Is there really any such thing as a 'quality' bow

April 26, 2010 at 11:00 PM ·

Hello everyone ! - I am new to the forum and would appreciate your thoughts on something which has been troubling me for some time.....

Basically at the risk of being shot down in flames I would like to (respectfully) suggest that the whole notion of the violin bow being anything other than a stick of wood is completely FALSE and in fact the "quality" of the stick has absolutely NO bearing on helping the violinist to produce a more beautiful, powerful tone or anything else - the ONLY criteria being that the bow should have a good balance point and "feel" good in the hand. 

I am not a professional but I do consider myself to be a competent classical violinist having played constantly for over 30 years and being able to tackle most of the standard repertoire with a good techinique.

I am lucky enough to have inherited a beautiful 18th century English violin by William Forster but I have always played with the cheapest bows I could find.

Fifteen years ago I thought that I should try some "good" (ie expensive) bows but having tried out many "fine" (and expensive) French and English bows I came to the conclusion that my technique just obviously wasn't refined enough to warrant anything better than the cheap german factory bow I'd been playing with so I abandoned the search.

However, I recently decided to try some bows again thinking that maybe my technique has evolved so out I went and took a number of "fine" bows on loan to assess and hopefully fall in love with one.....

The trouble is that after trying many, many "fine" bows including Sartory, Lamy, Bazin, Voirin, Tubbs, Dodd and W.E.Hill & Sons the only conclusion that I have reached is that the only thing that is "fine" about any of them is their price !! .... in desparation I even tried some top end carbon fibre bows which were not bad but in my opinion still nothing special.

So the end result is that I've gone back to playing with my very cheap and cheerful bows - my favorite being the Chinese bow that cost me less than 30 pounds !!!

So the question is: am I just a pure heathen or am I simply saying what every violinist knows but will never admit because its just not fashionable to say that a cheap Chinese bow is every bit as good as the work of a "master" that costs 1000's times more ?? 

Replies (100)

April 26, 2010 at 11:08 PM ·

Some (few) players are less particularly about bows, you  may be in this group. I remember of a story about Yo Yo Ma's bow being changed by a viola or violin bow and he noticed that just after playing some minutes.  But most players will need a fine bow.

www.manfio.com 

April 26, 2010 at 11:12 PM ·

30 pounds (lbs.) is rather heavy for a bow. I prefer 58-61 grams!  That and a box of prunes per week!  Your prune intake makes or breaks bow selection! I should know!

April 26, 2010 at 11:25 PM ·

I dont thing pound refers to weight here.
Pound refers to the money.

I have recently changed bow, and is fabulous.
Violin sound is about the violin itself, but without the correct family of strings, bows, and rosin,

and very fine quality of violin can be a mess. 
 

Thats why current violionist will keep themselves open for a better bow.

 

The violin bow's price is predicted cost about 20% of your violin. Not always, but its just the standard.  If you want to upgrade the violin sound, find a better bow.

April 27, 2010 at 12:02 AM ·

It depends entirely on what you want to do with your bow.

If you have any sense of phrasing and dynamics then you need a bow that will respond to those needs.

However, you can play the notes and make a decent sound, with any bow.

I have played £250 Chinese bows that are as good as many older German and French bows at 10 times the price, and more.

BUT I have not been able to rely on all those £250 bows to be that  good, while most of the £2500- 5000  bows were pretty good.

A great bow is harder to find than a decent fiddle, in my view (but a truly GREAT fiddle is very rare).

gc

 

 

 

April 27, 2010 at 12:14 AM ·

I think that finding the right bow is probably more difficult than finding the right violin, and you've simply not met your "perfect match" yet.   For what it is worth, when I tried a whole load of beautiful top quality bows, it certainly wasn't the most expensive one which I instantly fell in love with, but it was a bow which did things for me that I'd not been able to do before.  Who knows why a bow costing £5K more felt totally dead in my hand and the one I chose was just perfect - at least it was perfect for me?  

Best thing to suggest is keep on trying whenever you have an opportunity.   One day you'll find "him".

April 27, 2010 at 12:36 AM ·

At my level as a 10-month beginner, I feel little difference between a super cheap $16 Chinese Brazilwood bow, and a $500 Arcos Brasil pernambuco, which I picked after trying more than 40 bows between $300 and $800.

( Edit: I realized that my comment can be misconstrued -- I'm not saying there is no difference between bows -- I have switched 4 bows even in my short time as a violin student, and I have tried many, so I'm well aware that bows make a huge difference. I'm just saying that price does not necessarily equate to quality of a bow.)

April 27, 2010 at 12:51 AM ·

Well, I found a decent-playing bow at a local thrift shop for $6 (USD).

But - I believe that for me the bow makes a big difference, and the bow-violin match up even more. I have good bows 9maybe a couple of fine ones), and lately i've been playing mostly with my ARCUS-Concerto and I can do things (that I need to) with it, that are much more difficult with most of my other bows. At other times, adn for different fiddles, i may move to a different bow.

I do know some people who can do magic with almost any stick (bow) but I think most of us find big differences. The bow stick does vibrate, and any vibration that travels to the hair can interfere with the strings' vibrations.

Andy

April 27, 2010 at 01:56 AM ·

Kim, perhaps you are posting on the wrong site...I suggest you try Firewood.com

"only the blind can see that which the deaf cannot hear"...Thomas Stankus 1968

April 27, 2010 at 02:35 AM ·

I have 4 bows that I play with but they are not interchangeable. One is a bit more delicate and nuanced, and will always give a decent sound. I have a CF that is less refined, a lot more blustery; no nuance, but it is dependable and easy to play.
I also have a lesser bow that can be good sometimes, but not on both my fiddles; on one it wolfs, on the other it is OK, but I can't always get consistent sound from it. It does bring a different tone than the better wood bow, and sometimes I like that tone.
The fourth is a sister to the third. It seems a bit slower and muddier in the response, although when I try and check it for flexibility, etc. it seems the same.

These differences could partly be the hair, but I do believe the stick balance and how flexible and where the flex occurs makes a big difference. Flexibility to me is both the tendency to distort from the resting shape, and the elastic tendency to return to that shape. Some deform only with difficulty, but once deformed, they are slow to return. Others are quicker to deform, but there is a strong tendency to return to resting shape quickly.

I haven't done any scientific analysis, but I do believe the bow has a marked effect, especially looking at the physics of what a bow does to the string; it causes it to deform, try to return, but only a little before it is grabbed again, deformed, and tries to return. This happens over and over as the bow is drawn across the string. The dynamics of the bow very much affect how and when the hairs can grab the string, and how much deformation the string makes before it releases from the hair and tries to get back to the resting state.

April 27, 2010 at 03:41 AM ·

Greetings,

I don`t knowexactly if it is shooting you down in flames.  You hve expressed on honst opinion that does on (very rare) ocassions hae some truth to it for a very small numbe rof people.

On the whole though ,  I think you may have go it ratherwrong.  The majority of violnists actually value a bow equally or if given a choice between a avergae violin and a superb bow ad the reverse may well favor the bow.  Great violnists have almost always had a preffered bow and freelyy admitted it (with the notable exception of Elman).  One cannot dismiss these things as erors or distorted perception.

