Breaking my bow tips ...

December 10, 2014 at 03:57 PM · My practice space has a short ceiling (seven feet), and I'm six feet tall. I can't do anything about either, and as a result, the tip of my bow hits the ceiling roughly every half-hour that I practice. I could practice seated in a chair, but I prefer to stand. The problem is that I'm destroying bow tips one after another and I can't afford to keep getting them fixed by a luthier. My bows are CF (Cadenza 'Master'), so at least the sticks won't break. My first thought is that I can get some material for the tip that is stronger than faux ivory or plastic. But I was told that putting a metal tip on a CF bow might not work because metal tips are affixed with tiny screws -- is that true? What are my options here? I am willing to pay for good work (and materials) that will lead to a durable solution.

Replies (63)

December 10, 2014 at 04:24 PM · Well. That's a new one!

I've never heard of metal tips. I'll be watching this thread with interest.

December 10, 2014 at 04:48 PM · You could try a Glasser braided carbon fiber bow. They have metal tips on them:

December 10, 2014 at 05:11 PM · Why not wrap the tip pf the bow with something like a few thick layers of gauze and tape it on as a (temporary) solution?

After all, you don't play with the tip of the bow, do you? :)

December 10, 2014 at 05:24 PM · My shop also has limited ceiling clearance.

I've been thinking about digging a hole in the floor, and having violinists stand in it when they play. :-)

December 10, 2014 at 05:36 PM · Stick a layer of foam rubber on the ceiling over the playing area.

December 10, 2014 at 05:45 PM · Putting a couple of inches of foam rubber on the ceiling will reduce the playing clearance even more, and he will most certainly be making contact (albiet with a soft surface) more frequently

December 10, 2014 at 05:46 PM · How about a 3/4 size bow?

(Why not throw some crazy ideas out there... )

December 10, 2014 at 06:12 PM · The hubby just read this and learned that I didn't know about metal tips. (Busted.) So I was educated about when and why they are used. Thanks, Paul!

December 10, 2014 at 06:12 PM · David,

with all due respect, that is a wrong approach to this problem!

Old Cremonese makers would certainly cut a hole in the ceiling.

Paul,

the real issue here is developing a ranidaphobia. You will develop a habit of not moving your bow arm freely. I would say - move to another place.

December 10, 2014 at 07:05 PM · ranidaphobia

I like that!

Learn something new every day....

:^)

December 10, 2014 at 07:20 PM · I have the same problem to a much lesser extent. My bow has been known to poke the ceiling in my basement suite from time to time so I use my CF bow.

December 10, 2014 at 07:51 PM · Move house ? (I have a Victoran house with 12+ feet ceilings (i.e . 4 meteres in weird measurements).

December 10, 2014 at 08:00 PM · Thanks to all who responded. No solution yet that I can really use, but okay, we've got time.

I can't be the only person with "ceiling bow" issues, maybe just the first to admit it publicly! And this has been going for a couple of years and so far no phobias.

December 10, 2014 at 08:02 PM · I have low ceilings in one of my practice areas. I sit on a high stool when playing there. So I don't have that "sitting in a chair" feeling, but rather "perched on a stool" sort of mojo.

December 10, 2014 at 08:06 PM · Sarah, can you pass that education about metal tips along to me? Can I get them on my CF bows?

As far as sitting on a stool, I have tried that and I find it rather confining and hard on my back.

December 10, 2014 at 08:43 PM · "David,

with all due respect, that is a wrong approach to this problem!

Old Cremonese makers would certainly cut a hole in the ceiling."

___________________

Maybe not, if their mother-in-law was living upstairs. LOL

Paul, metal "faceplates" aren't invulnerable to damage either, but they can sometimes hold up better than ivory or synthetic substitutes.

December 10, 2014 at 09:01 PM · Do I remember this rightly ?

I was told that a visitor entered the soloist's green room to discover Albert Sammons practising his violin in a supine position on a sofa, chaise longue or whatever. Presumably this famous English player found this helped confirm all the playing angles needed for fine playing independently of the forces of gravity.

So, save your bow tips by playing whilst lying down, and take your performance up a level at the same time !!

December 11, 2014 at 01:07 AM · David Burgess wrote:"Paul, metal "faceplates" aren't invulnerable to damage either, but they can sometimes hold up better than ivory or synthetic substitutes."

...and you can fly with them, too...

December 11, 2014 at 01:12 AM · He says that yes, you can put a metal tip on a CF bow. He also says that many English makers used them, but not so much the French makers.

December 11, 2014 at 05:29 PM · Sarah, thanks! Ask him what metal he recommends, whether it's true that I'll need screws or whether the tip (faceplate) can be affixed to the bow with adhesive, and whether a fiber liner is advised.

David, the problem is that the weakest points are the thin areas along the sides, they crack at the slightest stress. You know what I mean, I'm sure. Once they're cracked there, then the whole thing is weakened a lot and the rest of the faceplate delaminates rather quickly.

December 11, 2014 at 05:41 PM · How about slouching?

December 11, 2014 at 06:24 PM · If my options are to sit (and not break bows) or to stand (and break bows - or look for an indestructible bow)...I would opt to sit. Even if you do find an indestructible bow, constantly hitting the ceiling just isn't conducive to a good practice session.

If you don't want to sit in a chair, how about perching on a taller stool? That should still lower your overall height, but you'd still be higher/taller than if sitting in a regular chair...

December 11, 2014 at 06:26 PM · When we talked about it last night, he said they can be affixed with epoxy, but that's as far as we discussed. That said, I must agree that sitting may be your best option. Or would it be possible to practice in a different space?

December 11, 2014 at 09:22 PM · Though it is satisfying (and good for you) to practice the violin standing, the fact is, unless you are a busy soloist (or a Baroque/Early Music player), by far the greater proportion of your violin playing away from the practice room is going to be when sitting. Because there are subtle differences in posture, weight distribution and ergonomics between playing standing and playing sitting, I think it is important to spend a proportion of the practice session sitting in order to get accustomed to these subtle differences.

December 11, 2014 at 09:37 PM · Paul, typically the metal faceplates are made of gold or silver, with a liner between the bow and the faceplace. Another metal could be used, but most bow makers and repairers have silver around, and that's what they're accustomed to working with.

Traditionally, most have metal pins affixing them to the head, in addition to glue.

Perhaps it would be stronger without the ebony or fiber liner... I don't really know. Maybe a bow specialist would.

I'm trying to think of a bow specialist who might be near you... Jerry Pasewicz is in Raleigh, and Josh Henry is in Purcellville, if that helps.

December 12, 2014 at 03:00 AM · David, thanks, actually I talked to Josh today on a recommendation from our local violin maker, Dan Foster. What Josh said is pretty close to what you said except he said some CF bows have heads that are made differently and he would have to look into the mortise to determine how it was done to know if the pins would hold.

I guess I may have to practice sitting down after all. When I get the bows rehaired I will get new tips, probably just plastic. I would like to try a silver one but putting $200 into a $400 bow...

December 12, 2014 at 03:02 PM · Whether or not one wants to practice sitting down, sometimes one is forced to. A series of herniated lumbar disks in my late 20s forced me to start practicing sitting down and all my playing (except for playing solos or some accompanied sonatas with piano) has been done that way for the past 52 years.

What the heck! I can't imagine playing that close to a ceiling and not having it destroy my concentration and technique. And certainly I would never consider owning a fine bow.

Andy

December 12, 2014 at 04:27 PM · Andrew that's kind of what precipitated my question is that I'm thinking about upgrading to a real bow.

December 12, 2014 at 04:54 PM · It definitely doesn't sound like it's worth it to pimp your current bow! The bow makes a huge difference, so upgrading is almost always worth it. Even if you keep the same bow, it sounds like you'll keep running into the same problem. I'd say you have to start sitting down regardless.

December 12, 2014 at 08:15 PM · A little piece of explosive attached to the ceiling will do wonders for your bowing in a jiffy. True, you will have an extra ventilation opening in the floor of the room above but what a true violinist would not do for the improvement of his technique.

December 12, 2014 at 08:47 PM · May I recommend nitrogen tri-iodide - guaranteed to go off like fun at the slightest touch (or even a waft of air from an open door).

Warning: Don't try this at home, children, only in a properly equipped chemistry lab!

December 13, 2014 at 03:06 PM · To just clarify something about bows, could I ask Sarah who has access to an expert, if reducing the width of the hairs on the bow would significantly reduce the rehair costs? (50% of hairs instead of 100%) Would this lead to a 25% reduction in the cost of a rehair?

I ask this because of the controversy over playing with the bow slanted forwards as against playing with flat hairs. Those of us who use flat hairs would need to pay for the extra hairs, but those who generally slant the bow forwards and use only the side of the hairs could save some money.

Any thoughts on this generally?

December 13, 2014 at 04:05 PM · You would do better to ask David, who can give it to you straight from the source with no potential loss in translation, but I'd wager a guess that most luthiers will not rehair your bow with 50% less hair for 50% less money. The cost of the rehair is mainly for the labor, not the materials.

December 13, 2014 at 04:06 PM · Also, I don't think that idea would work very well in practice....

December 13, 2014 at 04:30 PM · Even if little or no saving, it would save on bow hair which I understand may be in short supply? It's a waste to have all that hair if some players are only going to use one area of it.

December 13, 2014 at 04:44 PM · I can't tell if you're joking or not, Peter! :)

December 13, 2014 at 06:26 PM · No, I'm serious Sarah! I know I'm a bit of a joker, but it seems to me that conservation of bow hair might be a good thing. If one doesn't use it all, then it's a waste!

December 13, 2014 at 10:39 PM · Another option for those who wish to practice when standing under a low ceiling is to use a Transition bow, which is about 2 inches shorter than a modern bow.

The Transition bridges the gap between the Baroque bow and the Tourte. I have such a one: a replica in snakewood of a 1750 French bow, a type probably well-known to Haydn and Mozart. It is my favorite and most used bow, its only real competitor from 4 others unexpectedly being an excellent and remarkably inexpensive CF bow by P&H of London. Peter may be interested to know that compared with the hair width of 12-13mm of my pernambuco bows the corresponding hair widths of the Transition and the P&H are 8mm and 10mm respectively.

December 13, 2014 at 10:44 PM · Peter, much of the cost of a rehair is in the labor.

And even when a player always plays with a tilted bow, the entire hair ribbon can be in contact with the string when applying even moderate bow pressure.

Now quit trying to cheap out on rehairs, LOL

I've done a ton of them in years past, but don't have my rehairing chops up any more, so I'd happily pay $150 for a stellar rehair. No, not all rehairs are equal.

December 14, 2014 at 12:10 AM · Hi Trevor

That's interesting. Do you notice any difference in sound volume with the narrower ribbon of hair?

David is probably right about the tilted bow still having a lot of hair contacting the string. Maybe using a flat bow may mean that we are using more bow pressure and maybe also speed which gets a bigger sound. I certainly notice an increase in volume when using flat hairs and it's not because I'm playing nearer to the bridge, although near bridge playing of course will also increase the sound but also make it more brilliant. (Or an extra edge).

Its not so much the cost (about £50-60 in the UK) but saving on maybe a valuable resource. I understand that hair from a certain type of Russian horse is also valued as being the best. (Goes with a Russian bow hold!) (wink)

P S David, I agree not all bow rehairs are equal, my last one was definitely not great which is partly why i use my CF bow at present even with its original hair.

December 14, 2014 at 05:31 PM · Peter, one thing you might not have considered is that a narrower ribbon of hair will weigh less and thereby change how the bow plays.

December 15, 2014 at 12:16 AM · Good point, Paul. The ribbon of hair is a significant fraction of the weight of the bow. This is why I don't think a valid comparison between bows made of different materials, having different weights, and of different designs, based on the hair ribbon alone, is possible.

Peter,

The violin bows I have and use, are:

#1 A century-old pernambuco German bow - 12-13mm hair ribbon

#2 A modern pernambuco German bow - 12-13mm hair ribbon

#3 A modern replica in snakewood of a 1750 French bow (late Baroque/Transition) - 8mm hair ribbon

#4 A modern CF bow (hollow?) by P&H of London - 10mm hair ribbon

#5 A modern solid CF viola bow.

I cannot give bow weight data because I don't have a weighing scale that is sufficiently accurate at the required level.

Needless to say, each bow has its individual playing characteristics and sound.

#1 has a quiet, very clear tone, but the stick, perhaps because of its age, feels too soft for my liking in orchestral music.

#2 has a more robust tone that emphasizes brightness. Now mostly used as a spare and for folk music.

#3 has what I would call an assertive tone, big enough for most purposes but not too much. Ideal on plain gut. Lively and handles very well, particularly in music of the 17/18th centuries going into Beethoven. Not really suitable for most late Romantic and 20th century music.

#4 I've had this bow for only a few weeks, and until the weekend have been using it regularly for symphony rehearsals. It has a big tone, is very well balanced and handles very well. I gave it its first proper workout in three 2-hour carol concerts this weekend, and like it very much. It's going to be used in two symphony concerts in January. The ex-pro leader of one of my orchestras has tried it and says he expects to find one in his Christmas stocking.

#5 I use it sometimes for folk music sessions (rare nowadays, unfortunately) because it is sturdy, has good balance, a decent tone and not too heavy for a viola bow. A violist in my chamber orchestra has tried it and said it was a perfectly good bow for almost anything - and how much did I want for it.

[Edit added Oct 21 2015] Bow weights from digital scales:

#1: 58gm

#2: 59gm

#3: 61gm

#4: 63gm

#5: 72gm

#6: 56gm (another recently acquired Transition bow - not snakewood)

December 15, 2014 at 08:33 AM · Paul, that is a good point about the weight, but not sure how significant this would be. Perhaps we adapt to small changes, or perhaps not.

Trevor - many thanks for your detailed reply. I also use my cheap CF bow a lot, and not my "best bow" which is old English (about 1930) and also needs rehairing, as the last rehair was not good.

I actually find the CF bow gives me a bigger sound which is also more focused.

An interesting point (maybe) is to look at cello bows and d-bass bows. They have a lot more hair but then they have to move much thicker strings and large instrument plates. I wonder what the fiddle would sound like using a cello bow? Or a viola bow? I have used breifly a viola bow on the fiddle and vice versa but it was so long ago I can't remeber what I felt!

December 15, 2014 at 08:33 AM · Paul, that is a good point about the weight, but not sure how significant this would be. Perhaps we adapt to small changes, or perhaps not.

Trevor - many thanks for your detailed reply. I also use my cheap CF bow a lot, and not my "best bow" which is old English (about 1930) and also needs rehairing, as the last rehair was not good.

I actually find the CF bow gives me a bigger sound which is also more focused.

(Do give DS my regards. He may not remember me, it was along time ago in those Academy days with FG).

An interesting point (maybe) is to look at cello bows and d-bass bows. They have a lot more hair but then they have to move much thicker strings and large instrument plates. I wonder what the fiddle would sound like using a cello bow? Or a viola bow? I have used breifly a viola bow on the fiddle and vice versa but it was so long ago I can't remember what I felt!

December 15, 2014 at 01:22 PM · I think it would be more significant that you might imagine. If you have a beater bow, you can always try cutting half of the hair out and see how it works out for you.

December 15, 2014 at 02:02 PM · I think you misunderstand. I want all the hair I can get as I use flat hair for a bigger sound. But for those who want to tilt the bow it could be a saving.

But I think this idea has already been dismissed. Probably rightly so, as maybe the tilted bow uses all the hairs as well.

However, i made the point that "maybe" keeping the hairs flat allows slightly more pressure and with correct bow speed may result in a bigger sound.

December 15, 2014 at 10:36 PM · "The hubby just read this and learned that I didn't know about metal tips. "

Sarah has given me a great idea!

Fix your hubby to the ceiling so you have something soft to poke your bow into ... (No naughty comments now ... !!!)

December 16, 2014 at 04:49 PM · Hints'n'tips, or hints ON tips ??

December 16, 2014 at 05:19 PM · Or tips on breaking a bow ;)

December 16, 2014 at 08:19 PM · I'm going to bow out here ...

December 16, 2014 at 10:41 PM · I've had many near-misses, or actually light hits, with fine bows. So far, no broken tips, knock on wood - or maybe better not! I sometimes think that my best and most reliable bow technique is my unerring ability to hit any stand light, mic stand etc. within reach of my bow. In my practice area, the ceiling is just a bit over 8' but with a ceiling fan in the middle of the room. Even stemless as it is, that effectively lowers the ceiling in that area about a foot and a half.

I wonder if the kind of plastic - some of which can look very close to ivory - that is used on modern piano keys might not work very well, and maybe more cheaply for bows. That would also help with the new customs regulations for ivory tips - don't know where that stands currently. But since that material really can look a lot like ivory (particularly on my old, restored piano) I guess some sort of certification would be needed when travelling with a bow with that material for a tip - if customs would accept it.

October 21, 2015 at 01:32 AM · So, was the metal tip installed?

I'm curious myself because my bow kissed a PVC tube in the basement today, it now has more than a crack on its tip, not to mention that I dropped it down the stairs(it was either the bow, or the violin, I slipped). I think with my clumsy hands, I probably want a durable tip.

