Pernambuco bow

March 2, 2017 at 04:47 PM · I'm happy with my CF bow but I'm buying into all the stories here about the better tone and colors you get from real wood. Every time I have a lesson, I use my teacher's antique wood bow - it is heavier than mine and pulls a beautiful buttery sound all along th bow -quite an I provememt from mine. In the $2K-$4K range, what should I be looking for. I live in NY. I have an appointment to test a few Arcos Brasil bows, mostly the gold plated and special editions. In my budget I may also be able to get something made by a local luthier with a great reputation. I'm not at a level where I can do acid tests (upbow spicatto, ricochet, etc) in checking out the bow. Is it possible to end up with a darn good pernambuco with my budget. I was first told that CF fibers are always better until you you start looking at bows worth more than $3k. The Arcos Brasil are most under that.

Replies (25)

March 2, 2017 at 10:01 PM · You should be looking for the cheapest pernambuco bow that makes your violin sound significantly better. You probably will find such bows at about $1000 or so. But, try lots of bows and just see what does the trick. Also, be sure to have someone play your instrument with bows you like to make sure they sound good to people listening. You are going to find something, but you may not find what you like immediately.

March 2, 2017 at 10:31 PM · If you are happy with your bow, what you ought to do is go out and try a bunch of different bows, nevermind if it's Pernambuco or Ipe or carbon fiber or whatever, and see if after trying them out you are still happy with your carbon fiber bow.

The bow is an extremely personal item and it's hard to find two that are exactly alike, so what works for me might not work for you, and price doesn't necessarily mean you will love it. Just try a bunch, it might make you realize how much you really love your current bow, or might show you what you've been missing. :)

March 2, 2017 at 11:02 PM · And it depends so much in your violin! My son's violin is happy with CF bows. Mine hates them, no matter in which price range. Finally I almost accidentally ended up with a €600 french pernambucco bow I privately bought from an orchestra violinist who had kept it in heavy use fore some 25 years (and it looks like that!) which me and my violin are very happy with. And it can do all that ricochet, sautille and upbow spiccato stuff rather effortlessly, beating out anything in the <6k league I've tried. So I'd share with Tom. A price limit is fine, but you should never stop also trying far below - you never know what awaits you...

March 3, 2017 at 12:01 AM · I've said it before so I'll say it again: When you go to a fiddle shop, take your own instrument & bow(s) and test every bow the dealer will allow you to. On my last bow purchase in a shop I tested 66 bows without regard to price and then chose the cheaper of the two that worked for me the way I wanted. Chances are you will find a bow in your price range that works for you and you will also have the pleasure of knowing either that you did not sacrifice much if anything by not going more expensive. (Of course, there is always the chance you will have fallen in love with a bow you will never afford, but I think it is a chance worth taking.)

March 3, 2017 at 12:49 AM · Lots of good advice here. I just bought a superb new bow by a young Montreal archetier, trying out many others in the process, and I know that there are plenty of really excellent pernambuco sticks available in your price range. It's fun to try them out. I've noticed that contemporary German bows are often very good value. Most luthier shops are happy to let you take several home for comparison. Take your time, and best of luck!

March 3, 2017 at 03:32 AM · Did a tiny bit of a look back into old posts -- Dexter, you've got an MJZ 909 plus a JonPaul Carrera?

In the $2k-4k range you should be able to buy a very fine contemporary bow. If you went up a bit more -- the $4.5k-$6k range -- you would be able to afford most living bow-makers.

But you might also want to consider whether or not the next upgrade ought to be the violin instead, if better tone and playing characteristics are what you're looking for.

Make sure that a more accomplished player tests out any bow you're looking at seriously. You're spending enough for this to effectively be an investment in a bow, and you want to make sure that you're getting a great-playing stick that will be easy to resell someday. And you want the bow to grow with you, though be aware that if you upgrade the violin someday, you may need to get a different bow to match it.