I used good bows for years such as Nurnberger but wen I finally spent more than ten thousand dollars on a fine French bow I understood how profoundly deep the difernec ebetween greta and good really is.  I learnt things about music and pharsing,  about how to use my body better form this bow and the more I repsected it and trusted it to produce what I wanted the more it gave back.

I was forced to use an average bow for a short time whie rehearsing with a colleague paino payer for some concerts.  I bought an reasonably good bow as soon as posisble and the next time we rehearesed he stoped aftr the first three bars,  looked at me in shock and said `Mein Gott, I had -no-idea a bow could make thta mcuh differnec to the sound a person produces.`

Recently I was working with an excelent viola player who thought he ha d afew problems with the bow arm. The main problem was actually with hs bow whic was an absolutely solid , unrepsonsive clunker that should have been discarded years before.  I presse dhim to buy a bow worthy of his ability and he reluctnalty agree dot explore the sitation. A few wekes later he wrote to me that he wa sutterly shocked at relaizing what he had been msiing and that his palying was going from strength to strength as a result.

Cheers,

Buri

April 27, 2010 at 03:47 AM ·

 A bow is nothing more than a stick of wood...Really???? if so, then a violin is little more than a cigar box!

A guy by the name of Jascha Heifetz said that the bow was much more important than the violin!

OK, I'm calming down...a fine bow in skilled, sensitive hands can make an enormous difference in sound  colors, shading, and nuances. If a decent, balanced draw of the bow, and sauitille and spring-bow arpeggio matter most, then a good carbon-fiber may do the trick sufficiently. But it will never equal a top-quality fine bow in the characteristics I've mentioned. The mollecular structure of fine pernambuco wood - and even fine snakewood - and of course the way it's made, with the weight balance, camber, etc.etc. makes each fine bow unique.

There is a symbiosis of bow, hand and fiddle. With the same player one bow may ideally suit one violin, another bow, another. In my own collection I've discovered this, and use different match-ups. I have found no bad combos. But some are more ideal than others. But to come to appreciate all this takes subtle skill, sensitivity and experience.

All that said, if you want to buy a Tourte, Peccatte, Pageot pere, etc. etc. like with such counterparts as Strad, del Gesu Bergozi, etc. even for a great example, a big part of the price tag is because it is a rare artifact, highly prized for generations. As with fiddles, I'm a big believer in modern work, along with fine classic work. But you get more practical bang for your buck with modern work. My bow collection includes a FR Simon, 2 Bazins, an excellent American by Halsey, 3 excellent Chinese bows - and I have my eye on a first class contemporary European bow. You can never be too rich, too thin (OK maybe too thin) or have too many fine bows!

April 27, 2010 at 03:48 AM ·

I must say that what you say is not true for me. However, if it is true for you, then congratulations! You have been blessed with contentment, and you will enjoy a life with a lot more spending cash than the rest of us :-)

April 27, 2010 at 04:17 AM ·

I'm a newbie on the violin scene but not a new musician. Only 4 months on violin now - and I've been fortunate to play a 100 year old violin and bow and the difference of that combo compared to a rental I was using was amazing!

A friend then gave me a 30 year old student violin that needed repair which I had done; and to my pleasant surprise - this violin and the bow that came with it feel and sound very much akin that 100 year old rig I got to play.

While I still had the rental however waiting for my gift violin to be repaired - I had the bow that came with the rental and the bow my friend gave me. The bow made all the difference in the world to me: with the same violin - the bow made a difference in sound, how much "range" I had (from playing light, slow, sustain and soft to fast hard and crazy)...

So for me - even in my little bit of violin experience - I feel that there there is a big difference in the bow alone.

April 27, 2010 at 05:53 AM ·

The issue with the "big names" is that big part of the price has a lot to do with it. So it's completely normal to have a decently priced bow out play bows that're priced much higher because those bows are made by big names.

However, there's one thing that's IMVHO set the cheaper bows apart from the better bows, is not about how they handled, it's how they bring out the sound from the violin.

My most recent primary bow, an unstamped french/german origin, has been a great joy to play and even to listen to - the sound drawn from my violin is smoother, richer, and it has got that sheen that's unheard with other bows that I've owned, 2 of my other bows are even much more expensive. It add a lot of weights to the sound and projection, sound at a distance is impressive compared to what it sounded under the ear although it still sounded sweet. Not to mention, the handling is also better than my other bows.

Bows do make a great deal of differences. But if you find it the opposite, congratulations, you can save a hell lot more money than we do!

April 27, 2010 at 06:23 AM ·

There are players who are lucky to achieve their best result even with a cheap stick.

I'm not sure if their audience is that lucky, too.

April 27, 2010 at 06:29 AM ·

I wrote in a different thread that I have bought a cheap ($ 20) Chinese bow that can draw a pleasing tone that is as good as my best pernumbuco bow. It looks like I have more company than I thought.

I believe a good bow acts by filtering off the irritating high frequency audio signals generated by the friction between the bow hair, rosin and the strings. The filtered and purified signals, once they are amplified by the violin body, will give an euphonic tone associated with a good bow.  As the friction between bow hair, rosin and strings may differ from violin to violin, one should not expect a good bow to perform equally well on every violins.

Different bow wood will have different filtering property. Even sticks made from pernumbuco wood from the same tree may differ from one another, much to the frustration of many bowmakers. As long as a stick has a good filtering property, one should not  belly-ache over whether it is made from pernumbuco wood or not. As the Chinese leader Teng Hsiao-Ping once said, " It does not matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, as long as it can catch mice". Granted that there are more white cats (pernumbuco) that can catch mice, one should not frown upon those black cats (non-pernumbuco) that can also catch mice. To consign these cheap sticks to the fireplace appears to be unfair.

Until Kim West came along, the above rationalization on how bows perform  seems to be quite reasonable. Kim's experience has made a mockery of what has been said so far. This brings me to the often-quoted saying of all violinists that the bow is an extension of their hand and arm. Conversely, can we say that the hand and arm are the extension of the bow and hence they also take part in the filtering effect of the bow? If this was true, then Kim's hand and arm may have a greater filtering effect than any bow he cares to use. It is no wonder that he can't find any difference among them.

Kim, you may stop looking for your dream bow. You already have the dream hand and dream arm that all of us envy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 27, 2010 at 06:53 AM ·

IF you scrolled down this far - if it ain't broke, don't fix it !! I know an orchestral principal 'cello who found satisfaction with a cheap Chinese bow until, sadly, it broke. Fine craftsmanship and a huge price tag might increase the chance of satisfaction, but they don't guarantee it; indeed pride of ownership of a valuable thing of beauty can blind us to any practical shortcomings. Kim, your sales resistance does you credit !

Having written this, I have to add that it pays to keep an open mind and keep looking around. Check the reaction of listeners, too. And, the bow has to suit your violin.

Finding an acceptable compromise between cheap'n'nasty and ruinously expensive is all anyone can do.

April 27, 2010 at 02:59 PM ·

Sorry about the 30 pounds..... i was in a goofy mood!

All kidding aside it is whatever works for the person. just as each individual musician here is unique, so are his/her needs.  More exspensive bows do make a difference (baering in mind the cases where it is not the quality but the name and rarity much desired by a collector... more than the bows playability). And there are those that it wwould make no differencvce at all and are not ready to invest in a more pricey bow!

(Did you know that they sell prunes individualy wrapped?  I got to see what improvements these will make!)

