Advice needed for buying a professional grade bow.

June 11, 2009 at 03:17 PM ·

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.


Replies (69)

June 11, 2009 at 08:07 PM ·

Hello Smiley,

Play a vaiety and many....since you have a good rapport with the dealer that sold you the "Princess Laura", the source should not be an issue. There are many, many great contemporary bowmakers. Josh Henry is sort of close by you. He is a V.commie who regularly offers "sound and sage advice". I would certainly visit him, and see what he has in his shop.

  • Some bows you will immediately reject; just move on
  • use the same music as the comparative....I have three check points personally.
  1. up bow staccato
  2. spiccato to find balance point
  3. slow long tones to see how it pulls (even a scale does this)

As for construction, I have not been swayed by the CF bows. All of mine are pernambuco construction. Price??? Once again, there are a lot of great bows "hiding" out there, if you go on on bow quest. You know already, no bargains will be had from a dealer, but they have already done the searching. Just one final thought. Bows are even more addictive than fiddles.

nopity.gif No Pity image by TGrosjean

June 11, 2009 at 08:18 PM ·


in spite of all the perfeclty genuine anecdotes to the contrary there is a general rule of thumb that holds the bow should be aproximately one third of the value of the instrument.  So many varibales I have no idea how one would scientifically prove this but it appears to be fairly consistent to me.  

I have noticed certain brands of bows claiming that a ligter bow is somehow good.  I mean for example a cf bow that weighs around 40 grams or whatever.  I rhink this is a very bad idea. In my opinion a lighter bow even in the normal range tends to make the player press and causes more tension than relaxation.  On the other hand I woudln`t go for  the heavier end of the range 62g  out of 56-62 unless that wa swhat you really wanted.  I oncepracitced for a couple of hours with a 64g bow and it just burned me out.  A good bow between 58 and 60 g doesn`t feel like it weighs anything.

I used stiffer bows for years ,  in particlar good Nurnburgers..which now retail for around 5-6 thousand dollars.  When I decied to switch to French bows I took a few hours (?) to make the transition. In this case by `french` I am making the rather sweeping generalization that a good @old `French bow is a distinct and generalizable quality as it were. These bows often feel very softeven intilaly rather mushy. Once I got the hang of really using them to draw the sound out the volume was huge. The bonus on top of this was the range of detailed nuance that one could patiently find.  A whole new palette of colors opened uo. The best bow I have ever owned was a Millant which I found for me superiro to a whole slew of Tourtes (often not popular with players anyway) sartory (a rather striger stick  on the whole)  and lower end pecatte.  That cost 1200000 yen. Don@t confuse this with carbs when you do the conversion.

I would never go back to a stiffer bow.   (Just t be contray,  Oistrakh always used Nurnbergers....)

There is a lot of advic eon what to test bows with excerpt wise on ths site.  My approahc is to get twent bows together from fairly cheap to incredibly expensive. Don`t look at the price and just work through them until I have three left that feel superior to the others. That is where the fun starts.  In spite of the anecdotes mentioned above I do find fairly consitently that you get what you pay for. Bo and violin prices  are often unreasonable to astronmical but relatively speaking they are not such a bad guide as has been suggested oin ocassion.




June 11, 2009 at 08:28 PM ·

Back in 2001, when I was testing a lot of the (then) new composite bows, I described the process I went through in a report I wrote .

still on line at:

A page or so into this document I detail the selections I used to test different bows and why.

Perhaps you will get some ideas from it.

My review opinions (at the time) are given here:


June 11, 2009 at 08:31 PM ·


curious which Millant maker? I agree totally and have JJ and Bernard, the latter is my favorite of any bow I own

June 11, 2009 at 10:35 PM ·

also Bernard.



June 12, 2009 at 12:15 AM ·

Bernard Millant, at his advanced age, is still a total wild man. Full of life, and a fantastic sense of humor.

Should one own one of his bows, maybe some of these qualities will rub off. ;-)

June 12, 2009 at 12:30 AM ·


Now, isn't his father Max still alive?

June 12, 2009 at 06:16 AM ·

Yes, bows can be addictive and part of the attraction is that  no 2 pull the same sound. They can also LOOK very nice. Here in the UK there are quite a few excellent makers, many Hill trained, who can make you a terrific bow for about £2-3K. The same goes for the USA, I expect, and there are some fine Canadian makers also. I remember Zuckerman using a Lee Guthrie. Old or antique bows can be, like fiddles, expensive. I tried only one CF bow in my life and thought it felt like a Tubbs !

