Upgrading Violin Bow

April 12, 2016 at 06:57 PM · Hello everyone,

I have been using my current primary bow, bought for $300 for the past year. It's been rehaired once, and its tip is chipped and cracked due to my mishandling.

Another thing about this bow is that the frog "jerks" sometimes, and the angle I am bowing suddenly changes when I am performing rapid detache or aggressive Staccato. I think the worst is when I am performing a full note downbow followed by fast detache up bow, it is under control but the bow really wants to wobble and bounce off to the side and my right hand feels "twisted" to keep the bow at proper angle.

This bow has been my best bow so far, best projection, handling and etc.

I am quite contempt with this bow, but I can feel what it cannot do very well, and while playing with Yitamusic bow, I learned that some softer and or heavier bows project better on violins. However, whenever I was asked to perform for friends, I would go back to my $300 bow. It is overall the best general bow I have.

Basically, I am seeking a bow that is overall better than my current bow. Should this mean that I look for an upgrade, or another bow in the similar/same price range?

My budget will range up to $900(yes my colleagues and my parents will think that I'm crazy that I am spending nearly a thousand dollar on a stick).

I will never be a professional player, and playing violin is my recreation, and hobby.

Replies (54)

April 12, 2016 at 07:04 PM · http://www.amazon.com/JonPaul-Avanti-Model-Carbon-Violin/dp/B000QFOGZE

IMO for that price.

Easy to find. Performs well for the price and you can buy one and know what you are getting.

April 12, 2016 at 07:28 PM · You have $900 to spend? TO THE VIOLIN SHOP! ;)

Seriously though, if you have that budget available, I would say go to a store (or 2 or 3) and just test a bunch of bows. Take the whole day off just to try bows! Pick one you think you like best, nevermind its price (so long as it's in your budget), then take it on trial for a week and see if that is really the one or if you will keep going back to your old one.

$200 and below I think is Ok for a bow on the internet but anything higher I wouldn't spend on a bow I can't try first.

April 12, 2016 at 08:30 PM · albert, $900 Cdn, the exchange rate grounds me to shop within Canada.

Fox, that's my plan. I'm a little bit curious if I should spend that much on the bow just yet.

I'm also debating a less expensive CF v.s. more expensive wood. From personal experience, at the same price range, wood bow are much superior.

In an ideal case, I'd like to get a superior CF bow, but none that I've tried were appealing to me. I tried up to a $900 CodaBow, but my current wood bow sounds and feels better, at least to me.

April 12, 2016 at 08:49 PM · "I'm a little bit curious if I should spend that much on the bow just yet."

Why not? You're an adult, it's your money, if you're not going to go hungry or get your thumbs broken because of it, get the best bow you can afford! :)

April 12, 2016 at 10:58 PM · Fox, mostly the questioning is:

Is this worth the investment at my profession?

Until I become tenured faculty member somewhere, someday, I doubt I'll be buying another violin/bow. Maybe a better case, but the only thing I will be spending money on for the next 10 years would be servicing and strings.

The question is, would it be worth a while to buy a bow now, or would it be worth a while for me to get better at playing then do a bow upgrade?

Basically, either an upgrade or subsitute, I need a better secondary/primary bow because my current primary has taken damage and I think it's worth getting a new bow instead of repair, and also, an upgrade.

April 12, 2016 at 11:31 PM · Sounds like your present bow has a defective loose connection between the frog and the stick, this can possibly be repaired by tightening the eylet the button screws into, have a luthier do this. otherwise a better bow is going to aid you in playing better, so waiting till you play better might not happen till you get a better bow or get this one fixed.

April 12, 2016 at 11:59 PM · I'm not really sure about the realities of violin gear as investments, but a good bow will only benefit your playing. You can go overboard and place the responsibility of playing well onto your equipment, but at the very least, you should be able to sell the bow if it turns out that it wasn't the exact thing you will need in a few years.

I've been playing on cheapo bow that probably wouldn't sell for more than 50 bucks, and I could really tell the difference when I looked at some quality sticks this weekend.

