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Mendy Smith

The Bow Hunt

January 25, 2011 at 6:04 AM

At long last I'm back to hunting for a new bow.

The first decision was whether or not to go down the Carbon Fiber rout or stick with pernambuco.  I spend weeks researching carbon fiber bows from reviews, discussions on this site, current and previous teachers input and music friends.  The overwhelming response was to stick with pernambuco unless I needed an impervious bow for the hot and muggy outdoor Houston gigs or a decent back-up bow.

The second decision was where to start shopping.  The local shops down here stock mostly CF bows and a limited selection of pernambuco bows.  I looked at bow offerings at two of the largest on-line shops.  Then I looked at bow makers on this site and e-mailed Josh Henry.  He called me today and we had a good discussion on what I liked and did not like about the bows I have now and what I was looking for in a new bow - mainly balance and response.  Josh will be shipping me four bows to try, one of his own making.

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about how to go about evaluating bows.  I play in a wide variety of settings from orchestra, chamber, solo and even the occasional rock back-up band.   My musical tastes are as broad from baroque to ultra-modern.  Over the next few days I'll be selecting a few passages from pieces that cover the bulk of what I play.

Over the next few weeks, these bows will go with me to lessons, chamber music rehearsals, orchestral rehearsals, and of course practice at home.  Each bow will get a color coded string so I can stay organized and objective in evaluating these bows.  The string won't add any weight and it will be easy for my music friends and teacher to refer to a bow by its color :)  Much like a blind taste test in many ways.

I'm looking forward to the end of this week when a very special package arrives at my front door.

From Christina C.
Posted on January 26, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Good luck with your hunt. I bought a bow last year (my first good bow) & I think I found the search process more harrowing than with my instrument. I was fortunate to have 2 luthier exhibits in town to go & try bows to start trying to get an idea of the sorts of things I needed to look for & then I went to my local maker. He put out about a dozen bows, had me narrow it down to 1 (I could only get it down to 2) & then pulled out another dozen to try. I was positively worn out but I brought the final 2 contenders to my teacher & went with her pick since I trust her judgement ... plus she definitely has better bow-skills than I do.

 Just today I picked up a carbon-fiber bow at the Shar sale to have as my back-up bow (partly Karen A's fault actually, it was because of her that I watched TRFC intro @Youtube where the guy heartily recommends this particular bow). I practice in a low-ceilinged basement & occasionally hit it with the tip of my bow!

From Emily Liz
Posted on January 26, 2011 at 9:42 PM

Ooo, have fun! I've tried several kinds of carbon fiber bows and I can only play a few notes before I just am overcome by this horrific distaste. It's always such a relief to come to the pernambuco. I don't know why I have such a problem with them, because a lot of people obviously love them.

Hopefully your bow shopping experience isn't like my last - where I went to try about five out. I ordered them according to which ones I liked best, and sure enough, I'd put them in the order of cost - with my favorite being the most expensive, of course... I ended up leaving the shop without one.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on January 26, 2011 at 10:25 PM

You might actually be in the market for two bows, Mendy.  Outdoors in Houston, in the pit for a musical, if you find a great wood bow you love, you might hesitate to subject it to some of these scenarios.  If the budget allows, find the pernambuco bow of your dreams and then back it up with a Coda Bow or equivalent.  As soon as you see that col legno marking, you'll be glad you have the carbon in your case, too!

From Mendy Smith
Posted on January 27, 2011 at 2:20 AM


I have two old student bows for outdoor pit-gigs :)

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