Baroque bows from Shar

Edited: March 23, 2018, 9:18 AM · I'm truly excited about this; now Shar is offering affordable Baroque bows.

This comes after Rachel Barton Pine has strongly recommended that students have a Baroque bow for learning Bach and other Baroque works. It does have a very different feel. Rachel talked about the importance of the Baroque bow as a tool for the violinist in this article about her recording of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas.

Her comments back then actually made me run out and get one on Amazon, but I would have been happier and more comfortable about getting it from Shar!

Replies (34)

March 23, 2018, 9:27 AM · Considering these cost about $30 direct from China, that's quite a markup for Shar and gives you an idea how they stay in business, high mark up on cheap Chinese products.
March 23, 2018, 9:29 AM · The Shar bow is fake snakewood, painted on grain, with what appears to be a strong inward camber, a bow that presumably bows inward under tension, not outward like true baroque, in other words Fake baroque, not recommended at all
Edited: March 23, 2018, 9:34 AM · Here's a much better deal from China that actually is cambered properly to bow slightly outward under tension, but also probably fake snakewood.

snakewood baroque bow outward camber

Scroll to the bottom of the ad and see the bow before tension and after, they call it screw up!!! LOL

March 23, 2018, 10:50 AM · Thanks, Lyndon, I've been thinking about getting one and that looks like it might work.
March 23, 2018, 12:04 PM · There are cheaper ones if you search baroque bow outward camber, but that one actually shows a picture of the outward camber, some of the other cheaper ones don't look like real outward camber
March 23, 2018, 12:56 PM · There are some being sold at
The owner sells baroque bows along with modern ones.
March 23, 2018, 3:09 PM · Cheap Chinese bows marked up even higher than Shar.
March 24, 2018, 12:00 AM · VSO = violin shaped object
BBSO = baroque bow shaped object...?

If I see Joshua Bell endorsing an affordable modern bow from Shar which can give you a feel for legato and sustained playing, is that any different?

Good thing about Baroque bows is that even the super decent ones are so much cheaper than regular bows. I think it's really worth the extra effort for those interested to go to a friend who has a decent baroque bow to try it out, or even go visit a baroque bow maker. If you're stuck in the middle of no where, there's much cheaper options out there if you're going for a BBSO...

You get what you pay for, and in this case really a stick that's light weighted with a lot of less hair. The whole point of getting an extra bow is to learn from it, right?

March 24, 2018, 2:08 AM · If you buy Chinese bow for $50, or you buy the same bow from a retailer like Shar or Fiddleheads for $300, in one case you definitely don't get what you pay for!!
March 24, 2018, 2:15 AM · So, where does one get an affordable (say, less than $500) baroque bow that is well-made and not fake wood?
Edited: March 24, 2018, 2:29 AM · Having fake snakewood grain does not mean the wood is no good, it depends on its strength and density, if you're looking at a cheap bow you're probably better of going with brazilwood, as the best really cheap modern bows I have seen are called brazilwood, but even then anything coming from China is probably some fairly equivalent Chinese wood not what they are actually calling it.

you're not going to find real snakewood or real pernambuco in any of these say under $500 bows on the market all originating from China.

I did buy a baroque bow with outward camber from China that had real snakewood grain, but it was weak and flexible, not very strong like genuine snakewood, it was just some other wood that happened to have grain like snakewood IMHO.

March 24, 2018, 3:03 AM · Pardon my ignorance, but what precise difference does the direction of camber make? Or, to put it another way, if you are not an A-415 nerd, what do you miss by having an inward camber BBSO? Is your experience with the bow very different from the one you would have with an outward camber?
March 24, 2018, 7:22 AM · Response, tone, and sound! So, if your purpose is to learn the technique, you need the same (non) camber that Corelli, etc used when they wrote the pieces. Also, unwound gut is VERY different in ghose three characteristics as well. Just listen to the attacks and swells that Mainze, Podger, and Barton-Pine get. VERY different.
March 24, 2018, 7:34 AM · I am super excited about these Shar baroque bows too!