April 13, 2016 at 01:18 AM · Here's how I see it: You can ALWAYS benefit from better gear, no matter your skill level.

So the question is: Do you need that money for other things? And if so, what are you going to spend it on? Is it disposable income or are you going to be eating Ramen for a couple of months if you spend it?

(personally I've eaten Ramen for a month before when I saved up to buy things I wanted or needed, it's not that bad!)

April 13, 2016 at 01:50 AM · Fox, it's be my first bit of disposable income in the past 3 years.

Basically, I will have a nominal excess of $3600, I've reserved 600 for laptop repair/upgrade, 1000 for the car repair/travel, 1000 for a lady friend who I won't get to see again after the summer. The last 1000 can be spared for the violin.

My graduate program is funded, which means, I will have some nominal access during school as well, but I won't have the time for anything.

I am planning to first spend the 900+tax on the bow, to enjoy this hobby as much as I can over the summer.

April 13, 2016 at 02:35 AM · I and several others have said on a couple of previous, similar threads, that at this price point, a Jon-Paul Avanti is a solid carbon-fiber bow that should serve you very well. Well worth looking at.

April 13, 2016 at 03:52 AM · The OP has already stated he prefers Pernambuco to Carbon Fibre, what is it with you Carbon Fibre guys and gals, its like some kind of a cult!!!!

From what I've heard Carbon Fibre can perform very well, problem is they still sound like Shxt, can't get over that.

April 13, 2016 at 04:20 AM · I'd love to find a happy medium CF, if Jon-Paul Avanti sounds good, with its CF stick and metal tip, that'll be quite durable, at least I would hope.

I really wish to try the bow before buying at this price range, especially since it's going to be my next few decades bow(unless I win big at lottery which I don't play).

I do not oppose CF bows for the fact that they are not wood. I just found the wood ones I got to play with superior.

April 13, 2016 at 02:17 PM · I have only played with one wooden bow and that was the one that came with my violin. The bow is warped sideways at the last few inches. Funnily enough, I had no idea it was a problem until I got irritated with all the extraneous scratchy overlay I was getting due to the incredibly terrible quality of bow. I bought a 70 dollar carbon fiber bow and it was night and day difference. Recently I tried an 800 dollar carbon fiber bow with wood overlay and the difference between that and my 70 dollar bow was even more significant than the one I bought and the hunk of wood posing as a bow I got with my violin.

Jessy

April 13, 2016 at 02:21 PM · That was really neither here nor there. I was actually wondering, Lyndon, why you think carbon fibre bows sound so terrible relative to wood bows? What do you think is the difference? The color produced? The tone? Texture? All of the above?

I understand that more and more professionals are using carbon fibre and many even seem to like it better. (Or so the mysterious entity known as "they" claim)

What are your thoughts in more detail?

Jessy

April 13, 2016 at 03:33 PM · Lyndon, the OP said, "In an ideal case, I'd like to get a superior CF bow".

The problem with carbon-fiber is that it doesn't have the warmth of sound that a good wood bow, properly matched to the violin, will possess. If a CF bow isn't a good tonal match to an instrument, it can be especially awful -- glassy and harsh, or with a lot of surface noise.

At the sub-$1,000 level, though, it's hard to find wood bows that handle as well as CF bows in that price category. It's not impossible but it will involve a lot of shopping and patience -- you'd need to try a LOT of bows, and that's hard to do if your primary sourcing is going to be mail-order and not local shops.

I would prioritize playability over sound at this price point. Playability will help you develop better bow technique, more quickly.

April 14, 2016 at 05:05 AM · Lydia,

what I found is that all CF bows I've tried have a distinct "light", scratchy, surface noise as you describe them.

One definite thing I've noticed is that the cheaper bows often have the "choppy" and lags in between each stroke. Also, heavier bows have a lot smoother string change.

I'll be honest, as much as I try to convince myself that I should go for whatever makes it easier to play with, but, I end up with whatever sounds the best.

The very best option for me right now is there was a slightly thicker and heavier(by 1 or 2 grams) CF and metal tip version of my current bow.

Also, stick thickness is a little important to me at this point.

