Carbon Fibre Bows

August 28, 2018, 9:19 AM · Hi everyone:

I was wondering about the pros and cons of using a carbon fibre bow. Would it would be advisable to play with one? And if so, how long would it take for a violinist to get accustomed to it?

Thanks for your time :)

Replies (32)

August 28, 2018, 10:16 AM · As long as we are talking about some of the nicer carbon fiber like CODA, JonPaul, etc. they tend to be less expensive then a comparable pernambuco bow ($300-$800) and a bit more durable. They are great for gigging outdoors, teaching, weddings, even pit-orchestras, where tone production and color are not the most important aspects. They make a great second bow, I would invest in a nice pernambuco bow first if you don't have one. Cons: they don't offer the same tone colors and playability(yet they can come close to some) as pernambuco. Not all CF bows are created equally, so you can try a few and find one that fits your playing, it would take you the same amount of time as one would take to get accustomed to any new bow. Some right away, some after a few weeks, depends. The cheaper carbon fiber bows are essentially fishing rods with hair depending on the country of origin. ($50-$200).
Edited: August 28, 2018, 12:43 PM · I have an older coda bow diamond, and it tends to filter out ring tones and such on my acoustics, as compared to some of my cheaper wooden bows. Makes it harder to hear intonation. Made me remember I got the coda bow for my solid body electric.
August 28, 2018, 3:57 PM · The advice you have received is good. I have an old Coda CF bow which I use when my pernambuco is in the shop being re-haired. I would also use it for outside events. So, I think it is a good second bow if you are primarily a classical violinist. If you are primarily some other sort of violinist, it might work as a primary bow. I just don't know since I am a classical violinist.
Edited: August 29, 2018, 6:56 AM · I agree that most synthetic-stick bows do not make instruments sound as good as a top-notch pernambuco bow, but there can be exceptions.

My experiences with bows include sticks for violins,violas and cellos. The brands of synthetic-stick bows I have owned and played with include:
Glasser-fiberglas (violin)
Glasser-composite (violin)
Glasser-Carbon Fiber (violin)
Presto (violin & cello)
CF Durro (all 3)
Coda Classic (all 3)
Rolland Spiccato (violin)
ARCUS Concerto (all 3)
Berg Deluxe (violin although I did try a cello bow years ago - these are some composite material, possibly not CF))
Jumeau (violin - A CF stick encased in pernambuco from the J. Finkel workshop - actually I auditioned all the bows of this type for violin and cello)

The better of my pernambuco sticks include
Paul Martin Siefried (violin - a living multi-gold medal winner)
Richard Weichold (violin, 19th century Dresden)
F.N. Voirin (Violin, a top 19th century French maker)
Carl Holzapfel (violin, American early 20th century Tourte design))
Paul Martin Siefried (cello)
Albert Nürnberger (cello, late 19th century, German)
no-name (viola - but it is stamped "C. BAZIN")
W. Siefert (viola, German from Lothar Siefert workshop)
And some cheaper bows that I have mostly given away)

In general the pernambuco bows bring out a better sound from the instruments. The composite bows, by and large have been engineered to "play well" for off-string strokes but to my ears they do not sound quite as good as the better pernambuco bows. The Berg Deluxe is actually quite amazing for playability, but does not make sounds anywhere near the Siefried (for example) which is at about the same price point. The CF Durro sounds uniquely good on my 1877 German cello (Lowendall), but the pernambuco bows beat in on my newer cellos.

The ARCUS bows really seem to enhance the overtones for all instruments, so I do sometimes use them - it depends on what I'm trying to do. I have played the newer, much more expensive ARCUS bows, but I had quit buying bows by then.

Most of the CF bows are weighted and balanced like good wood bows and thus play the same way. My experience with my own ARCUS bows (which are the original design from ARCUS) is that they take some getting used to because they are lighter and balanced differently than other bows. I actually had weights added to mine to re-balance them after about 10 years and they retained their tonal qualities but handle more like my other bows.