Where might one find reasonably priced ones in NYC?

March 24, 2018, 6:23 PM · Yes, who are good makers or dealers for baroque bows?
March 24, 2018, 11:47 PM · My instinct on this is to trust Shar and Rachel Barton Pine who are putting their name and reputation behind the bows. They might be "cheap Chinese bows" but for those of us on a very limited budget --and in my case, also of very limited experience and knowledge-- we appreciate that Shar and Rachel Barton Pine are hopefully helping us sort through the makers and their products so we can presumably get the best quality for the money.

I already went through this on a more personal level. A year and a half ago, when I took a few lessons from a very skilled and knowledgeable professional violinist, he showed me a baroque bow he had recently bought for a (to me) large sum of money. That was around the time I decided I will concentrate on baroque music, and so I wanted a baroque bow even though I am poor, and he told me I could get one for around $50 on eBay. A few weeks later when I went for another lesson, I told him I had found dozens of such bows on eBay (and even a "lot of 10 baroque bows" for $200!), but hadn't bought one because I had no idea which seller (or bow) would be any good, and even $50 was a lot for me to risk. He said he has a friend who is a dealer who will be visiting soon, and could get one for me from her, so I said "thank you, yes." A few weeks later when I saw him again, he presented me the bow and I was taken aback when he said it was $200 (more than I expected or would have agreed to spend at that time). It looks a LOT like the Shar baroque bow. My guess is this dealer friend of his buys a lot of them from China of uneven quality and sells the better ones for more money --probably that's what mine is. It took me a few months to pay it off but I admit I instantly fell in love with the bow as soon as I started playing with it, and it is virtually the only bow I use now (except occasionally my other very different baroque bow that is probably more of a renaissance-style --it came with a lira da braccio I bought from a luthier I found on Etsy, and looks like a bow-and-arrow bow and has a click-in frog).

Regarding this Shar-like baroque bow I have, it took me awhile to discover the camber really does bow out, because that is not how it looks when loose, and the teacher I took a few lessons from was always telling me with the other bows I already had that I had twisted the frog too tight and should play it looser. But one day when I reverted to my ways that feel more comfortable to me, I twisted the frog tighter on my Shar-like bow and to my joyful surprise the camber turned out and it looked so much more baroque! I love that bow because it is so light and maneuverable, so much easier for me to control than the longer heavier bows I had before.

March 25, 2018, 2:15 AM · Any bow will bow out if you put enough tension on it, If you're having to put more than usual tension to get your bow to bow out its not a true baroque bow but a fake baroque bow much like Shar's.
March 25, 2018, 10:20 AM · Lyndon, some of us kids foolish enough to attempt learning without a teacher don't have experience or training enough to know what the "usual tension" should be, but I do have a sense of what tension works for me right now, and which of my cheap bows are easier or harder for me to sound better with, and the no-doubt-"fake" baroque bow I have is still a delight to play with in comparison to my other cheap bows. I'm not disagreeing with you but rather just saying this is good enough for my purposes and level and budget, all of which I hope to improve over time to the point where a "real" baroque bow is right for me.
March 25, 2018, 10:35 AM · And Lyndon, a question for you or anybody else who might know: when did frogs start to be threaded for adjustable tension? My other "baroque bow" has a few different solid frogs of slightly different shapes, so I choose which frog to pop into the slot on the bow to give different string tensions. My guess is something like that was probably pretty standard for some time before frogs got threaded and therefore "adjustable"?
March 25, 2018, 10:53 AM · maybe about 1700 I'm guessing for the introduction of the threaded screw type of bow??
Edited: March 25, 2018, 11:20 AM · When a bow came with different plug frog sizes, it wasn't only a matter of the player's individual taste which frog and therefore which tension was chosen. It was just needed, because when humidity changes the bow hair length also does, and the only possible way of doing so, except pressing on the hair with the thumb (which was also done for smaller adjustments) was to change the frog. Alternatively one can also add a piece of leather or whatever, but I guess this is neither the most beautiful nor most stable solution.
The first "threaded" frogs were regularly built in Mozart's time. Both models existed simultaneously, but cutting threads was expensive and the products mostly weren't very precise. Mozart himself still used plug frogs for himself, BTW. Only when cutting machines were invented which made the process more precise (and cheaper), the modern frog won the battle - maybe around 1800,but I don't know it for sure, maybe someone else could jump in with more precise information.
Not sure, but was it this you were asking about?