My main contribution at this stage is to observe that the perfect bow doesn't exist, any more than a perfect violin does. The bow's the inanimate object and you, the player, have to adapt to it because it cannot adapt to you. Any bow is a compromise - weight, balance, strength etc.etc. Any desirable quality taken to extremes becomes self-defeating; too much strength and the sound is easily crushed, for example. I'd go on to observe that some bows I have will seem fine on one violin and impossibly clumsy on another, so what you choose should be a bow that works for you on YOUR violin - not necessarily one that someone else recommends as being great for him/her.

56gms. is very light. You might need a rethink in this area !

June 12, 2009 at 01:19 PM ·

Just some different point of view (and not necessary a correct insight, correct me if there's a need).

Shop for a bow as long as your instrument is pretty stable, or tweaked to your liking. In my personal experience, when I bought my brand new violin 3 years ago, it used to favour the Arcus. Until now, after all the setups and adjustments (and probably instrument breaking in), it actually favour another wooden bow that I have.

June 12, 2009 at 02:59 PM ·

I'm sure that the good answers to your six questions will be helpful.  I only want to add a reminder that, perhaps more important than the answer to any question, is the experience of trying many, many bows.  With each bow you try, you will know better and better what qualities are most important to you personally.  You might possibly try ten consecutive bows that seem completely unremarkable. Then an eleventh bow that opens up new musical possibilities for you.  There is no substitute for this learning from experience.

On the subject of weight: I prefer not to ask the weight of a bow before trying it. Sometimes a 60 gram bow may feel lighter than a 56 gram bow because that particular heavier bow is better balanced and more facile than that particular lighter one.

June 12, 2009 at 03:21 PM ·

Oliver raises an excellent point...

because that particular heavier bow is better balanced and more facile than that particular lighter one.

June 12, 2009 at 05:12 PM ·

June 12, 2009 at 06:12 PM ·

Royce,  stop it

June 12, 2009 at 10:13 PM ·

Sorry about that. I got carried away.  Seriously, I shouldn't have posted what I did. My appologies. Thank you for calling me down on that one.

June 12, 2009 at 09:57 PM ·

Oliver makes a great point in his post.  I tried more than a dozen bows at one shop, gradually getting down to 3 (without knowing what they were,) with one absolutely standing out that I knew I was going to take it home on trial.  But, if you'd told me that it weighed 64grams before I tried it - I am sure I'd have said: "That's much too heavy for me..."   and dismissed it out of hand.

Yet from the minute I picked it up and started playing - it felt so balanced and "light" in my hands, yet with lots of strength, but also tremendous flexibility, that I knew it was already "my bow"!  I was able to do bowing styles that I'd always struggled with so much ease and it draws out an amazing range of sound from both my violins. 

I'd definitely say that if you find something you really like - arrange for a week's trial if possible so you can really give it a good run-through with a variety of repertoire/bow strokes etc. in the privacy of your own home.  I know I always feel really self-conscious "performing" in front of a luthier!  So the trial was great for making absolutely sure it was the right choice.  Bows are SO much more personal than violins in my experience.

June 13, 2009 at 05:59 AM ·

I have a 65gm. Bultitude that feels like nothing in the hand. This can happen depending on the taper of the stick, the pattern of the head and the weight of the frog. But this bow does seem to go better on violins that need a viola-ish production, and it "darkens" the sound.

June 13, 2009 at 09:51 PM · 1. When considering price, never have a minimum price but be willing to get the best bow you possibly can afford. 2. Weight can be a most personal thing. Light is easy for staccato but heavyer is great for lagato, usually. Although a bow is light, doesnt mean is is better than a heavy bow for staccato because some bows are too light and wont work well with the string is fast or light music. weight should not be considered too much because weight will not have an effect on over all agility of the bow. 3. A stiff bow is good for many things. A soft bow is great for some things. Soft bows have a darker sound. Stiff bows generally require more effort to create soft and beautiful music. 4. CF vs pernambuco is not extremely important. It is just the way a bow of intrest may be. As far as money goes, CF of equal price to a pernambuco is generally better. Pernambuco bows that are very expensive are always better than lesser priced carbon fibre. 5. When trying bows do not look orrigionally at the maker, material, or the price. Only look for a bow that you can truly love. Find a bow that has a unique quality that you like that other bows dont have. Make sure you dont just like the bow now; choose a bow that will make you happy several years from now. Good luck finding a great professional bow!!!

