A bow for the mo'

August 5, 2010 at 07:56 PM ·

So I happened on my entire bow collection - which is all of three bows - they are all nice perambuco and one is actually hand made and signed but I am pretty sure none of the three is worth over $1.5K.  For the first time I tried each in succession - and found something of merit in each.  

Bow 1 is a german hand made.  It is very firm and I have switched to it from Bow 2 because it is aggressive and gives me lots of bite and volume.  Its what I plan to use when I play the Beethoven Violin Concerto.  Well, in my dreams anyway :) 

Bow 2 is a less firm and used to be my 'staple.  When I return to it now it is easier to play and much easier to get sweet sounds from.  It just lacks that 'listen to me' bite of bow 1.  I'm thinking that this bow might be great for chamber music.

I just found Bow 3 forgotten in my old viollin case.  Its actually my original childhood bow - and still has a line on it where the training-tape took off a bit of varnish!   It was astonishingly easy to play and gives a very soft tone (partially due no doubt to old bow hair) - light, pliant and soft (you can not tighten the hairs any more out of danger of making it into an inverted baroque bow :)  Uses? Playing in a hotel at night?  Lullabies?  Playing in an orchestra when you really don't want to be heard?  :D 

Which is why I wondered if others have multiple bows for different playing purposes....


Replies (28)

August 6, 2010 at 10:34 AM ·

No takers? 

Did i say something verboten?

August 6, 2010 at 10:47 AM ·

 Well once upon a time I played Peter Sculthorpe's String Quartet No.8, a work apparently inspired by rhythms of rice-pounding in Indonesia, so there's lots of very percussive col legno passages. That was the day that my first viola bow became a dedicated col legno bow and ever since could be easily identified as such.

August 6, 2010 at 04:38 PM · I regularly switch to carbon fibre for fiddle gigs. We play outside, under tents, in bars, in heat/cold/humidity. I just feel more comfortable. 3 bows that seem to respond so differently could be somewhat problematic, since IMO there is an adjustment period when going from one to another. No problem if you only have, for ex., chamber music in mind for the next few weeks, but I'd find it tough to switch day to day. Sue

August 6, 2010 at 07:42 PM ·

I could not imagine having many bows for many occasions, because there is one bow I'm particularly fond of. It is a fine bow and I use it for all violin playing. For viola I use another bow, but I hardly play viola these days.

August 6, 2010 at 08:01 PM ·

I must be odd then since I adapt very fast to whatever bow I'm playing with - rather like driving when i go to England I drive on the left without hardly noticing anything has changed.

This morning I recorded my part in the chambermusic trio, accompanying a recording from you tube using both bows - no question bow 2 sounded better.  Likewise, bow 1 was better for the solos..

I'm going to try switching bows at camp next week and see how it goes.

August 6, 2010 at 09:44 PM ·

The bow is one of the most important aspect  in violin playing. Violins do respond well to some,and not as well with others... I had six players lately at home 3 months ago trying my violin. At first,they all tried the instrument with their own bow, which was fine and gave numerous different sound experiences with the violin. But trying my own bow with it was the perfect choice.Who ever the player, the violin just responded perfectly. Bows do match with a violin, I mean the perfect match!!! Mine needs the lightest and flexible bow possible and will respond infinitely to such a combination.

August 7, 2010 at 09:51 AM ·

If it is as you say, Marc, that each instrument has an ideal bow then why do luthiers not make (or select) bows that match their violins (I'm assuming they don't)?  Did they ever in the past - I mean does each strad have a long-lost bow partner?

[Now I hear soft music and a lot of sniffeling in the audience with the realization of the countless broken fiddle romances out there....]

August 7, 2010 at 02:49 PM ·

I'm rejoicing!!  Just got my favorite bow repaired yesterday.  The screw had always been stiff (to the point where I couldn't tighten the bow as much as I wanted to for fear of breaking something), but this summer's humidity caused the hair to stretch enough that I couldn't keep the stick from scraping on the strings.  So yesterday I was off to my luthier's shop, and #1 bow is back in action.  My #2 bow is okay but a bit heavy, and it pulls a sound that's a little more harsh.

August 7, 2010 at 03:06 PM ·

No Elise...and the history of the bow making is much more complicated than violin making... All depends of the player again, but yes , there is a kind of perfect match sometimes with a particular violin and a particular type of bow. Mine is a François Voirin octogonal... any similar bow, in weight, will give good results with my violin. But I tried over six different Voirin to find the most perfect one for my instrument...And it was the less expensive of them six.

How Duddy sounds these days, with the new challenging pieces for the summer music camp???

August 7, 2010 at 04:55 PM ·

@Marsha - isn't that the greatest feeling - like having one of the family back....

@Marc:  having a ball working these pieces up - which is why this topic got started.  Mostly I work with the stronger, active bow but for the chamber piece I'm pretty sure #2 will be better, its not that I can't get the soft tones with bow 1, its just that its a greater part of bow2's range.

If things go OK I might (might mind you) upload something from next week.  As long as I don't make a twit of myself :D

I'm just listening to Brahms sonata #1 - after reading about it on the resuscitated sonata topic.  Sounds so easy when Perlan does it :D  I just downloaded the sheet music from IMLSP...

August 7, 2010 at 06:26 PM ·

Elise: go to youtube and listen to Toscha Seidel playing the Brahms number two... It is really out of this world... You will then understand what I mean by improvising and soul-mind spirit all in accordance to create music... It is unique and nowadays,only Martha Argerich can do it !!! A lost art, maybe forever, because of uniformity in the teaching today.


