt came today. I'm wearing it now. I'm impressed. It fits. It is hard to find clothes that fit correctly, and this one is perfect.

I couldn't conceal the fact that I bought it anymore...since it is on me.

I'm having major viola issues again. I can't hold it. I put several rolls of socks under the shoulder rest diagonally and it was much higher, which solved the problems, but created a new one. Pressure pushing UP on my jaw/head. But at least my posture was less crunchy. I really wish my viola fit me. Long neck, non-existant shoulders. When I put my shoulder rest on, it doesn't even rest on my shoulder. MOre like my biceps. Which of course, makes it point to the floor.

Anyway. Maybe I can rig something up that works and is comfy and not obviously...well....rigged up. :)


6 replies | Archive link


December 19, 2006 12:15

Wow! I was wanting to practice, but feeling a little queasy. So I laid down for what ended up being two hours and had the most horrible dream about the violin and viola and orchestra and conductors and, then, when I finally could throw my fit about it, all my teeth fell out, and they were huge and green!!!

I think I'm coming down with the flu, actually. However, the thing I REALLY wanted to write was,
I'M DONE, I'M DONE, I'M DONE, I'M DONE, I'M DONE for the year!!! Oh, I am so relieved. My last gig was on Sunday, yesterday I crammed christmas gifting in, and today I am going to start practicing for technique and rep. Not orchestra music....(though from that dream, maybe I'm supposed to work harder on orchestra music!).


I feel like I've been away for a long time, when it has only been a few days, so I've been catching up on Blogs and discussions this morning.

I haven't been this excited about real practice in some time. I REALLY get to work!


4 replies | Archive link

Struggling with the chair, Hating the stand.

December 14, 2006 09:52

Well, today I am a violinist again. I decided yesterday to pretend I was not. I kind of missed it, kind of felt guilty, and kind of enjoyed the relaxation from the constant worry of getting music prepared.

I know I write a lot about taking breaks and a few days off. It is right for me, though. I have had enough burn outs and intense years to know that it is not necessarily important to work as hard as I can every-single-day.

Though, reading discussions, I am aware that there needs to be more focus on technique and disciplined thought surrounding my instrument throughout the day.

It is really hard to keep that up in the midst of orchestral work.

Sometimes I think that my playing suffers from so many rehearsals and performances, but other times, it gives me a good time and space to experiment without too much attention drawn to it. I've been experimenting with hand positions and body positions and vibrato during rehearsals.

I think, though some of my technique needs a serious upgrade and re-thought and work-through, the most important thing right now is to correctly position myself for long rehearsals. I've always been the one with my chair turned to the side, sitting with my scroll facing the music. It looks odd and so I've been adjusting. Now I'm coming full circle, back to what causes less pain instead of what looks correct.

There is a problem there, though. Many times there are limitations of space in a performing space, and cramped playing conditions in which I cannot spread out and be comfortable. So that needs to be taken into consideration as well.

Blah blah. It's funny. I used to get up before dawn and go practice in the school.
Now I don't feel like the practice day can really get started until about noon.

Mostly because I used to practice without my brain ready. Half-asleep practicing was o.k. Now I don't even think it is worth it unless I'm totally ready and awake and in full-day-gear.
Growing older, perhaps....FOR SURE!!!


1 reply | Archive link

Surviving the busiest WORKING SEASON

December 13, 2006 02:07

It really is a lot of work. A time like the winter holidays makes it more obvious (to those not in the music business) just how much work it takes for a single job, for real. I think my husband understands most of the time anyway, but other people have misconceptions about my level of work ethic sometimes. Not lately, though! I feel like I'm gone so much!! (in many ways :))

I think I might safely say that I have survived this holiday season's concerts and rehearsals (surviving rehearsals is sometimes harder than concerts). I still have one to go, a one-day-er. But the orchestra weekends are done with. I can't say that I feel I played "successfully" through them all, but I survived.

One problem was temperature. I just cannot play well in a cold hall. Sometimes the hall isn't cold, just a draft above our stand. But sometimes it really is cold. On a night concert on Saturday, the pads on my fingers were actually numb, for about an hour afterwards, too. Not from any health problem, from cold. I think they turned the heat off halfway through. They also didn't seem to use the heat much during rehearsals, th ough most of the concerts were toasty. This isn't good for the violin, either.

