To Buy a New Bow? Teacher says No.

December 31, 2009 at 03:17 AM ·

All,

After reading much of the info on v.com re violins, bows, etc., and after only 4 months of lessons, I decided to trial a couple of Coda Bows on my entry-level student violin--a Prodigy and a Diamond NX. The Prodigy was nice, but when I tried the Diamond NX, I found that I really liked it--very smooth, nice sound (as far as I can tell :-)), and seems to help me maintain a more uniform, much less shaky sound on longer bows. I even found a place where I can get it for more than $100 less than what most of the shops are asking!

Anyway, I brought both bows to my lesson thinking that my teacher would try them out for me and help me decide which would be best. However, without trying either one, she simply advised me that I shouldn't even think of buying a new bow b/c every bow sounds different on every violin and that until I am ready for a better instrument, I should stick w/what I m using.

I have the utmost respect for my teacher, as she is the pro here. But b/c of all the pro-better/best equipment recommendations that I have read on this site, I wanted to get some feedback from any/all of you who have "gone either way" as they say as well as to ask what you would do in this case. And although I know that I need to do what's right for me, I must admit, that if I do end up purchasing a new bow, I'll probably feel awkward bringing it to my next lesson.

Thanks very much for any help,

Phil

Replies (27)

December 31, 2009 at 04:19 AM ·

Well, there is more than one way to look at a bow.
I do not know what your price range is, or what instrument you currently play.  I do, however, think that if you are looking for a good setup (instrument, bow, rosin, strings, etc.) for the long term, the teacher may be right. If you are looking because you want to experiment, it may be an idea to get a bow that you can easily afford, knowing that you will be getting another bow when you purchase your next instrument.

That said, I also think the best approach may be to check with your teacher about how you may progress with your equipment. Do not try and get answers in weeks or months, because that depends on you, but the teacher may have an idea about you progressing to a point measured in months (no specific number), then getting a fairly good and possibly fairly expensive setup. That may last through quite a bit of your progress (years, not months).

It also may be the teacher wants you to focus on the skill, not the equipment. I have a bit of a weakness with trying other things, although I don't have the best budget for it. I now have three fairly good playable bows, and one that will do in a pinch. I have a good but basic violin, an electric, and a 5 string purchased because I really liked how it looked. All this is distraction, not progressing.

So, talk with your teacher about it, and be willing to accept the answer. If you decide to go against the teacher's advice, be ready to communicate that with the teacher, and explain why you wish to do so. Do not break the bond of trust. That said, do what you can to feel the teacher is working with the same set of rules; is the reason because of you, or does the teacher have some vested interest in you purchasing a bow elsewhere.

Hope this helps!

December 31, 2009 at 04:32 AM ·

Your teacher has some points, in a way she's trying to help you to save money. She's right about the combination of instrument and bow, you probably going to buy another bow when you upgrade to another violin although not always.

However, think of the other way, if you buy the bow now, you can definitely learn faster as the bow will help you out on many things (if money can buy time, why not?). Then, I wouldn't worry too much about the violin not going well with the bow, you can always bring your bow during every trials. You're not spending a hell lot on a bow anyway, you can always have your Coda as a backup bow when you're going to buy a fine wooden bow.

Either way will do, in the end it depends on your own decision.

PS: Roland made some good suggestion. Your teacher probably know your progress very well and she made the suggestion based on your progress. However, I'm the opposite of how Roland think about having too many tools - if I have a few violins that each has their own compromisation, then I will definitely be distracted by the wide choices. However, now I have a violin that does everything I want, with a bow that give me so many possibilities. I rarely touch my other violins, and I won't have any regrets selling them all.

December 31, 2009 at 06:12 AM ·

I am in your shoes, I have been playing a year now. I kinda went out on my own and picked up a new bow as a Christmas present to myself. The shop loaned 3 to me after trying out a dozen in the shop. I played with these for 3 more days before choosing one that felt very nice.

