I'm a serious amateur with 40 years experience and the good fortune to have owned good instruments.
A few weeks ago I decided to buy a low-cost violin for outdoor/knockabout use. I bought one from an Ebay seller with a good reputation (Yitamusic) and was shocked to find it was at least as good as my expensive fiddle made 30 years ago by a respected American master. So then I bought a viola from the same workshop -- splendid again; it may be even better than the violin.
So I wondered -- how about bows? Was it possible the bows made in Shanghai could be anything like the fiddles.
The same seller sells pernambuco bows from about $100 to $600, so I thought, why not try one?
I wrote and asked if they could find me a good Mozart bow -- something good for fast passagework and mixed bowings, something quick, responsive, lively but not a noodle.
As experienced players know, this is hard to find for under $3,000 these days.
My correspondent picked out a bow for $300, offered to knock $100 off the price, sent pictures. I agreed to buy it on trust (Yitamusic does have a return policy so all I was really risking was shipping charges).
The bow arrived about a week later. It's light red pernambuco with simple but good quality silver fittings and a good quality hairing job. Just over 60 grams, ideal (for me) balance point with a wide bounce zone. Gave it the Salchow tap test and the bow had a very good sustained vibration.
It felt great immediately in the hand, and the play is -- kind of like the violin I bought from this place -- astonishingly good. Fast spiccato rings clear, bounce height is consistent and controllable. Tracking is great -- I can play with a looser grip and the bow stays in control and does what I ask. I can play with the hair much more square to the string without roughness, which of course buys power and dynamic range. Legato is creamy the entire length, long bow exercises are easier.
It's the kind of bow I have played on before but never thought I would actually own. I have bows from well known Brazilian workshops that I considered a good deal at $700 and $1500, and they are not in this class at all.
Continuing the experiment (and again, mindful of the return policy), I bought two more. One was their "five star" model which I nabbed at auction for under $50, and one was a Sartory-model "master" bow I was able to purchase for about $200. The Sartory is, as you would expect, a little stronger and 2 grams heavier than the "Mozart" bow but it is also balanced and lively -- very good all-purpose bow.
Even the "five star," despite its humble price, is a well made pernambuco bow that I'd rate comparable to my better Brazilian. It's a keeper too -- though I really only need to keep two. At least I can say there's no fluke here. This shop is clearly selling the real thing.
Anyway, I wanted to share this just so people are aware what is possible for those of us with a limited budget. People have written in other threads about the quality of fiddles that can be bought this way, but I haven't seen reference to bows.
I am not as a rule a believer in bargains. I certainly wouldn't conclude anything about Chinese bows or Ebay bows in general, only that my experience has been illuminating and also a delight.
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