April 27, 2010 at 03:12 PM ·

I can only speak from the low-budget end of the violin spectrum.  My primary violin is a  Bellafina that retailed for around $500.  The first bow I had for it was a Chinese bow that came with a $75 VSO outfit.  This bow (understandably) was the pits.  It produced poor sound, had to be re-rosined at least a couple of times per hour, and made playing way more challenging that it should have been.

I next purchased an Eastman (Brazilwood) bow that retailed at $104.  It was a step in the right direction, but the balance was a little off.  I'm now using this bow with my old German Conservatory Violin, which I don't play as often as the Bellafina.  The bow I've chosen for the Bellafina is a Londoner bow that I've been told is Pernambuco.  I didn't know Pernambuco bows came so reasonably-priced (it was on sale for $115).

As far as I'm concerned, as an adult beginner (age 60), I don't anticipate any future upgrades of either my violin or my bow.  The combination I have now seems to work very well.  When I was trying out bows before purchasing the Londoner, I tried a few bows that were much more expensive than the one I bought.  I don't remember who the makers were.  Perhaps my decision was tempered by the fact that I knew I couldn't afford any of them, but I really didn't like any of them (with my violin) any better than my Londoner.  So at least, in my limited experience, it seems that one can find lower-priced bows that can compete with -- and beat -- some higher-priced ones. 

April 27, 2010 at 04:30 PM ·

 >Kim's experience has made a mockery of what has been said so far.

Um, I think that's a little strong. There are a lot of experienced violinists here -- and in history -- whose  opinions differ, and I'm inclined to value them, as their excellent reputations have preceded them, and they state their case with eloquence, backed up by decades of experience. And they avoid use of dualistic wording, such as "completely false" and "absolutely no bearing" and such. (Adverbs leach a sentence of its intent, to boot, but as this is a violinists' forum and not a writers' forum, I'll shut up about that.)

It's good to hear everyone's opinions on this subject - all of them. Just goes to show you what works for some folks and what doesn't work. I myself can't bear to touch my student bow that came with what was first a rental. The fiddle is worthy enough to keep, the bow is a sawing stick with listless strings. (Sam - you were very bad in your reply about firewood.com, but oh, I laughed and laughed!)

April 27, 2010 at 04:42 PM ·

Here is a thought: Let's try and come up with as many objective ways to test a stick you like!

  • Draw the bow across each string, and see how much work it is to keep the same volume and timber
  • See how quiet of a sound you can coax out of it from frog to tip on each string
  • See if you can vary the pitch quickly (back and forth)
  • See how smoothly it changes strings

This is just a start; add your own! This will let each of us see what difference we find in bows.

April 27, 2010 at 04:48 PM ·

If I was feeling cynical, I might suggest that maybe Sam's reponse was motivated by the fact that he sells bows himself and doesn't like to think that he might be selling people simple sticks of wood at a hugely over-inflated price ..... I guess that its important to keep the myths alive, otherwise there would be nobody willing to pay the "fine" prices for the "fine" bows  ;-)

Seriously though, thanks to everyone who responded, its been very educational and I certainly will be keeping my mind open with regards to trying more bows (but my wallet firmly shut until I find something that is really worth more than my cheap & cheerful favorite ;-)

Good idea Roland - I'll certainly try these tests myself and report back.

April 27, 2010 at 04:58 PM ·

Hm. Really? I mean, you're not playing a joke on us all, right?

It's been my experience that each bow has a unique personality, just as each violin does. What you say is very much the same as equating a genuine Strad to a $30 VSO... no? 

I own 4 bows right now, ranging from $50 to just over 1k. I haven't ventured into "professional" bows yet, but the $50 bow seems much more akin to a tinker toy, while my "good" bow draws a sweet and smooth sound...  

 

April 27, 2010 at 05:08 PM ·

No I am definately NOT suggesting that there is no difference between violins: of course there is a MASSIVE difference between a cheap factory violin and a quality instrument, I'm simply saying that the same cannot be said for bows.

My favorite bow that I'm currently playing came as part of a very cheap Chinese violin outfit (violin, case and bow) ..... the violin really is total firewood but the same simply cannot be said of the bow - in my 30 years of violin playing experience, while it is certainly "different" to the "fine" bows I have tried, I honestly cannot say that it is really any worse for the purpose it was designed for.

April 27, 2010 at 05:44 PM ·

Kim, part of the issue here may be that you were extremely lucky when you found your "cheap and cheerful" Chinese bow.  It may just be a good match for you and your violin.  I have a $125 unstamped bow, probably Chinese.  A friend tried it one day and remarked, "I've played plenty of bows for 10 times the price of this one that I didn't like as well."  Should have sold it to her on the spot.

When I started looking seriously at bows I was stunned at how much difference they make for me.  I have neither the inclination or the cash to get into the antiques market, but have played a number of new and old bows.  My all-time favorite was by a local maker.   It pulled a gorgeous tone and gave me an unprecedented degree of control, totally effortlessly.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to buy that one!  Playing that bow gave me an idea of what was possible, though.

A year or so ago I was looking for a new viola bow.  What sealed the deal on the one I have was when I took it to quartet practice and my buddies there said, "You know you're buying that bow, don't you?"  I was liking it, and they thought it made a measurable difference in my playing.  I haven't been sorry.

Maybe you just haven't stumbled across that life-changing bow yet.

April 27, 2010 at 05:46 PM ·

 >See how quiet of a sound you can coax out of it from frog to tip on each string

Ooh, a good one. That's what clinched it for me, to upgrade to an $800 bow from the $395 one I was considering. The sound on the G string was rich and not raspy and oh, so easy to pull quiet sounds from each string. It was like taking a ride in a luxury sedan after tootling around in a 15 year old economy car.  That said, I'm still happy with the sound my $100 Chinese bow makes, and it's a fine back-up bow. 

April 27, 2010 at 05:51 PM ·

 >A year or so ago I was looking for a new viola bow.  What sealed the deal on the one I have was when I took it to quartet practice and my buddies there said, "You know you're buying that bow, don't you?"

Aww, I love hearing this. That's really how it goes sometimes. What was so interesting to me, for me, was the way I so wanted my bow-to-be for reasons I couldn't fully put a finger to. Just a tug of the heartstrings, I guess (no pun intended). A lot of times (all the time?) the bow chooses the person.

April 27, 2010 at 06:04 PM ·

of course there is a MASSIVE difference between a cheap factory violin and a quality instrument, I'm simply saying that the same cannot be said for bows.

Well, of course you can say that. But a lot can be said. I suppose (if we exclude the possibility that you are a troll) that you simply don't have the experience. Many v.com members know the difference between a stick and a fine bow, and most students and beginners don't, which is ok, given their playing level.

It may be difficult sometimes. I have a 30y old german bow that many players are envious about. I just bought a simpler bow for my second violin and tried out many bows before making my choice. The new bow makes my second violin sound twice as good than the cheap CF bow I used before, but on my main fiddle there's only a small difference. So it can be a matter of the instrument. It has been said before - bow and instrument must fit to each other, and no one bow can fit to all violins. Maybe your violin does't bring out the difference of different bows (and maybe it's your playing, who knows). Ignoring the abundance of experience of others (alone here in this forum) isn't very wise, I think.

