Bows

March 13, 2018, 8:25 PM · What are the pros and cons of light bows, eg 60 grams? I recently bought a Cadenza carbon fibre bow which I like. I also like the bow I bought for $50.00 which weighs 64 grams, which I bought as a teenager and I still use it occasionally. I am sure it is not pernambuco.I am 84 and play in a 12 person ensemble. Actually, I don’t notice much difference!
Thanks for any comments
Terry

Replies (6)

Edited: March 13, 2018, 8:30 PM · I don't think the difference becomes all that important until you reach a certain "level" of playing. But overall I would guess that a lighter bow serves well in airy or crisply articulated music (earlier, say baroque to Mozart) whereas your heavier bow will serve better in more "powerful" or "sensuous" music, romantic to modern.

Quick question: How did you calibrate your scale?

If you're 84 you might could have bought a pernambuco bow for $50 as a teenager. That would have been 70 years ago.

March 13, 2018, 10:20 PM · 60g isn't light. That's standard weight for a violin bow.

A 64g bow is probably a viola bow, actually.

March 14, 2018, 4:12 AM · I am adult beginner, now I reached some kind of level, where I can feel some cons and pro's of the bows, my cheap carbon fiber is irritating me. It bumps, has bad weight and sounds so cold. I want to replace soon. So I think there are huge differences between bows, some of them are noticeable at high level, but some in very low.

Now I am thinking about buying better carbon fiber or wooden, and wooden brazilwood or pernambuco, still don't know

Edited: March 14, 2018, 6:23 AM · My Richard Weichold violin bow (late 19th century, Dresden) weighed in at about 65 grams. It was an outstanding bow for tone quality. It came into my family in the 1930s and I inherited it about 20 years later. it was not so good for off string strokes. About 50 years later I finally realized that the problem was excess silver wrap near the frog so I had the silver removed and replaced with faux whalebone. This reduced the mass of the bow to 60 or 61 grams - right in the standard zone for a violin bow. It's tonal qualities were not changed at all, but now it is also an excellent bow for off-string strokes and sautille. I suspect some incompetent bow tech had messed it up some time in its first 40 years.

A bow that sold for $50 in the late 1940s (as was Terry's) would not only likely have been pernambuco, but would likely have been a pretty good bow. My father bought a pernambuco bow from the maker in 1952 for $75 that rivals the other bow he left me - a F.N. Voirin. Even in the late 1960s very decent European bows were still in that price range. Then the price jumped. I ordered a *** Lothar Seifert violin bow from SHAR in (I think) the late 1960s for (I think) about $60. But with rates of exchange and all the price had gone up to $180 since the catalog had been issued - but I bought it anyway. A better player than I told me it was my best bow, but it didn't work that well for me so I sold it years later for half its retail value - but still a healthy profit. That maker's bows of that *** quality sell for about $2,000 today.

It's not the weight of a bow that is so critical to its playing qualities as the balance, which is the result of the distribution of the mass along the stick, its elastic properties and their distribution along the stick. I think the tone is also a function of the physical properties of the stick material itself that relate to the velocity of sound therein (?).

March 16, 2018, 3:43 PM · Thank you all for your comments. I have a small gram scale that I can accurately calibrate to zero and go from there. I certainly agree Andrew that balance cannot be underestimated.
Terry BA. MD
Sudbury Canada
March 20, 2018, 3:08 PM · 4-5 grams is not a difference you can feel very much. The balance point would be more important than weight differences between say 59 and 63 grams.

There are antique French bows in the 55-57 gram range and they would feel lighter. Typically those bows are also not as rigid so you have to play them with less pressure. They're also extremely expensive.

Arcus makes very light carbon fiber bows (S series) that are 47-48 grams -- that is a difference you can feel. I absolutely love mine. Feels light as a feather. Not only makes a difference in fatigue levels, but it makes passagework and string crossings a little easier because less mass requires less force to change direction.

However Arcus bows are pretty expensive and I have not found a lower-cost carbon bow that is as light.

You should take your $50 bow bought 50-60 years ago to a violin shop and have someone look it over. It might be a better bow than you think.

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