April 14, 2016 at 04:07 PM · You are likely at the stage where you have no idea how to pick out a good bow. Stick thickness shouldn't make any difference whatsoever. Weight probably will, but honestly you may find that you don't care about *actual* weight so much as you care about *perceived* weight, which will be a factor that depends on balance.

April 14, 2016 at 11:29 PM · The reason I want to get something a little heavier is because with lighter bows my violin's wolftone really comes out. Also, I don't seem to have enough grip on high position G with lighter bows.

I want the stick thickness and large frog because I just find it to be more comfortable.

April 15, 2016 at 02:06 AM · You want a heavier bow? Try some snakewood, they seem to be heavier by default, or a viola bow! :)

April 15, 2016 at 02:13 AM · My current primary bow is 58grams, if that puts things in perspective. I am referring to 60grams-ish bow.

April 24, 2016 at 08:01 PM · Well, I've got to try an antique French bow.

I have to say, I really liked most of it, except it lacked proper cambering and it made the violin to sound somewhat choked.

The bow overall made my violin to sound louder, but at the end of each stroke, with my bow, I get a clean open sound, an string oscillates for about a second after a stroke. With the bow I got to try, it stopped almost immediately.

How important is the camber in sound?

April 24, 2016 at 10:58 PM · I happen to prefer a good pernambuco bow to CF even at the under $1000 range. My current good bow is a Water Violet, which I paid about $600 for 5 years ago. I agree with Lydia. If you have a teacher, it would be good for them to put their stamp of approval on what you want. I can't claim to have known at the time of my purchase whether one bow was better than another for any of the bouncing bow strokes, and a bow's ability to do that will be put to the test sooner than you may expect.

April 25, 2016 at 04:06 AM · At this rate honestly, I might end up just sticking with my current bow and getting a back-up, more durable one.

I really like the sound I pull out of my violin with it. It's grown on me. This weekend in particular, I got to try 4 bows, ranging from $500 to $1400 asking prices. They all seemed to have more antique value than the sound. The only bow I got to play with in my life that is better than my current one is a violinist friend's couple thousand dollar bow. That, was really something else.

All CF bows I've gotten to try, seemed to have EXCELLENT playability. Although, I wish they would sound better.

I wish to explore Jon Paul bows now. I just wish local stores had them for me to try.

May 1, 2016 at 12:01 AM · I gave CodaBows another go, at a local violin store. They let me play with 13 different bows. Two of them Coda Diamond NX, and GX. I've picked out two of the best sounding and playing bows.

I don't know what it is, I tried 13 different bows, and two that I liked were Wooden bows at ~$600 price range. Regardless of the cost, I seem to fall for either the thick octagonal wooden bow, or thin round wooden bow, and always over the carbon fibre bow.

I'm really trying to like the CF bows, because they are durable.

I'm going to try more bows at my luthier's shop later on.

May 1, 2016 at 12:35 AM · Whatever bow you select, you should have the option to let your teacher or another more experienced violinist try it before you finalize the deal. I always recommend trying bows outside your price range to see what the possibilities are.

The "best bow" in a price range can depend on the skill of the player and on the instrument being played.

About 30 years ago I had my instruments and bows appraised by a dealer who was also the maker of one of my violins. He thought my Lothar Seifert 3-star violin bow was my best bow and since he was also a violinist it certainly seemed great when he played it. But I could never get it to work well for me on off string strokes that he did so well with it. And his assessment surprised me, since my other bows included 19th century bows by F.N Voirin, Richard Weichold, Dresden (that did work for me).

Some years later I purchased a W. Seifert viola bow (the "W." stands for "workshop"and these bows have "nickel-silver" trim) which is a delightful bow - great sound and great off-string strokes on my viola, better on this viola than my more expensive Coda Classic or my ARCUS Concerto bows. And a bit after that I had an adult violin student who was absolutely unable to do a decent spiccato or sautillé with her W. Seifert violin bow. We tried a $100 composite bow and her spiccato and sautille were just fine with it.

My point is that pernambuco, brasilwood, snakewood, or composite/carbon fiber - you cannot depend on material or brand name you must try every bow on your own instrument - and for technique that is currently beyond you, you need the hands-on advice of a more experienced player.