April 27, 2010 at 09:41 PM ·

I know one thing and one thing only... If you can produce beauty with a cheap stick, then you could do it with a much more expensive one.  Responsiveness is mostly a mental attitude, you think cheap and poor in quality, you sound cheap and poor in quality.  I'm curious to see a blind trial with cheap bows labled with high prices and expensive bows marked down. Money does strange things to the human mind due to social conditioning.

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/10/health/webmd/main4248489.shtml

April 27, 2010 at 10:24 PM ·

Money and reputation can sometimes make us see clothes on the naked emperor - but not necessarily. I've been less than impressed with some Strads, Amatis, Guadagninis etc., that I've tried, as well as with a Tourte, a Pageot, and a Peccatte. But this is simply to say that any individual item is what it is. But there is not the slightest doubt that vast differences in quality, timbre, complexity, and playability exist in bows as well as instruments, expensive or not.

I have a bow and an instrument comparison test in the Writings section of my website that may prove useful - http://rkviolin.com

 

April 27, 2010 at 11:39 PM ·

Greetngs,

when I test bows in a shop either for s student or myself I always do as close a sposisble to a blind test.  That is ,  I insist on not being told any price , I don`t read the names and whenever possible I pick them up with my eyes shut and fel the balance, strat playing with my eyes close.

I have done this more times than I can count with generlaly mre thna a dozen bows per trial.

I have never put a cheap bow (meaning smething like terather nice low end pernambucos coming out of Brazil) anywhere close to an expensive bow in ranking -ever- .  Period.  Usually te bows divide out into two main categories: obviously high class and obviously students (up to a good student at university or college.  ) In the middle come some ambiguities.  Som,etimes an extremely expensive old bow seems rather sloppy or unrepsonsive and it gets stuck there.  In the upper class bows ther ewill be quite a lot of variety dependin on my individual taste and the unfortunate prestige factor. Thus, although the last bow I bought was a Millant for ten thusand dollars I felt it was quite superiro form my persepectve t a number of Sartory, toute and pecatte at half the price agian that I apparently tried.  The very knowledgeable delaer (fine player9 noted afterwards that he too thought it was the best bow by far too. He envied my buying it.

What does this long experience of testing bows for myslef and studnets and talking to, reading abot pro players, tell me?

Like it or lump it,  the art of bow making as a sublime craft and like any other it produces artefacts on a scale from rubbish to the ultimate andthat any player who knows here stuff is well aware of this and constantly seeks t upgrde until hey find heir perfect mate.   That we are all subjected to the supply and demand factor which makes the elite models out of our reach is a fatc of life and true of any other art work. It may also be true that the differnece in palyign quality cannot be justified by a purely mathematical equation but thta is also tre with violinsand any other such objet de art.

Sorry.

Buri

April 28, 2010 at 01:24 AM ·

 Sometimes I look at this hobby much like the Home Audio and headphone audio hobby.  People swear up and down that cables make a difference in sound.  Yet, even the high end recording studios use nothing special or expensive.  We're talking studios that record the likes of Aerosmith, Metallica, and Alice in Chains.  When they pay no attention to cabling and that's the whole livelihood of the business, with what is a seemingly bottomless pit for a budget, I tend to believe what their sound engineers do.

 

  I have listened to $2500 headphones with a stock cable, and then ones with cryo gold, silver, and copper as well as the untreated variants all in teflon.  I was VERY VERY hard pressed to hear the differences, and was starting to think all the differences heard was psychological.  there have been numerous blind tests in the audio world of cables, and 99% of the people label the wrong cables.  

 

Same goes for wine, there was a wine testing where they actually used the same wine out of one bottle but showed two different bottles, and labeled one with a higher pricetag.  people came up with all sorts experiences and tells of the "higher pricing one being better.  Stupid did they feel when they found out it was the same wine poured from the same bottle just falsely presented as "expensive".

 

  I think most of that kind of behavior is usually justifying the purchase, not necessarily positive or negative.  And I've noticed, especially with stringed instruments that utilize a bow, seem to be the most nit picky people when it comes to the bow, strings, etc.  I've come to the conclusion that much beyond strings, a good fiddle, and the bow hair itself, everything else is fairly trivial.  There seems to be a massive amount of debate on the things beyond the ones I listed, yet it's pretty universally, if not unanimously decided that the things I listed are a "must" for a good set-up.  You can't have a good sound with crap strings on a good fiddle and vice versa.  Yet, the bow always seems to be "the variable"....and sometimes, I wonder why that is.

April 28, 2010 at 02:03 AM ·

I don't really know about cables, but I do know about violins. If you take 10 people off the street and  *they* can't tell that there's a difference between a diamond and a piece of glass, that doesn't mean that there is no difference. It isn't even true that there's no difference if you get 100 people or 1000 people to say it. It wouldn't be true if you could snag 10,000 and only one could tell the difference: that one would be the right one. It doesn't change the reality of it if you tell them that one shiny thing is an expensive diamond and the other is glass, tell them the glass is diamond, let them choose, and the bulk of them choose glass as diamond. There's still a difference, and they still can't see it.

A lot about violin tone is similar. If you're one of the 9,999 that can't tell the difference, then you don't need to spend the extra money to get something good--that's the ONLY thing that certain. That doesn't mean that the people who do get it are wrong.

April 28, 2010 at 06:48 AM ·

I'm beginning to be reminded of that story about "The Emperor's new clothes".

Oh, the frailties of the human psychology ! Designer handbags at dawn.

April 28, 2010 at 11:48 AM ·

Human psychology is a double-ended sword. Against your Emperor, I'll play Fox and Grapes.

April 28, 2010 at 02:04 PM ·

My teacher let me use her $5,000 bow for one lesson because I was allergic to the new rosin that I had just applied on my bow -- both of us agreed that I drew a better tone with my own bow on my violin, and I much preferred mine because it was easier to control, but it would be ridiculous if I concluded that my bow was superior to hers. The truth is that I don't have enough skills to handle that stick and appreciate the nuances it's capable of. Even if I did, it may not be the right stick for my fiddle or for me. I'm sure in my teacher's mind it's totally worth the amount she spent. I suspect that many comments that say that they prefer less expensive bows boil down to the same issues...

Raphael, I really enjoyed your bow and instrument comparison test writings. I have been contemplating writing something like that for beginners for a while (I realize that I'm attempting something that's totally above my bend).

Don,  in my previous post on this thread I mentioned a $16 Chinese bow that is on par (for my level) with a bow that costs 30 times more. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can come across a gem like that.

Nate, cables do make a difference.  I have custom-made component cables (but not high-end) for my home theater projector, and the picture quality is much better than using the stock cables one can buy in stores.

April 28, 2010 at 02:11 PM ·

Don, it's not strictly linear, especially with bows. The more famous makers hit the target more of the time, closer to the center, but there are still exceptional cheap bows out there. For a while, until someone in the shop grabbed it while I was gone and rented it out, I had a $50 Chinese bow at my bench as a testing bow that I pulled from our rental fleet. It behaved beautifully, and sounded pretty good, too. I haven't yet seen a cheap bow that does, tonally, what my favorite Tourte does, but I won't rule out the possibility that I never will.

With instruments, I think its harder. I often find instruments that rise up above their price range, but not as high as a bow might. I never expect to find a rental violin that will act like a $10,000 violin, for instance. I think it's because the violin is more complex--there are more ways to make a bad violin than a bad bow.

