Buy the violin or bow first?

June 3, 2019, 12:44 AM · I've heard different opinions from people. Some say you should buy the bow first, others say buy it after the violin. I'm just really curious about this, because now I have got a decent violin and now need to get a decent bow to go with it as my current bow is a $300 German bow. A colleague of mine has a coda diamond GX bow and a Avanti bow. I prefer the sound of the GX but the Avanti can do ricochet more easier. Anyway she then said to me you should of bought the bow first then the violin. This got me confused because to me, it makes more sense the other way around.

So what's the right way of doing it?

Replies (14)

June 3, 2019, 2:00 AM · Usual advice is the violin first. Perhaps because it is normally more expensive, and harder to sell if you wish to move on.
Still, the bow can add a huge amount to the sound, and many technical weaknesses of students become easier to fix when they have a good or great bow. So don’t blow your whole budget on the violin, and be prepared to jump if you find a fabulous bow. The right one will get you to overlook all kinds of limitations in the violin.
Edited: June 3, 2019, 5:33 AM · Violin first, IMO... it makes the most difference to your sound although both are important. It is easier to find a bow that suits a violin than the other way round.
June 3, 2019, 3:28 AM · Violin first, then its new resources will enable one to choose the best bow. A bow that improves the sound of a mediocre violin may not suit the better violin at all..
June 3, 2019, 8:54 AM · There is not necessarily anything wrong with a $300 bow.

What is lacking with yours? It is important to know what you want from your next bow(s).

I have 4 viola bows and the best one with one of my 2 violas is the cheapest one I have - I bought it on ebay for under $400. I was lucky that day - but figured I was worth the risk - and it was.

I have 4 violins and (am now down to) 8 violin bows and am surprised to find that if I pack 2 bows with each violin I can still optimize the bows with each of the violins when I pack them up.

So, picking a bow can be quite a task - and a lot of fun. My last search for the best cello bow for one of my cellos had me "test driving" 66 different bows that day at the shop finding only two that met my criteria for that cello.

I hope you can find one bow that sounds great and "bounces" perfectly, but that combination is hard to find. (I would estimate from my experience with well over 100 cello bows that only about 5% of them are perfect in the just the bouncing department (this is limited to bows under $10,000). But a lot can depend on the skill of the player, because I have seen players who could "bounce" bows of mine that I couldn't.

I hope you live near a great shop and have a lot of fun searching. Take your colleague along to double your fun!

June 3, 2019, 9:33 AM · I bought my violin first, then trialed many bows before settling on one that worked best for me. It does everything that I need it to do and it sounds nice with my violin. I struggled a lot with any/all off the string technique with my old bow, so my #1 criteria with the new bow was good bounce for me, and then good sound from a few feet away. I ended up turning away a few bows that I thought sounded great but seemed too bouncy/alive for my ability level. I was shooting for a reliable bow, not a sports car-type bow, and that's what I got - bonus is that it's gold mounted and in perfect condition.
June 3, 2019, 9:35 AM · I guess it really depends, but I'm gonna say both options are right, let me explain: if you're beginner or intermediate level, any decent violin will let you expand and improve your skills for many years, by many I mean 5 to 8 years, if you're an average regular learner. So, as long as you have a decent "beginner" violin, you will make it sound better and better for so many years, the violin won't do you any bad. Proper fit, proper dimensions, proper adjustment, good quality strings and bridge, well maintained...

So, in that sense, the first logical step is to buy a better bow. If you're a beginner, you probably have a $100-$300 bow, and a new bow will probably make you improve further and develop better technique.

A new violin will make you sound better, which is fine, but as I said, it's not gonna impact that much on your learning curve, at least compared to a new bow. Remember the sound start from your arm/hand, it's your bow hand the one that really makes you sound good or bad.

So, to sum up:
If you have a decent violin with proper fit, dimensions, quality and maintenance, it's gonna take you years to overcome its potential, so the best option is to buy a new better bow, which will always improve your technique.
If you have a poorly maintained, cheap violin, of course you should go for a decent violin first. Nevertheless, you don't want neither a bad bow with bad hair, wrong balance, finish and dimensions, which is probably what you would have if you are using a cheap violin.

I'm a beginner, and I'm using the first violin I bought. It is a $400 violin with proper dimensions, good loud sound, perfectly maintained and good materials. Of course it has defects, but it's gonna take me years to feel that violin is pushing me back in any way. I'm quite sure the first upgrade, or even the first 2 upgrades, are going to be new better bows.

June 3, 2019, 11:22 AM · Normally, it's violin first. But for budget reasons it can make sense to upgrade the bow first. For instance, if you have a $1,500 violin and a $100 bow, which is not uncommon, if you can spend $700, it usually makes more sense to get an $800 bow rather than upgrade to a $2,200 violin, in terms of impact for your dollar.
June 3, 2019, 4:16 PM · In my experience the "flexibility" of a bow is a combination of the flexibility (or stiffness) of the stick and the amount* of hair on the bow. It is worth finding someone who understands this (and knows what do to about it) when testing and buying bows.

Useful flexibility of a bow stick also depends on where (and over what length practical flexing of the stick occurs.

* Also, hair stretches under tension and the right amount of hair for a particular stick is related to this as well as all the stick properties.

Edited: June 3, 2019, 10:23 PM · Violin first I would agree. The bow is usually matched to the instrument, and there is nothing to say that a more expensive bow is the one that will work best with your next instrument. That being said it is a little bit of chicken and egg dilemma, which comes first. If your current bow is inadequate, it would make sense to upgrade it, but the new bow is "matched" to your current instrument. When I bought my current violin, a big step up from precious, I actually ended up swaping my good bow for a less expensive one that was a better match. The price difference was about that of a rehair and new thumb leather.
June 4, 2019, 3:42 PM · A friend and I once tried mixing and matching our various violins and bows. Some combinations simply would not work at all. So I'd go for the violin first, then find a bow that works with it.

Besides, if you start out with just the violin, you have something you can play pizzicato on while you're waiting for a bow. :-)

June 5, 2019, 7:47 AM · Generally its violin first, here is an article I wrote a little while back about shopping for instruments:
June 5, 2019, 10:44 PM · Buy the Violin first, then look for a bow that is a good marriage partner to the Violin. Bows are strange objects. Sometimes you can find a bow that has the right combination of weight, balance, strength, but is not expensive. One of my better behaving bows is a $50 "brazilwood", and a $100 no-name carbon heavy violin bow works great with my viola. Hint: at the lower price ranges the octagonal bows can be better choice than the round sticks. The ridges act like reinforcing bars, giving it a better strength-to-weight ratio, and less likely to warp. Later, you will probably experiment with the strings.
June 6, 2019, 5:17 AM · Thanks everyone!
June 6, 2019, 6:37 AM · In my case buying the violin first is obvious - I won't be spending more than 2000USD. After that a bow collection is bound to follow.

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