V.com weekend vote: Do you play with a wooden or carbon fiber bow?

July 26, 2014, 7:03 AM · A number of years back, I posted a vote that showed an overwhelming number of people preferred wood over carbon fiber bows.

With the passage of years and the great improvement in carbon fiber bows, I'm wondering if that's still the case. It's time for another poll about it!

Bow tips

I will word this slightly differently than the old poll; I'm interested in what you are using these days, rather than what you dream about buying. Do you use primarily a bow that is made of wood, or carbon fiber? And if you have both kinds of bows, please choose the kind of bow that you use most often. Also, please feel free to tell us the comments about your bow and its merits. Or, let us know if you use one kind but wish you had another.

Personally speaking, I now have both kinds, and I am surprised at how much I like to play my carbon fiber bow, which has good bounce, feel and dexterity. It happens to be a Coda Diamond GX, but I while in Cincinnati I also have tried a carbon bow from the Baroque Violin Shop, and it also handled extremely well. (I tested a Tourte there, too, and yes, that handles best of all! Probably not in my price range, though!)

Replies

July 26, 2014 at 12:19 PM · My main bow is a pernambuco wood bow which I feel has a far superior balance and control over carbon fibre ones - the carbon fibre ones I feel are too light at the stick of the bow and too heavy on the frog therefore have leeway to go out of control, although that's personal preference :)

July 26, 2014 at 12:35 PM · I primarily use wooden bows! I've an amazing French bow I acquired from Johnson String Instrument in Massachusetts and a very comparable German bow from Amati Violin Shop in Texas. They just produce a sound quality and complexity that most carbon fiber bows lack, in my opinion. I do have a carbon fiber Coda Diamond bow that I love for more out door, club and electric violin performances that I do. I got the Lisle Violin Shop (Houston) signature Diamond SX model and it's AMAZING! So Carbon fiber bows have a place in my case and do get used. But I usually go for my wooden bows first!

July 26, 2014 at 12:44 PM · I use an octagonal Arcus S6 carbon fiber bow since about two years. I like the clarity and openness of the sound, the ease of tone production and the effortlessness with which I can do any kind of bowing. Playing many hours every day this extremely light bow makes it less heavy for my right arm and prevents injury. Of course there are many very nice wooden bows, but it feels like too much work when I use one. Just a personal choice... some people hate it to have an extremely ligt bow.

July 26, 2014 at 01:33 PM · Since my wooden bow (a lower end John Norwood Lee) broke a couple years ago, I have since acquired two CF bows -- a Codabow Joule and Codabow Diamond GX. I use the Joule for my electric violin and the Diamond for my acoustic. Both are nice handling bows, but I do miss the sound of a wood bow.

July 26, 2014 at 03:17 PM · Carbon fiber all the way!

When Coda released the Diamond GX series, it was game over for my wooden bows...

I currently have 8 Coda Diamond GX bows of various weights:

7 violin/viola/cello, and 1 Coda Joule.

July 26, 2014 at 03:45 PM · I have a wood bow-that I've had forever. I do really like the CF I bought for my son. The main reason I bought the CF was I thought it had a better chance at school etc. but it's a great bow too.

July 26, 2014 at 04:42 PM · For the price, carbon fiber/synthetic bows cannot be beaten. However, if you have the money to invest, the sound produced by an excellent wooden bow is something that has yet to be matched.

- used a codabow for many years and recently switched to a wooden bow

July 26, 2014 at 04:51 PM · I have a CodaBow Luma for my 5-string electric violin. (I tried the Joule but felt that the difference wasn't worth the difference in price.) The electric violin is itself made of carbon fiber; it's an Elixir Raven made by Robert Edney.

However, after trying those carbon fiber bows, an Arcus, and a number of others on my acoustic violin, I believe that it's unlikely that any carbon fiber bow can produce the depth and sweetness of sound on it that I get with the G. William Halsey wood bow I've had now for 15 years.

July 26, 2014 at 07:40 PM · With my violin I will use my wooden bows. With my electric violin I prefer my carbon fiber. It just seems to answer the "Weight vs. Pressure" easier this way for me.

July 26, 2014 at 07:58 PM · I have a question for most of you. I am an adult student, closer to the beginning of my studies. A professional quality pernambuco bow is not in my price range. I picked up a carbon fiber bow, from the violin shop which I purchased my rental instrument from. I noticed that I liked the weight of the carbon fiber bow over the brazil wood bow of my rental outfit. How am I supposed to have a good gauge of the best bow, my next acquisition will be a viola bow, when I am only working on rudimentary skills for the violin and viola? What do I look for? By the way, my teacher is a professional violinist and violist, and she said of the carbon fiber I purchased that she liked the balance and the performance of the bow on off the string technique.

July 26, 2014 at 09:11 PM · I use a wooden bow as it was a gift and very expensive. From reading the messages above I am now very curious about the carbon fiber bows and will try a few when I can.

July 26, 2014 at 10:17 PM · I have played on a Coda bow diamond NX for the last 4 years. It has served me well, but I recently upgraded to a good wood bow because of the stiffness of the carbon fiber stick. The coda bow provided lots of sound, but it also tired my hand more easily. My teacher referred to it as a semitruck...

July 26, 2014 at 10:48 PM · Don Sullivan, the luthier I patronize highly recommends Coda bows.

