New bow advice

Edited: June 7, 2018, 9:21 AM · Hi everyone!

I'm slowly improving my violin skills, and I'm slowly improving my gear. I've recently posted some threads asking for strings and rosin advice. And now I want to ask you about bows. And your answers are important for me, as I have no idea of how to choose a decent bow. My current one is a Yamaha generic bow that came in a €400 violin set (Yamaha V5). Things to consider:

a) I'm currently perfectioning vibrato and 3rd position, to give you an idea of my level. I'm currently learning a Corelli Op. 5 allegro.

b) My budget is flexible. I've thought €200-400 can be a good starting point, given my current level. I can spend more if it's really worth it.

c) I love classical music and I consider this a lifetime hobby. I'm not a professional, and I don't plan on studying any kind of musical career.

d) I've asked my teacher today and he's given me some general advice. Also, he offered to come with me for trying bows at the shop. I'll probably go with him, but I'd also like to learn a bit, and that's one of the reasons I'm posting here.

And now, some questions:

1. Should I get a carbon fiber bow or a wooden bow? Can I find a decent wooden bow with my initial budget range?

2. Is there any specific brand (or maker) to look for in the shop?

3. What should I look for in the bow "physically" at the shop? In other words... what does a good bow look like, and how to distinguish it from a defective one?

4. Any other advice is welcome.

Sorry for the long post (I've tried to keep it tidy), and thank you!

Replies (53)

Edited: June 9, 2018, 3:23 PM · If you bring your teacher and your own violin to test the bows on you should be OK. Try to notice if there is a cozy relationship between your teacher and the shop personnel because sometimes some teachers get a financial kickback for leading buyers to their shop.

I think in the price range you are considering you might do well with a carbon fiber bow, however one can get a very nice wooden bow in that price range. My viola bows are an example: I have 4 viola bows, 2 CF and 2 wood. The best one of them for me on my violas is the cheapest (no-name pernamubco labeled "C. BAZIN" $375). I also have an ARCUS CONCERTO bow (CF and now probably close to $2,000), a W. Seifert (pernambuco, now about $600, a German workshop bow), and a CODA Classic (CF and probably about $600 when it was new). I lucked into the "Bazin" bow on ebay.

Try as many bows as you can and let your teacher try them on your violin too.

Good luck!

June 7, 2018, 10:14 AM · I would look at a JonPaul Bravo or Avanti - these are good carbon fiber bows to learn on at your skill level. Andrew is right, you can find a good wood bow for that price, but it's a bit more difficult...and as your skill level improves, your tastes in bows might change. Anyway, I'm sure your teacher will have some strong opinions ;). Good luck!
June 7, 2018, 10:27 AM · Are you happy with your curreq bow? I'm assuming you aren't. At this stage, a bow that's well-balanced, sturdy, and otherwise easy to work with (can't elaborate on that at this point, sorry) should be good enough. Try a bunch of affordable bows (as you will) and see what suits you best. You don't need the world's greatest bow for now.
June 8, 2018, 3:59 AM · Thank you for your replies.

Andrew: I don’t think my teacher is getting any financial kickback for going to the music shop. He advised me not to buy through the internet because I can’t try what I’m buying but he also told me some of his students got good deals that way. The problem is that my town is not very big and there’s only one music shop that in some cases rises the prices a bit. So I want to be informed when I go.

Peter: The Bravo one looks good for the price. If I get a chance to try one of them I will!!

Ella: My bow feels a bit “cheap”. I’ve tried two better bows from more advanced students (one at €400 and the other at €2500) and the difference even with the cheap one was night and day (that one was a wooden bow named Marcus B...). And, as you said, I don’t need the best now in the market. Just something better which lets me rim prove easily. I’ll try bows and will decide.

Edited: June 9, 2018, 1:54 PM · Generic bows of the kind which go in auction for pennies, or with old violins in classified ads, are sometimes OK, though I accept yours is probably not OK. One option might be to find a bow like that, or a cheapish carbon fibre, to tide you over until you have a different violin, on the basis that there is something to be said for matching the bow to the violin. Personally I am more sceptical than most here about paying too much attention to hardware. However, I have to admit the match between bow in violin does make a difference, not least because some violins--often those made with thick plates--tolerate, and indeed require, more arm weight (i.e. a bow which is stiffer, and possibly heavier) than others.
June 9, 2018, 2:01 PM · Miguel,

Welcome to the strangest part of the Violin world. Since you've tried a few other bows, you have discovered that they do make a difference in how your violin sounds and often in how well you play.

My advice is simple: take your time, play the exact same piece/scales/arpeggios with the different bow. Do not make a purchase on the first day. Go back a few days or a week later and re-do your trials of the bows you liked. Perhaps even a third or fourth visit before you spend money.

Finally, don't try to explain this to your non string playing friends - they will never understand the difference that a bow can make and definitely will not understand the cost. No sense in confusing them and getting into arguments.

June 10, 2018, 11:51 AM · Thank you.

