Carbon Fibre Bows

April 1, 2004 at 08:58 PM · I have seen a lot of blurb on the internet about carbon fibre bows.

As I am on the look out for a couple of good bows, namely a transitional bow (this, I guess, must be pernambucco, as I have never heard of a carbon fibre bow of this type) and a 'modern bow', can anyone give me feedback on how they have found carbon composite bows? Ideally, I need something firm and well-weighted, but I want it to be able to 'glide' and 'spring' when required.

In addition, can anyone tell me what sort of quality I'll get for 300 GBP/500-600 US dollars?

Cheers,

Susannah

Replies (12)

April 1, 2004 at 11:27 PM · Hi,

Until a year ago I didn't even touched a carbon fiber bow (carbon composite). That changed when I was given a P&H (London) bow. It's fairly inexpensive, well balanced, certainly not the most beautiful bow to look at but it does what I need it to do. Plays well, good springy feeling, good sound. I believe P&H has a website you can access, for more information. By the way, I ended up buying a bow from them.

April 2, 2004 at 02:32 AM · Hello Susannah,

I am no pro, but I was having allot of trouble developing with my practice, and at some point, I came to the conclusion that, in this case, it was the gear and not the musician.

I was on a severe budget so I got the best I could afford (Jean Tabary Prism), and you know? It made a *huge* difference!...Esthetically, I agree with Dumitru; they aren't great, but they are what you were after: light, good cambre ('glide/spring' action), and solid.

For the range you are looking at, I have had a number of friends (some who play professionally) recomend the Codas (Aspire is about $300 U.S., and the classic is roughly $700 U.S.).

One thing to keep in mind about the pernumbucco bows these days is that the quality of the wood has gone down as they are using younger growth trees to meet high demands; If he is reading, Steven Perry could probably explain this better than I could.

April 3, 2004 at 03:36 AM · I love good wood bows, the balance, the feel, the control. Unfortunately I have a habit of playing in dim light. Once with my violin and once with my viola I have accidently picked up quite modest carbon bows and been congradulating myself on choosing good wood bows when I realized I had plastic in my hands. I still carry the wood bows (which are really quite good), but end up playing the carbon mostly. Disappointing to me. I hate it when the manufactured beats the art!

April 3, 2004 at 04:04 AM · I was given a temporary bow because my wooden bow was being rehaired, so I got a Carbon Fiber bow.

I must say, it was the WORST bow I have ever tried. It pulled a very harsh raspy kind of sound out of my violin, and it did not have great balance, and had no proper bouncing point! Ugh! Every time I would try spicatto or something it would bounce like crazy vertically, where with my wooden bow and the same stroke, it would be a perfect bounce. What gives?

I really didn't like the bow at all, I'd much rather have my good 'ol wooden bow...not to mention the carbon fiber bow (the stick) was actually LIME GREEN (EWW!)

.... O.o'

But, if that is what pleases you...then....I guess do whatever you want!

April 3, 2004 at 04:13 AM · There are bad carbon fibre bows and good carbon fibre bows - just as there are bad wooden bows and good wooden bows.

April 4, 2004 at 09:39 AM · Greetings,

last year the Strad did a series of reviews of these kind of bows. not really enough depth, but it was a start point.

It really is getting to be diiifcult to get great functional pernambuco bows these days. Go out and buy as many as you can, never mind the violin!

Cheers,

Buri

April 4, 2004 at 06:13 PM · Hi, Guys!

Thanks for the feedback. Like Stephen I am at odds when 'manufacturing beats art', but I guess I'll just have to give carbon bows a try using my own violin.

Susannah

P.S. I'm definitely not into bows resembling Kermit the Frog, as much I love him and see him as a role model in life and art... ;)

April 4, 2004 at 07:05 PM · Well Susanah, fortunately, there are a number of bows out there that don't look like Kermit!

The review Buri was talking about is here:

http://www.stringsmagazine.com/issues/strings105/BowReview.html

I found it very helpful when I was looking for a bow, the only problem is it's a bit dated at this point.

I have also found a few other sites helpful, but the bookmarks are on the computer at my studio, so

I'll have to post those later when I am there.

April 5, 2004 at 11:46 PM · ..nevermind the violin!

Ha, my bow is worth exactly the same amount as my fiddle now. It is because I can't afford to upgrade the violin yet, so I upgraded the bow last month. Wow! I bought pernambuco. Will you be able to try out many bows? This is important, I feel. I also think you should play them blindly at least once to help you find what feels and sounds the best for you. I will admit my prejudice toward wood. I've only played on two carbon fiber bows, both belonging to students who told me you could get a much nicer sound for less money with carbon fiber. I thought they were very nice, but heartless (the bows, not the students).

