Violin bows from Shanghai

July 8, 2015 at 08:31 PM · 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.

Replies (82)

July 8, 2015 at 09:19 PM · Any thoughts on their IPE and carbon fibre bows?

July 9, 2015 at 01:10 AM · Their own site really promotes ipe bows, says players often can't tell the difference between it and pernambuco. I haven't tried them (or the ironwood which is also offered). I have tried quite a few CF bows in lots of price ranges and not found anything with the subtlety of a good pernambuco bow. But that might be me and what I happen to want from a bow.

July 9, 2015 at 01:30 AM · Since they have to be imported to the US, what are they using on the tips?

July 9, 2015 at 07:47 AM · I have several Yita bows. One top of the range pernambucco, which I prefer to a Tubbs I inherited. I also have a couple of the top CF bows, which are very good for the price. I since bought a Coda bow, and that is far better - but a lot more expensive.

July 9, 2015 at 01:11 PM · I have 3 of their bows as well...I bought them as an 'experiment'.

My current go-to (for my violin) is the ipe viola bow.

The ironwood viola bow is also very nice...and I bought a very heavy snakewood violin bow. I like it too - although some might find it too heavy for regular use.

My only complaint on the ipe viola bow is the lapping isn't very nice and the winding is so loose it needs repair. It came loose immediately.

July 9, 2015 at 01:13 PM · So how should I approach Yitamusic for a great viola bow for no more than $300?

July 9, 2015 at 09:12 PM · Here's what I'd do -- search Yitamusic expired ebay listings so you can see what they have sold in the past at what price. Then look at what is currently listed. You may want to try to go through the auctions or you may want to buy one at a fixed price. You might need to wait a few weeks till they auction the kind of bow you're looking for.

Some of the fixed price listings have a "best offer" button so you can offer them substantially less than asking price. I see one viola bow listed for about $600, which is a a high price for them so it's probably a very good bow. I don't know if you can get it for what you want to spend, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

I simply told them what I was looking for and how much I could spend, and the person I wrote sent links to detailed photos -- so I agreed to buy based on the pictures, knowing if the bow wasn't any good I would send it back. But the bow was terrific!

There are lots of other Chinese storefronts selling bows on Ebay -- I don't know which ones would be the best bets, but some of them look legit. Old Violin House has a good reputation as sellers and they sell bows too.

July 15, 2015 at 01:51 AM · I think I am going to try some of their "top rate" bows and I'll report back here, this is a great opportunity for me because I am finding that my two bows are getting dents and dings from aggressive playing and I've been wanting to get a heavier and more stiff bows.

July 15, 2015 at 02:18 AM · I spent the money...and just had the Chinese ipe viola bow rehaired with better quality hair, new lapping and winding put on.

I like it even more now...

July 19, 2015 at 10:55 AM · I've been tempted to try one of those affordable Chinese violins. Reading your post there is rather encouraging! If I do buy one I will report back on it! ;)

July 27, 2015 at 06:00 PM · 1. "Top model Heavy Brazilwood bow"

-Very stiff, great for playing aggressively, exactly what I have been looking for. It chokes the sound a little bit, it is "dark" but at the same time mutes the resonance a little bit.

-Frog heavy, again, what I was looking for.

-This will be my rainy day bow.

I cannot make a comparison because no bow I've owned is as stiff.

2. "Top model, snakewood bow, as heavy as viola"

-Surprisingly not stiff at all, it is so well balanced, 71.7grams do not feel that way. Neither frog nor tip heavy.

-The EXACT complement of my Brazillian pernambuco bow(which I bought for $300), except heavier physically and louder projection. Just a little bit clumsier than the lighter counterpart.

-it requires very relaxed bow hand, and well controlled bow arm.

-It makes the violin to sing the most. This will be my main bow.

-The hair could be better.

Both bows have relative loose wire winding. Comparing the sound quality to price however, 100% worth the cost. I spent a little less than $100 in total.

I am hoping that this review/advertisement wouldn't invite too many people on the next auction because I want to try their pernambuco bow.

July 28, 2015 at 12:33 PM · A well-known UK music chain store, specializing mostly in folk music, instruments and accessories (although classical musicians are by no means excluded), sells bows at very reasonable prices. The price of a Chinese pernambuco baroque bow, for example, is in the same ballpark as a re-hair. I was tempted, succumbed to temptation (the one thing I cannot resist) and bought one to supplement my snakewood baroque bow. Very pleased with my new purchase.

The pernambuco baroque bow weighs 55gm, and its snakewood counterpart 61gm.