John: I don't want anything excessively fancy. Just a better bow that lets me improve and that will be good on a future violin. My current violin is a bit loud and shrill, but I must admit that it's sounding better each day. Maybe it's because I'm improving, or maybe because it's opening up. I saw a big difference in overtime production when I tried the €400 bow. It's a reasonable price for equipment considering how expensive violins can be. I am aware it's easy to get caught in a "gear improving loop", but I'm also aware that good equipment makes a difference. A good violin makes a difference, a good bow makes a difference and good rosin and strings do make a difference. Ultimately, of course, what makes the biggest difference is the player. I use to ask my teacher to play with my violin and bow to see what can I achieve... and even if he gets beautiful sounds from my violin that I can't, his violin sounds a lot better than mine. Well, we must achieve an equilibrium.

George: Thank you for your kind advice. I'll take it into account. I've just explained it to a non-string player friend, who didn't understand me, but still observed me with some kind of envy. It was a funny sensation.

June 10, 2018, 2:06 PM · If you're learning, trying new bows is pointless. You can't tell what's good. You have to know what's good ahead of time and grow into it. But good bows come at a price.

Bows in the 2-3k range are still terrible.

Most top makers have silver-mounts that start at 6k. You can get a silver-mount Emmanuel Begin bow for about 4k.

If you're willing to take risks, Tarisio auctions has a lot of nickle mounts for under a grand. Lots of silver-mounts for a few grand. Which makers? Morizot, Ouchard, Bazin, Lotte, and many others are big names.

June 10, 2018, 2:20 PM · Miguel,

Variation of the old joke. A violinist mentions to a friend that he just bought a new bow and it only cost $1500. His friend was blown away. "You just paid $1500 for a violin bow. You can get a violin, case and bow at the big-box store for $200 why spend so much?" Realizing that he cannot explain it the violinist walks away. A few weeks later the same friend tells the violinist that he just bought a new golf club that is going to change his game for a mere $1500. "$1500 for a golf club. You can get a whole bag of clubs for only $200 - there at the big-box right next to the $200 violins."

June 10, 2018, 2:24 PM · Thanks for your sensible advice, Tom. Given my current level and situation, the meaning of the word "good" applied to a bow changes a bit. What may be a good bow for me, will be a terrible bow for anyone who plays professionally or at a high level. At this point, I think it's completely pointless to spend 4k or 6k on a bow whose quality I can't determine and I can't enjoy. But, as an amateur I think I can improve slightly better if I get a more playable bow than the current one I have, which is terrible.

I hope one day I can reach the level in which I can know what do I want in a bow, can determine which bow is good, can afford it, and can enjoy it!

June 10, 2018, 2:26 PM · George: Didn't know the joke. It might even be useful for real-life arguments ;-)
June 10, 2018, 2:58 PM · Hi Miguel. I noticed that no one has responded to your question #3 yet. This might be obvious, but if you look down the shaft of the bow starting at the frog, it should be straight. You might find wooden bows that are slightly warped -- that would be no good.
Edited: June 10, 2018, 3:24 PM · While basically I absolutely agree with John in that we should not pay too much attention to hardware, I cannot resist throwing in my own two cents here...

We all are different, not only as players, but also as learners. It may depend on your character, on how developed your fine motor skills are already, etc. But one thing I do believe we do all have in common - we want to make progress as fast as possible.
In my case (late starter at age 40, make my living mostly in microsurgery and thus used to small structures / tiny little movements and nuances, played piano since age 6 up to a semiprofessional level followed by a hiatus of almost 20 years) the violin wasn't the real issue. A €1,2k rental student violin my luthier recommended was more than good enough for me. That I ended up investing almost ten times more even a few months later was a pure act of self indulgence after falling in love at first touch, and being lucky enough to afford it. For my progress in learning to play the violin this definitely wasn't necessary, although I doubt my motivation would be the same with an instrument I didn't like that much.
What really made a huge difference was the bow! For the very beginning, any BSO (bow shaped object) would have done the job. But very soon after being able to do a straight bow stroke, I became issues with my (€250 Brazilwood) BSO. It was playable, at least for my teacher who definitely knew how to treat it, but as I expected it did react completely different in my own hands. My teacher let me try her own bow, and even if it still wasn't a self-playing model either, things became much more logic and easier to understand since the feedback this bow gave was better to feel in the bow hand, instantly I felt much more connected to the strings. This phenomenon vanished at once when I learned about the value of this bow. Although I had never dropped a bow, the knowledge of this bow's price tag (€5,5k) made me anxious and clumsy and I did not want to touch it anymore. But this hour gave me a first idea.
I have tried and played plenty of bows since then. I haven't found "the one and only" one yet, and I'm not at a level yet where I'd really need a high end bow. But I believe that it isn't wise to try to learn good technice on a bad bow you do not feel connected to. Sure, your teacher will be able to do anything on it, but it will be harder for him than on a good tool. So why shouldn't this also hold true for you, too? How couldn't it be harder to learn on a basic level bow with unprecise behaviours...
Thus said, well Miguel, both of us will not need an old french bow to get along. I was extremely happy with a modern french bow from the 1950ies I was lucky enough to buy for €450 from a professional second violinist in a symphony orchestra. (After a too thick rehair it sounded muffled, and since he had a whole bunch of other bows he lost interest without trying to adress the issue and just sold it after a few years of neglect... I cut out about fourty hairs, and it was perfect again.) This bow left me towards my son's violin case after he first time tried it. (He was starting into martele, sautille and spiccato back then and could really need it...) For some time I "borrowed" it from him and messed around with some BSOs and several "funny things", checked out the stock at the luthiers in my region, and couldn't find anything my violin and me both liked below the €3k region, what I simply wasn't willing to invest at my still rather basic level. Until a colleague told me she had inherited a violin and several bows years ago from her uncle who had played in our local community based orchestra for many years. She let me try the bows and choose one. After consulting a luthier we agreed on €350, and I'm absolutely sure this one will last me at least some more years.
And after two years of steady progress I'm now preparing for second solo violin of Bach's double concerto - not to be played in public, but to backup my son's music companion with whom he'll perform it in autumn at music school. I'm not great on this, but it's not far out of reach, at least...

