bow shopping how-to!
I don't know how many of you might remember, but I am an adult returner who is taking a year of working as thoroughly as I can to rebuild my technique in order to audition for a master in music. In December/January, I depended quite a lot on advice and feedback I got on violinist.com, and very much appreciated the vast amount of knowledge that is represented here.
I have been taking lessons since March (I think? :) with a really wonderful teacher who is helping me a lot. Every lesson so far, however, she has shaken her head at my bow and pronounced I need a new one - it is paramount especially since I am trying to better my right hand technique and my "funny" bow is holding me back, she believes.
So, in a few days I will go with her to a shop and look at bows within a certain price range. I am grateful she is going with me, since I have little idea how to test out bows or know what to do!
But, I was wondering if anyone here would be able to give me any tips on how to handle the process, how to be able to assess which bows should be in the running, and so forth. What techniques should I be sure to test, what should a good bow do that another bow might not do? I hope you get the idea of my questions! I would appreciate any advice.
Thank you! <3
Ask to be given a random selection of bows with the price tags taken off. Try each one with a few different snippets of different pieces, and try playing long tones and bouncing strokes as well. Then take your favourites home to practise with for a while.
First - you MUST test the bows on YOUR violin. So be sure to take your violin to the shop.
I thought I had seen a nice systematic bow-shopping checklist somewhere recently. There are some threads here but I don't find a checklist. Lydia's threads about her hunt for a bow have many gems in them along with an epic digression or so.
Anita your teacher will be with you so she will probably ask you to perform certain strokes, or play certain passages. In general it should be quite obvious what to do: you try the different strokes, at the tip, middle and frog, and also evaluate the general playability, and sound. It is personal. Chances are that you will immediately recognize the bow you will eventually buy the moment you pick it up and play the first few notes. That's what happened to me. The "match", if there is one, will light up. Also: bring your current "lousy" bow, but don't play with it while comparing bows. Only when you have made up your mind about which of the bows you tried is the best for you, then play with your old bow to compare directly. If it turns out there is no dramatic difference, draw the logical conclusion. Finally, obviously, don't buy a bow that very day. Instead ask if you can take the bow with you for a few weeks, so you can compare with other bows you may find.
Andres -- those were a couple of fine threads. I remember them with great fondness.
In general, I think that choosing a bow requires a lot more sampling than choosing a violin, because a bow is a lot more personal. My bow hunts have generally involved dozens upon dozens of bows; the most recent was well over a hundred bows.
I was extremely lucky when I bought my present bow: I lived in an apartment above my luthier's shop. He could hear me practice upstairs while he was doing his work. So he knew my way of playing, he also knew my violin, he had done maintenance on it after all.
Lucky you that your teacher is accompanying you! I recently bought a bow and my teacher was unfortunately too busy to accompany me, so I ended up purchasing the bow that I returned to over and over and over again. It was interesting because the first bow that felt like "the one" was actually the bow that I ended up liking the least in the end, and the bow I was most unsure of, yet kept reaching for!, was the one I ultimately purchased. (This is also a "for the next few years, until I can afford a $6k bow" bow.)
Albrecht your situation sounds ideal. Since you were testing bows from the same luthier, chances are they were rehaired from the same stock of hair, in the same manner, and perhaps even around the same time. I don't know how you'd control for those "hair factors" otherwise.