June 15, 2009 at 12:15 AM ·

I think most of us would say we search still for the "best" bow.  All bows are are an inherent mix of compromises.

For weight, I prefer 58 - 60 grams.  I have a few bows: one is 58g, and one is 61g.  I find the 58g best overall for action.  But the 61g gives the best tone and power, and the difference is easily heard by an untrained ear.  I have tried others and made comparisons, and so far a heavier bow seems to create a better sound: richer and more power.  In fact, all bows tried created a different sound, and had different action.  The large range of variation is really qite surprising. I would like to know what others say about this.

For material, in every case so far, pernambuco is far superior to CF.  I have tried many CF bows (eg, Glasser, Coda) but not yet the Arcus.  Arcus may be excellent, but the price is hard for me to accept, given the very low cost of raw materials. CF is durable, but this is the only advantage.  For kids, great: but for aspiring players, not really.  In all cases, so far, the CF sound is thin, edgy, and mono.

good luck!

June 15, 2009 at 05:26 PM ·


Thanks for the violin purchase blog, I am sure it has been and will be very informative and useful to many people. Hopefully, something similar will come out of your bow quest that we can all benefit from, especially yourself.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm in the same process right now. I've been looking for a couple of months now and it seems like my choice is going to be either a Josh Henry bow or a Lev Sobol (Russian maker) bow. I will probably make a decision this coming week and when I do I hope I can offer you some advice for your search.

Have fun!

June 15, 2009 at 07:52 PM ·

I have been reading with much anticipation each reply.  Thank you for the feedback so far.  Please keep it coming as I am still very much in the midst of my bow hunt.  To summarize so far, here are the key points that have been made.

1.  Try a lot of bows.  This is definitely something I intend on doing; however, I find it quite a bit more difficult than trying violins.  I can pick up a violin and within 1-2 minutes, I know if I like it or not.  But bows are much more subtle.  For bows that pass my initial testing (e.g., sound, sautille, general feel), I have found that it can take 2-3 days to really get acclimated to a bow.

2.  Josh Henry.  A number of people have mentioned Josh and indeed he lives about 20 minutes away from me.  I have been in close contact with him.  Whether I buy a bow from him or not, I definitely want to get his blessing no matter what I decide on.  He is a great guy and really knows his stuff.

3.  Bernard Millant.  Per David Burgess, if I get a Bernard Millant, I may be able to offset the cost of the bow with future savings in Viagra. :-)

4.  There is no such thing as a perfect bow.  As I recently discovered, the same holds true for violins.  The trick is to identify the most important qualities and find the best compromise.

5.  Bow weight can be deceptive.  Light bows can feel heavy and heavy bows can feel light.  It is all about the balance.


June 16, 2009 at 02:07 PM ·

Marquis Violins-

Passadena, California.  I was checking out their site and they have quite a few nice bows!  They have a Charles Nicolas Bazin (Swans Head) that is very aestethicly pleasing!  May not flt the bill but there are others and with certificates.

It may be a good idea to get something with documentation like certificates.  At any rate, I would want paperwork to verify what I have incase of having to file an insurance claim!

June 22, 2009 at 05:32 PM ·

As I told Smiley, I ended up buying a Lev Sobol bow from KC strings. I think I got a good deal, because they were having a summer sale (which I didn't know about) and I came in just the day before it ended. They were nice enough to offer to keep the discounted price if I chose to buy any of the bows I took on approval within the approval period. I fell in love with the sound that this bow draws from my violin, it is deep and velvety. The bow is also very beautiful to look at, being made of a very dark brown piece of pernambuco. It has a gold mounted ivory frog, lizard skin grip, and a very colorful silk lapping. I would say it is very Russian looking (no offense intended to any of our Russian members). I would love to attach a picture, but I can't figure out how.

My final two choices were the Sobol bow and a Josh Henry bow. The Henry was also a very fine bow, in fact my teacher told me either one would be a great choice for me. In terms of agility and clarity of fast articulations, I would say the Henry bow had a little bit of an edge. The Sobol is not quite as fast responding, but it's not clubby either. So far there's nothing I can't do with the Sobol (except for things that I just haven't learned, like down-bow staccato). It's just a little bit of a compromise I guess. The Henry was also a very beautiful bow, especially the stick, which was made of a gorgeous flamed pernambuco. It has a blind frog, silver mounted, the button has mother of pearl in the facets, and it has Mr. Henry's signature leather lapping decorated with silver wire which has a very elegant, modern look. I would recommend his work to anyone, his standard bows (not made on commission) are an exceptional value, and in fact he was willing to adjust the camber of the bow to make it more to my liking. He is a fine maker and a very nice person to deal with.