The first concert of the weekend, my A string popped during "Trepak". I was able to tune it back up and play the second half of it.
But on Sunday afternoon in the second to last song, the three lower strings popped out (when I say "popped" I mean, floppy string). I actually saw the pegs unwind-zoom. One, two, three. Chain reaction. There really wasn't any way I could tune all three of them up accurately in the middle of a piece, and no time between, as I was trying not to be obvious about it. After the concert I plucked the four strings and they were at least a half step off from where they were supposed to be, let alone from each other (fifth-wise).

I don't think there is anything wrong with my instrument, except that it is sensitive to weather changes. My home town is very humid, and both cities I play in symphonies with...are dry. Plus, the halls are usually fairly dry, and the hotel rooms REALLY dry when the need for using the heater is the case.

At home my pegs are actually quite sticky. I used peg dope on them once, with no problem here. But perhaps the peg dope is too slimy for when the wood pressure on the pegs depcomresses..(terminology lacking).

Any ideas on what to do so this does not occur again? I have been sitting outside player, first violin, so it is distracting, I"m sure, when that happens. I hate drawing attentino to myself in such a manner.

On other notes, I was pleased. The orchestra was fairly tight. Especially for playing so much music (a lot of the players do both symphonies) in such short of a time. The schedule was almost too much. Not much time for donig anything else except sleep. Several concerts in the same day, with a rehearsal or two. My check had better be worth it :).
I felt like I blended well. Especially happy with my playing on exposed pieces like the opening movement of the Nutcracker suite. Not so easy! The Rober Shaw "Many Moods" Christmas suites are quite difficult as well. A lot of tough runs. But the music is good. Not your run of the mill gig accompaniment to choir stuff. Interesting and satisfying, yet seasonal at the same time.

Anyway. I played my viola for about 30 minutes today but was just too tired to really do anything productive and tired in my body as well. So I stopped after awhile.

I really feel as if I've neglected my technical practice, and, well, real practice in general. I require substantial amounts of practice to be able to do well in orchestra rehearsals and concerts, which really eats a hole into my practice time.
I'll be glad when the season is over so I can really work on playing again.

I've already got the music for the January concert, Beethoven symphony no.7. Looking forward to cracking that open.

I've been taking a lot of time and energy out of life to, well, work on life through changing my habits all around. It isn't something I can just focus on at mealtimes, it really takes all-the-time work right now while I get adjusted to being more healthy. But in the long run it will benefit my playing, career, and happiness with music. So I'm not fretting too much that I am not spending as much time wandering about in my violin/viola-obsessed world.

Stepping out to view the rest of the world a bit more...


2 replies | Archive link

Sticky violin top.

December 7, 2006 12:24

My violin is very sticky...just on the top. I haven't put any polish on in some time, but it is still sticky. It isn't anythign that I got ON it, it is the violin itself. It is a french violin from 1850-something. Would it be a good idea to get a coating of something protective put on it? Just the top. There are some spots (around the top, next to the neck...the "shoulders") that are almost entirely varnish-free...just the wood. My teacher recommended polishing it, to keep a kind of layer over the wood, but is the polish eating it away?
Is it the varnish coming off that makes it sticky? Maybe gnomes rubbed honey on it when I was sleeping....


4 replies | Archive link

I love my Cats.

December 4, 2006 12:54

I really am greatful to have such a busy concert schedule this season. It is enough, but not too much. Such a great balance. I learned over the weekend that I need to practice christmas concert music just like I would any other concert music. I was switched up to asst. concertmaster at the last minute,(she wasn't there) and had an extra level of anxiety playing so close to the conductor.

I actually did practice the music, but not to the extent taht I could play it well without my fingerings.

Does any one else have the problem in orchestra when you sit inside player, not being able to use the music you prepared with?

I think I'm in love with my cats today. Or I'm just in a sentamental and good mood. One of them coughed up her first hairball. And then her second. And tried for a third, but couldn't quite get it out. I was all over her cheering her on and taking care of her as if she was sick. It felt good to do that for me, anyway. I don't think she thought much about it, as she wnted so much to play with her coughed up grossness. Yuck.

Anyway. Getting down to practice for the next concert weekend of christmas programs.


2 replies | Archive link

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