I knew the one I had didn't feel right. After trying the new bows, my beginer one felt so akward to use it was not even an option to go back to it. It felt heavy at the tip and always liked to bounce at the balance point. (Very annoying)

All this was done with out my teacher, as we were both on vacation. I hope she approves. If not I'll let her use the old one to hit me. I like the new one to much. Haha

December 31, 2009 at 07:08 AM ·

What I do with my students is try their equipment to see if they even have a chance of decent progress. I think your teacher owes you at least that with the bow and violin you have now as well as with any other bows you may have brought in. It's your money!

About 10 years ago I had an adult violin student (one returning to violin after a break during college years) so she was pretty good, just needed to work back up to it. But when we got to sautille bowing she was hopeless (and she had what you would think would be a decent German bow, a W. Siefert). But it turns out the bow was a dud and would not sypport a sautille (spiccato) stroke that she appeared to be doing right. Even with a Glasser Composite bow (about $100 at the time) she could do a fine sautille. A teacher owes students all they can contribute to their progress - including what you have requested. (She came to the next lesson with a new bow - and a new violin, a 1925 E. H. Roth, she was serious!)

Andy

December 31, 2009 at 05:14 PM ·

Are you planning on buying a new violin soon?  Does your teacher think you need a new one now?  If so, waiting to buy a new bow to suit the new instrument is a good idea.  If not, a better bow now will help you get the most out of the fiddle you currently have.  Money goes further in a bow than it does in an instrument, and a better bow can be a good, cheap upgrade.  As someone else pointed out, the Coda will be a great backup bow down the line anyway.

December 31, 2009 at 07:26 PM ·

Always nice to have a backup bow, especially one that's nearly indestructible. School orchestras etc are risky places.

You could discuss it with your teacher, or just do it and see if it improves your playing. Doubtless I'll take some flak for suggesting that it's OK to Question Authority, but that's OK with me. Your mileage may differ.

December 31, 2009 at 08:04 PM ·

 I agree with your teacher. You don't want to spend $300+ on a bow only to find out that it doesn't work on your new violin (are you planning to get one?). 

You should stay with your current setup and think about getting a new one when your teacher thinks you're ready or when you are convinced you are. Once you have your instrument THEN check out bows so you can make your new setup perfect. 

However, if you have the money to spend willy-nilly (no offense intended by that) then go ahead. It's fun to have a new item in your setup once in a while. If not then save it for getting a completely new setup when you're ready. 

For example of different bows on different instruments: I recently bought a 1,500 violin outfit and my student bow (<$60) goes better with it than the $250 carbon fiber bow that came with the setup.

 

Most of my points really only apply if you're going to upgrade your violin soon. If not, I say go with the new bow as well. 

December 31, 2009 at 10:11 PM ·

I disagree with your teacher - if the new  bow is a better bow it will most likely work better than your current bow on all fiddles.

The concern about matching bow to violin is a moot point anyway - not everyone thinks you have to do that (I don't).

My thought is that improving  your bow will probably make more of a differencve to your technique than a new instrumant, so get the best bow you can afford, and worry about matching later on. Much later on...

gc

January 1, 2010 at 06:06 AM ·

 Greetings,

I share the same opinion as Graham.

Cheers,

buri

January 1, 2010 at 09:36 AM ·

Most artists own entire sets of paint brushes, mind you.

(I also agree with the previous two.)

January 1, 2010 at 12:24 PM ·

 Well, I've just recently moved back to the first bow I bought, which was a french student bow that I bought under the recommendation of the shopkeeper (after saying that I wanted to get a bow that would last me till Grade 5). That was almost 3 years ago. 

In the interim, I thought my student bow wasn't cutting it, and bought the top of the line CodaBow. I think it helped me get over a few of the beginner humps, being easy to control, stiff and giving a balanced tone. But ultimately the shopkeeper was right. At Grade 4, tone production matters a bit more, and the flexible french bow draws a richer and more expressive tone, but only if you know how to pull it right. Chords and retakes also sound smoother on a flexible than a stiff bow. When I was just starting out, I didn't have the skills to maximize the sound I could get out of a bow, and I would have learned faster with something easier to control, even if it may not be "better".

So well I guess my advice is to see what's holding you back, and what tool you need to get across that hump, and recognizing that there are probably going to be many humps and there's no best one tool to solve all those problems.