June 22, 2009 at 06:01 PM ·

Sorry, I forgot to mention one more thing. When I started my search for a bow (about 2 months ago) I had the notion that I should probably steer clear of any fancy adornments (gold, tortoise shell, ivory, etc...) in bows, because then I would be paying for the looks. However, even though it is true that those bows are generally more expensive than their less adorned counterparts, makers usually put fancy fittings on the sticks that most deserve it. Therefore, a gold mounted bow usually means that the stick is of very high grade. In my experience, these higher grade sticks also turned out to be (for the most part) better playing sticks.

This is not to say that you can't find a modestly mounted bow that works. I tried lots of superb bows that were silver mounted.

June 27, 2009 at 03:09 AM ·

Well, I've tried quite a few bows.  So far, the one I like best is a Ludwig Bausch, late 19th century German bow, 60.1 gms, priced at $5K.  Not outrageous, but not cheap either.  I've played a few bows in the $2-3K price range, but have not come across anything I liked.  I might just buy this one if nothing better comes along.  Any other recommendations before I pull the trigger?


June 27, 2009 at 03:35 AM ·

Smiley, bows are addictive....I once had a bow, then two, they are like rabbits

If you like it, buy it...there will be many more soon enough, believe me...and an overall decent investment. I finally had things re-appraised for insurance purposes; had not done so in many years since the death of Jcques Francais; the re-appraisal would now cost big bucks initially from the new source............increase =  5-6% per year

June 27, 2009 at 03:40 AM ·

Hi Smiley,

Former poster Gennady Filimonov in Seattle is the US representative for French bowmakers Sylvain Bigot and Yannick LeCanu, both of whom are award-winning modern makers.  I tested one bow from each maker and opted not to purchase for various reasons, but these are considered excellent modern bows and you may want to contact Gennady to give them a try.  When I tried them a couple of years ago they were in the 3-4K range., but may be a bit higher these days.  He can probably be found via your favorite search engine. 



June 27, 2009 at 04:42 AM ·

 "Genuine Bausch bows, once plentiful, are now scarce and these vary from commercial grade bows to bows of exceptional beauty." - quote from Wikipedia.

I'd imagine the bow you like is probably an excellent proposition because German bows are usually underpriced compared with the French and bargains abound. However, I'd be inclined to seek a second opinion to ascertain as exactly as possible what the bow really is, because the imitation Bausches are widespread.


June 27, 2009 at 01:34 PM ·

The bow that I was kidding with you, the unique quirk, back some time ago is a L. Bausch, siver/nickle hardwear. The eye looks like a sun inside a circle.  May not be the original frog.  but it's labeled/branded L. Bausch.  Very worn bow but as I said it's old.

If the one your trying is like the one I have it should fit the hand nicely giving a comfortable bow hold and readlily draws the sound!

June 28, 2009 at 01:23 AM ·


I don't believe you ever elaborated on that unique quirk.  Would you care to share that with us?  Especially since I may end up shelling out $5K for this bow, it would be nice to know what kind of quirks may be lurking.

June 28, 2009 at 12:18 PM ·


As time has gone by the Frog can rock side-to-side.  It never shifts while being used.  I had it rehaired over a year ago and the guy who did the rehairing said that he saw no rot, just that someone botched a repair some time in it's past.  The frog may not be the original frog.  Everyone who has played this bow loves it!  My Mom paid $120.00 for it back in 1983 or 84.  The Luthier she bought it from said that it's about 100 -120 years old @ that time.  You can make out the maker L. Bausch and some other letters but they are very much worn, heck the stick where the frog and makers name is hexagonal but almost worn round!  It has seen alot of use, and many repairs but this bow is a singing sword!  It's so comfortable, and complaments darn near any violin it's palyed with.  If other Ludwig Bausch bows are near anything like this one they are worth more than their weight in gold.

Don't worry about the quirk of my bow, it's unique too it. 

June 28, 2009 at 06:58 AM ·

Great players such as Joachim and Wilhemji have preferred Bausch to Tourte, and Oistrakh liked German bows, too. Ludwig Spohr had a hand in the design of the Bausch. You might be on to a good thing. If the frog rocks, a bowmaker can cure it. On old bows, watch out for "splicing under the lapping" when a worn handle has been replaced by new wood - this reduces the value, and indeed might cause the thing to fall apart if inexpertly done.