Andy

May 1, 2016 at 01:02 AM · Thank you very much Andy.

I think I see the point regarding inviting a more experienced player to try out the bows I'm considering.

At current point, what I really do is play different short parts of Four Seasons for "smoothness" handling, and scale up on G to see if the bow exaggerates the wolf or not. I also do a staccato scales and spiccato scales then try different lengths of vibrato and trill on A string.

Oddly, one bow, very good looking, thick, red, octagonal bow gives me power and very open sound. It seemed not as pronounced on G as on A.

The, thin, darker looking, thin, round bow gave me a slightly less power, but very good balance in terms of tone.

I am basically cherry-picking the bows I like, then bring my colleague who plays at quartets along at one point.

May 5, 2016 at 12:24 AM · Okay, Today, I picked out the best bow in my opinion from my luthier, and I will be visiting another store tomorrow for comparison.

Does everyone know what I mean by "drag" in bows, basically there is momentary lapse in when I make a note, the note sounds and when I (intend to) stop the bow hand, note drags on for a split second longer.

I've felt that with just about every bow I've played with, except the one that I took out for trial.

While trying all the bows that my luthier had in my price range, it basically blew all the other bow even from playing the same D on A. My standard test:

The downsides are:

1. It's old, and the hair doesn't touch the stick even when the button is unscrewed all the way.

2. The tip has been replaced with some sort of plastic.

3. A little weaker side on lower strings.

The sound I get out from it however, I've never heard clearer sound and such each bow control before. It's almost like having my fingers extended as a bow.

Right now it has Top playability, Top sound on upper strings.

Should I even put any weight on the aesthetics at this point?

May 5, 2016 at 02:23 AM · The tightness of the hair is probably due to the way it was rehaired, and the current humidity or lack thereof.

May 5, 2016 at 02:30 AM · Hey Steven!

I actually experienced that drag and lapse before but I blame mine on strings. I think it could be also other things such as needing a re-hair or different rosin.

On your downsides, #1 a re-hair will fix it, maybe have that included on the bow's price? #2 do you mean the actual tip or the white/black little piece? #3 again maybe re-hair or rosin issue?

Aesthetics? Some like it sparkling new, others want them banged-up. The question there is: Do /you/ care? :)

May 5, 2016 at 04:08 AM · Hello Lydia and Fox,

the hair looks quite new. Also, it is loose, it's the shape of the bow. The Tip, the white/black piece that is at the tip.

My personal preference is NEW, and aged with my experience.

This bow seems a little beat up. Small hole just behind leather grip, the cambering being... different, just the overall look seems old and banged up as Fox would say it. Honestly, I prefer something new, that can age with me. Also, I don't really like the voirin. At the end of the day, I will go with the one that gives me the best performance + sound, but if there are two that perform the same, I'd go for the "better looking" one.

May 6, 2016 at 03:37 PM · Steven, I have never heard anyone on v.com describe their bow as an extension of their fingers. That is nothing to sneeze at. But based on personal experience, I suggest you have a trusted teacher look at it if you have one. I once almost bought an old bow that was fairly expensive from a trusted luthier and my teacher told me it wasn't a good bow. But at the time I was very inexperienced. She said the bow was "dead". I imagine that by now I have the experience to catch that.

I just had my good bow rehaired by the person who sold it to me and that hair won't loosen, either. My luthier and I are keeping an eye on it for now. Over time I believe the condition could un-camber the bow.

May 7, 2016 at 03:22 AM · Thanks Francesca, I actually compared that particular bow with many other bows at a violin store. I now have two bows out for trial. I am leaning towards another one.

A new, very well balanced, new hair bow.

May 9, 2016 at 12:06 AM · Well, a new bow wins. I think I have a winner. $550 Alfred Knoll

May 13, 2016 at 02:19 AM · I have now maxed out my credit card, until I get paid in a few days, by purchasing the $550 Alfred Knoll bow.

Do others also notice, whenever you upgrade something for your violin, you simply cannot settle with your old materials? I tried playing with my old bow today, I can't stand it!

