What's more important to get first: a new violin or a new bow?

December 3, 2006 at 06:20 AM · So I'm rather limited financially, and I was wondering what you would need first to further develop your skill as a violinist. At this point, my violin is mediocre at best, and the bow -- the bow hair costs more than the bow itself.

Thanks for the input,


Replies (23)

December 3, 2006 at 06:40 AM · Given what you shared, I think I'd try and go for a rental if possible, and from a reputable violin source. Most often, 80% and upwards of the first years rental fees can be applied to the purchase of the instrument.

And rentals come with their own bow. So,...

And if you form a good relationship with a good shop, they may be able to help you further, whether it's being more generous with the proportions going towards the instrument, or extending the contract to include being able to purchase it molded by your circumstances.

December 3, 2006 at 10:11 AM · Daniel,

I would agree that renting is a smart move if your budget is so limited (and I'm sorry for you that it is)

To answer your question, though, I think most here would agree that the bow is more important, as long as the violin is set-up properly. A bad-sounding violin will make practicing less pleasurable, but a badly-responding bow will make it almost impossible to learn good technique.

there have been several excellent threads recently on this exact topic. Try the search command and see what you can dig up.

-And hang in there. If you can mentally find joy in the act of "practising for practising's sake," you will be able to advance on even cheap gear. When the time comes that you can afford something better, you will have the skills needed to both bring out the best in that gear, AND the ability to determine good from bad.

December 3, 2006 at 08:41 PM · I've looked into rental instruments, but it seems that rentals just aren't the quality I'm quite looking for. I've been playing for quite a while now (12 years), and I'm always trying to get better purely for fun. I play in a trio with three old friends from my high school orchestra, and I'd just like to get a nice pure sound out of my instrument.

December 3, 2006 at 08:53 PM · Patience is a virtue.

December 3, 2006 at 09:36 PM · Violins are inexpensive instruments in the greater scheme of things. You'll spend more on strings, maintenance, lessons, and sheet music over the life of the instrument even if you get a nice one. I would suggest getting a bow first. There are some carbon fiber bows of reasonable quality that are being sold for around $300.

Be glad you're not a pianist. A reasonable piano for a serious student or amateur costs $20,000 US.

December 3, 2006 at 09:41 PM · sorry, but unlike a piano, a great instrument (Strad or Del Gesu) is 3.5 - 6 million.

Buying the right instrument depends very much on ones level of playing. If one is already advanced and looking for a professional instrument, one can start looking at new instruments starting at 10K and going up to antique instruments of 30K - 100K.

If one is a beginner or intermediate, the are good solid instruments between 2K-5K.

A good bow, is a relative term, since what is good for a beginner is no longer adequate for an advanced player.

Professional grade pernambuco bows made by the best contemporary makers vary from 3K - 5K

For beginners to intermediate players, (some) Carbon Fiber bows can be sufficient.

As one advances in the game, one begins to see the limitations of their gear and therefore search for better (but that comes later).

December 4, 2006 at 05:12 PM · I think that the bow and the instrument are equally important. First find an instrument that you like, then find a bow that best complements your instrument. A violin teacher once told me that you should have a good "marriage" between your violin and your bow. I was lucky enough to have my parents buy me a fairly decent instrument and bow - is it possible to take out loans on an instrument?

December 4, 2006 at 05:24 PM · Daniel - on a limited budget, the same increment of money spent to upgrade will get you a much better bow than better violin. Therefore, if you have a certain amount, you will get more bang for your buck spending it on a bow.

December 4, 2006 at 06:28 PM · and if you are "budget sensitive", just so you know, you could do very well with a fantastic contemporary bow by an award winning maker which will be your companion for years to come and will cost between 3K-5K.

Since you are in transition, you will probably upgrade your fiddle several times from now.