Interesting facts on the history of bowmaking you can find on (also an english version) or on (a little bit of german needed!)

Edited: March 25, 2018, 2:18 PM · Lyndon, where is your evidence that this is fake snakewood? Have you bought one of these bows and examined them in person? I'd tend to trust Shar and Rachel Barton Pine.

Is the outward camber the business at the tip? The Baroque bow I bought on Amazon looks more like the one that you linked to, as far as the tip is concerned. But it does look really different, depending on if that picture was taken with the bow tightened or loose.

Edited: March 25, 2018, 4:34 PM · Real snakewood doesn't look like that

I've seen plenty of painted on grain fake snakewood, they were very common out of Germany at the turn of the century, the picture of the frog end might be real, but the picture of the tip end is clearly painted on grain.

Edited: March 25, 2018, 11:13 PM · heres what a genuine snakewood bow looks like;

Edited: March 25, 2018, 11:16 PM · sorry that didnt work here goes

real snakewood bow

March 26, 2018, 7:26 AM · Lyndon, the most important thing is not the material (which might be snakewood, it comes in many colours), but how it plays.
I trust RBP in this one. If she approves it I'm in for it.

Regarding the material, I played some pernambuco bows that are valued like fine home that didn't play well, and some that were magical. The material is not all. Even if you are an expert, you can't determain how well it plays by looking at a picture. RBP approves, and she knows her stuff.

Edited: March 26, 2018, 2:29 PM · BTW someone asked, on the Shar site, if the bow has an outward camber when tightened, and they said that it does. This is entirely possible; mine looks somewhat inward when loosened, but then it has the outward camber when tightened. The picture is of a loosened bow; they might do well to re-take the picture of the tip, with the bow tightened.
March 26, 2018, 7:00 PM · Short baroque bows tend to look a lot more convex than longer ones.
March 26, 2018, 9:48 PM · The short ones tend to be an earlier date, earlier ones bowed out more.
Edited: March 27, 2018, 9:09 AM · An orchestral colleague and friend, a very experienced violinist/violist, has purchased a snakewood Baroque viola bow from for £100, and is very pleased with it.

He recently saw the light and joined a Baroque ensemble in Devon.

April 2, 2018, 1:50 PM · I bought one of those Shar baroque bows and was extremely dissapointed. A real baroque bow costs real $$$$ just like a real modern bow. If you spend less than $800, don’t expect anyhing that you would want to study with at the advanced level or play on at a baroque gig. I wish it was otherwise, but so far this has been my experience with baroque bow shopping.
April 2, 2018, 2:27 PM · Did it bow straight or slightly outward under normal tension?
April 3, 2018, 12:21 AM · I really appreciate Rachel Barton Pine bringing more people to try out Baroque bows and bringing enthusiasm to early music, but it sounds like from Liz's report that's what I fear.

If one wants a light stick with a pointy end with 2/3 the hair, one can get it for 30 bucks from a Chinese workshop and mess around with it. And nothing wrong with that too, that's how I got started as a student.

But good news is a decent baroque is way way cheaper than modern. Really encourage everyone to get a decent bow from a baroque bow maker (they pour their life and heart into making them) and see it as a worthwhile investment for your technique.

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