Question: which bow do you like more?

September 23, 2015 at 01:44 AM · Usually i don't do this, but i'd like to get observations, thoughts, considerations, regarding two different recordings i did today.

I put them into a playlist (with 2 songs) in Soundcloud:

I recorded mainly for testing the acoustic of a particular room, i'm going to use for future multipart recordings.

But, in the process, i recorded the same piece by using 2 different bows, while all the other variables are equal.

I used a matched pair Oktava MK012 (cardioid) small diaphragm condenser microphones in a spaced configuration, about 3 meters from the playing position. Every song has a melody part and an harmonic/rhytmic part, and i played the first in one position (left) and the latter in another physical position (right). There are no added artificial reverb/eq/dynamic reduction, etc.

The song is a traditional northern italian mazurca. I tried to play the 2 version in the same way (i always change something while i'm playing).

So: which recording (bow) do you like more (if there is one? :D ).

What speaker are you listening with? Laptop speaker? A best speaker? Phone?......

Thank you very much. :)

Replies (23)

September 23, 2015 at 10:02 AM · I agree with Joe, for the same reasons.

Listening on mid-market PC speakers.

Nice playing, by the way!

September 23, 2015 at 10:49 AM · Thanks for your replies....... :)

At the right moment, i'll disclose which bow is which.....

BTW (i forgot): the violin is a 1-year old instrument made by my luthier Bruno Barnes (Padua (Padova), Italy).

September 23, 2015 at 10:54 AM · I think I like bow #1 better, on one bit I compared it seemed to have much better response on the transients and more depth to the sound. Listening through a motu audio interface.

September 23, 2015 at 11:48 AM · I can only comment on the difference I heard in the recordings. Only you can decide if it was due to differences in the bows.

Recording #1 had very distinct emphasis on the initial attack of a note following a bow change. I might describe this as "gritty". The sustained part of the notes had a little "sizzle" to them. Imagine bacon frying in a pan and you mixed some of that sound into the notes.

Recording #2 initial attack of the notes sounded more like the note played louder, followed by a clean (pure) sounding tone.

I found recording #1 more interesting to listen to for the song you played. But I can imagine the style of recording #2 sounding better for a romantic piece.

Maybe record something romantic, like by Debussy, to try out the bows in a different musical context.

September 23, 2015 at 12:39 PM · What did you mean by "microphones in a spaced configuration"?

September 23, 2015 at 12:42 PM · Carmen,

i hear and feel (also while playing) exactly at 100% the way you described, in all of your points... :)

And i agree that for the genre, #1 bow is better.

The bow #2 is exceptionally good (it's quite new, it was finished 1 month ago), and maybe it could shine more in a more melodic and fluid piece.

I'll arrange to make a second test, with a different and nostalgic song...... :)

(Thank you for your acute reply).

September 23, 2015 at 12:45 PM · Nigel:

Spaced stereo recording image


BTW: i used a consumer-level Roland UA25-EX usb soundcard, laptop running a Linux distro, and Ardour 4 recording/editing software.

September 23, 2015 at 12:55 PM · Thanks Marco, I'm familiar with that configuration under the name ORTF stereo.

September 23, 2015 at 01:23 PM · Me too, but didn't want to write non-useful info for non-technical people :)

September 23, 2015 at 02:07 PM · I'm glad you pointed out that you are running a Linux distro, because you know with bows these days, it all comes down to *which* Linux distro you have. Bow No. 1 probably would sound a little better if you had SUSE whereas Bow No. 2 sounds like it could be better matched to Ubuntu. The key regardless of the bow is to run a real time or low-latency kernel to keep both the bacon-like crispiness in your baroque playing as well as the shimmering sound you look for in post-Romantic works.

September 23, 2015 at 03:14 PM · For me bow #1 has a stronger sound, bow #2 sounds weaker to me. (just using the laptop speakers)

September 23, 2015 at 04:02 PM · @Joe Green:

> "Suggestion: Expose the new bow to fresh air and shaded sunshine. In a short time a noticeable improvement to its already fine tone eliciting qualities will become evident"

Question: why?......

(i didn't made the bow, my luthier made it. I only partecipated in giving a different camber).

September 24, 2015 at 01:05 AM · Oh I really like that tune! Any way we could get a copy of the music sheet for it? ;)

On the bows, bow #1 as it's been said already sounds a lot more gritty, but I also felt like it was a lot more 'personal', more 'unique'.

Bow #2 is clean and sweet, but lacks character in my opinion.

(listening on Sennheiser HD202 headphones)

September 24, 2015 at 08:26 AM · Can you reveal what bow 1 is? I like it a lot.