July 29, 2015 at 10:38 AM · Yesterday evening a fellow fiddler (very good and experienced, I should mention) tried out my new Chinese baroque bow at a session. His comment says it all - "It feels so natural", and followed it up with "It's better than mine".

July 31, 2015 at 08:25 AM · Well after reading this thread, I took the plunge and ordered a baroque bow from yitamusic (in ipa). On it's way now - will report on the quality when it arrives.

July 31, 2015 at 07:33 PM · Just a warning Stefan, I found out today after few hours of practice.

The bows are newly made, the varnish WILL come off if you wipe them hard.

August 2, 2015 at 09:18 AM · Are these from factories subcontracted by big name bow makers?

With guitars, there are Korean/Chinese parts, etc. Some are made for big names who have offshored their manufacturing. Sometimes they sell those under their own name,but they are up to the same spec. Those tend to be good Other stuff, it depends. . it can be dicey. I wouldn't buy anything you aren't qualified to evaluate.

I have bought unfinished parts which worked out, and I've bought some which were junk.

August 3, 2015 at 02:25 AM · Well, it looks like I stumped my on my foot adding into this review, I haven't been able to nab any pernambuco bow in my budget... Go Canadian dollars... into the drain. currency exchange rate keeps me at quite a bit of disadvantage 1:1.31

August 3, 2015 at 08:42 AM · Thanks for the advice Steven. I will be careful with the varnish. Is it just that it has not had time to set? If so, I wonder if it might be worth me leaving it in the light for a while, rather than in my case?

August 3, 2015 at 02:49 PM ·

August 3, 2015 at 02:49 PM · I don't think varnish on my brazilwood bow has dried fully, and I think snakewood bow stick itself may not be dried fully.

my snakewood bow lacks stiffness. I think I am gonna try to dry them for a while, that is once I get back from holidays.

August 4, 2015 at 04:42 PM · Apparently, it's not entirely unknown for the beautiful distinctive snakewood patterning on some bows at the low end of the market to wear off after a while (think about that!). And those bows also aren't quite as heavy as you'd expect ;)

I can give you a weight comparison between two baroque bows I have, that are otherwise identical in dimensions and hairing:

the non-snakewood weighs 55gm, and the snakewood (the real thing!) 61gm.

[Edit added: "pernambuco" changed to "non-snakewood" in the interests of accuracy]

August 4, 2015 at 05:26 PM · I have a Yita snakewood viola bow for over a year now. No wearing off of the pattern, and it is fairly heavy. The biggest drawback is that the snakewood is quite flexible, which makes it more difficult to "drive" the viola strings effectively.

August 4, 2015 at 07:58 PM · To clarify my previous post, the beautiful pattern (or figure) you see on genuine snakewood is intrinsic to the wood and does not rub off. So, if the pattern does rub off it isn't snakewood underneath and has been painted on a lesser wood. Compare painted-on "purfling" on VSOs.

Snakewood is one of the densest and hardest woods around, with a density of 1.2 (water = 1, most other woods are <1 and so float).

August 4, 2015 at 09:05 PM · I know snakewood is dense and heavy. But is it stiffer than pernambuco once made into a bow?

August 4, 2015 at 09:57 PM · Mine seems to be.

August 4, 2015 at 11:58 PM · Is Yitamusic's snakewood viola bow better than ironwood bow?

August 4, 2015 at 11:59 PM · I agree with N.A. Mohr. That's my experience too. Snakewood is generally a stiffer wood than pernambuco. But as with all these things, get your bow from a reputable source and try it out first. There's always the possibility of variability in wood, and some bows (the cheaper?) may be less stiff than you're looking for.

August 5, 2015 at 12:54 AM · The snakewood bow I've got may be inferior/less dried one, it's definitely less stiff than a pernambuco bow I have. The "spots" haven't came out from cleaning, I cannot tell you if it's a genuine article or not, it certainly is heavy though. It is a modern bow by the way.

Then again, their brazilwood bow is stiffer than anything I've played with. It's slightly heavier than pernambuco, but I like it.

August 5, 2015 at 03:50 AM · My former bow, which was a John Norwood Lee, snapped a couple years ago. I have since been using a CodaBow Joule. However, I have not been as satisfied with the sound that carbon fiber pulls from my violin. After reading this thread, I decided to purchase one of Yitamusic's Master Model pernambuco violin bows. It arrived today and here is my initial feedback. The sound it pulls is much less edgy than my CodaBow (I guess one could call it warmer), but maybe too much so. For fast, technical passages, it does not seem to respond as well.