 

January 1, 2010 at 02:28 PM ·

You could tell your teacher you got the new bow for a Christmas present and that it can't be returned.  Ask her which bow to bring to lessons. It could be however that she is planning to advise you to shop for a new violin and bow in the very near future.

January 1, 2010 at 03:50 PM ·

I can't believe your teacher wouldn't even try the bows you brought to help you decide which was best. That's what teachers are for. And I don't agree with the teacher's reasoning, either---if a new bow now doesn't match some violin you buy in the future, you can always trade in the bow for another one---most shops will do that with a halfway decent bow. You might not get full value for it, but who cares---having good equipment is so important when you're learning.

When I first started playing, I bought a very nice English violin that cost enough that I couldn't afford anything more than one of those $30 fiberglass clubs, and I played with that thing for a year until I could afford a good bow. My teacher at the time thought the club was fine and that I didn't need a new one, but even though it *sounded* okay, it was very difficult to handle, and my technique development suffered greatly. He did help me play though various prospective bows, though, and then later was amazed at how much I improved after I got the better bow---my tone improved, string crossings were easier, etc. A good bow can really help you learn faster, because you're not fighting your instrument.

January 2, 2010 at 09:16 AM ·

 I think we're all missing a vital piece of info here in order to give you the best advice... were you planning to upgrade your instrument soon?  I guess that makes all the difference, and only you and your teacher know what the plan is...

If you were, the most common advice is get the fiddle first.... though, with the bow I pine for to go with my current instrument, I'd gladly have taken it with any fiddle I owned.  I think the most important thing is that there are no absolutes.  Basically, if you love the bow and it makes a huge difference in your playing and it's worth the money to you, then it's worth the money.  If not, then not!  If you're worried about your relationship to your teacher, you can always say something like, you understand her advice, it makes sense to you and you respect it, but either a) you know you won't be able to afford a better fiddle anytime soon, and figure you may as well have something you can better afford at the moment or b) it won't affect your ability to buy another bow in the future (if needed) if you buy a better instrument.  And also that you just fell in love and couldn't resist... it's hard to argue with that.

The other consideration is finances.  If this bow price won't make a dent in your finances, then I can't see the harm.  Btw.... fwiw, the coda diamond gx is my absolute fav in terms of bows that can outplay others at much higher price ranges (of course it depends on your fiddle too but I digress)... I know you're looking at a different model, but still in the same "line" and I understand the qualities that you are attracted to in it. :)

January 2, 2010 at 04:07 PM ·

I  am curious to know what sort of bow you have been using. I was a little startled to read that your teacher would dismiss the idea as abruptly as you suggested it was dismissed. I have asked a few students/their parents to purchase bows even though they were planning to stay with a rental outfit for a while. Makes a world of difference IMO. Some shops offer very generous trade-in programs. My local shop, String House of Kanack in Rochester, NY, gives 100% of what you spend against the next purchase, including exchanging a Codabow.  Just a thought; it's a way to have your cake & eat it, too. Sue


January 2, 2010 at 10:55 PM ·

Any chance your teacher's reaction has to do with him/her receiving a commission from a specific shop on sales to students?  If you went elsewhere, (or on-line)  he or she could be miffed at the missed $$$$.

January 3, 2010 at 01:03 AM ·

I think as Graham Clark.

Violin and Bow do not need to be matched.

Thing to be consider here is your budget. When I want something, I always pour out my pocket, emtying it. Why don't you enjoy the best bow possible? It does not harm you old or new violins.

January 4, 2010 at 04:49 PM ·

All,

Thanks VERY MUCH to everyone for your extremely knowledgeable feedback.

For those of you asking whether or not my teacher is concerned about a commission somewhere, as far as I know, this is not the case--and quite frankly, I would be absolutely shocked if it were.

Re plans to upgrade my violin: there is a small violin shop that I have been dealing with who are going to keep an eye out for a violin of slightly smaller proportions for me as the traditional strad model is really way too big. Other than that (and of course winning the lottery), I wasn't planning to upgrade any time soon.

