Printer-friendly version
The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Have you found the bow of your dreams?

April 24, 2009 at 6:42 PM

Last week we talked about finding the fiddle of your dreams, and this week, we'll talk about bows. (BTW Thanks to member Adam Clifford for the suggestion. I welcome everyone's suggestions for the weekend vote!)

Bows are tricky and individual; as your technique advances, you'll likely find that your taste in bows will likely change. For example, at some point you'll want a bow that bounces, a bow with which you can play a nice sautille stroke. However, there's a catch: you need the proper bow to develop that stroke in the first place.

A bow that seems to draw a nice tone from your fiddle might simply be a heavy bow, and the heaviness can make the bow less nimble. A very nimble bow could be lacking in power. And how much weight should be at the tip, how much at the frog? How big is your hand?

A bow needs balance, and in fact it is an object with innate tension and its very own "balance point."

Have you found the bow that works for you? What were you looking for? Did you play with any bum bows along the way, and what did you learn?


From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 7:17 PM

To find the bow of my dreams, I would need more $$$ than I currently have available.

Posted on April 24, 2009 at 7:31 PM

I have 15 "collectible" bows of my dreams, and I love them all...different ages, makers,  and adornments (silver, gold, ivory) and I'm still looking for more. They have come from dealers, auctions, estate sales and also private sales. One, a Franz Winkler bow was obtained at the Good Will Store for $4.00. The stick was sound but the hair, winding, grip and tip plate were either broken or worn. After a visit to the luthier for around $250. I have a nice German bow valued at around $4,500 and also the extreme pride and satisfaction knowing that I saved this bow's life.

The addiction really began in full force in 1993, when I was looking at the Shar catalog and on the "Fine & Rare Instruments" photo page I spotted a J.S. Finkel bow mounted in gold and pre-ban elephant ivory... HAD TO HAVE IT...(catalog photo below). Since then the flock has grown.


From Anne Horvath
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 7:36 PM

My main bow is fine, for Guido and for me.  And like last week, I still play Powerball.

From Graham Clark
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 7:34 PM

I use an un-named silver-mounted bow,early C20th maybe French (Thommassin, maybe early Sartory? Or some other Frenchman beginning with "V") or German (Nurnberger?) Who knows? No one seems to.

The man who sold it to the shop I bought it from, saw it again, and said, "How did I let this one pass through my fingers?"

I am very glad he did. I have several other good bows, but I always go back to this one.


From Graham Clark
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 7:40 PM

But, Laurie you ask for a bit more than that.

I play a lot of fast be-bop. That needs a bow that does string crossings with little or no preparation because you only know where you are going at the time you do it. You can't prepare in the same way you do with a learnt composition. So you need a very well balanced bow that responds immediately. You don't always know in advance where you are going to be when you want to do something that needs a different part of the bow.

Equally, a ballad will need a great broad sound, so you need a bow that will do good son file.

You also need a bow that will do good detache, and spiccato. for contrasting textures. A string of quavers needs to sound different at different points in the line.

A bow that will do all these things tends to be able to do anything else.

How heavy the tip is just shifts the point of balance along the bow, heavier, closer to the middle, lighter, nearer the frog. The centre of gravity (more strictl,y "mass") is the point of the bow that we are working with, not the tip or the heel.

I have another bow that is a bit heavier and clumsier (64g vs 61.5g). It is great for funk, blues and big ballads, but is hard to work in be-bop.



From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 7:58 PM

 I really like my current bow. It's a Lev Sobol, just a couple years old, round stick. It's on the stiffer side, which I prefer. I like its power, and how it bounces — sometimes I have difficulty controlling a bow that is too flexible. My only complaint is that when I first bought it, I had a lot of trouble with the hair and tightening mechanism. Every few months it would get to a point where I couldn't tighten it enough, and rehairing didn't really help. It turned out that the eyelet inside was drilled crooked, which was making the screw unable to move correctly, and was putting the frog slightly off-balance. However, after I had that replaced this January, it has been in excellent working order ever since. :)

From Michael Divino
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 7:58 PM

Can I put in another option? :

I like both of the bows in my case.

One is a heavier bow, good for getting a nice, open sound.  The other is lighter, good for bouncy passagework.  Also, the lighter bow is a more refined, graceful sound.

Just my two cents.

From Adam Clifford
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 9:33 PM

I'm so glad you chose this topic! I love my bow, truly, but I take pleasure in trying out various other bows. I think it's interesting/educating to see the differences and similarities between bows of different origins, weights, cambers, etc.

From Tommy Atkinson
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 10:11 PM

My violin back in the states has a Nurnberger that is ok, but I'm not particularly happy with it anymore. I generally have to work harder to do things that come really easily to me on my most recent purchase, a carbon-fiber Codabow GX that I bought to withstand the Bermudian humidity. It's a fantastically easy bow to control, but it doesn't sound as nice as the Nurnberger. When I get back to the states this summer, I just might be shopping for a new nice bow, depending on how I feel about the now broken in Codabow when I return. 

A few years ago I tried a Sartory that I just loved. Maybe I should start playing Powerball, too...

From Royce Faina
Posted on April 24, 2009 at 10:22 PM

The bow that I have my parents bought for me for $120.00 and the little old luthier said that it was 120 years old!  That was in 1984.  The name on it is hard to read, a name that seems lon and begins with Bar...... I think? I know that it is a "B".... It has a neat silver & nicle plates in an s shape with dots in the valleys of the snaking s shape.  The 'eye' looks like a sunflower.... German?  Pernambuco.  51.5 grams.  It's great, but I'm interested in what other bows may offer me.