One thing I noticed is that there seems to be much less tension in the bow hair compared to my CodaBow. When tightened, I can press the hair (at the middle) down to the stick quite easily. With the CodaBow, it's harder to press the hair all the way down.

Is it generally better to have more tension in the hair? Looking for feedback from the experts...

August 5, 2015 at 08:07 AM · Just speculation as I am no expert, but I wonder if the bows will need some time to adjust to local climactic conditions (and that this could cause some strange responses in the short term). e.g. google tells me that Shanghai is predicted to be 37C, 47% humidity today, whilst Nottingham, UK will be 16C, 72% humidity.

August 5, 2015 at 02:37 PM · There certainly was a noticeable reaction to climate...

Mine self-tightened (overnight) to a rather alarming degree. I suspect it was more the hair than the wood though...we live in a very dry environment.

I didn't like the hair the bows came with. The new hair I just had put on the ipe bow I use made a huge difference.

No rush to change the hair it comes with...once it is rosined up it does the trick...but I will get my other 2 rehaired next time around and see what that does for their playability as well.

I bought three different woods to 'experience'...the ipe, which I use all the time. An ironwood viola bow...which isn't holding it's camber I don't think...and the snakewood violin bow which I use too, but not as often.

I wasn't expecting great things...but all three bows are much better than a "good" Brazilwood bow that I have and never use...that I paid 3 times as much for (way back when).

I imagine the natural variability combined with luck of the draw (which bow you are sent) will make it hard to come to anything other than a very general conclusion; that if you can afford to - go ahead and try a bow.

If you can't, or don't want to gamble...then don't.

August 5, 2015 at 02:49 PM · My Brazilwood bow is coming from Yitamusic. Won it at an incredibly low price that the shipping is the real cost of the bow. Will see how it is like.

If I can win an Ironwood bow for $20 and a snakewood bow for $30 from Yitamusic, then I will have a decent collection of cheap bows to decide on the quality of the stuff coming out of Yitamusic.

I'm still hoping to win a T20/M20 Cannon copy for $150. Wish me luck.

August 6, 2015 at 12:35 AM · My ebony baroque bow arrived. It's definitely different, the sound production is different than any other bows I've had(it is my first baroque bow). It seems to like to take a LOT more rosin than other bows, and also very clean projection and I find it somewhat easier to control than any other bow I've had.

The only thing I am trying to compensate for is its length being shorter than a modern bow.

It suits Bach's Bourree perfectly!

August 6, 2015 at 01:48 AM · It's made of ebony?

August 6, 2015 at 01:59 AM · That's what they claim, but I cannot confirm that for sure.

It makes same residue that my ebony chinrest makes when I wipe it, and it is black.

August 6, 2015 at 03:46 AM · Oh and good luck Kevin,

you won't have me around for competition until demand for their pernambuco bow drops or I become richer. It's unlike to be the latter considering that my career is pretty much just beginning in academia(~10 years of school and ~4 yrs of post doc before the "job").

August 6, 2015 at 08:19 AM · My baroque bow also arrived, this one in IPA. The hair tightened dramatically over night, so I'm glad I left it loose, after reading an earlier posting. Does bow hair tend to tighten in high humidity environments? I wonder if the hair dries out during the flight?

I only played it briefly yesterday, but was impressed. I currently play with a basic carbon fibre bow - a Col Legno. In comparison, the yitamusic bow drew a much mote interesting and rich sound from the G string, whereas the Col Legno had always sounded a bit soft and uninteresting on the lower notes. Double stops were easier and sounded more pleasant.

However, having never played on a baroque bow before, I don't know whether these changes are characteristic of this style of the bow, or whether they are a linked to the quality of yitamusic's workmanship.

August 6, 2015 at 10:35 AM · Stefan, it's normal for horse hair to react to changes in humidity, expanding or contracting. I seem to recall it was used in some types of barometers back in the olden days to indicate changes in the weather. I'd guess that's what happened to yours. :)

________________

I too got one of those cheap Chinese bows now, and while it's not technically the best bow ever, when you take into consideration how little it cost, it might as well be the best bow for the money! ;)

Mine as far as I can tell has all the real deal: Real Pernambuco and ebony wood, /probably/ nickel-silver fittings, etc. The hair could be better quality, but the bow is completely straight (and remains straight after a week so far) and has good tension when tightened, but I don't like that even loosening it all the way there's still a slight bit of tension on the hair, but again, for how little it cost, it's impressive! It has a somewhat mellow, soft sound, and is ever so slightly tip-heavy compared to my good bow.

This is a bow I would use in a bind, or lend to someone whose bow's hair came undone and doesn't have a backup, or recommend to a student or anyone on a tight budget.