December 5, 2006 at 02:01 AM · Yikes, I now realize how out of my league these discussion boards are! The most expensive violin I've probably tacked was $8k that belonged to the concert master the year before I took over in high school, complemented by a $1k bow. It had a really sweet tone sounded awesome. I've also played some violins from people in my section that cost $3k and sounded surprisingly sweet. I'm just tired of that "tinny" sound that comes from mine, and how the bow has no feel.

December 5, 2006 at 03:35 AM · welcome to reality! :)

December 5, 2006 at 06:18 AM · If you don't mind my asking, what is the price range you're exploring? You've had responses assuming everything from a fairly large budget to a tiny one.

December 5, 2006 at 09:47 AM · "Le violon, c'est l'archet" -- the violin is the bow. (Who said that? Viotti, I believe.)

As many here I believe that you should get a decent bow first, then rent a reasonable instrument, and then upgrade step by step. Developing bow technique is crucial, and you can't do that with a flee market stick (unless it incidentally is branded "Pfretzschner" or something like that, and is no fake). Learning how to make a mediocre violin sound good might be frustrating sometimes, but it can have the effect of running with a truck tire tied to ones waist: Once the hindrance is removed, you might feel as if you were flying.

If you have already learned bow technique a little, picking a good bow is a bit like visiting the wand shop in Diagon Alley: You will just know if it's your bow you're holding. My present bow almost literally jumped into my hand.



December 5, 2006 at 01:14 PM · Hi,

My experience playing a lot of instruments and bows of varying quality and proportions is that the two have to be matched - bow and violin. Each violin reacts differently even to the same bow. So, I would suggest both. Or, a violin first since matching a bow to it will be a long process.


December 5, 2006 at 10:53 PM · Greetings,

what Christian says is absolutely true, but given the choice i would deifntiley go for the bow,



December 6, 2006 at 01:54 AM · Jude: I don't have a specified price range. A bow, I would definately like to keep it under $1k. Violin, perhaps up to $5k.

I realize those are really low numbers, but I have no intentions of being a professional performer; I just play because I like to. Unfortunately, a $100 bow and a $1k instrument just isn't getting it done.

From what it seems like, the bow would be worth more at this point. I should just go out and try different things.

December 6, 2006 at 03:33 AM · Daniel,

Since you are in Seattle, feel free to give me a call. You can come and try my bow collection just so you know what good bows sound like and play like.

December 6, 2006 at 04:53 AM · You're in a high enough range to get a fiddle that will serve your purposes, then; that's what I wanted to be sure of.

December 6, 2006 at 06:02 AM · greetings,

actually that is not such a severe financila limitation in my opinion. You could get a veyr noce violin for around and a bow price dat around a third of oits cost for that money. That would be a nicely balanced outfit.



December 7, 2006 at 04:56 AM · You can get *very* good bows made by modern markers for around $1K -- what I would think of a "entry-level professional" bows. The bows won't be made by famous makers and won't be as good as those made by modern award-winning makers. Most likely they'll be high-end workshop bows (mostly) made by a single person.

But they'll be a big step up from your $500 bow and a huge step up from your average "outfit" bow.

And yes, in the ideal case, you'd find a violin first and then find a bow that matches really well with it.

But if you're on a budget, you'll get a lot more bang for the buck spending $1000 instead of $500 on a bow vs. spending $5000 vs. $4500 on a violin.

- Ray

December 7, 2006 at 06:21 AM · I treated myself to a really good bow a year ago. Even my partner, not super-musical, could definitely hear the difference on my ok-but-not-great violin. I haven't regretted it.

December 7, 2006 at 01:47 PM · Eastern Europe still has really good instruments at reasonable prices, and really skilled bowmakers to. Check out what you can find in Prague, as an example...

December 8, 2006 at 09:44 PM · Check out your local shops. I know the one I've been using for years allows anyone who upgrades to do a payment plan with a down payment. So, I was able to go from a $2k violin and $500 bow to a $4500 violin and $1k bow. I put a small down payment on it and paid the rest over the next year. I was able to upgrade both at the same time and could still afford it!

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