Printer-friendly version weekend vote: How many bows have you broken?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: January 9, 2015 at 3:00 PM [UTC]

That's right, I'm assuming that at least some of you have broken a bow. When we took this poll seven years ago, 46 percent of respondents had broken a bow, and one confessed to breaking more than a half-dozen! I ask this after the unfortunate news this week about the J. Henry bow owned by Leonidas Kavakos.

broken bow

Breaking a bow is no fun, and I speak from experience: I've broken two. Fortunately, they were both mine, and they were both student-level bows. The first time, I tripped over the bow, which I was holding "properly" with the tip straight down, while climbing stairs after a youth orchestra concert. After that, I stopped holding my bow "properly," I never point it straight down! The second time, I was winding my bow before playing. This is not normally considered a risky activity, but my bow was old and weak, and the tip simply snapped off. Distressing! Both bows were total losses.

I've witnessed other people break bows as well. When I was teaching in a classroom, a student dropped his bow on the floor and the stick snapped in half, as if someone had broken it over a knee. Strange phenomenon! It had dropped flat on the floor, not in a way that seemed like it would split in two. And the child really wasn't goofing off, it just slipped from his hand. It was a cheap bow, and I had to assume there was a weakness in the wood. Thankfully, the cheap outfit had come with two cheap bows, so there was another he could use!

How about you? Has it happened, and if so, did it happen more than once?

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From Julie Stroud
Posted on January 9, 2015 at 4:56 PM
One bow broken in a practice room accident caused by severe frustration. It was a tip break, but my bow guy fixed it perfectly and it still plays.

And a true story from the Wayback Machine. In the late 1970s, I was a young student, and was always asked to play for company at home. My dad had this thing about hearing The Two Grenadiers and didn't really want to hear me play anything else, no matter how advanced I got. Cue performance anxiety.

At the time, Eugene Fodor was making his presence known, and had already appeared at least once on the Tonight Show. My mom thought he might have a suggestion to solve my dilemma. So I wrote him a letter asking if he didn't like what other people told him to play. His dad answered my letter and said that I shouldn't worry, because surely my dad had not broken as many bows over my head as Mr. Fodor had over Eugene's!

I still have the letter and will treasure it always.

Posted on January 9, 2015 at 5:05 PM
The first bow I broke was my cello bow when I was a boy. I still remember the event - I was practicing chords in one of the Bach cello suites when the bow snapped at the tip. My parents quickly replaced the broken bow with a new German bow of excellent quality, which I still have.

The second breakage happened three years ago with a fairly new CF bow. One day, during practice, I noticed that the tip was being pulled slightly out of true by the hair tension. I investigated and discovered the more I tightened the hairs the more the the tip bent out of true. So off to the violin shop where I had bought it, where I was informed that other customers had had the same problem with that brand, and even an actually breakage. My bow was replaced on the spot with a new one of a different make.

Posted on January 9, 2015 at 8:41 PM
My only broken bow was during a dress rehearsal and the orchestra director was looking straight at me when the tip snapped while playing some repetitive detache 16th notes...I didn't do anything strange it just snapped in the middle of playing something that wasn't even an intense spot. Still have no idea to this was a fairly expensive bow for me at the time I was in 6th grade and it was a $170 bow. Luckily, if I remember correctly, the people at my local shop J.R. Judd's (they support this site!) were nice enough to take pity and give me a price cut off a new bow.
Posted on January 9, 2015 at 9:37 PM
I once left a very cheap, very awful bow, which came with an equally cheap and awful chinese fiddle, on the top of my piano without loosening it. What's worse, there was a heating vent shooting hot air onto the tip. In the morning the tip had fallen apart. I was not terribly torn up, as I had an Incredibow on order. Since this was a fiddle I use to play outdoors in the rain and sleet, I'm not terribly careful with it. I play for Morris Dancing. Our dances and tunes are devised so that we can perform them equally well when drunk or sober, so the performance practice standards are not that high.