August 6, 2015 at 10:56 AM · I believe I'm right in saying that before the advent of pernambuco into Europe bow wood was mostly selected from hard woods, the denser and stiffer the better. The behavior of these Baroque bows is reflected in the music of the period, and up to at least the end of the 18th century.

Baroque bows (from late Baroque on) are usually about 2 inches (5 cm) shorter than the Tourte-style modern bow, which I find advantageous for music of the period. Wood for wood, the shorter bow will be stiffer than the longer. However, there are examples of older Baroque violin bows that are longer than modern bows - some experimenting and development must have been going on.

The modern Baroque bows we are discussing on this thread are apparently replicas of mid-eighteenth century bows, the type that would have been used by Haydn and Mozart and still in use up to the beginning of the 19th century. I find such a bow to be an ideal general use bow from Bach onwards, including my folk music activities (most of which fiddle music dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries). It's only when I get to the Late Romantic and Modern periods that I find a modern bow to be more suitable.

August 6, 2015 at 03:27 PM · One important point to be noted about the inexpensive (but not bad) replica Baroque bows coming on the market is that, since they are about a couple of inches shorter than a standard bow, there is now no excuse whatsoever for not using the full length of the bow!

August 6, 2015 at 07:38 PM · As my teacher told me, you paid for the entire bow so you might as well use it.

August 8, 2015 at 01:37 AM · I bought a pernambuco bow from the Wang Bow Shop which is listed as a sponsor of this sight. It is a very nice handmade bow; the craftmanship is definitely there and the master series bows come with workmanship guarantees along with free lifetime rehairing service.

August 8, 2015 at 02:49 AM · I have to confess that I got carried away a little with the Baroque bow, I really like performing staccato and triple stop on it and just about all pieces in Suzuki vol2~3 is Baroque.

I managed to poke my bridge out of place with the bow because I keep on forgetting that it is a bit short.

August 8, 2015 at 03:42 PM · These "baroque" bows coming out of China seem to almost all be fraudulently cambered to bow in when you tighten them, just like a modern violin bow, a true baroque bow is designed to bow slightly inward under no tension, and under tension bow straight or slightly outward. The only way to make these cheap "baroque" Chinese bows historic would be an expensive recamber of the stick so it doesn't bow in any where near as much, also they seem to be on the heavy side dimension wise for a baroque bow.

I see a lot of uninformed people here talking about "pernambuco" violin bows for as little as $50. This is absolutely impossible, they are not pernambuco, because Brazil is no longer exporting pernambuco, there is a massive shortage of high quality pernambuco on the market, and the cost of the wood for just one pernambuco bow is at least $100, You do the math. I have seen some of these "pernambuco" bows, they have no flame, a basic characteristic of true pernambuco, they do look like the wood known as abeille or bee wood, which is pernambuco coloured without the flame. You can enjoy your bows all you like, just be aware that they are not true Brazilian pernambuco, and they tend to be weaker woods and hence not as stiff. If you can hold the bows at each end, by the tip and the frog and puling your two hands together the stick bows straight or even outwards, it is a weak stick, and basically useless. The Chinese bows I have tried are just strong enough to be considered usable, but not stiff by any standard.

August 8, 2015 at 04:17 PM · But isn't it true that one can make pernambuco bows in Brazil and export the bows instead?

August 8, 2015 at 05:33 PM · Lyndon,

Wiser words have never been spoken.

August 9, 2015 at 03:12 AM · A bit more info about my Yitamusic master model pernambuco violin bow. I won it at auction, and paid about US$200, including shipping. After playing with it a few days, my thoughts have not changed much from my initial impression. It might work okay for slow pieces like Thais Meditation (and it does draw a sweet, mellow tone), but it doesn't perform well with anything that requires attack (can't get notes to pop), or fast/technical runs.

Since I live near Scott Cao's violin shop in Campbell CA, I paid him a visit today and tried out some of his higher end pernambuco bows (STB-850) made in his China workshop. He sells these for US$1000. The difference is night and day. Comparing the Yitamusic bow side-by-side with the Scott Cao bow confirms that the YM bow is too flexible for me. The YM bow may very well be made of pernambuco as advertised, but I'm guessing it's a pretty low grade of it. I have taken the Scott Cao bow home for a week trial. I also have a few China made bows being shipped to me from Shar, via their home trial program. Those are all in the ~US$1000 range. I will most likely decide on either the Scott Cao bow or one of the Shar bows and purchase it for use as my primary bow.