March 3, 2017 at 05:18 AM · Lydia, you are correct. I am using a JP Carrera on my MJZ 909. Thanks all for the great input. While I cannot afford the violin I want, I still think there is much room for improvement with my violin tonewise using a pernambuco bow. My violin has a great clear, resonant sound on all notes, haven't found a single weak or wolf note and I love the sound I get when using my teacher's antique bow (I can almost feel making faster progress with a heavier wooden bow like hers) - or when other people have played it with wood bows. I will try out as many bows as I can until I find a good fit.

Do you think a luthier would laugh at someone looking for a $4,500 bow for a $3,500 violin? I've heard an average violin with a very decent bow can sometimes make a winning combination (and a few that say it's more important to spend more on the bow than the violin). I've also heard of orchestra players with a $10k violin playing with much more expensive bows.

March 3, 2017 at 05:47 AM · A good bow can be an easier upgrade than a new fiddle. It may also be easier to sell later. So don't rule it out.

For good value, consider older German makers-- Pfretschner and the like. Just like a lot of English makers, they pay a penalty for not being French, and you might benefit from that. Otherwise, once you hit $4.5k you've got a ton of contemporary makers, although the very best will charge still a little more.

March 3, 2017 at 07:05 AM · In my experience I've never found a CF bow which matches the tonal qualities and performance of a good pernambuco stick. I don't think it's possible to learn the finer elements of bowing on CF. It's especially noticeable in mixed bowing passages where the cruder reaction of CF makes all the quick switches difficult to control. Even if they can by and large do all the tricks, CF bows are too all or nothing, with no subtlety--they constantly kick back rather than allowing the hand to meld into the bow. Of course bad pernambuco bows are so for the opposite reasons. So if you can afford it I think it's a good idea to invest in a good wood stick. Since you're in NY you might think of going north of the border. Two excellent Montreal bow makers: François Malo and Emmanuel Bégin (4 golds in 2016 VSA).

I've got 2 Bégin and a Michael Vann on trial and they're all great sounding and performing sticks. The Bégin are $4800 CDN ($3588.48 USD today) and the Vann is $6000 ($4483.47). I'm not certain but I believe Malo is in the same range as Bégin.

It's been only a few days, but one of the Bégin bows, his own model, is one of the best handling sticks I've ever played on, easily besting any good German or lesser of the good English (i.e. Hill, not Dodd or Tubbs) stick I've tried, all of which are now in the same ball park as and up to double the three makers above.

March 3, 2017 at 02:18 PM · Ditto for me. I recently purchased an Emmanuel Bégin bow, after a lot of trials, and it's easily the best handling bow I've ever played on. His prices are going up because of the 4 gold medals at the VSA competition in 2016. His assistant David DesBois makes bows of similar quality, and beauty.

March 3, 2017 at 02:27 PM · Parker, did you get one of his models or a more traditional pattern? I really like the look of his own design!

Also, if you don't mind my asking, do you know if the current 4.8K price is at pre or post 2016 VSA rate:)

March 3, 2017 at 02:31 PM · I think CF bows are very nearly as individual as wooden bows, and their playing characteristics differ significantly. I think the kickback effect is present in some but not all (more common in the Arcus line, I think).

What I like about my JonPaul Avanti, for instance, is its essentially neutral feeling in the hand. It's responsive and predictable, and while it doesn't have the magical feel of a great bow, it also doesn't do anything objectionable.

I've tried a great-feeling, nice-sounding Arcus S9 -- a bow that for its playing characteristics alone might have worth consideration had I wanted to buy CF. (Certainly if I were constantly in situations where bow damage were a risk, I'd have been happy to use it as a day to day bow.)