What I am trying to tell you is that you don't have to spend tons of money for your hardware. You can learn to play the violin on almost anything better than a cigar box, if necessary and nothing else available. But what makes it really really hard is a bow that holds you back. It's the bow that requires all the technique, not so much the violin itself, and IF there are any hardware issues that hinders your progress, it's much more likely the bow than the instrument itself. Or, with Giovanni Battista Viotti's legendary words: "Le violon, c'est l'archet!"
So, don't waste your precious time (and money for lessons) with a bow that doesn't feel ergonomic to you, and that doesn't allow you to understand what's happening between the hair and the strings.. Try as many bows as you can, and if you especially like one within your price range, ask your teacher - it's too easy to burn money that way...

June 10, 2018, 3:16 PM · @Tom: Grünke bows from Germany start at €2,3k. And they're great...
June 10, 2018, 5:25 PM · Nuuska has a point, except that the violin matters too. That's for later down the line. Great violins are very expensive, so you slowly trade up.

Couple months ago, I bought a cello. I don't play the cello, but I bought one. 6K retail, traded in an old instrument to bring that down. I bought a $200 carbon fiber bow, thinking, "I don't know how to play the cello. I don't need a fancy bow yet." I tried, tried, and tried to get a good sound from it, but I couldn't. I thought, "wow. playing the cello must be drastically different from the violin." I took a gamble and bought a 1k cello bow, and whoa...much, much better sound. Then last week I had a shop send me a 6k cello bow to demo. Bam! Even better sound. I still don't know how to play the cello. I've put maybe 20 hours total practice time in my life, but I know this. Equipment matters. You sabotage your learning with cheap equipment.

If you're going to buy a bow from a local shop, buy it from somewhere that gives you the option to trade up for free. Buy it from somewhere that has a collection of fine bows. Up to 6-10k. If they only have 2-3k bows, then find another store.

Robertson and Sons in New Mexico (for example) is a great store. 100% trade-up policy guarantee. Buy any bow you want from them in your price range. It won't matter which, because you can't tell. But when you get better and CAN tell, then trade it up later then. I realize you're not in the United States, but perhaps you can find a comparable store wherever you live.

Edited: June 10, 2018, 5:29 PM · And lastly, a $600 bow took me all the way to the Brahms Violin Concerto. I just never mastered bow bouncing because of it. I have a gold-mounted Fuchs bow now, and it opened a world of opportunities.

Buy pernambuco wood bow. It's the gold standard. Stay within 60-62g. Stay away from Carbon fiber and anything else.

June 10, 2018, 6:35 PM · I have to sharply disagree with pretty much all of Tom's posts in this thread.

Miguel, given that you have a violin that costs less than $500, I think you'll be fine buying a bow that costs $500 or less. In that price range, you are more likely to find an acceptable carbon-fiber bow than a pernambuco one. Try out a bunch, have your teacher help you test, and pick one that feels good now and that your teacher believes will help you develop further in the future.

If you can spend a bit more, $750 will get you a JonPaul Avanti. A lot of professionals (here on and otherwise) use them for orchestra playing. I own one and I like its handling, even if its tone doesn't match that of a good wood bow. (And frankly, no one will notice anyway. I switch off between an embarrassingly expensive antique French bow and a JP Avanti for orchestra, and I'm pretty sure that the CF sound isn't really noticeable to listeners even in my concertmaster solos.)

In that $750-1000 range, you can find other decent CF bows, and there are fairly usable Brazilian workshop pernambuco bows, as well.

For almost all amateurs, about $2500 in a violin and less than $1000 in a bow will be sufficient for whatever playing you want to do, if you search carefully. If you're on the way to outgrowing that equipment (which can happen at the late intermediate stage), your teacher will let you know what to look for in an upgrade. Spending more than that is largely a matter of luxury for most amateurs, though if you want to indulge, sure, go ahead, though I think gradual upgrades make more sense (i.e., if you had the money, I would encourage upgrading into that $2500 + $1000 range as soon as you can, but not upgrade beyond that until you're a better player, headed into the major concerto repertoire).

It's always nice to be able to get full value on a trade-in, but many of the places that specialize in fine instruments don't carry a broad selection of student-grade stuff, and vice versa. And if you ever intend to invest in professional-grade equipment, you won't want to confine your search to one shop anyway. So buy from whatever shop you want, even if there's no trade-up path to more expensive bows.