If you are only able to go $500-600(USD), just make sure you get the nicest possible bow you can for your money, and don't eliminate the possibility of carbon fiber.

When I tried out many bows at a shop, I played on $400 bows that felt and sounded nicer to me than a certain $1200 bow. I played back and forth with several and changed my mind according to what the dealer said, which alerted me to the large psychological factor involved. Personal bowing technique and preference play into things, as well.

After trying about twelve bows, none of which did anything special for me, I picked up one more and fell immediately in love with it. It was $2000, and I was looking for anything under $1000. What the heck, I'll sell the treadmill. Couldn't be happier about the money I spent. A good bow is every bit as important as a good fiddle. Put as much into it as you can, Susannah. You sound to me like you are an incredible, dedicated player, and I would hate for you to be musically limited because of your equipment. I struggled with certain bowing problems for years that disappeared all in one day. Good luck. I like your posts.

April 4, 2004 at 11:20 PM · Andrew Victor has an extensive review of carbon fiber bows at this URL: http://members.aol.com/bowedstrings/violin-bow-review.html

The prices can be dated, but it's interesting reading. (The Strings review mentioned by other posters is also interesting reading.)

For the past three months, I've been checking out carbon fiber bows myself. Because I'm new to the violin and still feeling my way around, I'm not sure my perceptions are all that trustworthy. But, for what little it may be worth, here are a few observations:

I've found that the same model bow can vary from bow to bow, even when the weights are almost identical. A friend of mine who's a good fiddle player seconds that opinion. He just bought a Leopold carbon fiber bow, made in Denmark (the list price is $1200, but it he found it for $800). He had two trial Leopolds of the same weight and they were quite different in balance, although both sounded great on his violin. He has also tried other carbon fiber bows, and concurs that despite the mass manufacturing, each bow does seem to have its own subtle "properties." Also, although he really dislikes the idea of carbon fiber bows, he finds that the quality of the Leopold is amazing for the price.

I've tried the three lower-model Coda bows: Aspire (list $265), Conservatory (list $395), and Colours (list $450 or so). The Aspire was nice, but the ones I tried felt a bit too light even though they were, in weight, no lighter than the wooden bow I've been happily borrowing (58 grams). I haven't found anyplace with a heavier Aspire to check out. The Conservatory bows I tried seemed clunky (that's probably just me, although my fiddler friend found them clunky too). The Colours is supposed to simply be a flashier version of the Conservatory, but felt quite different to me. There's been something good about every one I've tried. (As a side note, two bow repairers I've spoken with, both of whom rant against carbon fiber bows, nonetheless own Colours bows.)

I've also tried some Holtz bows (these run about $85). One of them felt and sounded pretty darn good for the price. Nonetheless, it was purple (my least favorite color), and there was something infinitely depressing to me about purchasing, for my first own bow, one that looked like it was wrapped for Lent. I just couldn't do it.

I also have tried several bows in the Spiccato Crescendo line (list $590). They were all nice; however, the lighter-weight bows felt the best in terms of playing and the heavier ones sounded the best on my violin. Because I simply felt happy practicing with any of these bows, I suspect this is the model I'll end up getting, once I adjust my mindset to paying more for a bow than I originally intended. As a side note, the Spiccato, which does NOT come in purple, also has nice aesthetics.

As a final note, out of curiosity, I also tried a Spiccato Vivace, which at nearly $900 was out of my range. Unfortunately, that bow seemed perfect to me. I believe this model is simply a silver-dressed Crescendo, so maybe I'll find a nickle-dressed twin of it at some point.

I hope this has helped a little. At least there are some brands of carbon fiber bows in the above that you might consider trying. Good luck!

April 4, 2004 at 11:33 PM · I have discovered that when I use a carbon fiber bow the sound I produce is simply less interesting than when I use a wooden one.

However, The good thing about carbon fiber is its reliability. For example, if you're into street playing carbon fiber is the only way to go. A truly quality wooden bow is worthless outside...

April 5, 2004 at 07:18 PM · I guess I'll have to play blindfolded and see what happens. It seems that carbon composite bows are a bit of a mixed bag, but that some of them offer very good and 'predictable' value, as they are a product of technology (grr!)rather than craft alone.

Cheers n' smiles!

Susannah :-)

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