August 9, 2015 at 03:29 AM · I'm curious, I have a very stiff YM brazilwood bow, and stiff Eileen Carbon Fiber bow, and less stiff Pernambuco bow($300), and YM snakewood bow which is the softest.

I found that with the YM snakewood bow, it makes the softest sound, and changing strings are almost unnoticeable(I'm sure professionals can do that with any bow), my Pernambuco bow, is very easy to control, soft, loud and bright and quite articulate. YM brazilwood bow is VERY articulate and not soft.

Is there a trade-off in between stick stiffness and sound softness? The most expensive bow I've held was a $400 German pernambuco bow, I didn't choose it because it didn't feel "right". Although I am drawn to German violins apparently, it just did not feel good in my hand.

I'll also add that I left my snakewood bow to hang on my music stand over a week now, and it's "bouncing" reduced, it got a little more stiff. It has worked very well as a training aid for me as well because I can do a relatively good downbow staccato with all other bows(it took over a month to improve).

August 9, 2015 at 03:45 AM · Steven,

> Is there a trade-off in between stick stiffness and sound softness?

I'm guessing the answer is yes. And the challenge is finding the right balance that works for you.

> I'll also add that I left my snakewood bow to hang on my music stand over a week now, and it's "bouncing" reduced, it got a little more stiff.

Shouldn't more stiff translate into more bouncy?

August 9, 2015 at 03:56 AM · Oddly enough, basically the "bounciness" came from the fact that when I do a fast up bow, the stick would come in contact with the hair and string and it would literally bounce off from the violin.

Even a soloist in my neighbourhood noticed it and didn't like it.

August 9, 2015 at 10:24 AM · Sounds like a bow thats to flexible, too weak. A common trait of cheaper woods.

August 9, 2015 at 07:58 PM · Well, I've gone ahead and ordered a Baroque one - £95 inc. P&P. I'm not home for a few weeks but will report back - not that I'd know a good one from a hole in the ground. My last one was £30 so hopefully I'll notice something.

August 17, 2015 at 06:38 PM · I'll have to admit after an extensive use and practice on the YM bows I've bought and tried,

although they may be extremely good addition for their price, they are by no means competitor to my $300 Brazillian Pernambuco bow, in terms of both sound and performance.

If anything, I found the baroque bow worth keeping-and-rehairing. The other bows have ups and downs, and I'm using the downsides for practice, to overcome difficulties in my technique.

i.e. I use the most stiff bow to practice changing strings smoothly. I use the most flexible bow to practice staccato, I use the heaviest bow to play fast pieces, etc.

August 24, 2015 at 07:36 AM · So I got another of those Chinese bows! Unlike the previous one which was rather nice, this one I hate.

It's quite heavy overall (62.4 grams), it feels tip-heavy, very stiff, but the deal breaker is really the sound: It's raspy, brash, 'confused' is a word I used to describe it. I wonder if re-hairing would help it at all or if it's just a hopelessly low quality bow.

Craftsmanship however is exceptional, too bad that didn't translate into a better sounding bow to either my violins. It looks very pretty!

(it's worth pointing out that this one was listed as Brazilwood. I never had a Brazilwood bow, I wanted to give it a try)

I had heard that the big problem with buying these Chinese bows and violins is that there's no consistency on what you get: One time you may get an Ok instrument, then a superb one, then a mediocre one, then an Ok one, then one that's total crap. It's a pity!

...because I got carried away, I have ANOTHER of those bows coming, that I won on auction for a mere $20! I can't wait to hear what that one sounds like! I'll keep you folks posted! ;)

August 24, 2015 at 05:27 PM · Fox, was it you who have been outbidding me over the past two weeks? :)

Anyway, my Yitamusic snakewood bow arrived. I love it! It's so easy to control and draw a clean tone from my viola.

The brazilwood violin bow that I got wasn't bad. But nothing to write home about either.

August 24, 2015 at 07:34 PM · I bought a bow a couple of months ago, then one a month ago, and one yesterday. If I was the one outbidding you, I apologize! ;)

I'm considering giving one of the violins a try. I was thinking maybe we should post here when were gonna bid, so we're not fighting eachother. Make it a gentleman thing of sorts: "Hey guys, I'm gonna try to get (such_and_such), please don't drive up the bidding!". ;)

August 24, 2015 at 08:26 PM · Just don't bid for any M20 or T20 del Gesù violins for the next two weeks until I win one for $150. You can take the Strad copies. LOL.

August 25, 2015 at 03:26 AM · Alright, I'll stay clear of those! Let us know if you get it and what it sounds like when you do! :)

August 27, 2015 at 11:10 AM · In Shangai I would buy an... erhu!