Re the cost: I know that normally the Coda Diamond NX goes for about $395. However, BrooksMays (www.brooksmays) sells them for approx. $249.99 (!!!!!). I'm assuming that their sales volume allows them to do that, but that is a HUGE price difference and is one reason I am considering upgrading my bow. At this point, there is no way I would spend $400 to do so. If I do decide to upgrade, out of courtesy and for the future, I am going to ask the small shop if they can match this. I would be surprised if they would be able to, and although I'd prefer to give them the business, the difference is simply too much not to take advantage of. However, if anyone knows of any reason why I should NOT shop at BrooksMays, I'd appreciate the heads up on that

Anyway, I'm still not sure what I am going to do, but thank you all so much for your help.

BTW, Buri, I was very honored that you took the time to offer your opinion. Thank you.

Phil

 

January 4, 2010 at 09:04 PM ·

 

I agree with what has been mentioned in previous posts, that a very important issue here is WHEN you'll be able to upgrade your violin!...it sounds like it won't be for a while yet, and given that, you totally deserve to have a good/better bow to work with until that time.

There will always be the thought of better equipment as time goes on, and always some reason to wait for the next upgrade of something just around the corner - in the meantime you are playing now, and unless there is a technical reason why playing an average fiddle with a better bow will be detrimental to you somehow, I think 'do it!'.  If you do, I hope you love it!  Heather.

January 4, 2010 at 10:23 PM ·

Sounds like a reasonable investment to me, it's a good deal if you have the cash and if you won't be needing to match a violin anytime soon.....it might not hurt to bring the issue again to your teacher so she knows you're serious about it...maybe she had other things on her mind that day....not that that's a great reason but most of us do have our lapses...  :)

January 4, 2010 at 10:24 PM ·

..and I would agree with your teacher if you were planning to buy a new violin right away, wait and do that step first, as several others have mentioned.  

Good luck!  Hope you enjoy whatever you come up with!

January 5, 2010 at 02:55 AM ·

Why not spoil urself for the new year. If you think your gonna get a new violin soon then you should hold off the bow purchase. But nothing wrong with having a backup bow later on.

Thx for the site I think I'm gonna pick up a  Coda Diamond GX for $499.99, amazing price compare to my local luthier.

January 5, 2010 at 05:48 PM ·

With a Coda Bow, it's like buying a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord.  Reliable, easy to service, something you'll use and use and use. Someday you may want a Ferrari, but for now the Coda will be a great upgrade from a Yugo or a Pinto, and even when you have the sports car, you'll still use it for the heavy lifting some days.  Enjoy it and use it in good health.

January 5, 2010 at 06:16 PM ·

Buy the bow!

I bought a new bow before a new violin, and was delighted with the upgrade (the bow that came with my student violin was pure junk), and a year later, with the new violin, was just as happy with the upgrade. And the two sounded just fine together. It was a treat to get the smaller upgrade before the bigger one. In fact, I didn't feel compelled to rush the purchase of a new violin, b/c the bow had upgraded the sound. Not rushing a bigger purchase is always a good thing.

Enjoy the new toy! (And good idea, of telling your teacher it was a gift. Hey. A gift to yourself. You just don't have to share that last bit.)

 

January 6, 2010 at 12:55 AM ·

It is not a good idea to lie to your teacher.

Or anyone else for that matter.

gc

January 6, 2010 at 02:27 AM ·

"It is not a good idea to lie to your teacher.

Or anyone else for that matter."

I would disagree. Certainly there are times when it is verboten, but the Little White Lie is a social lubricant. Those folks who would hold that any deception, however minor, is a transgression of personal ethics are to be avoided at all costs. They are without social skills and graces, and put everyone they deal with in awkward positions.

A harmless lie, like "it was a gift", serves to ease the tension in the situation and permits both parties to benefit without incurring rancor or loss of face. Certainly this is a good thing.

January 6, 2010 at 03:12 AM ·

I am certainly not an expert here, but my opinion is that if you can afford an CodaBow then go for it!  I think a better bow can bring out the sound in your instrument, and make you a better, more confident player.  When I was playing with a lower end student bow I didn't notice anything wrong with it, but then when I upgraded I found such a difference in sound in my violin.    To me, not upgrading when you have the money and when you have lots of room to upgrade seems rather silly.

But if you disagree, don't take it personally!!!

Hanna

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