June 28, 2009 at 09:33 PM ·

David Beck-

Thanks for the information tip!  That may prove useful for Smiley also.

This bow is indeed a L.Bausch Liepzig!  I'm not making this up!  I'm going to ask here who are bow makers and would take a look at it.  So it's official.

If Smiley's L. Bausch is like this one it'll be hard to beat!

July 1, 2009 at 05:07 PM ·

Just want to add my recent findings here.

Apart from weight/balance, stiffness, and agility, there's also attack (some people would call it bite, or response) and dynamics.

Recently I find I much prefer my wooden bow over my Arcus for the above 2 reason. My wooden bow will give me a wonderful bite or respond everytime when I want, it's easy to control it. Due to this ability, I can do boucing stuffs very easily yet it's smooth for legato bowing. In comparison, my Arcus lack of this attack, it felt rather "rounded" or "too smooth" if I'd describe attack as a corner - sharp, or rounded, lack of the initial bite when I want it to.

My wooden bow also produce much broader dynamic too, without much effort, and with more precision compared to Arcus. I can't seems to get louder sound out of Arcus compared to my wooden bow, and yet, due to unknown problem, I have to play the Arcus very carefully to get a whispering quiet sound. Still, my wooden bow can play much quieter than the Arcus, and so much easier too! These is also proved by having a bunch of my friends listening for me comparing both bows, instead of just listening to the sound under ear.

The Arcus is still a fine bow, with a pretty refined sound and somewhat thicker than my wooden bow. But I prefer more precise + easier control, as well as broader dynamic range. Perhaps tone is my 2nd preference.

Hope this helps, and wonder how's your journey, Smiley?

July 1, 2009 at 08:45 PM ·

 A prominent violinist I know recently made the observation that with a CF bow there are no secrets or mysteries. "Soul" might have been what he was getting at. I take this to mean that pernambuco wood offers a greater variety of opportunities to the player. Casey seems to be on the right track. I'm pretty sure that age can do something to the wood, too, increasing attack, maybe - unless, of course, the wood happens to be too feeble at the beginning. But I doubt whether bows "improve" to quite the same degree as fiddles. The problem is living long enough to make what psychologists call "longitudinal studies". We have to pad out our personal experience with rumours and such. Pernambuco wood varies, and every maker has his/her preferences as regards selection - "soul" again !

July 2, 2009 at 12:09 AM ·

I would be fascinated to know if there is anyone on here who plays a really old bow.  Any early 19th century or even perhaps 18th century bows owned and used by v.commies?  

Are there any baroque era bows around in museums/collections etc which are still playable, maybe not all the time but perhaps from a research point of view?

 P.S.  Smiley - did you ever manage to upload some photos of your new violin?

July 2, 2009 at 02:33 AM ·

Hi Rosalind,

Yes, I did post some pictures.  Here's a link to the blog I wrote about my violin search.  If you scroll down, I replied to the blog with links to some photos.

July 16, 2009 at 07:09 PM ·

Just an update FWIW.  I decided to return the Bausch bow, even though it is the best bow I have tried thus far.  I may go back and buy it if I don't find anything better, but at $5000, that is a lot to pay for a bow.  My reasons for returning the Bausch:

1.  I took it to a local shop, and they said the bow should be priced at $2000-$3000.  Obviously, they have a conflict of interest, since they would love for me to buy one of their bows, so I have some doubt about whether their opinion was honest, or perhaps self serving.

2. While at the shop, I tried a Morisot (sp?), and it seemed to pull a fuller sound out of my violin, so I know there are bows that are a better match for my violin.  The problem is, the Morisot was priced at $9000.

3.  I really don't know what the Bausch is truly worth, but my gut feeling is that if I paid $5000 for it, I would have a hard time getting my money back if I decided to sell it.  In that respect, I would sooner pay $15,000 for a Sartori because the price certainly isn't going down.

Any comments or recommendations would be most appreciated. 


July 16, 2009 at 08:25 PM ·

There's a shop in Paris (Alienor Lutherie) that from time to time has bows at about 80% of the bow maker's current price. For example in January they had a violin bow by Franck Daguin of Lyon selling for about 2350 where his actual price was 3000 euros; it was a very nice bow. Another time they had a Jean-Luc Tauziède similarly reduced. 

