Violin Bow Advice Please?

July 13, 2004 at 04:44 AM · Hi everyone,

I'm looking for a good violin bow to match my good old German violin and would appreciate some advice on where to start looking -- what makers, both contemporary and older, etc.

I'm an intermediate adult player (been playing about 4 years now). I love my violin. It's a beautiful German violin from around 1900 that has a warm, rich, slightly dark sound with lots of overtones. My current bow is a Swiss-made Jean Dom. Adam model which cost about $300 and isn't bad, but I'm finding that as my skill level progresses, it's not keeping up with what I want it to do. It complements my violin pretty well sound-wise, but it's a little mushy and feels sluggish. I would like something livelier and sprightlier that responds more quickly, gives good feedback and tracks well. Should I get a stiffer stick? I've tried the Coda Bow Conservatory which seems stiffer and handles pretty well, but I think it gives my violin an overly loud, harsh sound that I don't like.

I've heard that decent bows start over $1,000. I'm willing to make that investment as long as I get a good bow that will complement my violin and help me develop my technique.

All that being said (and thanks for reading this far), I realize that bow choice is very subjective and the only way to find a suitable match is by trial. The trouble is knowing where to start. The choices (especially from modern makers & brands) is quite overwhelming. Does anyone have any suggestions on where to start -- what makers to try, what to look for, etc.

Thanks a lot in advance for any suggestions you may have!


Replies (5)

July 13, 2004 at 05:39 AM · well in that price range i'd just suggest visiting all the nearby luthiers and trying out whatever they have there.

July 13, 2004 at 09:49 AM · Hi,
Alan, good luck on your quest for a better bow! Some - hopefully helpful hints:

  • You're absolutely right - finding a good bow is a very individual thing
  • It is awful hard to test 20 bows and then grade them from 1 to 20. Start with a random selection covering different price ranges and makers. Test three bows quickly in succession (son file, arpeggios, bow changes, saltato, ...). Keep the one that best fulfills external and internal aspects, add two other bows and repeat, ....
  • maybe implied above, but very important: bring your own instrument - not all bows work equally well with all instruments
  • If an accomplished player is helping you testing, you can judge the tonal characteristics of the bow when the other person is playing
  • very important: state a price range, but take care not to know the exact price of the bow you're testing, otherwise, you might miss a good deal because your ears wanted to hear that the most expensive bow was the best

July 13, 2004 at 07:34 PM · I'm not sure but $1,000 may be a kind of "in between" price for a bow--that is to say, high for a student bow and low for a professional quality bow. Most Good modern makers are charging at least $2,000 I think.

There are some nice bows comming out of workshops in Brazil nowadays. You can ask about it at your local violin shop.

Also, make sure to have your teacher play on the bows you're interested in before you buy.

Good luck.

July 15, 2004 at 09:26 PM · If you are interested in a composite bow, I highly recommend the Arcus line. Very well made and it can certainly grow with you.

A serious bowmaker in the States is going to be much more than $1000. Most of the guys I know are now at $2500 and up.

July 17, 2004 at 02:03 AM · Bill,

Thanks for the advice on the Arcus. I've heard some good things about them -- most notably because they are light and help avoid fatigue. After my experience with the Coda bow, I'm a little hesitant, though -- It just seemed too brash on my German violin.

Also, my luthier warned me that despite all the claims of how indestructible carbon fibre bows are, they can still lose their camber over time and that can't be restored as easily (if at all) like you can do with a pernambuco bow.

Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions.


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