April 28, 2010 at 02:45 PM ·

Back in 1984 the bow that had matching inlays to the violin my folks bought at an auction had a horrible bend and twist, so I tried some bows and for the most part the sound that I got was all the same until I tried the L. Bausch. I could not get over how much better I played and sounded with it, and that is what I have used to this day.

A violinist here in Laramie let me try their $8,000 USD bow.  There is a definite, positive diference with it than with most bows below a $1,000 USD.

April 28, 2010 at 04:01 PM ·

Don, with bows, as with many other things, you do reach a point of diminishing returns- an $8000 dollar bow probably won't be 20x better than a $400 bow. (Although how could you measure?)  In the lower price ranges, spending another 25%, say from $400 to $500, can make more difference that going from $4000 to $5000 will.  You start getting into a place where you pay a premium for the maker's name, the provenance, the historical value.  All these things can come with a great stick, or with a not-so-great one.

Many years ago I worked in a place that sold wine.  I soon figured out that the difference between a $5 bottle and a $20 bottle was huge.  Between a $20 and $100 bottle, not so much.  Same with stereo systems, diamonds, most of the other analogies people have made.  The trick is to figure out how far up the scale of diminishing returns you can and will go.

April 28, 2010 at 04:53 PM ·

Hi,

Just a detail on the Elman thing... From someone who knew him, and who reported it to me, Elman didn't find the need for big names bows.  However, he apparently used most often bows by a "modern" maker of his time, Voirin.

Just wanted to clarify this.

Cheers!

April 28, 2010 at 05:05 PM ·

At one time Tourtes were modern bows.

When you think about it, Guarneris and Strads are nothing more then pieces of wood slapped together.

April 28, 2010 at 06:53 PM ·

Don - in Stradivarius's time, folks would have been using baroque bows.  I am not sure these would work so well on modern instruments, and, indeed, on the instruments originally made during that period since most have been modified.

April 28, 2010 at 08:22 PM ·

It's hard to keep up with everything around here sometimes,yes?

my 2 cents.... I'm gonna take a whole nuther run at my post. All these pro's and con's have been extremely interesting. But unfortunately, gc's comment early on about "any sence of phraising & dynamics" is probably gonna haunt me for a good while.

April 28, 2010 at 10:39 PM ·

>  of course there is a MASSIVE difference between a cheap factory violin
> and a quality instrument, I'm simply saying that the same cannot be said for bows.

If that were the case, the economics of the situation would dictate that everyone would play sub-$30 bows rather than much more expensive ones as demonstrated by most of our professionals here.

Respectfully, your own experience, as a sample population of 1 individual, is not enough evidence to reliably support your conclusions regarding the quality and differences between bows based on the evaluation of their design, construction, and materials.

April 28, 2010 at 11:01 PM ·

I did say ANY sense...  ...

;)

 

April 29, 2010 at 12:18 AM ·

I think that the majority of violinists (professional or otherwise) would be playing with sub-$30 bows if they really trusted their own ability to assess the REAL merits of bows instead of being seduced by the 'must-have' mindset ..... they could then put their money into what really makes a difference like a good violin for example ;-)

April 29, 2010 at 12:44 AM ·

 look, there`s my boy  on parade again.

All the other people are marching out of step except him.

April 29, 2010 at 01:17 AM ·

That's wonderful. I may have to steal that quote sometime! In fact, I think I will right now..... elsewhere.

April 29, 2010 at 02:55 AM ·

Is this entire thread a joke?  I checked the calendar and although it is April, it is NOT April 1st.  I upgraded my bow last year and tried quite a few bows.  I didn't even bother with stuff under $1000.  I was mostly looking at bows from $2K to $7K, but also played bows that were up to $20K.  Just like violins, price does not equate directly with quality, but there is certainly a correlation.  I didn't find anything I liked that was less than $3K.  That is not to say that the bows above that price are all good, but of the many bows that I tried, the only bows that I liked were $4K an up.  In all my tests, I did not know the price of the bow from the outset; I did not want to be influenced by price.  Actually, I was hoping I'd get lucky and fall in love with a cheap bow, but it didn't happen.

I will agree that the bow wont make a big difference for a beginner, but for more advanced players, the bow is crucial.  To say that all bows are the same is like saying all cars are the same.  If that were the case, then the next Indy 500 will be won by a minivan.

 

April 29, 2010 at 03:13 AM ·

OK Kim,

I just checked your profile and noticed you are in the UK.  You're one of those people who give talks at "speakers corner" right?  Where you say totally outlandish stuff just to get people riled up.  C'mon fess up.  You're pulling our legs.

 

April 29, 2010 at 04:58 AM ·

Hey Smiley, that's the first thing I thought when I saw this topic. She's gotta be kidding! But after going thru 50 or so posts, I'm not sure of anything anymore.

April 29, 2010 at 05:27 AM ·

Modesty is a virtue. Kim said it all :-

 "Fifteen years ago I thought that I should try some "good" (ie expensive) bows but having tried out many "fine" (and expensive) French and English bows I came to the conclusion that my technique just obviously wasn't refined enough to warrant anything better than the cheap german factory bow I'd been playing with so I abandoned the search."

How many posts have improved on that classic British understatement ? Still, it got us going. 

I say, gosh,spiffing, cheerio, toodle pip, ta ta for now.

ps I don't like playing on cr*p bows myself.

April 29, 2010 at 05:45 AM ·

All this feels very familiar in another situation :

Explaining to a student's parent why the child needs a better bow that may cost up to ten times or more compared to the $25 one being used now. You are not out to earn anything but simply because the current bow stick touches the hair the moment it is pressed to play ff passages or the student has progressed to a more higher level fo playnig. But to the parent its just a stick so why pay so much more? Well, its trying  to convince different personalities but with similar mindsets.    

April 29, 2010 at 11:24 AM ·

Amen, Buri, Smiley, et al. I don't think I'll waste my energy in this thread anymore. But I'll leave with one other quote:

He jests at scars who never felt a wound - Romeo&Juliet

April 29, 2010 at 02:55 PM ·

@ Raphael LOL I got to remember that one! and Buri's!

For a little while now it dawned on me that bowing is perhaps quite as unique as each humanbeing's hand writting!  There is a vein of truth to what Kim is saying, and a vein of truth to what Smiley is saying, after all I followed both of his quests rather well!  Both he and I have authentic ludwig bausch bows and even though He and I have met only here came to the same opinion regarding our bows made by the same maker arround the same time!  There are 'noted' corelations that I think have yet to be realy touched on.....yet!

April 29, 2010 at 03:49 PM ·

> they could then put their money into what really
> makes a difference like a good violin for example

A good bow makes more of a difference for most players than the instrument, especially in the lower price ranges.

Of course, this assumes that the player has more different kinds of bow strokes in their repertoire other than "up" and "down."

April 29, 2010 at 04:31 PM ·

Well, I see this as an opportunity for some empirical research by those who don't believe there is a difference; those that do believe there is a difference can also test to see what that difference consists of.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empirical_research

For the test, take your current bow, and record a number of separate passages on a fairly good recording medium (computers are NOT good recording mediums for the most part). Digital voice recorders may be adequate for this. Try the same passages with bows with significantly different characteristics (weight, material, cost). You may go to your local violin shop and do some of the recording if they will let you (I would assume they would be more than happy to validate than buying a better bow could result in a sale).