I can relate to what you are saying about the Morizot and its price. It's really a question of being patient and looking widely; the solution is probably a lesser-known or younger maker.

July 17, 2009 at 12:30 AM ·

Smiley, if you're concerned about resale value, it would be best to stick to known names who have been in the business for a while.

Even I won't gamble on people who are new and unknown, even if they do superb work, because if they don't stay in the business and establish a reputation, resale value will probably go out the window.

Of the violins and bows I've purchased for personal enjoyment/investment, all were by established makers whose names you would recognize, except for a few which I purchased when I was in my teens. Of the former, all which have been sold were sold at a profit.

I know this isn't fair to new or up-and-coming makers, but that's the nature of the business.

July 17, 2009 at 12:15 AM ·


To take your argument to it's logical conclusion it would be best that Smiley avoid living makers altogether and stick to the much longer established brands of long dead makers where resale value is REALLY FAR MORE set in stone (as much as that is possible ). Their materials and methods will after all have been proven to have survived the rigours of decades or centuries of time

Are we anymore sure how history might judge established  living makers in the long term compared to the talented youngsters that are coming along?  I doubt it.

Either way it is a gamble. Just to give a counterpoint to David whose work and opinions I very much admire and respect .... The young and talented need to eat and we need them to be able to come through to perpetuate their craft and give future service to musicians.

It could be a gamble but the entry price might be low...If something made by a young person in the violin or bow making craft feels nice, please run it past a few other folk and a trusted friend or two in the making biz...good guysgenerally  don't run down good work they like.......after a few years you might find that you made a nice investment or at least you got a well made bow by someone well trained at a very low cost......Lets not blow out the young folk coming through.

Sorry Smiley, This was a bit off subject but please enjoy finding your ideal bow.





July 17, 2009 at 12:48 AM ·

Melvin Goldsmith (who I also respect) has provided a valuable counterpoint.

It's a strange  challenge in ouir business. One might be the best violin maker of all time, but it could be a century before most people realize it.

July 17, 2009 at 03:35 AM ·

>One might be the best violin maker of all time, but it could be a century before most people realize it.

Actually, I don't agree.  I think it is becoming common knowledge that some of the best violins are being made today by living makers.  At least that is the conclusion I reached after a pretty extensive violin search and also a belief that is shared by many in the industry. The unfortunate thing for living makers is the same conundrum faced by artists, that the vast majority cannot command top dollar for their work until they are no longer living makers (e.g., dead).  I guess that is the nature of the beast, supply and demand at work.

I have not yet reached the same conclusion for bows, but I think it could well be true.  There are so many great bow makers today, I almost don't know where to start.  The only factor that might favor an older bow is the raw materials.  If bow makers 50-100 years ago had access to better wood, then that would be hard to beat even with great craftsmanship.  So for me, the verdict between living vs deceased bow makers is still up in the air.  Perhaps others might care to comment on this point.


July 17, 2009 at 01:03 PM ·

Sorry, I didn't state that very clearly. What I was trying to say is that things might shake out differently in time. One hundred years from now, the "best" violin maker could be someone who is working today, but isn't on most musicians "major maker" list. As an example, there are people who have only recently made that "list" who have been quietly working away for 35 years. And there are names which were big 35 years ago that one doesn't hear about much any more.

Name recognition can come from quality alone, or effective marketing can be a large part of the equation. I think one method may take longer, but will stand the test of time better than the other. There are also certain making processes which will stand the test of time better than others.

I was talking to someone who I consider to be a great maker on the phone the other day, who has been in the business for many years, and he happened to mention,  "Most musicians have never heard of me".

When I put up posts like this, I usually get emails asking me to expand on it, or name names. I'm not going to do this, so please don't ask. :-) There are too many potential pitfalls......

July 18, 2009 at 05:35 AM ·

The prices we pay for our instruments continues to blow me away. How is a stick and some hair worth $5K?

July 18, 2009 at 10:27 AM ·

One way to understand would be to attend a making workshop, and make one yourself. ;-)

Only you can determine whether more expensive equipment is worth it to you though. If you can't tell the difference, or don't derive some special kind of satisfaction, there's littlle point in spending the extra money.

July 23, 2009 at 05:11 AM ·

The "designer handbag" syndrome occurs when all meaningful connections between practical utility, value for money and "musthaveness" break down. You must be finding that it can apply to bows as well as violins, too ! I liked bows that were so well crafted that I could admire their physical beauty during those many lulls in boring rehearsals when even the thrill of watching the clock faded. 