May 13, 2016 at 08:44 AM · I had a Knoll bow through the shop, it was pretty nice, even though I'm not a player, I wholesaled it for more than they sell for brand new (it was an older bow) now I regret selling it it as my present best demo bow for my customers is not as good.

This was the bow that just played loops around a $700 Coda bow when we compared them, the sound was so much better, and the Coda bows owner wanted to buy it.

May 13, 2016 at 01:12 PM · I've compared it with Coda Diamond NX, GX and SX, all running around or above $1000 Cdn.

Also with 10 other bows from the violin shop, and with the best sounding one I picked out from my luthier's workshop.

With the leftover money from bow budget, I'm getting pegheds, and varnish touchup on my violin from my luthier.

One thing that concerns me a little bit, is that even with the frog loose, there still is a very small gap, 1~2mm gap in between the hair and the stick.

Also, I'm learning that I am preferring octagonal over round.

May 13, 2016 at 01:12 PM · I've compared it with Coda Diamond NX, GX and SX, all running around or above $1000 Cdn.

Also with 10 other bows from the violin shop, and with the best sounding one I picked out from my luthier's workshop.

With the leftover money from bow budget, I'm getting pegheds, and varnish touchup on my violin from my luthier.

One thing that concerns me a little bit, is that even with the frog loose, there still is a very small gap, 1~2mm gap in between the hair and the stick.

Also, I'm learning that I am preferring octagonal over round.

May 13, 2016 at 03:57 PM · Steven, my luthier only had a few bows for me to try. Probably another sign of me being a noob at the time.

BTW, as soon as we got some rain, my new bow hair suddenly relaxed. But like

your new bow, it's not all the way. Probably around 2/3 the width of a pencil. However, the bow doesn't seem to be under any pressure.

May 29, 2016 at 04:40 AM · Hey Francesca, I'm realizing, that it's probably because the workshop measured exactly, the length required for my bow.

I've had a very humid, and warm practice today. I constantly had to tighten the bow, and now the hair is very loose. Hopefully the hair will shrink, as the humidity drops.

May 29, 2016 at 04:43 AM · Also, this is how I approach luthiers and shops. I trust both the local store, and my luthier wholly, so I tell them, "I wish to upgrade my bow, my budget is $900, I would like to try anything from $300 to $900".

They basically show me all of the bows in that price range, and I basically try one by one, and often there are few that REALLY stand out for me. I put them aside, and pick out the best one I like, and I take the bow out on a trial.

May 29, 2016 at 09:36 AM · Congratulations on the Knoll, it is a solid choice. Much preferred over carbon fiber, as some others have mentioned, but you have to look or go to a source that hand picks their inventory. I've sold three Knolls I handpicked from a few hundred examples in the past year, but now I'm toting my own line of Bay Fine Strings pernambuco/silver bows which are very good, newly commissioned & are performing well at their pricepoint. I still have access to Knolls too.

June 2, 2016 at 03:38 PM · quick, odd question.

As I am used to my old bow, bowing with this new bow feels a little bit awkward in a long run. Is this just me?

With my old bow, I can tighten, rosin, good to go right away. Basically all of my techniques are already there. I do practice, and review, but I'm ready right away.

With my new bow, I can tighten, rosin, scale and technique review, then perform better than old bow.

Also I find with the new bow, the frog, and grip parts feel too smooth, I've been putting rosin on my thumb lately for a better grip. It's not grease, just extremely smoothness of the frog, and the stick where my thumb goes.

June 16, 2016 at 03:04 AM · Does anyone else go through, awkward getting used-to period with a new bow?

June 16, 2016 at 03:58 AM · It depends if the bow is particularly unusual -- balanced markedly differently, unusually light or heavy, different response, etc.

An Arcus bow, for instance, is typically so light that it takes some getting used to.