Tom's advice on weight is also incorrect, in my opinion. Standard violin bow weight is roughly 58g to 62g, and anything in that range is fine. Some players also like heavier or lighter, but the more you deviate from typical the more difficult a bow is to resell later, and in many cases you'd be better off looking for a different balance (i.e. a bow that "feels" lighter or heavier) than actual weight outside typical range.

June 10, 2018, 6:51 PM · Agree with Lydia 100% on all counts.
Edited: June 10, 2018, 8:00 PM · If you're gonna learn, then learn it right. It doesn't matter what professionals can do. They've already mastered the basics, the intermediate, and the advanced.

The gold standard is pernambuco, and the typical violin bow weight is roughly 60g. Lydia may disagree with what I say, but the range of 60-62g isn't my opinion. It's the opinion of some of the greatest living bow makers. Charles Espey writes about it on his blogspot. His bows sell for a TON. The full story is very complicated and isn't the goal of this comment. Just aim for 60g if you can. Bow makers that won medals target 60g for silver-mount and 62g for gold.

My Le Canu silver mount is at 60.05g. Fuchs gold a little chunky at 62.55g, Radosavjlec gold mount at 61.95g. The last Pecatte silver-mount I saw was 59g.

Until you get a better understanding of what your personal requirements are, stick to the standard. Learn things the proper way. And avoid carbon fiber.

Edited: June 10, 2018, 8:11 PM · Telling a beginner to go spend a ton of money on professional gear is terrible advice. There are good times to upgrade, and players who can afford it should probably do so when they enter the window where the next step up is a good idea, but premature upgrades aren't optimal for learning.

And actually, Epsey's blog post (LINK) merely says (emphasis mine): What really determines a bow’s required power is how much downward pressure on the strings the instrument can withstand without an unacceptable loss of tone. The bow must be able to direct this downward force without bottoming out and playing on the stick. Of course how close an individual player will go to this limit is a personal matter of technique and style. It also varies with the instrument. In practice, a violin bow of around 60 grams usually meets this requirement and so does a cello bow of 80 grams.

A delta of about 2 grams is within standard weight for violin bows. You can get further outliers (56 or 57g, or 63 or 64g) but they are much less common. (Arcus CF bows represent an extreme weight delta, and I'm not talking about those in this case, but rather, pernambuco bows.)

Lighter bows can be favored for Mozart and other Classical playing, though as I noted, most players will stay within the standard 58g-62g range and just look for the right balance. Stronger sticks tend to be favored by modern players, though this wasn't always the case.

For playing qualities in the sub-$1k range (and arguably in the sub-$3k range), CF bows are typically better than wood bows. Wood bows typically produce a better sound, but that's not consistently true either. The ability to fairly reliably get a bow that handles well enough for professional use for under $1k is a strong argument for CF for anyone on a budget.

I own multiple bows that are vastly more expensive than an Espey, just FYI.

June 10, 2018, 9:48 PM · My advice was to buy from a store that has 100% trade-in value. He can start at whichever price point he wants and upgrade as needed. He's better off with advice regarding what to buy, rather than us bickering back and forth about professional bows. I grew up with an Alfred Knoll bow. I realized today it was 64g, too stiff, and hindered my learning ability. I don't know of an excellent maker sub-3k. The 2.5k bows I tried was just as terrible as my $600 bow. Perhaps you know of a few makers.

If he wants a professional bow right off the bat, then Begin is probably the cheapest and biggest bang for the buck. His bows are very good and underpriced. He won many medals at competitions. Le Canu trained him, and his bows perform ALMOST as good as a Le Canu.

Carbon fiber is risky. Some are 45g, some are 65g. Just learn on a traditional bow. Geez. He's a beginner. Your recommendations are better suited for advanced players, not beginners. If he decides to buy CF, then it's up to him. My carbon fiber is a POS, and I regret buying it dearly.

I've read your posts. You buy big name makers. The old masters. You own a Victor Fetique, if I remember correctly. That means $$$. These old masters can do LOTS that these entry bow makers cannot. Different ballgame. I wished I had someone tell me what to buy, instead of having to learn by trial and error. Trial and error is expensive. I have many bows that I don't use, because everyone advises you, "just try a bunch of bows, and see which one suits you the best." Problem is, when you're learning, you don't know what you're doing. A friend of mine told me to buy a Radosevjlic, and that ended my search for a better-performing bow.

And I actually wanted to thank you for the reviews on the Reed Yeboah meeting. Helped me screen out some makers, and identify which ones to try next.

June 10, 2018, 10:00 PM · I've TALKED TO medal winning bow makers, one of which was trained by Espey. I didn't come up with these numbers based on a google search. The real answer is, it depends on the properties of the wood and what you're trying to do with it. But that gets into Shaolin monks theoretical wood spirit that I won't understand. I just let the bow makers do their thing.

My advice for beginners is the same, stick to the fundamentals. 60g pernambuco is the standard. You may find yourself hindering your own development otherwise when you get cute.

June 10, 2018, 10:08 PM · A 45g CF bow, really? Who makes those?