Edited: August 28, 2018, 7:40 PM · A fine pro violinist told me that he recommends CF bows for most of his students. He said that you need to spend at least $2000 on a pernambuco bow to beat a $400 CF. That was several years ago. My guess is that CF bows have generally improved since then, whereas pernambuco bows, as an overall category, likely haven't. I play a Cadenza "Master" (3-star) bow, and I like it just fine. I have played my violin with my bow and a couple of exquisite antique bows, and I could detect a little difference in playability but zero difference in sound. Maybe that's because my tone production or my hearing is inferior. Probably both, but I'm not spending thousands on a bow if I can't personally hear any difference.
August 29, 2018, 1:10 AM · Geez, Andrew. Make sure to leave me in your will!
Edited: August 29, 2018, 3:26 AM · Maybe I have cloth ears like Paul (says he has) but I certainly can't detect any particular sound associated with a CF stick. Just like wooden bows, I find some CF I like and some I don't. I know I've got one to suit when I realise I've played a piece without actually being aware of my right hand at all. The one I'm currently using does all I ask of it in terms of variation of stroke and tone colour and took no time at all to adapt to. It cost about as much as I'd expect to pay for a rehair! Of course it may not survive very long.
August 29, 2018, 7:08 AM · I have a Coda & used it as my main bow right up until my first year of conservatory studies. It's a great spare/second bow now.
Edited: August 29, 2018, 7:23 AM · Carbon fiber bows can be very good. There are a few that I like -- the JonPaul Avanti and Vetta are both quite good. The Presto Impulse made by Shar plays pretty well, though the molding work on it is a bit shabby.

There are some CF bows that I don't like at all. The Coda lineup seems far too stiff lately, for instance.

In general, you have to spend a lot more on a pernambuco bow than a CF bow to get a similar level of functionality. By this I mean that handling of the bow. It is still difficult to beat the tone produced by a great wood bow.

August 29, 2018, 7:45 AM · I think I'm really smart to never try fancy violins or bows. I am perfectly happy w/ my cheap ones. I'm sure that if I ever saw Paris, I would be impossible to keep down on the farm. Good thing I can't afford to get anywhere NEAR Paris, I guess! :-)
August 29, 2018, 7:51 AM · I picked up a Codabow diamond about 3 years ago, and it's served me well in outdoor playing and other gigs where I wouldn't take my primary bow. I've also traveled with it between the U.S. and Canada. It's a little lighter and more flexible than my French pernambuco bow, but personally I have not found it difficult to switch between them.
August 29, 2018, 7:55 AM · Wow thanks all for the helpful advice!! Now I'm spoilt for choice, seeing that there are so many different types of good CF bows around haha
August 29, 2018, 11:06 AM · I'm primarily a traditionalist when it comes to things of wood, especially when there is a history of hand craft associated with it. I imagine most of that stems from my association with woodworking as I was growing up, seeing and experiencing the work and talent required to produce such things of not only beauty but function.

That being said, as an aspiring violinist I have found I am willing to compromise for the goal of better music, to me being defined as my ability to produce the sound and associated nuances that give it flavor, character, emotion and accuracy.

To Joel's point, in my progress with the violin I have been slowly upgrading my instruments and bows as able but have found after visiting violin shops and trying numerous bows that to me, you would be hard pressed to find a CF bow that equals the musical possibilities of a good pernambuco bow. The caveat to that is the price of a good quality pernambuco bow. Just because a bow is made of pernambuco doesn't guarantee it plays or sounds good. My last bow upgrade, against my preferences but solely due to the pursuit of better sound, lead me to a Coda Diamond SX. I found after much shop and in-home trials that I would have to spend more than twice the cost of the Coda to experience the same or better feel and sound in a pernambuco bow. Preferences or not, that's the way it was.

My next upgrade will be a good pernambuco but the Coda has served me well and allowed me to progress in my studies. If I had waited another year I could have afforded a comparable or better wood bow, but I believe continuing with the bow I had would have hindered my progress.

