Adjusting to a super-light (48 gram) carbon bow

Edited: January 14, 2018, 7:45 AM · I've just acquired an Arcus S-series carbon bow and I'd love to hear from other Arcus users about what adjustments they make in order to handle this incredibly light (48-gram) stick.

The light weight makes it easier to maintain control through fast passagework & string crossings. But it is more challenging to get the bow off the string in mixed slur-staccato passages.

Basically I think this bow has the potential to be a game changer for Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and certainly solo Bach, but it requires a different technique in some ways similar to a baroque bow.

I'm finding I need a softer grip, more of a fingertip type grip, less of the Franco-Belgian lever action -- need as much finger flexibility as I can get. I'm also moving my hand up 1/2 to 3/4 inch inch on the stick similar to the way many people hold a baroque bow.

I'm tremendously impressed with the bow's capabilities -- the speed and responsiveness are off the charts, and, unlike a lightweight pernambuco bow, you don't sacrifice any strength.

But I think it requires a different technique and I'd love to hear what other Arcus users have found out. Thanks in advance.

Replies (5)

Edited: January 11, 2018, 11:11 AM · It does require some time to adjust to it - I've had an ARCUS Concerto violin bow since they first came out. I got the cello and viola ARCUS bows a little later.

Check the balance point - if it is too close to the frog for you, you can either have tip weight added - or wrap or frog weight reduced.

I really liked the violin bow for sight reading because it was so fast that I could correct errors before I made them-at least it seemed like that. And I did like it for the same musical genre that you do, Thomas. I definitely do not use them all the time, but they do bring out the partials that project sound very well - so I carry them with me all the time - at least the viola and cello bows - and choose to use them when I think the acoustics call for it.

EDIT: Just thought I'd check: with the adjustments that have been made since I bought it, my ARCUS Concerto violin bow now weighs 52.3 grams and the balance point is 9.75 inches from the end of the screw cap. I played with it a bit yesterday and decided to keep it in the violin/viola case I carry that also has my viola ARCUS as a backup bow.

Edited: January 9, 2018, 10:35 PM · I play full-time on an Arcus S8 violin bow (round) these days, and previously owned a Concerto and Cadenza from their previous lineup. I had a detour of many years to an excellent roster of vintage French bows (and one exceptional Hill), and those were very nice! However the Arcus is now my bow of choice. It pairs well with my violin, and I've adapted to the bow's properties so it isn't lacking for any tone production or strokes. I certainly don't want to go through the rigmarole of acquiring CITES paperwork for my bow to travel with me ever again (it is a pile of pain)!

Because of the stiffness and resilience of the stick, sautille, spiccato, ricochet, and other strokes that depend on the natural rebound of the stick will require a slightly different technical approach. You'll need to play much closer (or on) the string nearly all the time, with more horizontal movement, yet the bow will deliver a very clean, clear, precise articulation. The first time I played them, it took me a few weeks before I was comfortable enough with the Arcus to play it for concerts. This past time, I think I acclimatized within a day. ;)

The tension you set with the bow screw dramatically affects the bow's performance. You'll need to experience settings of as small as a quarter turn until you find a setting that matches well with your arm weight and bow hold. For solo Bach I tend to keep the bow a little slack, while a Brahms Sonata will require the hair a bit more taut.

I also find my bow hold being less intense, as I don't have to push/pull as much to guide the bow where I want it to be. I don't think I've migrated as far up the stick as you describe, but I don't hold it nearly as close to the screw as I did with my previous bows.

Glad to hear you're enjoying it; Bernd and his team have really come up with a fantastic substitute for bows made from rapidly diminishing natural substances. The high end models draw a compelling, if not unique, character of sound.

January 11, 2018, 10:16 AM · Thank you, Andrew and Gene, these are really good ideas and they fit with my experience so far.

You don't dig as much with this bow because it is so rigid and responsive. You play more horizontally with less pressure -- otherwise the sound is very bright, maybe too bright (though in concert hall this is probably desirable).

Off the string needs to be closer to the heel because the balance point is low.

One thing that's been surprising -- and it's a nice surprise -- is super clean articulation at pianissimo. Maybe that is excellent hair, maybe it's the inherent quickness of the material.

And yes, another thing that's so different from a conventional bow is the way the stick maintains its shape and rigidity when the hair is at low tension.

That gives us options. I.e. loosen the screw and you can have a soft hair surface and a stick that won't bottom out -- to a degree simply not possible with pernambuco.

At low tension it's a little like playing an outward-camber baroque bow -- except without the extreme bounciness and the challenge of controlling an outward-camber bow.

As Gene sugggests this is a good setting for solo Bach -- enough softness to contact three strings but still enough strength to really ring the chords.

But it may also be the right tension for Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven because the bow becomes a bit livelier, a bit more springy.

I got this bow hoping that maybe it could be a poor man's version of a light Voirin/Lamy. It's not going to be that, the material is just so totally different from wood, but it may accomplish the same thing musically, with the right adjustments to grip and attack.

January 11, 2018, 5:43 PM · I have a 48g Sonata Arcus Bow.
I really didn't pay much attention to this thing of "getting use to..." ...... :)
I played it without thinking, and it always worked.
January 11, 2018, 11:39 PM · I've been playing violin with Arcus bows for a few years now. I have three of them, which is arguably two more than I really need. But they're all different models, an S, an M, and an A, and they all have their own subtle characteristics. My current favorite is my A series, which is the same weight as an S, but a bit softer like an M.

Lately I've been using wood bows again, in addition to my Arcus. I'm motivated by my feeling that the light Arcus bows sometimes feel lacking in necessary mass to get a rich response from my G string. I've heard that Christian Tetzlaff sometimes switches between an Arcus and a wood bow for different movements in the same piece.

Anyway, tactility of my Arcus bows is always a joy, and I do love them.

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