Carbon fiber bows can be awful and can be pretty good. $700-$800 will get one that is pretty reliably good. An advancing student does not need to be spending $3000 on a bow.

June 10, 2018, 10:13 PM · For those of you who are looking for a very good cheap bow, I really like this one:

It's a copy of a Jules Fetique. It's only $600. I bought it for kicks, but it performs really well. It's on the heavier side, maybe 63-64g. but like I said, it performs really well for a cheapo bow.

June 10, 2018, 10:31 PM · An Arcus S-series bow is 49g. It feels quite different initially, although with a few minutes of getting used to it, it doesn't feel like it's too light. That's why I noted that the Arcus bows are outliers.

Most other manufacturer's CF bows are within a gram of 60g, and one of the nice thing about the CF manufacturers is that by and large, they don't make things that are weird. They tend to make bows that handle predictably, and handle well for their price. I've been fairly impressed by the whole JonPaul series, thus far, across their price spectrum, and I think the Avanti model is both affordable and (at least in my experience) handles well enough that it can serve any use -- it's a keeper bow, even if it gets relegated to backup status if a player later upgrades. (The $250-ish Bravo isn't bad but it's not a clear winner over other CF bows in that range, in my opinion.)

I've also talked to some top bow makers; I've owned a contemporary bow since childhood, and I've thought about commissioning a bow. My desired traits for a bow have evolved over my lifetime, though. I've also had numerous discussions about bow weight, because of my strong preference for a feel of lightness in the hand.

In any event, a key reason that I suggest gradual upgrades as one advances is precisely the syndrome that you mention: Buying bows without really knowing what you're looking for. My teachers have always had input into what I've chosen to buy, but by the time I was purchasing a full-size bow, I already had advanced technique.

The best sub-$1k bow I've ever tried was a Chinese-made Maline copy. If I could have gotten it as a backup bow, I would have bought it in a heartbeat. It felt startlingly Maline-like.

June 10, 2018, 11:30 PM · Miguel: Great advices from Lydia. I agree 100% when she says that one of the best things of CF bows is that their characteristics are very predictable. It is an engineered item with specific numbers (elasticity, resonance...), whilst a wooden one has more random characteristics. That said, a bow, more than almost anything else in violin, should be played before purchase. And a normal bow purchase involves testing a lot of them. In that regard, I am concerned about the availability in your shop. Recently you said they didn't have many rosins or strings to choose. I doubt they will have enough bows for you to make an informed and tested purchase.
Keep your eyes in the mark, but don't rush. Maybe you have incoming trips to other cities and you can research which shops are there and do some testing.
Finding the right bow feels like falling in love. You feel it, you don't rationalize it. Suddenly the difficult passages become easy and you feel like the bow guides the hand, not the opposite. Worth to wait and expand your purchasing area to find it.
Edited: June 11, 2018, 1:13 AM · Well, I didn't expect such a discussion on this matter...

Gene Huang: Thank you for answering my #3 question. It was one of the most interesting ones for me, as a beginner.

Lydia and Tom: You had a really interesting argument, with lots of unknown data for me. Thanks. I see what each of you is trying to state. But Tom, I don't really think I should spend such a high amount of money in a bow to play Suzuki 4 and Mckay's 3rd position songs with a < €400 violin. I aim to get the best possible gear... in a reasonable and proportional fashion.

I like Lydia's suggestion of upgrading to a 2500k + 1000k instrument and keep there until I reach an advanced level (I'm still really far from those concertos). Just a question on that, Lydia. Do you think it is better to upgrade one thing first and then another, or everything in a bunch?

Carlos: You remember well. I recently bought a rosin among limited options to choose from, and with strings happens the same. They cover a wide range of musical instruments in a small city, so they lack a bit of depth in some fields. They're Yamaha dealers, and they're specialised in pianos. I've tried some pianos there and bought a very nice modern digital piano at a good price (I live in a flat in which unfortunately I can't play a real piano). When you buy a piano, you see they know what are they talking about. But on strings, they have just one salesman who knows about it and, if he is not available, they're a bit lost. I also believe they can bring gear by catalog, but I don't know if it involves any compromise. I will consider the option of expanding my range. I'll soon go on vacation to a slightly bigger coastal city which has two or three music shops.

June 11, 2018, 7:11 AM · Miguel, a violin and bow are best if they are a tonal match, and therefore it's usually better to buy the violin and then buy a bow to match.

However, there are practical arguments to do otherwise based on your budget. If you buy a $250 bow, for instance, which is reasonable for a sub-$500 violin, you will almost certainly need to upgrade the bow again.

However, if you upgrade to, say, a JP Avanti (or any other bow in that range that has sufficiently good handling), you probably won't need to upgrade the bow again.

If you could get a violin in the ~$1,000 range -- which is the range of instrument quality for most rentals, honestly -- that would probably be a worthwhile interim upgrade, but that violin would definitely be something you'd need to upgrade again. If you wanted to do that, I would suggest that it would be better to rent rather than buy while you save for the next upgrade. Or you might luck into a long-term acceptable violin in the $1k-2k range, especially if you reckon that you're not likely to go beyond casual intermediate-level playing.

You can also get violins and bows by mail -- violin shops will send them out on trial -- and I suggest you do that to widen the range of what you try.