Like others here, I feel that the extra grit and sparkle it has really suits the piece.

September 24, 2015 at 11:00 AM · Ok. :)

The music is:

Mazurca Dau Pien d'Alas

A traditional dance music northern italian song.

The bow #1 is an Arcus Sonata (carbon fiber).

Bow #2 is a new made (1 month) pernambuco bow made by my luthier Bruno Barnes:

Bow2 pic

September 24, 2015 at 02:43 PM · As an adult intermediate player, I am surprised at both the actual difference as well as my own ability to hear the difference. I was expecting a very subtle difference that only a trained musician would be able to hear.

I have heard of how much a bow can change your sound many times, but this really proves it.

Thank you for posting this !

PS. in terms of the OP question: I'm on a pc with logitech sound bar speakers. Gritty vs smooth - I think they both are great. It just depends on the piece you are going to play as to which bow to use.

September 24, 2015 at 03:17 PM · @Kimberly:

until 2-3 years ago, i'd be suprised too.......

I'd never believe that different bows (on different violins) could produce such a difference......

But i'm slowly learning how all the differences, the variables, influence the sound and most of all the usability of the bows.

For example: playing with the bow #1 (the Arcus Sonata) is quite different from every other non-Arcus bow i've ever used or tested.

It weights 48 grams and is strongly balanced towards the frog (17 cm from balance point to the end of hair).

It's non-existent in your hand and arm, while playing. You have to put the weight of your arm (i like this fact).

This a recent video (5 days ago) where i play the same violin and bow #1:

Valzer Sorgà

Here we were playing lightly amplified (i use an Audio-Technica ATM-350 clip condenser mic and an EDB-1 preamp), but i assure to you that my amplified sound is quite natural and very similar to the real acoustic sound.

The bow #2 is 60 grams, and balanced quite neutrally (18.5 cm). But it has its own personality....... it can be buttery but not in a passive way.

I expect it to get better with the time passing.

BTW: its name is "Sebastian" (i see it fit for Bach's music) :)

September 24, 2015 at 08:01 PM · So ... most listeners on this site preferred the CF bow that is 48 g (can that really be right?) compared to the hand-made, "exceptionally good" pernambuco bow that is right in the sweet spot of what Salchow said is the ideal weight range (55-65 g, see link below). Interesting. (Full disclosure, I am an unashamed skeptic of the entire "better sounding bow" concept.)

But now I have to tell you a funny story about bow weight. I got a few bows to try from a dealer in Richmond. I asked a local pro to help me evaluate them, and the first thing he asked me was the weight. So I weight them and they were 63 g, 65 g, kind of on the high side. Right away he told me, no no, those are too heavy, it'll be a bad choice. So the chemist in me switched into gear and I realized that the electronic scale that I was using had not been calibrated in years, and I went to my basement where I have a very nice old-fashioned set of standard weights and sure enough, the scale was way off and the bows were really 58 g, 60 g, etc.

But in the end I saved my money and bought three CF bows for less than one of those pernambuco bows would have cost and they play just fine.

September 25, 2015 at 12:19 AM · @Paul Deck:

i used this:

Maul Scale

in perfect working conditions.

We checked many times its accuracy with sample weights and with currency coins (Euro), which are very costant as weight.

My Arcus Sonata is 48 g.

My new pernambuco bow is exactly 60 g.

I have a 2 years old bow (same builder) which is 65 g. I have another bow from him that is 58 g.

I like to be very scientific and skeptikal, and very precise upon measurements...... :)

September 26, 2015 at 01:18 AM · Have you calibrated your scale? Mine is a digital top-loader, equivalent to Mettler-Toledo ML model, and it STILL needed calibration.

September 26, 2015 at 12:29 PM · Yes, perfectly calibrated.

A question: why do you insist in my error with the weight of the Arcus Sonata? .... :)

You can browse the web or ask the builder (Bernd Müsing), for a confirmation ........ ;)

September 26, 2015 at 11:09 PM · You're absolutely right, I should have done that. Didn't even think of it. 48 g just sounded so low to me.

I noticed nobody wants to touch this now that it was revealed that the bow that most folks thought "sounded" better was the less expensive CF bow.

September 26, 2015 at 11:36 PM · As far as now, i have collected opinions upon the sound of the two recordings, also among my facebook friends.

Many said they like #1 more, others (mainly musicians and some violinists) said they like more #2. Some said they like both.

So, i'm quite sure that each of the recording is "valid", sonically speaking.

Surely the differences in preference are due to personal attitudes..... surely the speakers and fidelity of the reproduction system ....... and surely the personal "mood" of the day..... :)

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