Then, have someone listen to the recordings (not the person that made them, or one that has a significant interest in the outcome. A spouse or friend may be a good option.

Ask two questions for each set:
Does it sound different?
Does it sound better, in a range of 1 to 10 (or 1 to n, whichever you prefer).

If there is a difference, then then the bow does make a difference.
If the more expensive bows are better, then the difference tends toward improvement.

Any simple statement that there is no difference that contradicts the historical experience and assumptions has the burden of proof. Those who say it does make a difference have centuries of historical anecdotal evidence; they have nothing to prove.

Are you up to the challenge?

April 29, 2010 at 07:44 PM ·

Who wants a beer? I'll buy the 1st. Pitcher..... It's going to be one of those days!

April 29, 2010 at 08:01 PM ·

Saw an internet review of canned ravioli. It stated, "Chef Boyardee rocks my world",   When my kids were young it rocked their world too.  Their world can be rocked for under $1.  Brought home a leftover pasta entree from an expensive Italian restaurant.  The kids stuck their tongue out at it after tasting it.  It had basically the same ingredients as the Chef Boyardee but cost 30 times more.   Both were made by a famous Italian chef.  What could the difference in quality be?  Seems to me all of you that have an expensive French bow should trade down for a cheap Chinese bow.  The money saved can pay for a lifetime of rehairs and rosin. The Chinese bows are much more popular.  After all China is the world's manufacturing leader.

April 29, 2010 at 08:05 PM ·

Royce,

BEER? may I have coffee instead

Man with beer mug and violin dancing listed in saint patrick's day decals.

April 29, 2010 at 08:28 PM ·

You Bet SAM!!!!! Laramie has a coffee house that roast it's own beans! The coffee is exquisite!!!!

April 29, 2010 at 09:07 PM ·

Thanks for your constructive ideas Roland: you are one of the very few on this forum who have taken this issue seriously.

I started this thread by saying that I hope I would not be "shot down in flames" and yet its sad to see that the majority on this forum have done exactly that, labelling me as everything from inexperienced, deaf, dumb and even stupid for "marching out of step" with the majority as if having a free mind is somehow a disability for an artist....

At the end of the day, playing the violin IS an art form to me and the definition of being an artist is having the freedom to be able to think (and perform) freely, otherwise why bother ? - we could all just sit back and listen to the "masters" and save ourselves the trouble !!

April 29, 2010 at 10:07 PM ·

Don,

violinist.com, among other places.

 

Kim,

Not a problem. Usually I have a bit of humor in my responses, but I also believe that we should examine our beliefs and make certain they match our values. so, although I do believe my bows are not equal, I will do the test. I will also do the test with my violins (well, the electric would be a dead give-away, so I'll leave it out). Actually, I do not  believe the answer is simple. I do not believe the violinist is static through development of skill. Sometimes some things make a difference, sometimes it doesn't seem to matter.

In the past, when comparing violins, my wife is in the other room, and I play a passge on one violin and the same passage on another. There have been times I have been suprised by the response.

April 29, 2010 at 10:43 PM ·

April 29, 2010 at 10:57 PM ·

A good violinist will make any violin or bow sound great simply because they can adapt their technique. They may not feel it's best, but it certainly will sound better than someone who cannot adapt. Midori did this in her youth, now imagine someone who couldn't do that!

April 29, 2010 at 11:49 PM ·

I took the thread content very seriously.

After all, I have made similar statements about so-called top-class violins.

But bows are weirder than fiddles. Much more personal, and much, much more in control of what you do on a fiddle.

And you, Kim, have shown no understanding of them or what they can do.

You refer to your inherited Forster as though it shows that you have some knowledge of decent instruments, but if you did know, you wouldn't use a late eighteenth century English Stainer model fiddle to show it. Nice instruments, but very limited in their scope, as a rule. Sweetish middley sound, little projection, nice under the ear, inaudible at thirty paces in a pub if anyone is talking. If you did use a decent bow on that fiddle, it is possible that it wouldn't respond anyway.

Of course, I could be wrong, and it is an older Forster family member, of a model of which I am unfamiliar, a nice early Strad type, say, following Daniel Parker - but then you can correct me on that. Tell me it has brightness and clarity and projection, even with your cheap bow, and I will withdraw. I won't believe you, but I will withdraw.

I am not intending to be harsh here, but you have upped the ante. I am all for re-evaluating our view of instruments and bows, but your claims have gone further than that. To paraphrase, you suggested that if we were not all brainwashed we would all be using the cheapest bows we could find. I wish that were true. I have had many students whose techniques were being prevented from developing because their bows simply would not do what was required.

On the other hand, i can make a less good bow do things it wouldn't normally do, but only because I learnt how on a very good bow. And even then, I come up against walls.

A bow is not just a stick of wood with a balance point .There are all manner of tension things going on in that carefully cambered and sprung stick, and they need someone who knows how to harness them to get that fiddle to make a sound and play some music.

gc

April 30, 2010 at 04:05 AM ·

Don,

I think it means that someone thinks the curve for $$ when buying a violin and the curve for $$ when buying a bow do not nest well together; they follow different paths.

I personally look at it in a bit more complex manner. I think that good workmanship can bring something to the table, good materials can also, and there is also the element of how the bow works with the violin and the violinist. With so many variables, there is no linear equation that will fit except by pure chance.

I have had bows that are so limp it is difficult to play them beyond midpoint; I have one so stiff that there is about 1/2 turn between too soft to play and too stiff.

I don't play in the high dollar arena (budget and the recognition that my skill wouldn't substantiate the expense), so all I can say for certain is there can be a lot of variety here in the cheap seats!

April 30, 2010 at 05:58 AM ·

Folk in the violin trade can grade both wood and craftsmanship for "quality". The imponderable is the player and the instrument to which a bow is assigned. Players might range from the naive to pernickety, but the idiot fiddler who simply aims to show off by spending megabucks is, I suggest, a rarity if not a totally imaginary figment. 

A bowmaker in Italy invented the "Lucchi meter" to assess the wood. Next, we need scientific gizmos for the bowing arm and the violin. Add brain-scans and psychiatric counselling and problem solved.

No bow is simply a piece of wood, IMHO, but as for utility value, any beauty is in the eyes of the behandler.

April 30, 2010 at 07:28 AM ·

just a little side-bar re: Roland's 1/2 turn betwen soft & stiff. I'm still getting used to my Czech, but was having some problems the past few days and finally realized I was winding my bow a little too tight. I'm not even going to say what I'm using for bows at this point. You may find them on Sam's firewood.com or perhaps Acme Bow Company. But at what point does the bow out play the fiddle? How much can I expect from a $1500.00 Czech fiddle? Wouldn't I be further off to put the money into a better violin. I don't really expect answers to these questions.

Unfortunately I fall into the category of "my desires and tastes for both violins & bows far exceed my budget" But even so, I know there's still plenty of room to be a better player on my current violin and bow.

 

April 30, 2010 at 09:42 AM ·

Afterthought - are you one of the lucky ones who can appreciate quality ? Are you a "discriminating" person ?

Anyone capable of "discriminating" had better not let it show in the present-day climate, for discrimination is linked to snobbery, bigotry, racial prejudice etc. etc.