Edited: June 11, 2018, 8:31 AM · Lydia: Regarding my goals, I'm an amateur player which doesn't have lots of practise time, but plans to stick with the violin for a long time. My main goal is to enjoy it. As a realistic technical goal, without imposing myself any kind of deadline, it would be great to achieve a level in which I can play Bach's Partitas and Mozart sonatas. Correct me if I'm wrong, as grades in my country are different, but that would be more or less an 8th grade (?), which is my current piano level. I'd be more than satisfied with that, and I've got the rest of my life to try (I'm in my late 20s now). Maybe when I reach a better level I can think of playing in an amateur orchestra or chamber ensemble, but that's another story.

Surprisingly, the more advice I read here, the least convinced I am of getting a new bow now. I am convinced almost any bow in a reasonable price range would be better than what I have, but maybe I should to keep my current equipment and upgrade everything in a bunch when it's time to change my violin. The JP Avanti idea is not bad at all, though. It's a bit more expensive than my initial budget, but it may be worth in the long term. What about Coda bows? Are they any good?

I think I'll talk again to my teacher on my next class this Thursday, and see his opinion on the matter. He recently told me that I can stick with this violin for a while, until I start playing 5th position. But he doesn't know yet if he will teach me 5th or 2nd position after the 3rd is done. He says he is prone to teach 5th after, as it broadens the violin range, but also that it depends on the student.

Thank you (again)

June 11, 2018, 9:37 AM · Coda bows are fine, too. If you're looking in the sub-$500 range, I prefer Coda over the other brands that I've tried. I traded in a Coda Colors, plus some cash, to get my JP Avanti. (And I traded an Arcus Sonata to another player previously, to get his Coda plus some cash.)
Edited: June 11, 2018, 10:06 AM · Miguel -- I'm an amateur too. I own two Codabows (GX and Joule) and like them, but I mainly use my ~US$750 pernambuco bow for classical music. After reading many comments on about the JP carbon fibre bows, my curiosity is piqued. Most say that the JP is better than Codabow. If I ever spring for another bow, the JP is probably the next I would try.
June 11, 2018, 10:19 AM · Lydia: That's a lot of bow trading! Thank you for your insight on Coda bows. I consider they can be a good option in my situation.

Gene: You're an amateur... but from your youtube channel I can see you're a good player, of course way better than me (which is not very difficult). Which is the maker or brand of your pernambuco bow? I'm also curious about the JP bows. Almost everything I read about them is positive.

June 11, 2018, 10:56 AM · Sometimes a bow will seem like a dud just because it is not haired properly. Too often bow technicians just install a standard "hank of hair" and that's it! To the contrary, the amount of hair on a bow should be related to stiffness of the stick. Too much hair on a soft stick is pretty unplayable.

There is an ideal amount of hair for any bow - for sound quality this is the amount of hair that stretches hairs a certain amount. This should also create a tool in which the stick's elasticity and the hair's share in the action or playability of the bow.

There was a lot of talk about this on a couple of years before and after 2000.

I would also like to congratulate Lydia Leong for her wise and knowledgeable contributions I think she is pretty much always right on with her insight and advice - and a great writer too!

June 11, 2018, 10:13 PM · Miguel -- My pernambuco bow was made in Germany and sold by Shar under the name "Klaus Becker" (probably not a real person). Shar has a nice trial program. For $20, they sent me 4 bows to try out for a couple weeks. After the 2-week period ended, I kept the one I liked and shipped the rest back. I'm not sure how or if the trial program works outside the US, however.
June 12, 2018, 3:48 AM · When I bought a carbon fiber bow last autumn as spare bow I tried a few models - CodaBow GX and Marquise and JonPaul Carrera - both the firm and softer model. I much prefer the JonPaul over the Coda both in handling and sound quality and ended up getting the firm JonPaul Carrera. Since then I have tried a few other CF bows from friends and my advise based on these trials is to choose a JonPaul over a Coda in the same price range.
June 12, 2018, 7:22 AM · I have the same question regarding of bow
I'm thinking to buy a $400 - $600 pernambuco bow.
I tried Andreas Franke bow today and I like it. Have anyone try the bow?

I also tried Eastman BL90, sounds good but it's feel a little bit to heavy

Holstein 3-star Pernambuco Violin Bow, has anyone try it? since I can't try it because I live in another country

June 27, 2018, 12:56 AM · Related question: the recommendations on affordable CF bow brands: are they also valid for viola bows? E.g. if a JP Avanti is good for violin, does it generally mean that the viola version is comparable in quality?
Edited: June 27, 2018, 6:28 AM · Since I started this thread some weeks ago, I've become full of doubt.

The more I play my violin, the less I like its sound signature, even if it has improved and opened up a bit since I bought it. It sounds better, but I feel it's a tad too bright for me. So I'm seiously thinking of upgrading it at the end of this year to an instrument around the €2-2.5k mark. That should be enough for me as an amateur for the next years (please correct me if I'm wrong).

But now I don't really know if I should upgrade my bow at this moment, and upgrade my violin later, or if it is worth to wait a bit with my current equipment and upgrade everything in a bunch (bow+violin+case). My teacher says I can do whatever I want. That it doesn't matter when I buy it if what I buy is good (or at least, decent).

