What is more important for achieving a good sound? The violin or the bow?
Hi. I've been thinking about this for some time. Since you know better than me, I share the question with you:
I'm an amateur who is still learning basic techniques on a basic €400 Yamaha violin. I played for a while with its original bow. Then, I got a bow that cost as much as the entire violin set, and since then, the sound and playability have definitely improved. The violin still sounds slightly hollow or 'cheap' at times, but my poor technique doesn't help.
A few months ago, I had the chance of trying an €8,000 silver mounted wooden bow for a few minutes on my violin. The bow was really light, and the sound was definitely sweeter.
The fact that a bow makes such a difference on a mediocre violin makes me wonder: what is more important for reaching a good sound? The violin or the bow? Is it better to have a good violin and a good bow... or to have an average violin and an better bow?
A simple, proven fact is that the player makes a bigger difference than either of those two. A bow in particular is chosen not just for the tone, but for the handling, which then affects, at times, the quality of the playing and resultant tone more than just how the bow responds to simple resonances, which is how a bow's tone might be judged.
Every bow has its own distinctive tone and playing behavior, some wonderful and to die for, others average, and others that frankly would be better off as sticks in a garden for supporting plants.
One thing worth thinking about, though-- many students have a bow that isn't really good enough to show them when they can do better. Especially if bow technique is your main weakness, try to lift the ceiling placed on it by the stick. (To scramble a metaphor.)
Jay, perhaps true, but a very consuming excercise. Why do we not see a single top player using a dead bow and a factory made fiddle?
Not every bow is a good match to every violin. I quite liked the bow I had for my previous violin, but it was tonally meh on my current violin. I ended up buying a different bow. (This new bow also represents an upgrade, but that was not my original intent.)
As Lydia noted, the bow has to match the violin - not the other way around. You can have the greatest Tourte but it won’t make a difference really if you’re playing on a mediocre violin. Also a big part of it obviously is the player. Many people won’t be able to draw a good sound from a Stradivari which requires a different touch compared to drawing a sound from a Guarneri. So the instrument has to match the player’s style, first and foremost.
Miguel, I’ve noticed from trying a few Guarneris, they can take a little bit more bow pressure than a Stradivari. That is not to say a Stradivari has any less power or projection when compared to a del Gesu. I personally prefer the sound and feel of a great Stradivari or Guadagnini over most del Gesus - I know that might sound odd coming from 1 of the biggest Heifetz fanatics out there.
Thank you for your fast answer, Nate. The preferences are just a personal taste, which gets more refined with training and time. I can’t tell the difference between a Strad, Guarneri, Guadagnini or an Amati, and will never play one of them. You know exactly what to demand from your instrument, and which one fits your playing in a better way. So I just had to ask what I will never discover by myself. After all, I started playing the violin out of curiosity: how do violin players know where to put their fingers without frets or references? (But once my initial curiosity has been satisfied I find that I’m hooked enough to consider it a lifetime hobby along with piano playing).
Miguel, I'm in the same situation as you: $500 violin with average bow.
When I was trialing bows for purchase I took my instrument to the shop and tried the most expensive bows they would allow me to touch. That gave me a benchmark from which to assess the bows at prices I could afford.
I have tried my violin with my $500 CF against a Kittel and a Peccatte. I also asked the owner of the bows to play my violin with the three bows. The priceless antique bows may have handled a little better but I could not hear a difference in sound. As far as I know the phenomenon of "bow sound" has never been subjected to rigorous double blind testing. I'm not excluding it ... just saying I didnt experience it and it needs more scientific study.
If you're playing a $500 violin with a $20 bow, you
Lots of wisdom here. Strings and a proper set up clearly can make a difference. However, if this does not help, and you have a question about whether to upgrade a violin or a bow, Lydia is on the mark. Generally, you will get more bang for your buck by trying to upgrade the bow. At least, that is the first thing you should try. If you cannot find a more expensive bow that sounds better, you may need to consider spending considerably more money to upgrade the violin. That upgrade may prompt you to upgrade the bow as well. Good luck!
Neither. The hair is the most important.
But then, Cotton, the strings must surely be even more important. I mean, try playing a violin with no strings. It's no fun.
When I started reading that the hair is the most important thing, I just thought that bald people would have a difficult time playing violin. Fortunately, Cotton elaborated a bit on which kind of hair is the (most) important one.
Well, sure, the strings are important as well. But imagine not having any fingers! Technically you could still play the violin, but it would be even more not fun than playing with no strings.
But how can one judge a new bow if the violin simply cannot respond to it?
I was trying out bows a few years back, and the one that my violin sounded best with turned out to be the most expensive one. I think my teacher found it to be good on her violin, so hopefully it's just good all around rather than particularly suited towards mine, but it feels pretty good coming from my previous bow.