August 28, 2015 at 02:46 PM · Got my £95 snakewood Baroque bow today. Feels lighter and certainly plays lighter than my £30 bow but only 58g vs 60g.

September 2, 2015 at 10:25 PM · My < $153 USD T20 Il Cannone copy by Yitamusic arrived today!

First impression:

The belly looks cheap and the antiquing looks totally fake. But the back looks quite nice. The f-holes are nicely cut and don't look to be laser cut. The scroll and pegbox look good. Nice flames on neck and back.

The steel strings that came with it are garbage.

I fitted it with used Dominant strings right away. Sounded much better than the steel strings.

Sound is deep on A and D string. Overall a dark violin. Lacking power in E and G.

Verdict: Not bad for the money. But it cannot compete with the advancing Jay Haide and Eastman violins (which of course cost at least 4 times as much).

EDIT: Being somewhat unhappy with the sound, I decided to adjust the soundpost. The soundpost was jammed so tight that I thought it was glued! Anyway, after shortening the soundpost a bit and moving it to a more optimal position, the violin now sounds a lot more balanced. Power is still lacking a little but it is now buttery smooth. The best violin under $200 I have ever played!

September 6, 2015 at 10:58 AM · My $20 Chinese bow arrived today!

The first two things I noticed about it were: 1) It's a round stick. I never had a round one before! 2) It is not a clear-cut "I like it!" or "I hate it". I feel like it has potential!

It definitely feels more like a 'normal' bow, not a one-of-a-kind or one made by some master craftsman. There's a feeling of 'factory-made', like you look at it and you know they made 200 of those in one hour.

It is also Pernambuco (where are the Chinese getting this stuff? There's got to be a heck of a black market thing going on!), ebony, abalone, horsehair, all the real deal. The craftsmanship on it is not as good as the other two Chinese bows I got. There's a minute dent on the frog, the ferrule's polish isn't great, the endscrew is ever so slightly offcenter and the groove where the eyelet goes isn't very neatly carved (definitely made in a hurry with a router), and the whole stick was dipped in lacquer or polyurethane.

It's heavy, at 62.4 grams. But the balance on it is quite nice, it doesn't feel like I have to compensate for it being too heavy or too light one way or another. Like the previous Chinese bows, it doesn't loosen the hair completely when untightened, so not only the eyelet groove isn't neatly-made but is also short (I'm tempted to touch it up!). It retains good camber/shape when tightened. The stick is quite stiff with a good deal of elasticity.

Now for the sound, I found it rather peculiar. It's not bad. It's noticeably better than the other two Chinese bows I got, with the first one being a little 'weak', while the one I don't like I simply don't like it at all. This one, the sound is clear, crisp, but it feels undeveloped, like a brand new unplayed violin does. Is that a thing, though? Do bows 'warm up' with playing and time? Do they 'open up', 'mature', like violins do?

If that is a thing, then this will be an amazing bow in a few months of use! I might start using it in lieu of my good German bow. /IF/ the sound matures, this would be right up there with a $1000 bow! ...if it doesn't, then it's a $200 student bow here in the U.S.

To recap so far my experience with bows from Shanghai: The first one has superb craftsmanship, but weak sound. The second one is also masterfully made, but has very raspy, brash sound and is tip-heavy and just doesn't feel good in my hand. The third one has lesser craftsmanship, and the sound is good but leaves me with a feeling that it's itching to grow into something more.

In conclusion: For how little they cost, I feel it's safe to experiment, buying a few bows until you get one you like, then give/sell the others that are worthwhile to someone who might appreciate them. But if you will be spending well into the hundreds of dollars or more, go to a violin shop instead and try out some bows in person! There's no consistency on the Chinese bows. Buying a bow from Shanghai is a gamble. Good luck! :)

September 7, 2015 at 07:21 AM · Its not pernambuco, don't kid yourself!!

September 7, 2015 at 12:14 PM · Lyndon, I don't mean to start an argument with you, but that is a pretty bold statement from someone who has not seen or handled the object in question. I have years of experience working with exotic woods and have handled Caesalpinia echinata a few times in the past, and I am also aware of the differences in quality within it (Pernambuco vs. Brazilwood). This bow has the telltale characteristics of Pernambuco.

However, I have heard bow makers say that only about 2% of Pernambuco is suitable for 'high quality' bows.

So is it Pernambuco? I'm pretty sure of it!

Is it high quality Pernambuco? That I can't tell, I don't make bows, but I'm sure an experienced bow maker could tell. All I can tell there is that I like the way it feels and I kinda like the way it sounds.

