Bow quality trade-offs
So I need advice. Being as brief on background as possible. I'm an amateur and buying a new boy. My first bow, a $15 stick that came with some package deal, was replaced by the bow I've used since then, a Becker *** from a Shar in-home trial in '86. That, and the two bows from Shar I rejected, is the sum total of my exposure to the wide range of violin bows that exist. Recently, that Shar bow met a tragic end, and I'm back to an in-home trial sample of bows. Or I use the same danged $15 stick I retired in '86. (It made the case look less empty.)
I'm stuck with two bows and need information, given my inexperience. But it's weird information.
Part of the decision was flexible versus stiff. I can't get the flexible bow, no matter how easier I think it is to handle, to sound anything like the stiffer bow. I'll the stiff-bow difficulty through practice. So what else is new?
Thing is, when I pick up the flexible bow it feels great. I think it's really, really well balanced. Slurred 16th notes across strings low in the bow? Sure. Instead of saying, "Play lower on the bow" I catch myself thinking, "Dang, you hit the string with the ferrule again, stop playing that low!" I never realized what a really well-balanced bow felt like. (Of course, it's a personal thing, and that "well-balanced bow" may be another's bow nightmare.) Still, the sound from the not-so-well-balanced stiffer bow is so much better that it's still a no-brainer, and the stiffer bow's balance still makes my old Becker look bad.
So the real advice or information I'm after is this: How often does one come across a bow in the $3-5k range you think is really well-balanced bow? Are we talking 1 out of 5? 1 out of 12? 1 in a 100? From my point of view, it's 1 out of 6 for the $500-$5k range, and that's based on a sample size of 6 over 32 years. Statistically it's pretty meaningless.
If it's a common thing, then it's worth the risk of repeating a home-trial process with a batch of 3-4 different medium-stiff bows. If it's a rarity, then I go with the stiffer of the two bows I have, even though it's a bit out of balance, because it's not worth the hassle.
The balance of bow is pretty easy to adjust (just not at home). Weights (probably up to at least 2 grams) can be added inside the frog or tip. Light faux whalebone or silk wrap can be substituted for heavier wire winding near the frog and vice versa.
How bad is the damage to your Klaus Becker bow?
The Becker is toast. I was planning on upgrading sometime in the next year anyway, but it would have been a great backup.
What kind of toast? other than a clean (nearly) perpendicular break on the stick or crushed wood, a bow can be repaired. If you don't care if it ends up looking "original" it may not be that expensive. I've repaired a broken tip of a very nice H. R. Pfretzschner with fiberglass tape and epoxy (it was probably already broken before it was traded to me).
Balance is to some degree a matter of individual player preference. The real question is, "Does this bow play well?" In the $3k-5k range, you should be able to find a bow that plays entirely satisfactorily. If it's not perfect, pass and keep looking.
Thanks. I think that's where I'm heading.
And for Andrew: My violin and bow were in a rather bad accident. I think, but I'm not sure, that I've separated out the bits of bow from the bits of violin, and that I picked up the various bits up.
And the violin was repairable??
Nuuska, I am bow hunting although I do not mind if it takes one or two years. I would like to buy from a German maker. Sorry for asking, but who made your bow?
Eva, you're welcome. It's made by Klaus Grünke. There are also models from his father, Richard Grünke. Great value for money, and since it's a reputable name you can be relatively sure the bow will keep its value.
Thanks Nuuska, I was also planning on trying some from Sebastian Dirr. Sorry Tim for the sidetracking.
Otto A. Hoyer was another terrific German bow maker of the early 20th century. His bows have been steadily increasing in value. I have only played on one and it really was terrific, belonged to a friend (now deceased) - I should have offered to buy it when she quit playing.
I did not want to interrupt the thread. But nobody seems to add any more remarks therefore I feel free to carry on.
I have discovered that my technique is much more important than my (bow) hardware.
Klaus Gronke of Gronke & Sons makes incredible bows. I owned a few of them in the past although they are now in the hands of former students who wouldn't let them go after I let them try thme. :)
Eva, I'm sure the Grünke workshop would be a good place to start with. (As well as Mr. Dirr, I had the chance to test two of his bows yet, and both were rock solid good.) A reputable modern makers bow at a reasonable price will hold its value relatively well. I do not say it will appreciate, and I don't say it will sell overnight, but it will not be very hard to resell it for a reasonable price without too much loss (except the usual commission fees).
I am living in Germany close to the border to Netherlands and Belgium.
Hm. Maybe your region was to far for my bows (or myself) to travel. Unfortunately... But you see what Gene wrote, and he's definitely not living next door to Langensendelbach. But now I'll stop advertising - I don't want the prices go up before I got mine... ;-)
I once sold an Arcus S8 ... difficult. Luckily I had bought it used myself already.
Selling a bow in this price range is always difficult. For €5,1k (or even €8k for a S9) you've got plenty of choices. And selling privately is especially hard - as long as the buyer doesn't know the instrument in advance before it's on sale and knows about its qualities, everybody is just waiting for a bargain. Still better to sell it on commission and accept the fee.
Just for my interest, Michael - how far did you have to drop the price until you sold the S8?
Good thing was I already bought it under 3000€ which at that time I considered a good deal :D
Would be interesting how a fine wooden bow in good condition from a reputable living maker would sell, in general. I was privately offered a ten year old viola bow from such a maker for current retail minus cost of a rehair minus cost of replacement of the mother of pearl, which was still a bit higher than the original price ten years ago. I thought then I could directly buy from that maker (although he has a waiting list...) and did not start negotiations, and in the end liked the Grünke at least the same, if not better anyway. It was even cheaper than the ten years old...