In a way, the search for a bow seems even more baffling than the search for a violin. At least for violins, I know what kind of sound I like, and I can tell if something feels good. But for bows, I think the differences are less obvious, and may require a higher degree of technical proficiency to properly evaluate. After spending a few hours reading past posts, I still do not have the answers I am looking for. So here are my questions.
1. Price: In the world of violins, there seems to be a sweet spot between $10K-$20K where you can get some very nice contemporary instruments that even professional musicians would be happy with. In the world of bows, the sweet spot seems to be $2K-$5K. Is this an accurate analogy? Can I expect to get a top quality professional bow for $5K or less?
2. Weight: I have tried a few bows already and found that lighter bows seem more nimble to me. I would liken it to a light pair of running shoes. They make your feet lighter, hence you can run faster. Similar with a lighter bow, it makes those fast passages and string crossings seem a bit easier to play. Is this a correct conclusion? Should I be looking for a lighter bow for this reason?
Note: I should qualify this question with a little background. For most of my life, I used a cheap student bow, very light (approx 56 grams). Even though it is a terrible bow, it is what I am used to. I found that lighter bows seem more comfortable to me, but it may just be that a lighter bow is more familiar to me. Perhaps I am doing myself a disservice in the long run to go with a lighter bow. Are there advantages to a heavier stick that I am not aware of? I am more than willing to change my technique to adjust to a heavier bow if it will benefit me in the long run. Any opinions?
3. Stiffness: of the bows I have tried, the stiffer ones seem easier to play. But again, my cheapo student bow was very stiff. Do I just like stiffer bows because that’s what I’m used to, or should I go for a softer bow, and change my technique for a longer term payoff? What are the trade-offs and advantages of a stiffer bow versus a softer one.
4. Material: There has been a lot of debate over wood vs carbon fiber, and the consensus seems to be that carbon fiber is great for the lower price range, but will not stand up to a high quality pernumbuco bow. I can accept that, but there is something that still has me puzzled. I recently watched Nicolas Kendall give a concert of the Vivaldi 4 Seasons, and he did a wonderful job. Later, I found out that he was using a $95 carbon fiber bow for the performance. Why would a violinist of his caliber use a $95 carbon fiber bow? Can someone give a plausible explanation for this conundrum? Perhaps some carbon fiber bows are better than some people think?
5. Maker: I would assume that bows, just like violins, would be much more affordable from living makers than from deceased ones. For my target price ($2K-5K), am I limited to living makers? I would appreciate any recommendations on specific makers in my price range, living or deceased.
6. Multiple bows: Many musicians have multiple bows for different purposes. I have read that pros may have one bow for orchestra playing and another for playing solos, and yet another for chamber music -- that no single bow has all the qualities you will need. Someone started a thread recently about a soloist who changed bows for one movement of a violin concerto. So my question is, should I really be looking for several bows for different purposes?
I would appreciate feedback on any of the above issues. Feel free to respond to just one issue or multiple issues, or feel free to give your thoughts on anything else that I may not have considered. Thanks in advance for your help.
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