April 30, 2010 at 11:32 AM ·

David..."Anyone capable of "discriminating" had better not let it show in the present-day climate, for discrimination is linked to snobbery, bigotry, racial prejudice etc. etc."

Well. I disagree...because I can see and appreciate a quality difference between box wine and Mouton, because I can see and appreciate a quality difference between a cup of coffee from the diner and a coffee house that roasts its own beans, because I can tell  and appreciate the difference between Chef Boyardee and the Italian restaurant, because I can see and appreciate the difference between a Chevy Aveo and a Mercedes, because I can see and appreciate the difference between a cheaply constructed violin bow and that of Bernard Millant hardly makes me a snob, a bigot , nor prejudicial

April 30, 2010 at 12:03 PM ·

Sam, Of course it's OK if you "can see and appreciate a quality difference between box wine and Mouton etc.etc." Being a discerning person's OK too. 

"Discrimination" has gotten a bad press however, especially this side of the pond. It can imply a sinister poitical agenda. Flaunting an ability to make high-end purchases sometimes rubs folk up the wrong way, as does class-snobbery over here.

My wry observation was not intended to annoy. Have a good day.

April 30, 2010 at 12:44 PM ·

The $45 bow that came with my student violin has maxed out on the hair adjustment, so I am trying a $110 carbon fiber bow that I will probably buy.  Can I tell a difference?  The new bow is lighter than the old bow, better balanced, and produces a superior tone with less effort.  I look forward to the day when I can upgrade again.

My teacher recommended the $110 bow; she did not recommend that I buy another $45 bow.  I believe her when she tells me there is a difference in cheap bows and higher quality bows.  She has been playing all her life, has a BA in violin performance, and will go back for advanced studies this fall.

I sense a bit of reverse snobbery in the OP and in some of the replies to this thread.  Looking forward to this thread being archived.

April 30, 2010 at 03:03 PM ·

Before this thread runs its course, as it would very shortly, let us thank Kim West for getting getting all of us inflamed over this bow thing. Kim, you are not alone in being shot down in flames.

Bows remind me of watches. If you are looking for an acurate timepiece that  is water resistant, pick up a cheap Casio. Yet people around the world, especially in East Asia, wear expensive Rolex watches to show that they have arrived. The humble Casio can't do that. Furthermore, you can't wear a Casio for deep sea exploration, only Rolex Deepsea Oyster Perpetual can do that.

So we select a watch according to our needs. The richest man in Hong Kong is Li Ka Shing. Guess what kind of watch does he wear? He wears a 20-year old Seiko. He does not see any reason why he needs a Rolex watch. I think Kim feels the same with violin bows.

A friend once told Li Ka Shing that his Seiko watch does not do justice to his status as  the richest man in Hong Kong.  Li pulled out a drawer that is brimfull  with Rolex watches. These watches were given to him by rich relatives and business associates who think he ought to wear a Rolex watch. I don't think Kim is that fortunate with violin bows, though he has been given many free advice to buy an expensive one.

Kim, stick to your gun.

 

 

April 30, 2010 at 04:13 PM ·

Thanks Tong, I totally intend to "stick to my guns" until I'm convinced that there is any real benefit in me doing otherwise ..... I think it was you who suggested that I'm probably lucky enough to have a bow arm and technique that does not require the prop of a "fine" bow and I'm beginning to think that you're probably right !

Just a little note to Graham whose assumptions about my violin are as far off the mark as his (and others) assumptions about me: my Forster is actually an Amati copy which responds and projects better than several "fine" Italians that I've had the (dis)pleasure to play on, but enough of that or I'll run the risk of being labelled as ignorant, deaf, dumb and stupid etc etc ;-)

 

April 30, 2010 at 04:20 PM ·

I think it was you who suggested that I'm probably lucky enough to have a bow arm and technique that does not require the prop of a "fine" bow and I'm beginning to think that you're probably right !

SEE, HEIFITZ WAS WRONG

April 30, 2010 at 04:25 PM ·

I think a high-quality bow makes a huge difference, but that it's very difficult to judge and to find the right match. I still am looking.

April 30, 2010 at 04:50 PM ·

The accusation of "snobbery" usually seems to mean that discrimination has moved into the range where the undiscriminating have lost the thread, and rather than admitting there's something they don't know or understand (which might be the hardest thing for many people to admit), all that's left is the "snob" accusation. It's the Godwin moment of discussions of the quality of things.

April 30, 2010 at 05:02 PM ·

Kim,

Please accept my apology if I labeled you as something that you are not.  However, I believe you knew when you started this thread that it was bound to trigger some rather strong opinions.

Now that I know you are not pulling our legs, I believe that your $30 bow is as good as any other bow FOR YOU.  But, just because you cannot tell the difference between a cheap student bow and a finely crafted stick, doesn't mean there is no difference.  Some people are color blind, it doesn't mean the world around us is devoid of color.  For the vast majority of advanced players, the stick makes a huge difference.  The most subtle difference in bounce, balance, response and sound is very noticeable and it has nothing to do with price or prestige. 

 

April 30, 2010 at 06:40 PM ·

Compare the use of a good bow to the use of a good writing pen, versus writing with a cheap plastic one.  I can't write by hand really very effectively unless I have a black, fine lined pen, at least a UniBall micro .05.  I've used these for years.  Big, cheap, chunky pens don't work for me. 

Same thing with a bow;  you want something that "feels right," which has a smooth and just-right weight, and which is suitable for the music one plays. 

April 30, 2010 at 07:17 PM ·

Funny: Why are the ones with knowledge accused of flaming or being snobbish, when they just  give answers to questions and share their knowledge?

April 30, 2010 at 07:25 PM ·

>> Why are the ones with knowledge accused of flaming or being snobbish, when they just  give answers to questions and share their knowledge?

Because some people feel threatened by big words, by formal academic language, or anyone with more training and education than themselves.  Notice that is it *always* such people who complain about someone being snobbish.

I can relate to that and I'll give you an example.  There is a very formal listserv devoted to academic musicology, the AMS: American Musicological Society list.  In order to participate in this list, it is required that you do a text only format (no html allowed) and that you have a signature block at the end of your posts which indicates your academic background and exactly who you are.

This is an important list, but the people on it are very highly trained researchers and theorists in musicology, and they do not suffer fools gladly.  Further, it is not always easy to follow their posts because the posts are written, for the most part, in this highly elaborate academic language. They are not, in other words, a chatty Yahoo group. 

So if you're somewhere in between, like I am, it makes for some misunderstandings, shall we say.

AMS:  http://www.ams-net.org/ams-l/

April 30, 2010 at 07:36 PM ·

Connie,

I see what you mean. Someone once said (I try to translate it to english): A pro recognizes an amateur at first glance.

April 30, 2010 at 07:53 PM ·

Since this thread has been hijacked in all directions, let me continue the theme.

I am sometimes bothered by the term 'prejudice' as a slur. The simple meaning of the word is 'to decide in advance', rather than any ill intent.

Getting a bit philosophical, what is the definition of 'advance'? If I make a quicker judgement than someone else, or make a judgement with less information, am I prejudiced, or am I using the benefit of my advanced years and having lived a bit more history than the other person.
If a professional makes a predetermined expectation of a bow because of the price, as long as that person is pursuadable by the merits of the bow, are they prejudiced, or are they simply making use of the years of experience they have.