September 7, 2015 at 01:21 PM · there are about 10 or 15 woods used for bows, many of which look like pernambuco, ever heard of abeille, evidently not, the cheap Chinese bows are not made of pernambuco and most are not made of brazilwood, your wood ID skills are suspect, You think Brazil is illegally exporting free pernambuco to China so you can buy a $20 bow, I think not!!!!!

September 7, 2015 at 04:51 PM · Abeille? Manilkara bidentata? Yes I'm familiar with it (although I can't say I've worked with it). But they are very different in many aspects. Without getting into complicated nomenclature, the end grain is very different (under a microscope).

What other woods would you like me to test it against? I'll be glad to!

As for Brazil illegally exporting Pernambuco... I'm sorry, have you ever been to Brazil? As someone who lived there for 20 years, let me tell you a thing about Brazil: The place is ridden with corruption! They will cut down and sell their last tree under the table while saying they are working to protect it! Who knows how the Chinese are getting it. How can they sell things (not only bows) so cheap? I honestly don't know, it boggles the mind!

September 26, 2015 at 11:28 AM · My experience yesterday is that after owning mine for less than a month the wedge and hair popped out the frog! I heard a 'ping' and an hour or so later when I went to pick up the bow I discovered what the noise was. I had to make a wedge (not very well) and minus a few hairs it's running again but for how long...

September 26, 2015 at 02:26 PM · I suppose that can happen to any bow from time to time.

If you like the stick, have it rehaired and fixed.

September 26, 2015 at 04:18 PM · Strange though. Last year I bought a £95 Chinese baroque bow off ebay. As soon as I tightened it the hair popped out the tip!

November 4, 2015 at 03:54 PM · Such an interesting thread!

Just a couple thoughts:

1) No matter what the price range, there is no "best bow." Everybody needs something different depending on their technique and what music they're playing and what they're trying to accomplish. I own 3 or 4 bows and use them all. I learn something from every bow.

I think it's incorrect to say that flexible bows are bad or stiff bows are bad. When I'm playing Mozart and Beethoven I very much need a soft, lively bow. When I'm playing Brahms or Shostakovich I want less subtlety and more intensity of sound. It's tradeoffs. No bow in the world does everything.

2) Very good violinists abuse bows horribly. I've seen soloists will take a $20,000 Voirin and tension it up until it's a club because they're trying to fill a concert ball. So sad! If you want stiff, buy stiff -- stiff is cheap. Subtlety is expensive.

3) I'm a huge fan of what's coming out of Shanghai, but generally speaking you can't expect much from a $50 bow. I think if you buy carefully you can get good quality for $200 from Yita and some of the other good sellers. But under $100, you're certainly not getting best grade Pernambuco -- most of the time you're not getting pernambuco at all. Lyndon is right about that.

4) My sense is Baroque bows are easier to make and less expensive, so prices will be less than Tourte/Peccatte/Sartory models for equivalent quality. I think $100 will buy you a playable baroque bow, but the choices are so diverse it's dizzying.

5) Alternate woods are really worth trying IMHO. I bought an ipe viola bow and I really like it -- it's not directly comparable to pernambuco, it's kind of its own thing. Ironwood has great qualities if you don't mind the extra weight.

December 12, 2015 at 02:18 AM · Well, I received my 5th bow from Yitamusic(I've sold off what I had before).

It was one of their "Master Model" modern snake bow at an auction. I am pretty darn disappointed, overall quality is much poorer than the Top model snakewood bow I bought a while back, the hair quality is just terrible. Basically started falling apart while I'm putting rosin on, and the cambering on stick is bad. The hair doesn't even touch the stick when I loosen the button all the way.

Bottom line, they've putting awful a lot of "master" and "top" models out in comparison to their advanced/student models. I'm starting to question how they categorize their bows.

January 13, 2016 at 02:02 AM · I'm gonna try to get one of the T20 "Cremoneser" Strads from Yitamusic on eBay this week! It would be really nice if nobody from here bid me up. ;)

Thanks!

April 2, 2016 at 07:59 AM · Bringing this topic back from the dead, as I got myself another Chinese violin bow! ;)

Got this one from Yitamusic. I've been wanting a snakewood bow for a while and their price was just too good to resist! And since I tried a heavier bow and liked it, I decided I needed to roll the dice on Yita's instruments once again!

The craftsmanship on the bow is superb! As far as I can tell it's real snakewood. But the auction was inaccurate on a couple of details: It stated that the frog and the button metal parts were nickel-silver, and clearly they are brass. I sent a message to Yita suggesting they revise their other auctions because while I don't mind this small detail, some folks will get upset!