In my experience there is a place for good quality CF bows, for the situations previously mentioned by other posters or situations such as mine where budget determines the quality of your upgrades. That's my experience FWIW

Edited: August 29, 2018, 4:43 PM · I bought my Codabow classic violin bow in 1996 when they first came out and it has been my primary bow until recently. This year I decided to switch to a wooden bow and trialed two pernambuco bows and also a Codabow Marquise which was in the same price range. I ended up purchasing a pernambuco "Prier" bow made by Archet SLC, a new sister company to JonPaul. The "Prier" bow is nicely responsive.
August 29, 2018, 12:29 PM · As from my perspective, I don't have any drastic changes of playability when I change from my CB/FG bows to my wood ones. But I generally use wood in more safer environments, and my synthetic ones in outdoors and high school.
August 29, 2018, 2:06 PM · I like my JonPaul Avanti--it's my workhorse bow. Do not care for the Codabows. The JonPaul model below the Avanti is good for advancing students.

I tell my students that unless their bow budget is north of $1000, they're probably going to find something they like better in CF (so in other words I agree with Paul's friend's advice).

August 29, 2018, 5:23 PM · CF I used or tried: AS Carbon, Viennabow, a few Coda, and several Arcus.
The AS Carbon are really dirt cheap (+/- €100), but beat any wooden bow I found up to €450. They do all they're supposed to do, but especially off strings techniques require a bit of effort. They are reliable student bows, but not especially reactive (which can also be an advantage if it comes to a beginner's equipment). It was my son's first violin bow, he still uses it when playing in risky environment e.g. school performances. For myself I got one of their viola bows for my second viola I'm leaving at the office. The Viennabow are one step up in price range, but for my taste a bit stiff. Sound was okay-ish. Never kept one.
As for the Coda, they were nice, but I totally agree with Mary Ellen - they are overpriced regarding what they offer you, compared to a cheaper one, and you loose part of what you eventually was trying to save by buying a CF bow.
I loved how the Arcus acted, especially the A and S series. Soundwise they definitely did enhance the overtones, but unfortunately up to a level that sounded shrill and scratchy to my ears. My violin is of brilliant tone, not on the warm and cosy side, and also with many wooden bows it can become unpleasant, but same was on my viola which is definitely warm and mellow. This wasn't a problem for someone sitting in the audience, fron 5m distance it was pretty much okay even with my violin, but I'm someone mainly playing for himself and for my own pleasure, so I indulge myself by preferring a nice sound under the ear above great projection or whatever dominant sound.

For my viola I'd never ever give away again my Klaus Grünke pernambucco bow - only thing it misses is a built-in automated self-playing mode. But it's almost there (just kidding, but you know what I mean). For my violin I'm still "only" 95% happy, but for the next years my Greg Gohde pernambucco bow from Chicago will be more than good enough. Tone is unbeaten on this specific instrument, and I still hope my technique will improve enough that I will be able to handle it even in fast downbow strokes when it tends to be a bit more bouncy than most other bows, it needs a lot of pull and almost no weight - but this would be material for another thread...

In general I think CF can be a great deal if you're on a budget (as can be wooden bows like my Gohde which I purchased for a fraction of what I would have been willing to pay for a bow of these qualities), and there may well be instruments that need some opening up and profit from their qualities, especially the pricey Arcus. For my taste I couldn't help but stay with wood, although I almost tried to force myself towards the Arcus lineup because of my disposition for overload syndromes of my hand and arm joints...

August 29, 2018, 5:41 PM · Carbon is a pretty intriguing even in upper price ranges as well. I have an Arcus S-series, which ranges in price from $1300 to $7,000, but the lower priced ones perform almost as well. It's extremely light and incredibly quick but also very strong. It would be hard to get this kind of performance in a wooden bow without spending really serious money. On the other hand, if you want a soft bow, something very bouncy or something with a real heft to it, pernambuco may be the only way to go.

There has been a real revolution in this area just in the last half dozen years. There are so many more choices in all price ranges. It's incredible to me that you can get something quite playable for 100 bucks.