If we do not carry some assumptions with us as we live, it would be a significant challenge to drive a different car, tie different shoes, or eat different food. A fork is a fork, a shoelace is a shoelace, and a bow is a bow. Don't avoid our snap judgements and prejudices, let's try and make them smarter!

April 30, 2010 at 07:55 PM ·

Kim,

Can I be bothered any more? Not really.

I am glad you like your fiddle and don't care about the bow

Withdrawing taking place.

gc

April 30, 2010 at 08:04 PM ·

looks like we're not ready to archive quite yet.

My 4 cents... My cheap bow sounds pretty good and is balanced for me pretty well. My right hand has always been the weaker link in my chain. If I was a better bower (is that a word?) I'm pretty sure my cheap bow couldn't do what I wanted it to. But how am I going to find out unless someone who knew better told me this bow can do more than your bow. Obviously I'd have to be reasonably comfortable with the "feel". But even a bow that was (to what ever degree) beyond my current capabilities, I'd just have to work at it, yes?

April 30, 2010 at 08:07 PM ·

Dave, I would say that a better bow draws your technique out, and makes you improve.

Of course, you have to do some work with it and experience the difference, which might take some time.

gc

April 30, 2010 at 08:35 PM ·

So the conclusion of the matter is this! It's Kim's thread so........................................... She buys the next round! And Kim, BTW don't forget your prunes!!!!!!!!!!!

;)

April 30, 2010 at 08:43 PM ·

>Withdrawing taking place.

Graham, you put it so much more politely than I was going to, particularly when I read the last whiny comment about  "I started this thread by saying that I hope I would not be "shot down in flames" and yet its sad to see that the majority on this forum have done exactly that," when the person I noted being the most provocative and inflammatory was the poster herself. I will follow your graceful lead and quietly withdraw. 

Sheesh.

 

April 30, 2010 at 09:08 PM ·

Some questions asked on this site are naive.  I am not using the word naive in an attempt to be patronizing.  People that are amateurs or novices have a right to ask whatever they choose. However if someone with expertise or a professional bothers to respond there should be a sense of deference and respect shown.  To respond by being defensive and stubborn only makes people think that the questioner isn't interested in the truth but only wants to be right.

April 30, 2010 at 09:28 PM ·

 >To respond by being defensive and stubborn only makes people think that the questioner isn't interested in the truth but only wants to be right.

Bingo.

Oh, wait. I was to have withdrawn from this discussion. Oh well. This way I can have the last word. And ooooh, how good that feels! : )

October 29, 2015 at 05:16 PM · I have eight bows I paid very little for. Some are new and others old. One day I removed the hair from six figuring I would practice rehairing on my own. Scary, but a promising learning experience. One day I noticed something interesting. I held these bows taking a good look at them and holding each one out on the ends gently flexed each one. Well, one should only know how each one felt so differently than the next. You know the story of the Three Bears? I would suggest to all who love the violin to do this one day. I had formerly rejected the lighter bows over the heavier. But I chose to rehair the lightest one. By itself without the frog it weighed 26 grams. Then I took one of the old hanks I had removed and saved and reinstalled it after combing it out, breaking many hairs and happy to say it finished quite evenly after prior attempts that ended in utter failure some months earlier. Glory Be! To my utter amazement after cleaning the hairs a little and applying some decent rosin that bow felt and sounded wonderful. Different than anything else. It seemed to caress the strings without grittiness so that even the slightest touch produced a sweet sound. Needless to say I think I am onto something. Oh, and by the way, after flexing these sticks the one I chose to work of seemed to have its apex off center in the direction of the tip. And it was thinner and less rigid over all than the others. Also, it had a nice pronounced curvature. Just thought I'd share this information with you and hope you find it useful.

October 29, 2015 at 06:34 PM · Proper methodology to test for good bow resilience.

If your pernambuco can't stand up to this abuse, it's obviously a cheap stick!

Just kidding!

October 29, 2015 at 11:06 PM · It's interesting to think that some people might not perceive differences between bows.

I guess it's just like some people say there's no difference between Pepsi and Coke? ;)

November 9, 2015 at 12:51 PM · Well I am not a very good violinist but I have been restoring old French bows for many years and I can state with full confidence that the sound drawn from a traditional wooden bow depends on the quality of the stick. One can go further and say that the pernambuco used in bows made between 1880 and the 1950s was grown under different climatic conditions than is the situation with modern bows.

I have spent many years specialising in French bows, the sticks of some of the well known makers such as Bazin, Ouchard and Lotte have a hardness and consequently a slender profile that can not be achieved with modern pernambuco, consequently they draw a clear vibrant sound from all but the worse of violins.

There is a very good web page that gives quite an in depth study of the French bow makers here:

Bow Information

November 9, 2015 at 11:48 PM · "Thanks Tong, I totally intend to "stick to my guns" until I'm convinced that there is any real benefit in me doing otherwise ."

It's very difficult to appreciate bow qualities without having an advanced techniques and you certainly can't be faulted for not having that technique. However, that's no justification for throwing the baby out with the bath water. You can't call into question the value of fine bows in general if you don't have the technique and experience to begin with.

Unfortunately, the watch analogy is a poor one. The market for fine watches is not based on performance because any $20 digital cheapo will be much more accurate than any meisterstucke mechanical. This is status and aesthetics, not performance. Expensive bows are coveted by players for their performance qualities and not bragging rights.

You don't wear a bow ostentatiously on your wrist like a Rolex to simply impress people.

Unless you're a serious schmuck...

November 10, 2015 at 01:17 AM · Hi,

A great bow makes a huge difference, IMHO. The thing, that like a great violin, you have to be able to "drive" it. Not everyone can drive a Formula One Car (most would crash instantly), and I find that great bows and violins are the same.

Now, I do believe that there are great modern bows being made today. Many of the older bows were designed with different characteristics in mind. Many were lighter, originally with tinsel not metal winding so things can be different.

However, the greatest Tourtes, Peccattes, and many others from are amazing. However, with the exception of Tourte (I have yet to see a bad Tourte), other makers, like modern makers, have fluctuations in quality. Not all wood is always great, and humans all tend to vary in what they do day to day.

Also, you have IMHO to pair a great bow with a great violin. An average violin will sound somewhat better with a great bow, but not in the same way that a great bow will sound on a great violin. This however, has nothing to do with age, but quality.

Many of todays players prefer modern bows for a variety of reasons. Part of the difficulty is that bows are fragile and a broken tip on a old French bow will kill the value, so some people just find that it is not worth the risk.

My opinion as a professional player.

Cheers!

November 10, 2015 at 01:55 AM · I wear a Rolex.

November 10, 2015 at 04:07 AM · "I wear a Rolex."

Present company excepted, naturally. Maybe I worded it strongly. But my point was that musicians don't generally invest a huge amount in something so prosaic (and un-flashy) as a bow unless it really does perform better.

November 10, 2015 at 09:34 AM · I just came to this topic - and read just about the whole thing. And I find I'm going to make the last post - if no one beats me to it.

One thought - if we are all looking for 'that bow' and there is some similarity in the qualities of 'that bow' - does that mean that virtually all the (used) bows in the shops are rejects and duds - and indeed will seem to be no better than the Chinese one at hand?

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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