Posted on January 9, 2015 at 10:49 PM
To keep with times, instead of saying 'Break leg' when going on stage it will be said 'Break bow'.
Posted on January 9, 2015 at 11:06 PM
One broken student bow - dropped it tip down onto a tile floor and the tip sheared right off. Worked out okay as it gave me a perfect excuse to buy a much nicer bow :)
From Eric Spritzer
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 12:40 AM
I was very young, maybe 8 or 9, half a century ago. Part of my practicing consisted of just standing and holding the violin under my chin, without a shoulder rest or hands, over a bed just in case the fiddle slipped. That left my right arm holding the bow with not much to do and I slapped that bow one too many times on the bed and the tip broke off. My dad was not amused.
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 1:50 AM
Gosh we are in the nose bleed section. But surely in good company. I included three even though one was broken--twice.

Carbon might be cheaper, but it makes terrible tomato stakes. The tomato plants like pernambucco.

Posted on January 10, 2015 at 2:00 AM
I was quite relieved when I sold my W.E.Hill violin bow some years ago. Concern over possible breaking such a valuable bow created a bit of anxiety that I really didn't need.

And now I'm carefree with my carbon fiber bow. Whee!

From Paul Deck
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 2:01 AM
I snapped the tip off a bow as a boy, dont remember how, but it was an accident. My dad took it to a luthier in Detroit, Gus Banosky, not sure of that spelling (David Burgess, did you know him?), and he attached a new tip of a quite different color (surplus), he did it beautifully with a long splice of perhaps 6 to 7 cm, about that distance from the tip, and it held for 20 years, you can imagine the stress, and the whole surface could not have been a square inch. Gus was an old man then, he charged hardly anything for the work. Then the glue finally failed and I discarded the bow.
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 2:24 AM
Practicing one day as a child (probably about 11 years old) the bow simply slipped out of my hand on an upbow, made a lovely trajectory, and landed point-first on a hardwood floor. I was devastated at the time, but it was an inexpensive student bow and was told it couldn't be repaired. Just the memory of that made me tremble when later in undergrad my professor let me perform once with his Hill bow. I was far more worried about the possibility of dropping his bow than I was concerned about stage fright.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 9:36 AM
then there is the very scary question `How many beaux have you broken?`
From John Rokos
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 1:32 PM
I think when I fell off the stage with my violin in my teens, my bow was broken too and was repairable. But once when I was on holiday with cousins at a children's seaside holiday home that their parents had recommended (in term time a boarding school), when I was out of the dormitory, one non-relative took a bow (even then there were two bows in my case) and started beating the bed with it. It didn't survive.
From Don Sullivan
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 2:28 PM
Laurie, do you have a blog about carbon fiber bows versus traditional pernambuco wood bows? I have a carbon fiber bow which my teacher checked out and said was a really good bow. But I have never had a good wood bow and wondered what you felt the pros and cons are to each. Thank you for your time.
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 5:50 PM
I was in junior high (middle school, these days), played an audition, left the stage, slipped on the stairs, sailed down them on my rump, and my bow slammed, tip first, into the wall at the bottom. It didn't break, but it developed an s-bend, which my teacher straightened over her gas range the next afternoon, together with a lecture on my clumsiness--AND the poor quality of a bow that would bend but not break under that kind of stress.
From Paul Deck
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 8:06 PM
There must be dozens of threads and sub-threads about CF vs. wood bows on Have you tried the search box?
Posted on January 10, 2015 at 9:16 PM
When I was studying with Joseph Fuchs, he broke e beautiful Tourte bow AT MY LESSON. He was demonstrating a passage from the Wieniawski Polonaise Brilliant in D Major where you switch quickly from arco to pizzicato. when he went for the pizzicato the bow kept going and landed on the floor on the point. The stick was broken just in back of the point. Mr. Fuchs "turned green" and there was not much lesson after that. The stick could be repaired, but just enough for the bow to be included in some collection of Tourte bows. It was his favorite bow and it had just been rehaired.
Posted on January 11, 2015 at 12:17 AM
#1. Elementary school. Sword fighting. (I became the cautionary tale for years)
#2. 7th Grade Handel induced temper tantrum.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 11, 2015 at 12:54 AM
Wow, I love all these stories (painful as they may be)!