June 16, 2016 at 04:09 AM · Steven, You seem too eager to spend money. A paid off credit card contributes to sound sleep, which leaves you refreshed for the next day's practice session. That in turn allows you to advance to your own best potential. The internet makes it too easy to find things that you can then think you need. Beware. Resist temptation. Always sincerely ask yourself the question, "Do I really need this?" I'm not implying that you didn't need a better bow, but now your talking about spending the money you "saved" on the bow for mechanical pegs and varnish touch up, as if it has to be spent. It doesn't.

June 16, 2016 at 04:23 AM · the new bow is heavier, and balanced better, previous bow is tip heavyier.

Mark you make a very good point. The way I see my entire violin hobby is like a project. Something to be kept at, in both playing and equipment.

Each time I get a new contract. I set a certain amount of money for certain things, and violin project has a good chunk reserved. What's true is that the time I have for violin playing exponentially decreases closer I get to September, and increases exponentially the further I get from April. I want to spend the money at an allocated time because I know I'll be too busy to enjoy spending it.

June 16, 2016 at 04:27 AM · Sorry, Steven. I can't resist quoting you:

"I am quite contempt with this bow" - a Freudian slip? ;-)

Many years ago the New York Philharmonic put out a publicity flyer at the start of their season that said:

THIS SEASON THE NYP WILL PRESENT AN IMPOSING ARRAY OF CONDUCTORS

- or rather they meant to say that but left off the P in "PRESENT", leaving "RESENT"! It instantly became a collector's item among the members of the orchestra!

June 16, 2016 at 08:48 PM · Raphael, well, oops. Content!

I recall marking lab reports and reading one student's report starting with:

The most important part of the experiment was that the clock would start as soon as the button was pressed, and that the clock would stop as soon as it(the weight in a pulley system) reached its climax.

Except the student didn't have a parenthesis, and forgot to have an l in the clock.

June 16, 2016 at 09:12 PM · I'm going to be a little rude. From the problems you describe in using bows, it sounds like you have major bowing technique problems. You should be able to pick up any reasonable bow and play fairly normally with it. The finer points you will need then to decide are the weight, the ease of playing, such as spiccato, ricochet, and the sound.

CF bows are usually easy to use, and the sound may be in some cases only slightly inferior to a wood bow.

Hope you don't mind me saying that!

June 16, 2016 at 11:28 PM · Peter, I am really talking about the details here. I can play fine with the new bow, with overall better sound quality.

It's too accurate, if you know what I mean.

Getting my older bow was a definite step up, a VERY distinctive improvement. This new upgrade feels premium, because the sound quality is better, the handling certainly is better, after technique review, but it was not like going from $40~$100 "bow" to a $300 bow.

June 17, 2016 at 02:35 AM · Good one with the clock!

A bow is a very individual thing. I almost sold a Hill recently but ended up selling my colleague an old Bazin. Now someone else is considering the Hill.

in the "writings' section of my website is an article on how to systematically compare bows. http://rkviolin.com

June 17, 2016 at 06:56 AM · Steven - that's fine, I think I misunderstood. Great that it is working out for you.

(I'm actually using a £300 CF bow at the moment in slight preference to my expensive wood bows, but this is probably just the mood I'm in at present).

July 15, 2016 at 11:13 PM · After a lot of trying to get used to the new bow, I realized how much my thumb hurt, and the slipperiness really comes from the thumb leather.

I tried shaving a bit of the leather off, and it didn't really help. I asked for a different kind of leather on it, and wow, it made a HUGE difference.

Not in terms of sound, but just how easier it is to handle. I think I am going to switch over to lambskin for all bows from this point on.

My very first bow had snake skin, and I got used to the lambskin on my first "good" bow.

November 13, 2016 at 03:55 AM · After a few months, the leather on the new bow is to be replaced along with rehair in the next few months. Likely lambskin or lizard/snake.

Something I still notice however is that the old bow is still easier to play with, but the new bow sounds better.

Basically the old bow 'slurs' the sound a little bit, working in my favor as it absorbs less-effective bowing, and overall sound worse.

Two colleagues of mine started playing violins. They are both fond of my old bow. I personally find it to be the easiest bow to play with, ever.

I am actually curios as to if I want to sell my old bow.

Do others also have the "easiest bow" and "best bow", and have considered selling the easy bow to beginners?

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