In my rather small city, I have no easy option for renting a better instrument for some months and see how it goes. So, again, any advice on the matter will be welcome.

What would you do in my situation?

June 27, 2018, 8:59 AM · At least 10 years ago I bought a couple of old violins on ebay - old German "factory" fiddles with names I was familiar with (probably no more recent than early 20th century). They were actually in terrible shape aesthetically and physically, but they sounded quite good and played fairly well. I had in mind to give them to a teenage student who needed something better than he had, but I knew their appearance and condition would turn him off. I ended up donating them to the local community college.

I wonder if similar deals are still available there.

Edited: June 27, 2018, 6:24 PM · In that price range, I'd recommend you try out some bows with SHAR. They have a line of private-label carbon fiber bows ("Presto") that are really quite adequate for $100-$250. They'll mail them to you and you are under no obligation to buy, just pay the return ship. So you could try out things from the bottom to the top of your price range. I tried out the cheapest Presto model for $70 a few years ago and it was remarkably good for the price -- strong, lively, decent handling. I'm actually less of a fan of the more expensive ($400-$500) low-end JohnPaul and Codabows -- they are typically too rigid for my taste.

Wooden bows, in that price range you can find bows that work, but it's a real crapshoot, you are not getting very good wood usually.

There are bows being made out of IPE wood by Chinese manufacturers that are intriguing and can be had for under $100. Here's an Ebay dealer where I've bought bows and they're a great value for the price. A $200 bow from these people will perform like a $700-$800 bow in an American shop. Plus they have a good return policy -- though you do have to pay for shipping back to Shanghai.

Keep in mind, there really is no universal definition of the perfect violin bow. Everybody wants different qualities and no bow can perform optimally on all kinds of music -- there are always tradeoffs. Some people want strength, some people want quickness and nimbleness, some people want a subtlety of sound.

So you want to pick a bow that feels good, gives you a nice sound and maybe helps you do some of the strokes that you're trying to learn at this point in your your journey. You should expect, if you practice and progress, that you'll be saving up for the next bow in 2-3 years, at which time you probably want to spend $1000-1500.

June 27, 2018, 6:36 PM · Mary Ellen, I've never heard of a 45g violin bow, but I have a 49G Arcus S-series and it's my favorite stick. It's amazing how much difference 12 grams makes -- along with a carbon shaft that is super responsive. Allows you to play with a much lighter grip, which helps flexibility. In my next life when I have a spare $25,000, I'll search for a 56-gram Lamy or Voirin, but in this life, the Arcus is as good as it gets.

That said, Miguel doesn't need to worry about expensive bows at this stage. Something servicable and fun to play on, and he may very well find it for $200-$250 of he looks in the right places.

Edited: June 27, 2018, 8:31 PM · I'm gonna be honest. Some of you guys kinda scare the crap out of me! I have a Jackson-Guldan violin that was my dad's when he was in middle school and high school, and which he gave to me when I was 10 and started playing. I gather it's worth about $100. I don't care--I adored Tony as a kid and given that my dad recently died, Tony is all the more precious to me. I happily spent several hundred $$ getting him repaired and set up when I returned to playing after 38 years off. My bow was shot after all those years, so I bought a wooden one for $95. Everything sounds fine. Not like a Strad, but that's OK, because I'm never going to merit one.

Most people are never gonna merit one, or a $6,000 bow, either. I could never tell the difference, I would bet you, between the $6k bow and mine, and that's OK. There is room for all of us in the music world, I hope.

I'm not sure I think it's responsible, or even fair, to try to get people who are not playing at a high level and who do not have grand ambitions to spend that kind of money on equipment they can probably not appreciate. It sure leaves people like me wondering I belong here at all. :-(

June 27, 2018, 11:07 PM · Miguel, I've been playing the Corelli Op. 5 sonatas (Book 2), and some Handel, Croft and Vivaldi, plus some other baroque. If you are playing Corelli and Bach, why not get a baroque-style bow? I just got one from Shar for $150, probably I would love it more if I didn't already have another baroque style bow that is 1/2" shorter and feels much lighter. Apparently I like my bows short and very light. So I just ordered a few very short and light early-style bows (look like archery bows!) from Glenn Braun on Etsy --for $90 each. I love the bow he made me when I bought a Lira da Braccio from him last year. Can't wait to get the new bows from him!
June 27, 2018, 11:12 PM · Hi Elizabeth, there are some very professional violinists here (I am definitely never gonna be one of them!) so I enjoy the insight into their perspective and experience. No need to be intimidated or feel out of place, some of us here have cheap violins and cheap bows and play after work and hope someday it will grow into real music. As long as you're enjoying the journey, don't worry how you compare to anyone else you meet along the way. The only person I compare myself to is myself a year ago --and I'm definitely better now.
Edited: June 28, 2018, 3:37 AM · Andrew: That would be great. But I'm not sure if I will be able to find something like that. I don't know how to distinguish a good violin from a bad one. If I go to a pawn shop and find a violin which needs some repair, I can't say it's good or not. The same happens through the internet. What I can do is asking around people who play in a local orchestra to see if they know someone who sells their instrument.