Julie, what a funny letter, I love that he answered you. Considering Eugene's strong personality, I can only imagine what it was like to be his parent!

Buri, certainly I could consider a vote, there. How about, "Have you ever broken your beau's nose?"

John, you fell off the stage? Oh no!

Don, I'm not sure that I've written a blog specifically addressing carbon vs. wood, though it's a good idea. We have had discussions, votes and debates. Personally I have both, and I find my carbon fiber bow to be excellently balanced, as is my good wooden bow, but the CF bow has the advantage that I can use it when I teach a class of young children and not worry about breakage, and I can carry when traveling on a plane and not worry about being stopped for possessing ivory, etc.

From Jeff Jetson
Posted on January 11, 2015 at 12:04 PM
I tend to be clumsy and drop my bow numerous times a year, but luckily have never broke my good bow. I did buy a custom Coda Diamond GX Kryptonite about six years ago and use it most of the time, it seems indestructible.
From Paul Deck
Posted on January 12, 2015 at 2:13 AM
Interesting story about Fuchs. Do people usually teach with their top equipment? I thought not ...
Posted on January 12, 2015 at 8:57 AM
Although I shall attempt to remain anon, I am the person responsible for breaking more than half a dozen bows. In my defence I do operate as a wholesaler and sell in excess of five thousand a year, so one every three years isn't such a crime? One memorable deliberate sabotage took place about ten years ago. We had just introduced a new range of CF bows (painted black). The maker had cleverly inserted a small slither of wood into the mortice to make the frog fit. One bright customer then accused us of painting wooden bows, so in my pit of furry I took a hacksaw to the bow sawed it in half. Sure enough it was perfectly cylindrical with a great long hollow running the length of the stick- moral of the story...?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 12, 2015 at 6:52 PM
Can I ask a dumb question, are most CF bows hollow in the center?

Posted on January 13, 2015 at 12:37 AM
Laurie, if you made a carbon-epoxy bow solid, it would be much too heavy. The density of epoxy-carbon is about 1.5 g/cc. Pernambuco is just a touch under 1.0 g/cc. If you simply made the bow thinner, it would actually become too whippy, even thought CF-E is much stiffer, and the attachments at the ends would require flaring, so they are made with diameters nominally the same as wood but hollow. There is more than one way to do the hollow but the typical approach is a mandrel that the fibers are laid around.
Posted on January 13, 2015 at 12:39 AM Haha I know who you are. You have a youtube channel. I've seen you misbehaving. I was definitely afraid you were going to poke your eye out by accident.
From Bo Pontoppidan
Posted on January 13, 2015 at 10:49 AM
I broke a good bow at a music camp in my youth. In the evening a few of us would play folk music for the others to dance to. And someone bumped into my right arm. I saw my bow fly off as in slow motion and land 5-6 meters away tip first.
My younger brother who played the cello as a kid broke a bow by hitting his desk partner in the orchestra in the head! Our parents made him pay for it from his allowance.
From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on January 15, 2015 at 8:36 PM
I've never broken a bow myself, but I've seen it happen. I once attended a fiddle workshop at a bluegrass camp; while we were setting up on the first day, one of the other students dropped her bow and broke the tip. None of us had even played a single note yet. Fortunately someone had a spare bow that they lent her for the week.

I do have a bow whose tip has been broken, and which has undergone a crude homemade repair (not by me!). The tip is now one huge blob of epoxy wrapped in thread; the bow itself is whole again, but its balance is destroyed. It's too bad; aside from that it's not a bad bow. I keep it in my case as a spare; it makes me more careful with my primary bow so I don't have to use it.

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