To be serious, practical utility seems to be obtainable at all price levels - I might have mentioned that I know of an orchestral principal 'cellist who found happiness with a cheap Chinese bow - until it broke. However, wood that makers think of as "gold mounted" quality is rare and the price of the finished article has to rise accordingly.

Cheap plonk will get you just as drunk as the finest classed-growth Claret. As the Romans said, taste is something you can't argue about. My advice is to avoid becoming a "poseur" at all costs !!

July 23, 2009 at 09:01 PM ·

I have a gold mounted Fuchs on trial and it is a very nice stick indeed.  A bit pricey ($5700), but I find that I can do things with it that I am unable to do with other sticks.  One piece of music that I find useful for testing bows is the 3rd movement of Mendelssohn's first piano trio (Op 49), a presto movement with lots of transitions from off-the-string to on-the-string bowings, and also lots of dynamic changes.

As I found out with violins, finding the right bow is a compromise.  The Fuchs pulls a huge sound, very focused with a bit of edge.  I don't think any bow will make my fiddle project better than the Fuchs.  The other bow I liked (a Bausch), didn't quite have the volume, but it seemed a bit more nimble (lighter), and had a smoother, more rounded sound. 

I am hoping to find a great bow for $2000-$3000, but so far, the bows I've tried in that price range are not even close in sound and playing characteristics. 

Eric, I agree.  That is a lot of money for a stick with hair. 


July 23, 2009 at 10:11 PM ·

 I don`t know. Twiggy was more expensive for just one appearance.

July 24, 2009 at 05:23 AM ·

The prices of bits of stick with hair are nothing compared with the "value" of some of those wooden boxes with handles on !

July 24, 2009 at 07:31 AM ·


July 24, 2009 at 02:50 PM ·

Mere Sticks With Hair!!!!!??????  Gentlemen Please!!!!! Watch Your Language!!!!! ;)

July 24, 2009 at 03:01 PM ·

 Stephen Brivati's humor kills me !!

July 28, 2009 at 10:12 PM ·

for 5k you can easily get a nice bow in terms of playing quality. if you are interested in owning a collectors bow that may appreciate in value 5k isnt enough. stiff bows can be good if thats what you prefer. however a stiff bow will never have the elegance and playability of a more supple bow made by an old master. may i suggest you look up morgan anderson? his bows are excellent and are right in your 2-5k range

August 6, 2009 at 07:31 PM ·

 This post is to ask Smiley if he bought a bow yet.

It was rumoured that once upon a time, in London, there were so many dealers that players could circulate, take a bow from one dealer on appro., return it as "sorry, not the one for me", move on to the next dealer and so on. By the time the player got around to dealer number one, his or her name and face had been forgotten and he/she could begin again. Professionals would pride themselves on never actually owning a bow! I wonder if they paid for the rehairs ?

I am a decent chap, and probably own more bows than there are London dealers. Did I go wrong ?


August 6, 2009 at 09:34 PM ·

Hi David,

I have not purchased a bow yet.  I am still looking.  If I don't make up my mind in the near future, I may be accused of the scam you describe :-)

Seriously though, I have a very nice gold mounted Fuchs, but not the ideal bow for me.  It pulls a huge sound, but it is a bit raw, untamed, and edgy.  But I am very interested in this maker and I just received 2 silver mounted Fuchs today, but have not tried them yet.  If these don't float my boat, I may put off my search for a while.

I recently decided to ditch my shoulder rest and am struggling quite a bit with the change.  I think it will benefit me in the long term, but right now, I feel like a beginner/intermediate violinist -- very bumpy shifts and non-existent vibrato.


August 7, 2009 at 05:01 AM ·

 Why not ask Raphael Klayman about playing without the shoulder rest. You must have noticed the shoulder-rest thread. 

August 15, 2009 at 09:43 PM ·

>If Smiley's L. Bausch is like this one it'll be hard to beat!


You were right, the Bausch WAS hard to beat.  In fact, I did not find a bow that beat it, so I decided to buy it.  Like yours, it is stamped L. Bausch, Leipzig.  I am getting Yung Chin to make up a certificate for it and he dates it at roughly 1870.

I found that choosing a bow is every bit as difficult as finding an instrument, and perhaps even more influenced by personal preference.  Some bows were too soft, some too stiff, some too light and some too heavy.  Some sounded loud and edgy, while others were warm and smooth.  In the end, the reason I chose the Bausch was because of something I read (can't remember where), that the perfect bow should allow you to create music without having to think about the bow.  In a way, that's what the Bausch does for me.  Besides pulling a really nice sound out of my fiddle, It just feels right.

