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Mendy Smith

Hilda's New Partner

February 13, 2011 at 3:00 AM

Today I got up early and headed off to my local violin shops to see if they had any new bow offerings since the last time I had visited for a final comparison.  Most bows they carried were either good beginner/intermediate level bows and then a jump to two which were well above my budget.  Dutifully, I tried them all out, including the high end carbon fiber bows.

The bows tended to be quite heavy at the frog, much like the one of the two that I've been using.  They didn't track very well on the string and tended to  bounce around quite a bit on the string.  The high end carbon fiber bows weren't much better and felt like a rock in my hand.  The higher priced permabuco bows a little above my budget weren't in the greatest of shape and didn't grab my attention in feel, response or tone.

I went home and began working through the music that I'll be performing over the next few months, alternating between bow #1 and #4 for awhile.  After an hour into practice, I found myself tackling a particularly tricky five measures of the Mozart Oboe Quartet: tempo at 80 bpm for a dotted quarter with 6 notes per beat and string crossings with bow #1 for several hours with bow #1.  When I finally got tired a two hours later, I realized that it was the longest time that I was ever able to rehearse that section without pain and had made quite a bit of progress.  Additionally all of the dynamic changes, staccato and dolce sections were finally starting to come together.

Hilda and I found a bow partner: bow #1, an Albert Schuster (German) weighing in at 68 grams, on the light end for viola bows.    If I recall correctly, the Schuster is a pre-WWII bow restored by Josh Henry.  Bow #4, the other top contender, is a handmade bow by Mr. Henry.

It was a difficult decision to make, and I thank Mr. Henry for lending the bows to me for an extended trial period. 


From Josh Henry
Posted on February 13, 2011 at 8:57 PM

Mendy, It has been a pleasure following your blog posts regarding your progress and thoughts on this whole bow-choosing process. I'm glad that it has been a fun and revealing process to you and the others that have been following this. Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to send you bows for tryout.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker & Restorer

From Mendy Smith
Posted on February 14, 2011 at 1:25 AM


Thanks!  The Schuster got a second round of lessons today with the Dominant strings on Hilda.  My teacher was impressed with the combination and the new found freedom in my bow arm.  I was also able to hold my own tone & volume-wise while rehearsing "Reflection" for 3 violas.  The other two violists have giant instruments compared to little Hilda (16").  

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