August 29, 2018, 6:39 PM · Hybrid bows with a carbon fiber core surrounded by a wood sheath are also an interesting option. I use a C.F. Iesta hybrid ($520 when I bought it in 2010) as my primary viola bow. My budget for a new bow was $2000, I tried both wood and carbon fiber bows up to $2500 in the shop, and the hybrid was my favorite of them all. At least to me, it seems to combine most of the quick response of carbon fiber with most of the resonance of wood.
August 29, 2018, 7:01 PM · I tried an Arcus S5 and found it to be too bright and light for my taste and current violin. The Argus M4 I tried was better for my violin and I like the way it handled better than the S5 but in the end, negating price, I found the Coda SX handled more to my preferences and the tone when, used on my current violin, was a little warmer and easier to draw and track.

If budget wasn't a factor, the best handling and beautifully sounding CF bow to me was an Arcus P7 octagonal I tried. It was the most natural and responsive bows I had tried up to that point. I fell in love with that bow but alas, we'll beyond my budget at the time.

Edited: August 29, 2018, 8:17 PM · Thanks everybody! CF bows do seem like a really good buy (especially given their relatively cheaper price tag)

Anyway, could anybody identify the brand of these carbon fibre bows? The details arent listed.

August 29, 2018, 9:46 PM · The second link is a complete hodge-podge of images. I didn't look at the first link. But if you click on an individual picture, usually you can read the brand on the bow over the frog.
Edited: August 30, 2018, 12:22 AM · Oh oops I didn't realize. But yeah turns out it is a DZ Strad, which is priced at around US$250. Is that considered middle range in terms of price?
August 30, 2018, 8:32 AM · $250 for a bow is lower range.
August 30, 2018, 9:33 AM · "Andrew Hsieh... Hybrid bows with a carbon fiber core surrounded by a wood sheath are also an interesting option.... it seems to combine most of the quick response of carbon fiber with most of the resonance of wood."
I do not have much experience with hybrid bows, but from those two I could try (no brand stamp on it unfortunately, price about €350 several years ago when they were bought by their current owner) I share your experience. Both are responsive like a decent CF, but produce a warmer sound.
Edited: August 30, 2018, 9:42 AM · "Thomas Boyer... On the other hand, if you want a soft bow, something very bouncy or something with a real heft to it, pernambuco may be the only way to go."
Not necessarily. Our AS Carbon is quite on the soft side. And I could not imagine what for one might need more bounce than any Arcus A or S would offer. Although they are easy to control, they produce sautille almost by themselves. And for the weight - CF bows are lighter because most of them are hollow. But it would be possible to add as much weight as necessary in the production process, but usually this isn't desired. And especially the cheaper ones are constructed to imitate an average wooden bow as close as possible anyway, in weight and balance.
September 13, 2018, 5:28 PM · I saw those laminated bows (wood on a carbon core) and didn't fancy the idea - I wondered how quickly the laminate would peel away from the core.
Edited: September 13, 2018, 6:40 PM · Does anyone know anything about the "new" Coda Bow Marquise?

What about the "new" bows? (Children or grandchildren of the ARCUS brand?)

Edited: September 14, 2018, 5:59 AM · Andrew,

last year i stopped for a long time at Arcus booth in Mondomusica fair in Cremona (Italy).
In front there was the booth with "Musing bows", always being present Bernd, the man from Arcus. He's really a funny and lovely person :)

He told me that Musing's bow are made by using lower cost procedures. I tried some. In fact i must say that i like the average Arcus bows much better.
They seem to be a lower cost alternative, that are targeted more to students, and such.

Anyway, at the end of september i'll go to Mondomusica again. I'll test them again, so i'll tell you my further impressions.

September 13, 2018, 10:53 PM · Andrew, I was so confused about why you were trying to sell me Italian furniture!

Correct URL:

September 14, 2018, 6:45 AM · I swear that I saw this thread somewhere a couple months ago

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Kestenbaum & Company Auctioneers
Kestenbaum & Company Auctioneers

Brian Lisus Violins
Brian Lisus Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings

Violin Lab

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop