General thoughts on carbon fiber bows?

April 29, 2015 at 03:28 AM · So, I am very picky when it comes to bows, and the reality is that good bows are usually really expensive. I am pretty happy with my current bow, but I think in sometime in the future(not the near future) I would like to purchase a better bow.

I haven't tried any "high-end" carbon fiber bows before, but my initial impression about these guys from many years ago(when I was trying out bows) was that they are very sturdy. I remember the first encounter very vividly.

The guy at the shop, really wanted my parents to buy this carbon fiber bow. He tried to impress me initially, by dropping it head first on the ground, then stepping on it, then he jumped all over it, and amazingly enough, the bow came away unscathed, though I think he broke like half of the hairs :) Sadly for that guy, I ended up buying a bow at a different shop.

When I tried that bow myself, though, I thought it felt very comfortable in my hand, but tended to not "cut as cleanly" when I tried to play slow things. The sticcatos were very nice though. I ended up choosing another bow after trying several dozens of them, and although they were all in a similar price range 500-700ish I think, I was(am) still convinced that the bow I chose was unquestionably the best one.

Now these carbon fiber bows that I tried were not very good bows in the first place, but I am just wondering what you guys think about them. (Now bare in mind, I am not someone who is very familiar with names or brands or anything like that). I am also looking for good advice on how to make smart investments on instruments or bows. I am absolutely not an expert on this type of stuff, and would like some wisdom. Mainly looking for something eventually that gives me the most bang for the buck. That's what I've heard about these anyway. Thanks!

Replies (8)

April 29, 2015 at 12:26 PM · Shawn, a discussion on the pros and cons of CF bows is likely to run and run, so what I'll do is to repeat my reply to a similar previous inquiry:

"Last year I bought, as a spare, a British CF bow made by P&H of London for £99 (about US$160?). It is certainly the best CF buy I've ever made, is a delight to use, and is no longer a mere "spare". The CM (a recently retired pro) of one of my orchestras tried it and said he's got to get one quick.

You can see a photo of the bow on the home page of P&H's website"

To that I'll add that I am now using my P&H bow for almost all my orchestral playing, which is several hours a week.

The weight of the bow is 63-64gm, perhaps a little heavier than some hi-end bows, but the balance and response is so good that I'm not aware that it's 64gm.

As you will see from P&H's website, they have a dozen or so distributors in the USA.

April 29, 2015 at 03:10 PM · I don't think a wood bow can compete with carbon fiber below $1000 any more. A professional that I know says the same even for $2000.

April 29, 2015 at 06:13 PM · Trevor, these "P&H" bows, is the one you got special or are they all pretty similar in quality? Is it worth trying multiple bows by the same manufacturer?

Paul, that's a pretty eye opening statement. I guess modern technology has come a long way :)

April 29, 2015 at 06:19 PM · Agree with Paul 100% about bows under $1000 and in fact, I advise my students to look at CF if their bow budget is at that level.

I own a Voirin and a JonPaul Avanti. In the interest of not tearing up my Voirin before I retire, I use the Avanti for about 90% of my orchestral playing and 100% of my teaching.

Edited to add that yes, carbon fiber bows can vary even within the same model and it is worth trying out more than one.

April 29, 2015 at 08:04 PM · Most of my students have Coda bows, and I'm very happy with the result. For the money, this gives them a bow that supports them in learning advanced bow strokes as they go from being beginning, to intermediate, to advanced players.

April 29, 2015 at 08:56 PM · For a decent pernambuco bow under $1000, I'd recommend checking out the work of the bowmakers from the workshop of Arcos Brasil. Their nickel-silver mounted bows can be found between $400-$650 and the silver mounted ones just under $1000 in the US and some of them (I like the ones by A. Carvalho in particular) are really exceptional. You will need to play quite a few of them to find the ones with the playing characteristics you want, but I've been quite happy with their bows and many of my students have them.

I also second the recommendation on the JonPaul Avanti. Ever since I purchased a bunch of them for my school's instrument loan program, I've actually been using one for classes and lessons. The peace of mind is worth it. :)

April 29, 2015 at 10:58 PM · Thanks guys I'm learning a lot. But say hypothetically my budget is 2000, so if I get a carbon fiber bow of that price, would it most likely be better than a "Pernambuco" bow of the same price? Of course I think in my experience, price isn't everything and the variation between bows of a similar price range can be massive.

April 30, 2015 at 08:27 AM · At ASTA I gave the CodaBow GX with the white (alabaster) fittings a shot. I've not been a fan in the past, but I was pleasantly surprised with the feel and response of the GX models, and they are at $760 most places.

I'd give the JonPaul Carrera a even looks like a regular wood bow. :) It's in the $1300 range. Still have a hard time getting over what a great value the Avanti is though!

I used to play on Arcus (the original lineup) and they are really wonderful bows, although they play significantly different enough from wood bows that it takes some adjustment. I've run into enough players who pick them up, play a few notes, then claim they don't work or are too light...hard to challenge tradition sometimes. I'd contact Reed Bernstein to get one, although your budget puts the top of the line models out of reach. The Silver Mounted "Concerto" model is $2450, and the Cadenza models in Silver/Gold are $3680/$4900 respectively.

However, with a $2000 budget, you could get a fantastic new pernambuco bow from someone like Manoel Francisco. I just helped a student select one of his bows for around $1500, and if the playing environment where not a concern, I would choose it over my Avanti or the Codabow any day.

Again, as Mary Ellen has mentioned, carbon fiber has its settings where your bow might accidentally make contact with people, stands, and other fixed objects, it's nice to know it has some durability!

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