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jennifer steinfeldt  warren

Violin bow on Viola??

December 26, 2006 at 2:50 PM

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...


From Elizabeth Smith
Posted on December 26, 2006 at 5:24 PM
Two of my daughters use violin bows (carbon fiber coda bows) for their violas.
From jennifer steinfeldt warren
Posted on December 26, 2006 at 6:42 PM
Cool! I actually said something incorrect in the post. The violin bow is longer than the viola bow. The violin bow I'm planning to use on the viola is the same length as the viola bow. But it looks like a violin bow. How can you tell? Weigh them? Is that the only way, besides how many hairs it has (since it is missing a big chunk)?


From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 26, 2006 at 7:00 PM
Maybe you would profit from going to your luthier and trying some viola bows in your price range. See what you think. That might give you a better idea of your best option. Good luck!
From Ingrid Popp
Posted on December 26, 2006 at 7:29 PM
I think that the only real difference between violin and viola bows is the weight with violin bows being around 60grams and viola bows being around 70 grams. Also viola bows often (but by no means always) have a rounded frog like a cello bow. That said use whatever handles and sounds best for you and your viola there are certaily violists (even pro's) out there that use violin bows on viola. I have tried my violin bows on viola and they work just fine although I prefer to use my viola bow. If you do decide to buy a viola bow you might want to try out some carbon fiber bows, I was impressed by the coda conservatory I tried once and also the arcus viola bows have a weight closer to that of a violin bow which you might prefer. Just try a few bows and see what you think.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 27, 2006 at 7:06 AM
I agree that the best way to make a decision is to go to your luthier's shop with your viola and test drive several bows in your price range, including both violin and viola bows. I love my violin Coda Conservatory bow. It might work for you, too. Let us know what you decide to do.

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