From Tasha Miner
Posted on April 25, 2009 at 12:29 AM

I absolutely love my bow.  Its sound is gorgeous, I adore its handling, and it has that certain something to make it magical and special.  Not to mention, it likes me!  Both my professor and ex-boyfriend who is also a violinist are not comfortable playing it in some way or another.  I can get it to do everything I like more easily than any other bow I've ever played.

Specs:  Edwin Hermann c. 1920

Question:  Has anyone else found that bows are more reliably "better for the money" than violins?  It has been my experience so far.  However, I have not tried the upper echelon of bows, only up to $8,500.  (I could not afford that bow, my luthier is kind and lets me play with their toys just to see =D.)

From Eitan Silkoff
Posted on April 25, 2009 at 1:38 AM

I found a bow that suits my needs.. With Brasilian bows, you really get your "bang for your buck"

It's a gold-plated good and heavy bow. I like a bow with a little weight on it, I seem to find it easier to control. I absolutely can't stand light bows they just don't work with me...

So far, everyone who has tried my bow seems to like it just as much as i do, if not even more!

From Allan Chu
Posted on April 25, 2009 at 3:03 AM

Love my bow. My teacher chose it for me on a trip to the "big city" out of a bunch of bows in a certain price range.

I just had it appraised by Isaac Salchow - he's pretty sure it's a RF Lotte french bow made in the 60s...  probably worth 10x what we originally paid for it.

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on April 25, 2009 at 10:11 AM

I love my bow!  The funny thing is how easy it was to pick him out from a tray of about a dozen bows that I tried.  All gorgeous bows in different ways, some cheaper and some more expensive than him, but each one felt not quite right in my hand until the luthier gave me this one.  Other people are surprised at how heavy he is - 64g - but for me, he feels really light, responsive, well balanced, easy to control and so versatile.   He also looks very handsome and elegant!  

I also love my fairly cheap Chinese copy baroque bow in snakewood, which has turned out to be an absolute bargain for the money.  Perfect for Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and the like.

From Royce Faina
Posted on April 25, 2009 at 2:23 PM

Rosiland- What specificly do you like about your Baroque Bow?


From Rosalind Porter
Posted on April 25, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Hi Royce - you ask difficult questions!

I think what I like best about my baroque bow is how a lot of Bach technical stuff just "works" much better with it.  It pulls a completely different sound out of Johannes the violin than my modern bow and I've found it really fascinating to work on more "authentic" bow strokes with my violin teacher for that whole repertoire.   It is much lighter than my modern bow and I find I have to concentrate a lot more to get the sound I want - maybe it requires more subtle changes like applying weight to strings?  Hard to analyse, very hard!  But I know that at some point in the future I now want to find a nice "Classical" period style bow for Mozart and Haydn...  Roll on these lotto balls!

From Royce Faina
Posted on April 25, 2009 at 7:00 PM

Thanks Rosiland!  My clasical bow is very light and I was wondering if I would play vivaldi better with a Baroque bow, but it's not that it might be easier, just different techniques to get that Baroque sound?


From Deborah McCann
Posted on April 26, 2009 at 1:43 PM
I love my Charles Peccatte (it was a graduation from high school gift from my parents. For extra weight in klezmer playing I use either my Nurmberger or my Coda bow, however. I was lucky in getting the bow of my dreams young and even more lucky to be able to hold on to it.
From charles avsharian
Posted on April 26, 2009 at 2:36 PM
I would have to admit that a bow is more important to me than the violin. I'm happy to travel with one of my Tubbs and take a chance on the violin provided for me when giving a master class. For those looking, or dissatisfied with the sound of their violin, remember also that bows can either add to or take away from the best the instrument has to offer. There are "bright" bows (Voirin and best French makers) and "dark/smooth" bows (usually of lesser value). Bows with gold fittings are most always with sticks of the highest quality. Quality- the strength and character allows the maker to keep the bow reasonable in weight and shape the upper half and head to present the finest performance. Cheaper bows are of wood too weak and without "life"...they are often much thicker. I test bows for players with three issues in mind- the natural bounce capability (the bow's liveliness), it's ability to pull out the most frequencies from the violin, and finally, the basic strength (never to totally collapse/bend over with heavy pressure at tip or frog). Usually, the more "give" in the stick (without collapsing)_the better the sound. In the end, one must try all kinds of bows ...and always spend hours playing/practicing the exact same repertoire that you normally play. Your hand and ears will give you information that you hadn't thought of before when just trying them out ....fiddling around, in other words.
From Rosalind Porter
Posted on April 27, 2009 at 12:10 AM

Charles - how old is your Tubbs, what weight is it?  I was incredibly lucky to find mine (from ca. 1880) which is just the most amazing bow and it stood out like an elephant in a living room when I was trying out about a dozen or so bows "out of interest" - even compared to some more expensive Dodds and others.  Once I'd had it on trial, I knew I couldn't be parted from it, worth every penny and more, it really feels "alive" in your hand, which initially took quite a bit of getting used to, but at the same time it behaves perfectly when you ask it to do something.  Always nice to come across another fan of Mr Tubbs.

From Ray Randall
Posted on April 28, 2009 at 2:43 PM

A famous concert violinist friend went into a shop in Caracas when he was soloing down there and tried a bow made by a young teenager there. He loved it big time. He immediately bought several of his bows, then found out that the young man was not making bows anymore as he was making a lot more money rehairing and repairing older bows. He now bought every bow that was left and gave me one as I had given him many boxes of old music. The maker's name is Guayo. It plays beautifully. My soloist friend says Guayo bows play as well as some of his very expensive old French bows, I agree. Now you know as much about this fine bow as I do.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 29, 2009 at 4:15 PM

Charles, thank you, that is good information for anyone to remember when trying bows.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine