How easily wooden bows brake? Wooden or carbon bows, which to choose?

Edited: October 18, 2018, 4:12 AM · My daughter has outgrown her 1/16 violin, which she plays with a smallish 1/8 carbon bow (her third bow in growing sizes) and out teacher has selected a 1/8 violin for her which we are going to buy next weekend. She has left it open whether we should buy a wooden or a carbon bow to go along with it. Since the shop is a long way away, we dont have a chance to take anything home and test.

So a wooden bow brakes more easily but gives a better sound Ive understood. Im sort of understanding between the lines that the teacher thinks that my girl might be at the level to take an advantage of the better playing qualities of a wooden bow. (Some might remember from my previous post that she is In Suzuki book 3 with good technique in both hands.) But it is really up to us.

But the wooden bows are more expensive The carbon bows in that particular shop are very good cardon bows.

My question is, how easily the wooden bows brake? My knowledge is very limited when it comes to bows, I play with a Carbondix bow and dont like it, I had previously a carbon bow from this particular shop and it was better, though it didnt stay straight for long enough, so I had to change ( I play very little as Ive grown up with piano and only play to help my daughter)

She has dropped her carbon bows several times, being a normally clumsy 5 year old and they have not broken. Would a wooden bow brake when you drop it? I guess I could teach her to handle the bow better but if its as fragile as the violin, we would be in trouble. But if it gives a better sound maybe it is worth the effort and money?

So our choises are:

-continue with the present bow and dont buy another one at all until her hand grows (and travel there again in a couple of months, plus we need to negotiate a price for the violin as they are sold together with carbon bows)

-buy a wooden bow that is a little bigger that the bow she uses now and switch to it in a month or so. Pay extra.

-buy a bigger carbon bow and switch to it when her hand grows

For background info, the teacher is independent from the shop (its one of the best luthiers in the country, maybe the best) and has only out of kindness chosen the violin on her own time (the violin scene here works very differently compared to the States) the shop has fixed prices for small violins as their main business is in very expensive violins and cellos and dont particularly wellcome small student violin buyers. In adition to selling expensive violins and cellos they make prize-winning cello bows themselves, the small violin bows come from China I think, but are selected well. Im pretty sure they have contacts there since many decades as they seem to get good violins and bows with relatively good prices, the violins in smaller sizes are about 500-600 euros.

Replies (17)

October 18, 2018, 3:43 AM · Generally, a wooden bow isn't going to break just from being dropped, especially from the heights that a 5 year old can drop it from.

With that said, I think carbon bows are always a good idea for young violinists if they have a history of dropping things.

In your situation, I would personally just get the wood bow though, if the carbons are way more expensive. Maybe get two. You never mentioned the price ranges of the bows you're talking about, so it's hard to make a good judgement here.

October 18, 2018, 3:46 AM · I'd worry more about her dropping the violin.
October 18, 2018, 3:58 AM · I was about to suggest that if bow braking is an issue, to suggest buying bows with ABS.
Edited: October 18, 2018, 4:17 AM · Erik, sorry I wrote unclearly, the wooden bows are more expensive. To tell you the truth I do not know the cost of a wooden bow, the carbons are about 70 euros and they are really good carbons and can be rehaired. The small ones stay in pretty much the same shape regardless of how much they are played, they are branded by the name of the luthier allthough they come from China.

Andrew, yes I also worry about her dropping the violin and she has dropped the current violin 3 times, but luckily it has survived. She is being very careful with the violin, but a 5 year old is a 5 year old.

Dimitri, what is a ABS?

October 18, 2018, 5:03 AM · It was just a play on words to lighten up the discussion! :-)
October 18, 2018, 5:03 AM · ABS = anti-lock brake system. Used in cars to prevent skidding. (He was joking.)
October 18, 2018, 5:10 AM · rompere = break
frenare = brake
October 18, 2018, 8:26 AM · I always used wood bows as I was growing up (started at 4) and I didn't drop a violin until I was about 10 years old (it broke).

Learning to treat your instrument with respect and care should be lesson number one. When I finally got to hold and try instruments made by Amati, Stradivari and one of the Guarneri family, I knew no other way to handle it than the way I handled my own.

Strong, synthetic-material bows have been a good idea for children for many years, especially clumsy or careless ones. Glasser-fiberglass bows were made for that, but carbon-fiber bows play and sound better.

October 18, 2018, 8:30 AM · Eccellente analisi, Andrew F.!
October 18, 2018, 9:05 AM · The growth problem is why most people rent instead of buying for children. Small-sized instruments and bows have different properties and expectations from full-sized ones (e.g. a shorter bow will tend to be more rigid) so the standards, effort and costs put towards full-sized ones would not be expected or common.

Good stores here will rent and advise renting for children and beginners; stock relatively inexpensive but well set up instruments (set up at the store) for those who wish to buy, with a trade-in/trade-up policy, and provide excellent service to all customers and thereby build a relationship which might continue though to the time of much more expensive purchases.

Edited: October 18, 2018, 10:05 AM · Moneywise renting is not a good idea here.
The previous violin cost 500 euros, she has played with it over 2 years, we get 75 procent back towards the next violin and renting is about 15 euros per month. Definately worth buying. Also the renting violins are not good quality violins at all. There are no moneymaking shops renting out violins. There are some musicschools renting but basically only those parents rent that dont really want their kids playing the violin or who do not in reality have the money to buy a standard prices (over 250 euros) violin.. The violin scene is very different here from the States. It is even possible to get a playable student violin for even less than 250 euros and some young beginners start with a violin of less than 100 euros, but nearly always with a violin of their own.

I would bet that it is cheaper here to get a good full size violin here than in the States. The very expensive ones are probably the same price but in the pricerange of some thousand euros I would bet there are better chances here. Dont know for sure, just guessing though.

Music tuition is also probably a lot cheaper here, because it is partly state and city funded. But it depends on which city you live. In the biggest cities it is 330 euros for a half year including orchestra and music theory. If money is scarse you can get half of. Unfortunately we live in a ”wrong” city so for us it is a bit more. Pianos here are so cheap that you can get a decent starter piano even for free if you just organize the moving and putting in tune of it.

October 18, 2018, 3:09 PM · Don't try this at home...

October 18, 2018, 5:28 PM · At the very least the man doing that demonstration should be wearing safety glasses.
October 18, 2018, 7:05 PM · I found that in general the smaller carbon fiber bows, if they are decent quality, played better on the small violins. Unless you are willing to invest in quite an expensive wood bow, you are likely to get better quality for the price with a carbon fiber. My kids used carbon fiber bows up to around book 6 -- and my older one until he got a full size. They also hold up better in weather changes, which may or may not be an issue where you live.
Edited: October 20, 2018, 6:39 AM · Ended up buying the carbon bow, the wooden bow was 100 euros more and did produce a better sound but my girl preferred the sound of the carbon bow. Maybe it was more familiar as its the same make than her current bow.
Edited: October 22, 2018, 12:33 AM · Maria,

Thanks for sharing!

I love my carbon fiber bow (I know Paul does, too!). During a rehearsal this time last year one of the lovely cellists knocked by bow off my music stand, which was placed on a second tier riser, to the ground. It was maybe a 2 and change meter drop. No damage. She almost had a heart attack though thinking it was going to be harmed!

Edited: October 22, 2018, 8:18 AM · @Paul - quite! I imagine some materials are capable of exploding in a cloud when destabilised.

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