March 3, 2017 at 02:39 PM · Jeewon Kim: I eventually got a Bégin bow which was more in the older French style & fairly light (58 g), but I was also strongly tempted by one of his own design, which played very beautifully (60g). I agree with you about the appearance. In the end I felt that the lighter bow matched the sound of my violin slightly better. People who own his bows I notice have a tendency to rave about them! The current price of 4.8k is post 2016 VSA. But I expect that will change, as he gets better known in the U.S.

March 3, 2017 at 03:18 PM · Thanks Parker! The one which tempts me is 59g, but is so well balanced I couldn't tell if it was lighter or heavier than the other, which is 61g.

Lydia, I suppose it depends on bowing style too. I tend to pinch a lot with my fingers for articulation so perhaps I'm hyper-aware of how a bow compresses. I like flexible sticks for that reason. The best bows I've tried of the flexible variety all seem to stay collapsed when you want it to, and yet still feel very firm and lively when you let go. Odd thing. Granted I've only tried maybe 20-30 CF bows in my time (I own 3,) and yes they've all sounded and played differently, but they all share one characteristic in that their spring 'fights back'--the more you compress, the greater the elastic force, or something (what's that equation, elastic potential energy or something like that? Isn't there a square of the distance in there somewhere?) A good wood bow seems to just do what and when you want it to do. In fact I think stronger sticks do that too, but it's just a bit more work to articulate with the fingers.

March 3, 2017 at 03:50 PM · Don't waste your money on a gold-mounted bow.

March 4, 2017 at 04:11 AM · Jeewon, it turns out I can try an Emmanuel Begin in NY. The price is US5K for a gold mounted one. Is the one you have on trial for US$3,500 a silver or gold mount?

March 4, 2017 at 08:05 AM · Dexter, that's exciting news! Both bows I have out are silver mounted. It might be worth making contact with Begin himself to see what his current prices are. You never know if shops are taking advantage of his rising star. But $1500 USD seems like quite the premium over silver. I'd also reiterate what others have said about trying as many bows as you can. I'm looking for something pretty specific in this next bow. And having tried some 30 bows (ranging from 1500 to... what are Sartorys going for these days, 35K US? but mostly in the 5-6K CDN range) over the last 6 mos or so gives me a good reference.

March 5, 2017 at 12:26 AM · Hmm. $1500 USD seems to me the difference one would expect between a silver and a gold mounted bow from any contemporary bow-maker. Not surprising at all. But I agree with Scott Cole. Unless it plays markedly better that the silver.

March 5, 2017 at 01:06 AM · Really! I commissioned a gold mounted viola bow from Roy Quade in the early 2000's and I think it was only a $1200 CAD premium which would've been about $800 USD at the time (back then I was advised by someone makers used only their best wood for their 'higher' mounted bows, whether gold or ornate silver.)

March 5, 2017 at 01:06 AM · Double

March 5, 2017 at 01:06 AM · Triple!

March 5, 2017 at 03:18 AM · Well, I'd say that 15 years plus the rate of inflation would be a plausible reason for this difference between silver and gold mountings. And if the best wood is really in the gold mounted model. . .? Not to mention, in this case, Bégin's multiple gold medals and rising international reputation.

BTW when I first got interested in Bégin bows (silver mounted of course) back in about 2012, they were priced at $3000 CDN before tax, here in Ottawa. I'm now sorry I hesitated. Two years later one of my friends bought one for $3700 from the same luthier. Myself, I paid $4200 for my Bégin bow at the beginning of January 2017. Two weeks after I made this purchase, my luthier told me that Emmanuel had raised his price to $4800. So . . . I can only guess what they'll cost by the end of the year. For a bow of this quality, however, I believe they're very reasonably priced. And he certainly deserves his accolades.

March 5, 2017 at 03:27 AM ·

March 5, 2017 at 03:57 AM · And the price of gold is up almost 3.5 fold since 2001...

This close to pulling the trigger!

March 5, 2017 at 03:49 PM · We seem to have lost sight of Dexter's original question! And the answer is still, yes, there are many excellent Pernambuco bows in your price range . . . at present!

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