I want to thank everyone who replied to this thread.  Your input was most useful during my search. 


August 15, 2009 at 10:44 PM ·

Congragulations!  I PM you too.  I hope tht it and your violin give you many years of pleasure.


August 16, 2009 at 01:22 PM ·

New bow? Why? :-)

August 16, 2009 at 01:56 PM ·

New bow? Why? :-)

Because he saw the new bow was a cut above the rest


August 16, 2009 at 02:17 PM ·

I guess I should mention to be sure to notice that he left the plastic saw guard on over the teeth!

August 17, 2009 at 03:26 AM ·


That is impressive.  When I outgrow my Bausch, maybe I'll upgrade to a saw.  Can you recommend a particular maker?  Craftsman or perhaps Black and Decker?  I've heard that european saws have a nice bounce, but american saws pull a fuller sound.  I've also heard that the chinese have quite a few up and coming saw makers.  But the best saws are still being made by the French, oui?


August 17, 2009 at 10:15 AM ·

Someone offered me a penzel bow for 3000 euros. Since I don't have that much for a bow, the person told me to get a carbon fiber for 150. Perhabs this is because you cannot have that comfort level you can get with very good bows with medium price range, albeit with a carbon fiber, yes!

August 20, 2009 at 05:42 PM ·

At the risk of being guilty of tasteless self-promotion, I have copied both Erin Shrader's review for STRINGS, and Andrew Victor's kind words on this discussion site.

Gabriel Schaff




A Good Read                           Book

Violinist Gabriel Schaff has written The Essential Guide to Bows of the Violin Family, a useful introduction to the mysteries of the fine bow market for musicians hoping to find the proverbial magic wand—without losing their shirt. The opening chapters outline the history, evolution, and musical context of the bow. Experts could quibble about details and who got left out, but Schaff succeeds in giving the buyer enough of an orientation to recognize the big names, ask good questions, and understand the answers without getting bogged down. Following chapters clearly explain factors relating to how bows are priced, such as age, nationality, reputation of the maker, materials, condition, collector value versus playing utility, certificates versus appraisals, investment value, and general characteristics of bows from different periods. There’s practical advice on where and how to shop—the advantages and disadvantages of dealers’ shops, private parties, and auctions, the delicate issue of teacher involvement and commissions, how to audition bows, and finally, how to care for the bow once you’ve found it. The final pages are filled with interviews of prominent musicians, makers, and experts offering personal insights about bows. Hardcover. Single copies $70; bulk discounts available. To purchase or carry The Essential Guide in your shop, contact


Erin Shrader
Lutherie Editor
Strings magazine July 2009

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Fiddle sticks - a new bow book

I just received my copy of the new book"The Essential Guide to Bows of the Violin Family," by Gabriel Schaff.

From Andrew Victor
Posted August 13, 2009 at 09:33 PM

I just received my copy of the new book"The Essential Guide to Bows of the Violin Family," by Gabriel Schaff. It was advertised in the current VSA Newsletter and can be ordered from the author at

It is a beautiful book, not massive, but with plenty of color photos, and covering brief histories of bow making in different countries, materials, care, shopping and comments/interviews about their own bows by some current famous players including violinists Aaron Rosand, Elmar Oliveira, and Arnold Steinhardt (among the best known).

At $70, the book costs a little over 70 cents per page. I recommend it for people who collect books about their favorite thing to do.


December 2, 2009 at 05:48 PM ·

I purchased a original L Bausch bow in 1995 for $2000 and at the time just liked the way it played. I now cannot play another bow without feeling spoiled by the Bausch. My teacher commented that my playing improved like I had 3 years of lessons overnight.

December 2, 2009 at 07:09 PM ·

Hi Jack,

I think fine German bows are really undervalued.  I paid $5000 for my Bausch, and though it sounds like a lot of money to spend, it competes very nicely with the 3 bows that my teacher owns, the cheapest of which is $15,000 (he owns two Rollands and a Sartory).

February 26, 2010 at 02:13 PM ·

I have just bought an Arcus Rondo violin bow,and I think it's amazing.According to Arcus,it has very little bow noise due to its material.

October 25, 2012 at 12:22 AM · Thank you all for such a thoughful and informative discussion. Even with the passage of time there is a lot of relevant information in here.

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