Bow upgrades

Edited: October 5, 2018, 6:51 AM · As a preliminary question, how many bows do you own?

I've just bought a Stentor Conservatoire II outfit with the intention of upgrading in two years' time.
I'd like a carbon bow, partly as a spare bow, partly because I'm pretty confident wood is obsolete, at least in my price range (lol - we can argue about that somewhere else), but also I wonder if I should upgrade the bow before I upgrade the fiddle. The Fiddlerman CF bow is worth about a third of my violin, so it would only be a first bow, not an upgrade, although it might be a quality upgrade, although not a price upgrade.
I guess we're back to the awful question, how much should I spend? Which would require me to decide how much I'll spend on a violin in two years' time. I don't know - reasonable student instrument for £1,200? So should I spend £400 on a cf bow now? I suspect that's way too premature.
If I buy a cheaper bow now and then upgrade I'll have at least 3 bows. Then if I had a £400 bow should I buy a spare? I guess the answer to that is, No.
Should I go for broke asap and just end up with the one good bow (plus the one that came with the Stentor as a spare)?

Replies (7)

Edited: October 5, 2018, 8:04 AM · 1. It's general agreement that one should select the bow as a fit to the violin, and not vice versa. Get a bow for your current instrument and get it from a shop with a good trade in policy, so your investment will not be wasted.

2. As a rule of thumb it is recommended to spend about 1/3 of the violin's price for a bow. This is just a rule and not a law. Most important is that you use equipment that will not hold you back in your learning process.

3. Even for an absolute beginner, it's not wise to start with instruments on a very basic price level, especially if not bought in a shop but online without trade in policy. For learning how to hold the instrument, a cardboard dummy would do the job. Having said this I have to conclude that I'm having absolutely no experience with Stentor instruments, but I can't find a reason why I should expect wonders from an instrument which comes as a set for a bit more than €300, and why it should outbeat anything else in this price range. Instruments like that, even if technically playable if you're lucky, suffer from poor setup (including four funny string-like objects) and inferior sound quality, which leads not only to frustration and demotivation, but also makes it almost impossible to develop an internal sound concept. It's better than nothing for someone who simply cannot afford anything in the 1k region where one already finds decent student violins which can last for the first two or three years, but for anybody else who is also motivated to stick with it, it's a waste of money - except if you got a trade in policy from a dedicated violin shop which also carries intermediate level instruments (which means up to 5k at least).

4. To achieve something so challenging like learning to play a stringed (or almost any other) instrument, you have to absolutely love what you are doing. Which necessitates a pleasing sounding instrument. Which is a highly individual concept, but only to a certain point.

5. This isn't written out of snobism. In my eyes, "get the best instrument you can afford" isn't good advice for an absolute beginner, buying a 10k violin to start with for example makes no sense economically nor would it be the most comfortable way to learn the very basic techniques. But with all teachers I know (and it's a few dozens meanwhiles), students who would get a €300 factory "violin" online to show up with at their first lesson are a recurring topic, and the most optimistic statement I've heard yet was a deep breath and a *sigh* of resignation. I hope you will proof us all wrong...

October 5, 2018, 8:09 AM · Maybe this sounds a bit rude, but isn't meant like that...
You forgot to tell us what music styles you're into? Folk and fiddling may ask for something else than classical music, which was what I was talking about...
Edited: October 5, 2018, 8:20 AM · Well, I was eager to see how others would respond to you, so I was happy to wait before commenting, if at all, but I have grade 8 on the piano and on the oboe, and so I will begin classically, as I am aware of the value of technique, but the music I actually play will initially be Western Swing until I can join an adult amateur orchestra if one will have me.
October 5, 2018, 8:28 AM · But to answer your original question: eight bows:
- one good viola bow
- basic CF viola bow for the not-very-nice-but-good-enough second viola which stays at the office
- a good violin bow for me
- a good violin bow for my son
- a basic CF violin bow for my son in dangerous environment (outdoor gigs, friends who also want to joke around a bit)
- a mediocre violin bow more balanced to the frog for special occasions, but to be honest I mostly got it because I fell in love with the beautiful inlay of the frog! And it cost next to nothing at a flea market...
- another mediocre sounding but technically good enough bow I use with the Yamaha silent violin, which is for the sun to nerd around, and for my nighttime practice sessions and for traveling.
- and finally one remaining object from my "funny bows collection", which was composed of more than a dozen of bows which accidentally found their way to me, mainly as restauration projects from basements and flea markets, and most of them I donated for a charity project.

For the next future I'll have to go bow shopping again for a better violin bow, since it's six months now that my instructor is singing for me the song of the guy who outgrew his gear... I'll keep my current best bow as a backup, but then I do not have any further plans of any other purchase.

October 5, 2018, 8:40 AM · Andrew, that's great. You've proven you skills already and know what you want. I don't know about that grade system (had only two examinations necessary back then on piano on my way to conservatory) but grade 8 should be pretty advanced I guess? And the oboe... Wow. My experiences with other instruments (like guitar, trombone or clarinet) are very rudimentary and only out of curiosity. You seem to be a born musician, so I guess you will learn that violin thing pretty fast, although it's done really different kind of an animal!

Keep us tuned. I'm curious on how you'll think about that within a years time. With your bio, you'll have something to weigh in.

October 6, 2018, 3:48 PM · I have two identical CF bows in my violin case, another the same in my daughter's violin case, and another CF bow of the same model for my viola. The model is the Cadenza 3-star ("Master") bow. I paid around $400 each for them. They are wood-clad CF. They look nice and they play really well. An excellent pro recommended them to me. He told me that I'd have to spend over $2000 on a pernambuco bow to outperform these CF bows. Eventually I may do that (the 1/3 rule would mean about $4000), but for now I'm satisfied that my bow is not holding me back. I know that because I've tried playing several bows in the $4000 price range a few months ago when Josh Henry was in town, and I couldn't really tell any difference.
Edited: October 6, 2018, 5:00 PM · Well today I ordered a Col Legno Standard, so all decisions are now deferred for a year or two!

In fact I need to save up for a keyboard.

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