Does the bow need to match the violin?

October 21, 2008 at 10:43 PM · I remember reading somewhere that a good bow on one instrument may not be so good on another -- something to due with the resonance frequency of the instrument and whether it matches with the bow. Is this true?

I'm thinking about getting a new instrument and bow and would appreciate any advice on what to look for in a bow. I think I have a pretty good idea of the type of sound I like in an instrument, but I am less certain about what I should be looking for in a bow. Any advice would be appreciated.

Replies (20)

October 21, 2008 at 11:15 PM · There definitely is some relationship between cellos and cello bows and a little less between violas andd viola bows. Violins and violin bows too have a "symbiotic" relationship, but less so, I think, than the larger instruments.

In my experience (which is not exhaustive) with a really well-behaved bow, it is usually some lack in the instrument that one is looking for a bow to make up for.

But whether I'm correct, or not, it is worth trying many, many bows with your violin to find if any one of them actually makes a difference to you. Go as high in price as the dealer will let you put your hands on. If you find something really great, then you will know what to look for at a price you can afford.

I have tried quite a few dozens of violin bows, but I have tried many, many more cello bows, just to find the best one in the group and then possibly, an economical tradeoff.


October 21, 2008 at 11:28 PM · "Trying out many bows on your instrument is a vital part of selecting a bow. However, do not just try out bow strokes that seldom get used in regular playing. Staccato, spiccato, and martele bow strokes are essential, but the legato (or other slow and deliberate) bow stroke will tell far more about the sound production that a bow is capable of producing on your own instrument.

The sound that a bow produces on YOUR instrument is such an important factor, but so often overlooked in favor of other qualities. So many violin shop salesmen pick out bows strictly by how stiff they are (usually believing that stiffer is better) and how well a bow will spiccato. In reality, regarding playability--most bows will play well in most situations, but the right bow will not only play well, but will enhance and significantly contribute to the sound drawn from the instrument. Ideally, the bow must

be matched to both the player and the instrument."

I wrote the above in another post here a week ago.

I'm not sure that I agree with Andrew about there being less of a difference on violin bows than on cello bows. I've never noticed this before, but I'll have to make a note of it. Different bows really make prominent differences in sound on a single violin.

The matching of your violin and bow is something that is difficult to understand, but you will notice the differences in sound between bows immediately. If you are looking for both a new violin and bow, it is probably best to select your violin first, and then focus on the bow.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker

October 22, 2008 at 01:26 AM · Greetings

>select your violin first, and then focus on the bow.

Good advice.



October 22, 2008 at 03:10 AM · Absolutely, you will notice a difference between the sound each bow produces on the instrument.

I am equally sensitive about the bows I use on my violin, viola and cello. Yes, you can play with any will get better sound from a bow that your instrument likes.

That should be the premise of a new horror film...the maniacal slaughter of musicians who haphazardly used any ole bow on their demon possessed instrument. **insert theme music from Twilight Zone**

October 23, 2008 at 04:18 AM · I've been playing the violin for a few months now. I recently bought my first nice bow (300-500 range). I tried several. The difference in sound was astounding. The difference from the cheap rental bow vs. all of the nice ones was a real shock.

My violin shop gave me two on loan for 10 days. I am serious that the two bows, while both very nice, had a very different sound to them.

After this experience, I will never buy a bow off the internet. The way it sounds and feels in my hand is so distinct that I am convinced that matching the bow with the violin is actually important.

It makes practicing so much more fun!

October 23, 2008 at 04:57 AM · They're really two different instruments so you definitely have to pair them accordingly. But any high quality bow will perform better on your instrument than lower quality bows, some just less so.

Don't make yourself crazy though. One thing I've found while looking for bows or fiddles is if you're apprehensive at all, or not immediately in love, send it back you'll never "learn to love it", I've tried and it's impossible.

October 23, 2008 at 06:39 PM · I've found these to be true in my experience matching bows to violins:

1. The bow matters more on some instruments than on others.

2. A bow that matches in the summer may not match well in the winter--both bow and violin can change with the seasons.

3. The sound differences between one bow and another will be more obvious under the ear and less so in the audience.

4. Different listeners, even at a range of a few feet, may prefer the sound of different bows.

5. The sound produced a by a bow is not always related to its cost. My $15k Thomassin sounds worse than my $5k Hill.

It is a difficult subject.

October 26, 2008 at 02:43 AM · I always tell my students that the bow is the soul of the instrument. How it responds to the instrument is just as important as to how it feels to the player themselves. The joint satisfaction must be achieved through a geat amount of trial and error. It utlizes such fine physics, that it is a task in itself to find the perfect match. One should not be overly obsessive and I am of an experienced opinion that there is no "perfect" match and that an accomplished player should be able to adapt to using many bows, if the need arises. I personally, after years of trial and error, have found a deal of the more expensive bows are not always as good as the price attached to them. One time I even snapped a very expensive one at the tip, because I was playing it "too hard", if that is possible. The insurance covered the loss, but I was disappointed that such a pricey item could not perform the duties that it should have. I discovered that the fiberglass species were much more reliable and can be tailored as to weight. It was also more viable as to the possibility of loss and replacement. I currently use a baroque bow, since most of my work today entails this, but the difference is not that drastic an dI prefer the feel over the modern bow. I use a modern for modern work. Nothing fancy, but that is the thing about bow: each player finds the special "feel" and it may not always be an expensive bow, at that. There could be many books written on the subject, but it would be impossible to say for certain what would work with what.