October 21, 2015 at 01:47 AM · No, I decided against the metal tip. I was concerned that it would not be possible to secure it well to the carbon fiber material of the bow stick, and I did not want to change the weight balance of the bow (silver being quite a bit more dense than plastic). I decided just to practice seated, it's not ideal but it's what I've got to do for now.

October 21, 2015 at 02:02 AM · When I read this post, and Steven's reply, I couldn't help but imagine one of those infomercials where they show a 'problem' happening in black-and-white, in this case a tall player in a short-ceiling room, hitting the ceiling with the tip of his bow and ruining it, and then someone going down the stairs and dropping the bow straight down on its tip, and the narrator goes "tired of breaking the tip of your bow by hitting it on things? Do you drop your bow often? You need BowTip Guard! With BowTip Guard, you can play in the tightest of spaces, hit the nearby walls, drop it, and your bow's tip will be protected! We guarantee you will love BowTip Guard, or your money back!", then show players using the BowTip Guard, accidentally hitting things with it, and looking all pleased with themselves that the tip of the bow isn't ruined.

(dibs on rights if someone reads this and does invent the BowTip Guard) ;)

October 21, 2015 at 02:27 AM · Fox, you have a knack for infomercials.

This is what always happens:

- I play with my good bow in the basement, then I smack something with the tip.

- I decide to play with my Yitamusic bows.

- I decide to play with my good bow because I like the way it handles and sounds better.

- I watchfully look on local ads, and e-bay for steal of a deal on a bow. None is found.

- I play with my good bow in the basement, then I smack something with the tip.

-....

Eventually it's past midnight, then I decide that I should've been studying.

October 22, 2015 at 12:17 AM · apparently someone had the worst of it:

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Antique-Lupot-Violin-Bow-w-Silver-Tip-/331686083706?hash=item4d3a07fc7a:g:L~EAAOSwo6lWJXJT

October 28, 2015 at 02:13 AM · A metal tip will add weight to the tip of the bow and change the bow's ability to do certain things (like spiccato and ricochet). That doesn't mean that you can't do those things. You CAN, but you may need to re-learn how to do them because of the different "feel" of your now heavier bow, and its shifted center of balance. Get a good carbon fibre bow that can take abuse. There may even be a CF bow that has a silver (or gold) tip that will take the type of abuse you are talking about. If one is already available in that configuration (and not reconfigured to metal from an ivory or plastic tip), it should already be a balanced bow. I'm sure my colleagues will chime in if they know of one.

October 28, 2015 at 02:30 AM · Here's a curious question.

Right now, I like the smooth and darkness from my snakewood bow, I like the agility of my ebony baroque bow, and sound of my favorite pernambuco bow.

I sure as heck would wish for a combination of those + metal tip.

I find that if I want to play in front of an audience whom I am afraid to make mistakes with, I pick the baroque bow, and when I play for friends, who want the full sound, I pick the pernambuco bow, I pick the snakewood bow when I play romantic pieces.

I am at the stage, where I can take up a few more contracts to afford a new bow in the ~1000 range, I rarely saw any metal tip bow in that range which is not a Carbon Fiber, is there?

October 28, 2015 at 05:50 AM · Time to try high-end carbon fiber maybe? :)

October 28, 2015 at 05:35 PM · That may be a great idea, I'm uncertain why, but I developed a distaste for carbon fiber. Maybe A higher end one will eliminate that distaste. I just like the feel and sound of a wooden one.

In fact, I don't like artificial materials in my hands, I get made fun of by colleagues because I carry 30 wooden pencils instead of a mechanical pencil.

I only wish that I weren't so clumsy with such good wooden bows.

October 28, 2015 at 07:20 PM · I've been wanting to try some carbon fiber bows. On the lower end, the Fiddlerman one. And on the higher end I heard the Coda bows are pretty good (and they look nice). Alas, my kitty's vet bill ate away my fun money; I'll have to wait a while still.

October 30, 2015 at 01:36 AM · Fox, regarding the "bow tip guard" that's what the plastic thing already IS. That's what I'm wrecking. But since I play sitting down now, all is good.

October 30, 2015 at 01:52 AM · Paul, I think Fox meant, an extra guard, like having a phone case case, they sealed off the stairs for repainting, so I guess I'll have to be contempt playing in my room tonight :(

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