The hair was a bit of a problem at first. Rosin simply didn't seem to want to stick to it! So I cleaned it with alcohol, and after that I was able to rosin it properly.

As for the playability, well, it's a heavier bow, weighting 73 grams. The balance feels a bit weird, the extra weight feels weird, specially swapping back and forth between it and my good Pernambuco bow (60 grams). I expected it to have a distinct difference, to be louder specifically, but it doesn't seem to enhance volume any more than any other good bow.

The sound it makes is beyond acceptable. I'd even say this is an excellent bow, except that there's that /something/ I can't put my finger on that it's lacking... Maybe it's just that cheaper bows don't have the same 'magic' of an expensive bow...

Interestingly, it seems to work best for my two Yita violins. My German one didn't like it much, felt dry, rumbly, and it felt a bit stark on the Romanian, and crisp on both Yitas. Makes me think of a carbon fiber bow, just warmer.

If the quality of their bows is consistent, I'll say the same thing that's been said about Yita's violins: It's a good inexpensive bow!

I don't think it stands up against a good Pernambuco bow of $1000 or more, but it's comparable to bows in the $500 range, so getting it for around $100 is a good deal!

However, it's still a gamble to buy a bow without trying it out first!!

April 2, 2016 at 10:51 AM · The poor Chinese merchants must love you guys, gullible lot I must say!!

April 2, 2016 at 06:28 PM · Spiteful as ever, Lyndon!

But can you get us good bows for good prices? I would much rather do business stateside whenever I can.

April 3, 2016 at 01:41 PM · Go to your local violin shop, most big shops have hundreds of bows to chose from.......

April 3, 2016 at 07:37 PM · Hundreds of bows in the same price range as Yita that were not made in China? Highly doubtful.

April 3, 2016 at 08:27 PM · I have purchased violin bows from China consistently for the last 4 years. The first time I purchased from a shop that seemed to have good photos online (and decent customer service), sold me on purchasing 20 pernambuco bows at a bargain price. When I received the bows 7 days later, I was amazed at the quality, and I jumped to start promoting them to my following. The next batch of bows that I purchased was not nearly as good, with many of them having warped sticks and issues with bad worksmanship etc. I thought it might be just a bad batch so I decided to send the ones back that I didn't like. The last batch was absolutely horrible, with all the bows being just like the bad ones that I returned. Moral of the story. I don't recommend purchasing bows directly from China unless you are ready to return a lot of them back. If you are going to purchase a Chinese bow from a U.S. shop, try it first, to make sure you aren't seeing any of the issues that I have frequently seen. You can definitely get a great Chinese bow for under $500, but my recommendation would be to try out various sticks from different shops or at least a few from the same shop and pick the best one. Otherwise it is sorta of like a crap shoot in a way. I love Chinese bows but be careful!

July 23, 2016 at 06:29 PM · Well I've got my 9th bow from them. They've outdone themselves this time. It's their "top model IPE violin bow".

July 24, 2016 at 12:27 AM · Hehe, keep us posted! :)

July 25, 2016 at 03:01 AM · Thank you for this! I'm on the hunt for a good bow, I will certainly check them out.

July 25, 2016 at 11:24 PM · Okay on their IPE violin bow:

It is moderately heavy, ~66grams. Its thumb leather is the same as the one I just put on my best bow. Its winding is alternating nickel-silver and some sort of coated black wire. This is important to me because I am missing part of my right index finger, and it starts hurting my index finger without good-cushioned winding.

Now, the sound is mediocre, similar to what I would be getting from a "standard" decent carbon fiber bow. I'm not sure about anyone but from my experiences with Codabows and a few other CF bows, they sound pretty much the same, just handle differently.

What I am most impressive about is the camber of the bow. Its bounciness/stiffness. Also the balance. It's almost as if they took my good $550 Alfred Knoll bow, and made a 100% copy with IPE wood.

This is not what I was expecting since the past 3 bows I bought from them was horrendous. Good thing however is that within my small violin-hobbyist community, I can sell "lesser" bows within weeks, since I don't ask for more than essentially what I paid for including shipping. Out of all of the Yitamusic bows I bought, I am only keeping one, for my electric violin and this would be it. Rest of them were sold locally.

Bottom line, comparing to what they sell at under $150 in local stores, Yitamusic sells bows that are competitive or better at under $50, if you're lucky at the auction.

I don't think I'm going to play around on ebay anymore though. I should start focusing improving skills and getting a better case.

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