October 26, 2008 at 01:44 PM · I don't know for sure if there is a "perfect" bow for each violin but violins respond differently to different bows. Much of it has to do with responsiveness of the violin and how much mass and power the bow needs to "drive" the violin. Of course the style of the player is extremely important. A very forceful player may not need as much power from the bow as a finesse player??? would you agree?

October 26, 2008 at 02:21 PM · I know it is hard but try to see how the bow weight. Put one in one hand and another one in your other hand and if you concentrate ennough, you are able to see which one is the heaviest and which one is the lightest. Do this with all the bow that you are trying and figure out the lightest. Why? Because often in a same prize range, the lightest is the one that is better quality, resonates the most because of lower density and is non forcing to play with. Some people might say, what about being sure the bow isn't too light and will not be able produce a round solid tone? The amout of sound you get should come from a perfect relaxed body and your index on your right hand and the good contact point of the bow on the string. I notice that the more the bow is heavy, the more the player plays like a tractor instead of a ferrarri... (but this is only my opinion and come from reading on the topic) In short, a heavy resistent bow does not make you produce a better sound and professionnals look more for lightness and if it makes a good resonance with the instrument. Here is my two cents...

Godd luck!


October 26, 2008 at 03:16 PM · Quoted from Anne-Marie "...often in a same prize range, the lightest is the one that is better quality, resonates the most because of lower density and is non forcing to play with."

I'm not too sure that I agree with Anne-Marie on this one. While I do believe that many players are playing on bows that are too stiff for them, you cannot separate out one quality (such as the weight) as a reason for superior sound, playability, and so on. I do agree with Anne-Marie that bows made with pernambuco that is slightly less dense will *often* sound better, but there is so much more that factors into sound production of the bow than just it's weight.

From your descriptions Anne-Marie, it sounds like some of the heavier bows that you've played may have been improperly balanced, improperly cambered, or improperly graduated (tapered). Your violin may also respond better to lighter bows, but not all violins will respond in the same manner. Also, for aggressive players with a forceful bowing style, lighter and more flexible bows tend not to work so well.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker

October 31, 2008 at 03:07 AM · I was looking for a new violin at this time last year, but liked my bow and had no desire to replace it. I tried a few instruments that fought my bow every step of the way and made me feel that I was flailing wildly. Needless to say, these ones didn't make the final cut.

October 31, 2008 at 05:04 AM · Greetings,

I don`t agree comletely that ligter is better either. Flesch pointed out what he considered the functional range of bow weight (58-62) and there is a big difference even in this limited range. Following the logic through perhaps this would suggets the relaly low weight CF bows ought to out paly everything....

In actuality it can occur that a light bow (especially a poorly balanced one)actually forces a player to press becaus ehtey are disatisfied with the sound and can caus esome seriosu tension problems. The l;ast good bow I use dwa sa Millant a litlte on the heavy side. It sounded just gorgeous whoever wa spalyign it. A player who favors really heasvy bows is Kyung wha CVhung and her soudn is bloody marvellous. It really does boil down to quality of the stick in the end, I think.



October 31, 2008 at 05:14 AM · When I sell an instrument, I always advise the person to hold enough money back to purchase a fitting bow. The "mating" of a bow is critically important to getting the most out of your instrument. I sent my daughter to a friend that specializes in the sale of bows. She tried every bow in his inventory... some several times until she got the sound that pleased her. Don't worry about driving a bow seller nuts... they are used to this, and understand the importance of the selection process.

October 9, 2016 at 10:24 PM ·

October 10, 2016 at 03:13 PM · Hi Smiley,

Welcome to the world of "String Nerds." Different bows will create nuances of sound on violins. Unfortunately, the selection process is subjective. It takes hours of back-and-forth playing to see which combination of bow and violin produces the best sound to your subjective hearing. Adding another person (i.e., your teacher, coach, partner, friend,...) only makes the process longer.

I remember being at an NJSO concert shortly after they acquired their (dubious) Golden Age instruments and had a show-and-tell in the lobby. I asked the Violist about the bow and suddenly only the Violist and I knew what we were talking about. We were the string nerds for a few moments.

I wish I could tell you that there are some objective aspects but there aren't. From personal experience I know that my Adolph C. Schuster *** bow makes my c-1800's "Mittenwald - Strad" sing like no other bow I've set upon its strings. Of course the bow is worth more than the violin and I love the feel of it in my hand.

Go to your local string shop and spend the day trying bows with your violin.

October 10, 2016 at 03:47 PM · "I'm thinking about getting a new instrument and bow.."

So, Laura Vigato and Bausch are BOTH to be replaced. I'd get the violin first, then look for the bow.

My own experience has been that I used to prefer heavy and strong octagon sticks, which seemed less temperamental if and when I got nervous in the orchestra ! But then in 2003 I happened to buy a violin from Daniele Tonarelli when in Cremona. Though it was always OK, I eventually found that this violin came to life big-time with more flexible and slightly lighter sticks.

Only trial and error will sort this out. In the process you might feel you are going gently crackers.

October 10, 2016 at 03:48 PM · Someone revived this 2008 thread. :-)

October 11, 2016 at 05:42 AM · Nurr ! I failed to notice that this is a revived, ancient, thread. Laura Vigato and Bausch were the SOLUTIONS, not the problems !

March 29, 2017 at 12:35 PM · I also suspect some bows just match the violin. Those can produce louder and better sound than others. It isn't relate to the price. The reason may be Resonance?

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