August 7, 2010 at 07:39 PM ·

I use an Arcus M4 carbon fibre bow almost exclusively. It just seems to play better than any other bow, CF or wood. Light, and very responsive too. It's good for gripping that low C on my 5-string. I admit I was quite cynical about CF bows, but they do work. For sure they do.

I do have another old mid-range light pernambuco with a lot of kick in it, but somehow it doesn't draw out the tone the way the Arcus does. Plus, there's the durability factor with the Arcus, when playing in unpleasant places.

Last but not least, I expect one bow and one violin to do every job for me. Meaning, I wouldn't interchange bows (or fiddles) depending on the music or the place.


August 7, 2010 at 11:14 PM ·

@marc: go to youtube and listen to Toscha Seidel playing the Brahms number two... It is really out of this world... You will then understand what I mean by improvising and soul-mind spirit all in accordance to create music... It is unique and nowadays,only Martha Argerich can do it !!! A lost art, maybe forever, because of uniformity in the teaching today.

Can't say I really do understand.  I find his playing terrrific - its more langorous than other recordings and feels as if in a 'salon' and not on a stage but I'm not sure what you mean by the 'sould-mind-spirt' concept...

August 7, 2010 at 11:30 PM ·

It means that he is impredictable as a player,his interpretations are not calculated. They are true inspiration of the moment. The same with Kreisler. I have a recording of Kreisler where you have many takes the same day of the same piece. Each is drastically different. Heifetz, I have also in a row many takes of several pieces...all alike with the same precision, not even a fraction of second of difference in the timing... Expressiveness identical,like perfect twins...

Argerich comes on stage and recreate a complete work live with her interpretations. She never plays the same way the same piece. She said that there is a danger of imitating herself by being to accurate and identical in her interpretations. Kreisler said the same thing. And if all your life you played everything alike with regularity, then you loose that facultiy of the inspiration of the moment, and become a caricature of your own playing, of yourself... You have lost it, you lost your soul and became a body-mind performer solely...

August 8, 2010 at 12:45 AM ·

Ah, I undersatnd.  That level of sponteneity can only occur when you have truly mastered the instrument - for then all you have to think of is the music itself and not how you are going to play it.

I'll listen over it again with a new ear ;)

August 8, 2010 at 01:42 AM ·

August 8, 2010 at 01:44 AM ·

Go also for Prevost In termezzo and other short pieces... Seidel was the beloved of the Gods... the level of spontaneity must be developped right away... it grows with technique and even takes unimaginable proportions. Every one forgets about technique when you play that way...That is the reason why Kreisler was always forgotten for his numerous mistakes (small ones ) on stage. But when you become to mechanical , critics notice it right away and do not forgive... even if Heifetz or Kogan are playing on stage. Oistrach was another exceptional case... he was not as much perfect as others, but what an inspired performer he was!!!

August 8, 2010 at 01:52 AM ·

August 8, 2010 at 01:56 AM ·

And why Royce??? I am not more accomplished then you or anyone I believe...

August 8, 2010 at 02:02 AM ·

My apologies Marc.. I was having a Bi-Polar moment. I hat it when this happens........ Sorry.

August 8, 2010 at 03:16 AM ·

Everything is fine Royce...it is just an opinion of mine,not more, and yours are always very much appreciated by all of us here...

August 8, 2010 at 03:28 AM ·

And I would add that the rubato of Heifetz, within a strict and precise tempo, is still  a great accomplishment and remains a mystery... I am talking of Heifetz the great, in his best repertoire, in his best years...

August 8, 2010 at 04:18 AM ·

Just wondering...Has anyone ever heard of a performer switch bows during movements/songs in a concert just for the change of sound? Just came to mind!

August 8, 2010 at 07:45 AM ·

Elise: I have a set of measuring spoons bound together by a metal ring - you know the sort of thing. I have similar visions of you and your three bows :-)

August 10, 2010 at 05:17 AM ·

Corey, I heard tell that Christian Tetzlaff was seen to change bows mid concerto, and that Hilary Hahn changed bows between takes at recording sessions. 

August 10, 2010 at 11:35 AM ·

@Julian - great idea, though you may take a few eyes out with the two flailing bows... probably your own :o

@David - I suppose you would have to see them do that in two concertos with the same pieces to know if the changes were due to malfunction or just a part of their playing...

I tried the two bows with my chamber group (I'm at camp} but didn't really notice much difference.  Probably because I'm still in the 'can we play these notes at the same time' stage!

August 10, 2010 at 01:20 PM ·

With different music to play, different ways my body (and ears) may behave, different acoustic properties of the venue, I fill the 4 slots in my bow case with a range of bows. I have a number of bows and I select the bows to carry in the case based upon how they work with the violin I chose to use for the situation. That's another story.


August 10, 2010 at 03:21 PM ·

 @ Elise,


@David - I suppose you would have to see them do that in two concerts with the same pieces to know if the changes were due to malfunction or just a part of their playing...

As I heard the story, the violinist took 2 bows onto the stage, so the change was presumably planned.
I myself suffered a platform malfunction in a Hallé Orchestra concert. The hair fell out of the bow at the head. Playing the remainder of the Symphony pizzicato was not attempted ! Fortunately my wife, who was playing also, was seated near the exit, and an exchange was organized.


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