July 26, 2014 at 11:58 PM · Don, if your teacher is a pro and likes your bow, and if you are a beginning to intermediate player, then I think you can feel very confident with your bow for now.

My bow, a Cadenza "Master" (3-star) CF, was also given the seal of approval by two local pros including my own teacher. The other fellow, a well-respected pro, told me that he thinks I would have to spend over $2000 to get better playability and sound from a wood bow. Right now I don't feel like bow-shopping at that price range or higher.

July 27, 2014 at 12:25 AM · I used to use a beautiful pernambuco bow for all my gigs, then one night the guitar player turned quick and knocked it out of my hand, luckily it wasn't damaged but now I use a Coda bow for the bar gigs and I don't worry. Jay

July 27, 2014 at 12:45 AM · I purchased a new bow 3 years ago and chose pernambuco over carbon fiber for the way it responded on and off the string. I have been playing many gigs outdoors in less than optimal conditions which has taken a toll on this fine bow. Next time, I'll buy a carbon fiber bow for my outdoor gigs so I'll never have to worry about heat and humidity again.

July 27, 2014 at 01:46 PM · I prefer wood, I use an Otto Hoyer. It surprises me that no one has mentioned the Berg bow; maybe it's because of the price? I tried a Berg about 12 years ago and it was really nice.

July 27, 2014 at 04:42 PM · Berg Bow seems to have taken up the Bakers Rosin business model: Just be the most expensive product available and there are enough suckers who will assume it's the best. That model has proven itself already in plenty of other goods and services. Mr. Duff complains on his web site that advertising costs in leading violin mags didn't materialize in sales. Well, small wonder!! He's charging more for a bow than most people spend on their violins, and those who can afford his bow have had it drummed into their heads that only pernambuco will do.

July 27, 2014 at 08:19 PM · When I bought my latest violin, the only CF bow I tried that sounded good with it was a Codabow Diamond GX. But that bow cost just about the same as the pernambuco Water Violet bow I was trying out so it didn't seem worth it. Maybe if I had been more patient and compared other aspects of the bows my decision might have been different, but my teacher has never had any complaints about my Water Violet.

July 27, 2014 at 10:49 PM · I used a lower quality pernambuco bow for a few years before switching to a CodaBow Conservatory which I have been very happy with. Last week I acquired a CodaBow Luma that I am really enjoying; it has very smooth balanced feeling, the Conservatory was a little more "springy". I have tried the Diamond SX, but found it to be a little on the heavy side, which caused me to have arm fatigue.

My luthier plays with the MN Opera and recently started using a CodaBow; he said he would have to pay 5x as much for a pernambuco bow of a comparable quality. He really likes the CodaBow and says it plays any genre of music well, but still prefers a good quality pernambuco bow to a carbon fiber bow; he says the pernambuco feels more alive.

July 27, 2014 at 11:54 PM · Thank you all for the advice. I have tried out a Coda Joule violin bow which is carbon fiber. Even though I'm not performing any advanced bowing techniques at this time, I loved the weight of that bow and how effortless it felt to produce an even tone. That said, I still have many hours of work ahead of me working on my right hand. At this point it is the spot that is affecting my intonation. Thanks again for your advice.

July 28, 2014 at 01:29 AM · I have two pernambuco viola bows. A very nice antique Otto Wonderlich bow which produces a rich sound and a modern Brazillian bow which is a little better for articulation in fast passages. I usually prefer the older bow. I have inexpensive CF bow which make my viola sound pretty harsh by comparison. There is so much difference between the three bows that I suspect that bows are just like the violins. Each one is different enough that you have to try them out on your own instrument.

July 29, 2014 at 06:17 PM · SinceI'm at the Intermediate level and can't afford a really expensive wood bow, I play on a Coda Luma carbon fiber bow. This bow has great balance, and has enabled me to get to the next level with my bowing.

July 29, 2014 at 06:50 PM · Of even more interest to me than the CF vs Pernambuco question is the question of flexibility. Most of the CF bows I've tried, including those I own, are stiffer--often much stiffer--than Pernambuco bows. If I want amplitude or physical ruggedness, I pull out the Diamond GX, but when I'm looking for warmth or subtlety, I always choose a Pernambuco bow. And the older I get, the more I'm drawn to the softer bow, which tends to rule out the CF sticks. I wonder if relatively soft CF sticks are out there, having more of the feel of the old French masters' bows? That might present an interesting comparison to some of the treasured French Pernambuco sticks.

July 30, 2014 at 11:46 AM · If one bow is "stiffer" than the other, then how do they both maintain the same overall shape with the same tension applied to the hair?

July 30, 2014 at 05:09 PM · How do they maintain the same shape with the same tension? I think the correct answer is that they don't create the same tension on the hair. A softer bow uses less tension, thereby allowing the hair to better wrap around the strings. This results in improved lower overtones, a warmer sound, and less effort by the player.

Quoting from Yung Chin, a prominent maker, "If you know how to use a more flexible bow, there are several advantages. First, it gives you as much power as a strong bow. Second, it gives you a greater palette of tonal color. Third, you need much less effort to play that bow. And fourth, once you understand how to use a softer style bow, you can get as much volume as with a stronger bow."

August 1, 2014 at 03:56 PM · Very interesting, the percentage of people using a carbon fiber bow has inched up just a little bit since 2011, from 20 percent to 28 percent.

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