Thomas: Do you know if Shar has that "trial mailing" policy with international shipping? I live in Europe, so things may change a bit. But I can consider it as an option. I'll also have a look t that ebay dealer you pointed me to. As you said, regarding bows, I just need something which lets me learn new basic bow strokes (I'm currently learning how to do spicatto). Thank you very much.

Elizabeth: If I had a violin which had been owned by my father, grandfather or any other ancestor, that would probably be one of my most appreciated objects, and I would play it, regardless of its objective value (I do something like this... with a pen and a fountain pen my grandfather owned). But I'm the first one in my family which has taken music as a serious hobby. If my memory serves me well, there was a professional musician in my family during the late XVIII century. But everything's lost since then. Regarding equipment... I won't buy anything super expensive. At least now, when I'm starting.

Will: : Baroque music is my favourite music. I plan to get someday a baroque bow, but since I'm still learning very basic techniques and strokes, I want to learn them with a standard bow. And I also want to learn some classical and romantic music, because I don't want to get "stuck" in a single style. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll have a look at them.

June 28, 2018, 7:19 AM · I appreciate the information about the high-end instruments and bows as well. That's the best thing about this forum! :-) I'm glad we cheap people are still welcome. ;-)
June 28, 2018, 12:00 PM · Miguel, according to this Shar no longer ships outside US and Canada:

If you're in the EU (You list your currency as Euros, so maybe?) I'm sure there are music equipment dealers similar to SHAR who would sell low-cost bows with trials. And if you're buying a bow, even an inexpensive one, you really do need to try before you buy. Bows can have dramatically different characteristics and you have to choose based on what kind of music you're playing.

Incidentally, if you want to learn baroque bow technique, there are decent Chinese-made baroque bows for very low cost, as they don't have to be made from pernambuco but less expensive ironwood or snakewood. Consider something with an outward camber because that will give you the most authentic baroque bow experience.

Edited: June 28, 2018, 2:48 PM · Miguel - you're from Europe, so it should be easy to access this one: Alfred Stingl By Höfner AS36V. It's ridiculously cheap for what you get, at Thomann you can order it for €118 incl. free shipping and you cannot do anything wrong since they offer a 30 days money back policy.
It is a very well balanced stick, warm sound, not too soft and just agile enough. Consistent quality (had the chance to try a whole bunch, they were pretty all the same). It was my first bow, and I did not only get a second one as a backup for my son but I also still use it in dangerous situations, or if one of the kids asks me about trying to play a violin for the first time. What I just recently performed with it is Massenet Meditations de Thaïs, Tchaikovsky Canzonetta and Andante Cantabile , and Bach Air sul G. (Yeah, made some progress recently...) For all of these, this bow is definitely good enough. For the price of a little bit more than two violin lessons. Although I own several other bows, some of them up to twenty times as expensive, I'm still happy with it, and to be honest it would still be good enough for what I needed as an abitioned intermediate level amateur. And it's definitively as usable as most of €700 wooden bows I've tried yet.
June 28, 2018, 2:44 PM · There were times when I thought it wouldn't be adequate because it's too cheapish. Now I know how to use it. This doesn't mean that worrying about hardware wouldn't be worth the effort - there ARE cheap bows at a similar price which are barely usable, and definitively NOT good enough to learn proper technique.
Edited: June 29, 2018, 5:08 PM · Thomas: Good observational skills. I'm from the EU. I list my currency in €, and I write at times when a very significant part of this forum is still sleeping. Thanks for your suggestions. I love baroque music, and I know I would really enjoy a baroque instrument and bow. Maybe as you said, I can get a regular bow and a cheaper baroque one to get started with it.

Nuuska: I'll consider it. I didn't know Thomann had that policy. I have never bought there... but I see I can try things through this system! Their catalog is also pretty wide.

My teacher told me it would be better to get a wooden bow, and talked to me about CF bows as secondary ones. He said that everyone should have a CF bow, but he wasn't exactly excited about them.

Edited: June 29, 2018, 4:21 PM · We see it sometimes that professional musicians use a high end CF bow as their primary one and get along with it pretty well. I tried a few of them, and while I definitely like the idea especially of the Arcus bows (you really can play endlessly without any effort, and they act very smooth and more forgiving than most wooden bows), they always sounded a slightly bit more harsh as well on my violin as on my viola, so in the end I always returned to wooden bows.
But you just need a proper bow to learn on, and this for a budget. In this situation a CF like the model I recommended may be the best option. There is no obligation to learn on a low end wooden bow if you can't afford a nice one, and I'm sure your teacher will be okay with that. You can save up the rest of the money for later, and as soon as you can afford a better violin plus quality wooden bow, the CF still will be good enough for a backup or dangerous situations.
Edited: June 29, 2018, 4:29 PM · Miguel, maybe you could edit your post so that the bold goes away. You have two bold codes in a row -- the second needs to be a slash-b.

Good advice from Lydia and Gene.

June 29, 2018, 5:09 PM · Sorry. My fault. HTML typo. It should be fixed now. What I didn't know is that the tags are extensive to the whole page, and not just to each post...

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