Fiber bows versus wooden bows?

September 1, 2010 at 06:45 PM ·

Why would a violin player perfer to use a wooden bow instead of a fiber bow? The fiber bow is cheaper and has good balance. They are both make with horse hair.  The fiber bow will not warp. I think the fiber bow will be the norm soon. If you do not agree, please leave your comments.

Replies (9)

September 1, 2010 at 07:35 PM ·

I can't see how a bow would make that much difference, but very good players (that I respect and who aren't the types to fall prey to a placebo effect) will state that it does, so I will have to take that one on faith.  My instructor has stated that wooden bows just have have a richer sound than fiber ones, which are good but more pure-tone sounding with less texture.  Wood will have a less uniform internal texture than a carbon-fiber bow, so I can see how it would vibrate with a bit more "fuzz," and those vibrations would feed back to the string as one bows.

I am not at the point yet where I can really grasp that, but I make the analogy to pens.  They will all make a mark on the page, but there are some that just feel good going over the paper, write more smoothly, sit well in the hand, etc.  Better-quality pens tend to write better and feel better in the hand, bit there will always be that bizarre 59-cent Bic ballpoint that you reach for in the desk drawer all the time because it feels fantastic.

I anticipate getting a good CF bow and would love a L&C CF viola as well.  I love the wooden ones since they are pretty, and the best of them sound fantastic, but I just don't feel like going through all the trouble to audition zillions of the things before finding just the right one.  I heard Rachel Barton Pine quip once that she didn't date nearly as many guys to find her husband as she tried bows for her violin.  A paid performer can do that sort of thing, but I just want ones that work.  The Apple of string equipment.  I just want it to boot up and work.

September 1, 2010 at 08:13 PM ·

I've tried numerous carbon fiber bows including some higher end ones but prefer wood. With wood bows, some sound brighter and faster, or emphasize the higher frequencies of ovetones, while others are warmer, slower. I can match the bow to the violin. If I play on a slightly dull violin, the brighter bow compensates, improves dynamic range. An overly bright or agressive violin can be tamed somwhat by a softer, smoother bow. There are also differences of balance and weight, so the violinist can pick and choose. I do not believe one-size-fits-all approach works for me in this regard. Someone with large hands may prefer a heavier bow with a different balance point that a small handed player. String tension is also a factor. SInce I play on lighter gauge gut strings, I need a light bow, 50-55 grams instead of the standard 60.  Interestingly, I've seen many warped CF bows, so I do not believe they are as stable as advertised.



September 1, 2010 at 10:00 PM ·

A good pernambuco bow will "come alive" while playing accented passages.  I don't know any other way to describe it.  The bow becomes a partner that predictably does some of the work when given a little guidance.  I have not played a carbon fiber bow that can do that. I have to work a carbon fiber bow through every accented passage.  Someday, fiber bows may do that, but not yet, at least for me.

September 1, 2010 at 10:39 PM ·

You can get cheap and nasty CF bows that warp, just like cheap and nasty anything, but good ones will never warp. Companies like Arcus offer an unconditional money-back guarantee if this ever happens. I think there is still some prejudice in this area, but I think the usage of CF bows will increase greatly. It's a bit like the Dominant synthetic strings .. their sales were slow till people like Perlman began to endorse and use them. I love the CF Arcus M4, and to me it sounds better than the old pernambuco bow I played in a comparison video in a related bow thread.

I'm sure if I paid enough money I could get a wood bow that was superior, but in value for money quality CF wins hands down. The light ones just feel better, have better balance, tone, are more robust. I use my Arcus for everything, without exception.

There will alway be a market for wood bows, but I can see the prices coming down in the long term as CF sales increase.

September 2, 2010 at 04:12 AM ·

I did not play CF bows enough to give even a generalized opinion. However, my experiences with CF bows is that, as mentioned, less texture, although they can sound smooth.

Compared to woods, CF usually have broader frequency spectrum - extented low and high frequencies responses. After I switch back and forth from my Arcus and my other wooden bow, I always thought wooden bow doesn't sound as much bass as well as trebles than my Arcus. Wood bow, in contrast, has better focus in the middle spectrum of the sound, thus they sound rounder, thicker, and more texture in between. The remarks about playing accented passages is true too, in my experiences. My Arcus just can't pull off alive accented passages, I always feel like I need to press into the strings a lot resulting compressed sound.

Other than that, my current primary bow, compared to my Arcus, has better balance on the stick, more alive when playing off string bowings, and best of all, it gives my violin a fantastic tone with rich texture, with a big projection at a distance.

September 2, 2010 at 09:27 AM ·

 really? is the carbon fiber cheaper than brazil wood?....i don't think so....the wood is wood and it's better than any fiber...

and it's an opinion to be considered..that a bow,whatever fiber or has horse hair and the horse hair is what touches the strings to produce sound...maybe,it has nothing to do with wood or fiber...i think it differs according to something else other than the sound....maybe one is hard to control and the other is easier..i don't know..

September 2, 2010 at 12:22 PM ·

I own a L&C viola.  One of the reasons I purchased it was because of its deep booming voice.

I went to a very well respected luthier to purchase a bow and after trying an entire table top lined with bows, I finally settled on one.  When I showed my choice to the luthier, he said,"Wow how interesting - you picked a carbon fiber bow."  The sound produced by the bow on my viola was quite superior to the other bows I tried - and many of them were very, very expensive.

---Ann Marie

September 2, 2010 at 08:38 PM ·

 There is one thing I can say: There is a definite difference between fiber and wood. To know that, all you have to do is try them both. I do no think that a fiber bow will ever match the sound a  wooded bow can produce. 

September 3, 2010 at 03:29 PM ·



Let me give you 2 cent worth of my thoughts :)


The fiber bows are better in terms of strength and its relativity durable then a wood one. Having said that I have 2 bows. 1 carbon fiber and another pernambuco bow both from the same bow maker.

The results it that the carbon bow is better in terms of producing a very loud and bright sound.

The pernambuco one gives a very very rich sound which i find it v good in playing romantic pieces ^.^



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