Need some advice on picking bow.

November 15, 2008 at 02:39 AM ·

Ok gonna go buy a bow tormarrow after work around lunch time. But from now to then I need as much advice before I rush in and empty bow cases for my new bow looking for a wooden bow. I have a Coda Colours and JonPaul Arpege both carbon and round sticks. I guess the colours is stiff compare to the Arpege and is also lighter.

Since I have 2 round sticks now I more considering of Octagonal but I heard there's more rounds. So my questions are. What is the playabilty of round and Octagonal and a stiff or flexible stick? TY

Replies (4)

November 15, 2008 at 03:13 AM ·

Without knowing your price range, it is hard to know what to recommend to you. However, a few general thoughts: Do not focus on the fact that some bows are round and others are octagonal. The exterior shape of the stick is not an important factor in the playability of the bow.  The shape is a reflection of the feel of the wood as the maker was making the bow. Also, you really need to devote more time to picking out a bow than a single visit to the shop.

I wrote the following a while back in another post here on

When trying out bows, listen for the sound. Most bows can be playable in most situations, but a superior sounding bow makes you a superior sounding player. This is not to ignore the playability, the stiffness, balance, response, etc.--the factors that make bows play well, but be sure to play music that you can evaluate that bow by the sound it pulls from your instrument. Don't just find the spiccato point on each bow and then move on--there are far more important bow strokes to focus on (legato strokes for example).

Do try to play as many bows as possible in your price range. I recommend that the player make the first pass through the bows quickly, usually spending no more than 30 to 45 seconds with each bow. Separate them into two piles: one that you immediately liked and the second for the bows that you immediately disliked. Almost always when trying bows, your first impression will be your most accurate. Once the selection is narrowed down to perhaps 6 bows, then focus time on each one. The final two or three bows should be tried out for one week if possible at home. Once the bows are at home, practice in the room that you usually practice in because you know the sound of your instrument there. Also, during your practice sessions, try to play no more than two bows during your session. The next day, play the other bows. In this manner, you will not be confusing the feel of several bows all at once.

One of the most common mistakes that I see people making when looking for a better bow is to pick a bow that is similar to what they are used to playing--a more expensive, but 'student-playing' bow. This is where the advice of a fellow player, teacher, and yes--even a salesman in a shop can really be helpful. A second pair or hands playing the bow can really help (most of the time) in helping a player evaluate a bow. One word of caution: other people's recommendations are based on their preferences and often their instrument. If they like a super stiff bow, that is what they will recommend to you, even though your instrument and playing style might be hindered by such a bow.

Hunting for a bow that does everything well is a challenge. Many players eventually end up with several bows, each having a superior area of playability. Examples of different bows: a bow for quartet playing, or one for heavy orchestral music (Mahler, Brahms), or one for Bach and Hayden, one for solo concerto work. Very few bows perform well in all areas of playing, so if you can only afford one bow at this time, pick one that best suits the style of music that you play a majority of the time.

Have fun and enjoy your playing time. Don't get so wrapped up thinking about all of the little things that are happening with your bow that you tense up. In reality, most players forget about the bow when they are playing because the right bow becomes an extension of your hand--it just responds the way it should.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker

November 15, 2008 at 03:41 AM ·

I recently bought my first nice bow in the $300-500 range.  I brought my violin to the store and tried a good dozen bows.  I really liked two of them and the violin shop let me take them home for 10days.  They had very, very different sounds and feels.  One was lighter and stiffer.  They were both beautiful pernumbuco bows.  I finally picked one because I liked the feel better.  It wasn't a "better bow" just a better fit. 

The only thing I can suggest is to not make a quick purchase. 

November 16, 2008 at 06:47 PM ·

update: Thx for your advice Josh and Joy. I manage to read them before spending 3 hours at the shop. I just went in and told them I'm here to try out bows. The owner who dealt with me gave me a room where all the bows are located and closed the doors and put 4 bows on the table told me to try them. While I was he open 2 bow cases probably 25 bows in total and said I'm free to try any and more. I picked out 6 bows I like. My price point was 700 to 2000 most. The bows I picked were 400 to 1000. Out of the 6 I picked 4 to bring home in my violin case. Now it's trial time and comparison agianst my 2 other bows.

I guess another added bonus is that they were having a 15% sale and said if I don't like any I still get the sale price when I come back on any bows I choose in there shop so good for me.

November 17, 2008 at 02:21 AM ·

I'm glad to see you are following Josh Henry's excellent advice.  Last time I bought a cello bow I tried 66 bows before I found the 2 that were right for me and that particular cello.

One thing more, when I try bows, I do not limit myslef to what I can afford.  I try to also try to test the most expensive bows the dealer will let me touch.  As a result I may find a perfect bow for my needs and then be able to assess what I am forsaking by settling for what I can afford. Not too much, so far.

Also, take all the time you need to test the bows you take home.  I have a violin bow that I actually returned to the dealer, only to order it  back a couple of weeks later, after realizing that I had not been using it right.  "Different strokes for different" ..bows, violins, strings,... and "folks."  A really good bow may have a lot to teach you, that you didn't realize with the one's you have been using, but you may have to adapt your style to what the bow needs.


Wishing you good luck on this venture.


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