Baroque bow, big difference between cheap (300.00) and higher (>1k)

Edited: August 12, 2019, 2:11 PM · I’m trying some baroque violin bows to make Scottish fiddling a bit easier.
The violin store which I frequent surprised me indicating that they only carry relatively cheap Chinese violin bows at 300.00 each. I know baroque bows are less (2k or less) than a modern bow, but this comment was unexpected. Anyone have an experience with baroque bows?
Is spending more than 300 a good idea? Or not necessary?

Replies (21)

Edited: August 12, 2019, 2:41 PM · $300 is not cheap for a Chinese baroque bow, $30 is.
August 12, 2019, 3:04 PM · Ok , then is there a difference in playability or sound quality of a 300.00 baroque bow vs 2k?
Edited: August 12, 2019, 3:30 PM · Lyndon, it depends on the making process and the material used. Let's leave aside the material. And since I don't fancy to open another discussion about the quality of Chinese instruments, let's say it were the same traditional methods involved, and brought to a comparable standard. If in this ideal situation an American or European bowmaker charges 1,5k for a baroque bow and a Chinese bowmaker charges 300, then the Chinese bow will be really cheap in comparison. This resulting in a -80% income for the Chinese artisan.

I've seen €<100 bows (don't know about their origin, but for this price...) which were not great but very well playable far into intermediate level repertoire. And I've seen decent looking newly made bows for €600 or antiques up to €3k whose value basically lay in their usefulness in supporting young tomato plants.

One of our pro fellows recommended the name of a chinese maker who sells his baroque bows for far less than $100. He plays them professionally in concert as a soloist, and they obviously fulfill his demands.

August 12, 2019, 3:36 PM · For my own person, I'm an absolute bow nerd. My three main bows aren't cheap at all. But if a bow plays and feels good, then it plays and feels good, no matter its origin. Statistically, a lot of cheap crap is originating from Chinese trash factories. But there are better factory qualities, and there are also independent makers who understand their craft very well. And we ought to be fair about these.
August 12, 2019, 5:06 PM · The question is if the $300 bow is a $300 bow or a $30 bow being priced up to $300????
Edited: August 12, 2019, 7:40 PM · Question. Is a baroque bow easier to craft than a modern non-baroque bow, therefore having a knock-on effect on the cost to the customer? My thinking on this is that the Tourte design of modern bows uses mathematics to get its shape. Such math is presumably not needed for the design of baroque bows which are intended to be very light at the far end and usually have a straight (or almost) stick.
August 12, 2019, 7:56 PM · Shar Music, which is a relatively reputable seller string instruments and bows, has baroque bows for $149 made of snakewood.

August 12, 2019, 8:04 PM · Some doubt as to whether those are genuine snakewood.
Edited: August 12, 2019, 9:15 PM · There is a significant difference between a 300 buck Baroque and a nice 2-3k one made by a fine maker.Will you notice the difference? Without seeing and hearing your playing and knowing more about you and your playing, I can not say. Get a 100 dollar baroque bow, figure out how to use it, then find either a player or a shop that will allow you to sample better bows.
August 13, 2019, 4:16 AM · Always compare. I tried about 20 or so bows before I found one much better than my £100 Chinese one and it was only £650! The others were around the £1000 mark. Also I could discuss it with the maker.
Edited: August 13, 2019, 10:53 AM · Sounds like a catch 22: you can not tell if a baroque bow is a good one if you never used a good baroque now. In this situation you need a help of a friendly and experienced baroque player. 2 main charateristics to look for:
1. Natural sound decay from middle to the tip
2. The ability to "bite" string with bow

Also, one can produce a big, healthy and juicy sound with baroque bow!
There are k-jillion essence just
like a Japanese caliography versus spray paint.

....and yes, there is a difference between workshop bow made me n China and the one made by an expert bow maker.

August 13, 2019, 10:18 AM · Thank you everyone, some excellent comments in there. This was helpful.
Edited: August 13, 2019, 1:17 PM · I cannot tell you how a cheap baroque bow works, but I can suggest that you try one in person and try a real bow-maker's bow along with it. As already suggested, you may find a good baroque bow at a shop. I contacted Rodney Mohr and he sent me two bows to trial--one of his own, and one by his daughter. I loved them both. They were different, as any two handmade bows are likely to be, so I ended up buying them both!!! Yes, I know-- nuts. But the baroque bow is so much lighter and more maneuverable than the modern bow, that I was enthralled. (Mohr's daughter's bow was $1200. She was recommended to me by someone in the string business who had one of her bows.)
Good luck, and let us know what you find on your expedition into baroque bow land?
Edited: August 13, 2019, 3:07 PM · It's also true that baroque bow isn't the same as baroque bow. Italian bows used to be different than those from Germany / north of the Alps, and then there were several different periods. Not earlier than in Tourtes time weight was +/- standardized (as today). And bows from different periods, areas, traditions, style were happily mixed within one group. Mozert for example still used an "outdated" type of bow with plugged frog, when the geared models were in use for decades. There wasn't any dogma, one used what worked. And most sticks were rather simple. Tropical wood wasn't mandatory either and was introduced later than one might expect. European wood species were prexominant, and even cheap hazle wasn't uncommon.
There definitively are qualities one should look for in a baroque bow. Rocky mentioned the most important. But we shouldn't go nuts about what is right or wrong. That's one of the beauties in HIP - that it allows you so much freedom (if REALLY informed...)
August 13, 2019, 3:21 PM · Trevor - the 'mathematical' design of the Tourte stick (which is an after-the-fact interpretation incidentally) is not really how bow makers think about stick making, at least not in the refinement stage. Same thing with baroque bows. Fine makers who are actually following a model will depart from those measurements in the final stages, but historical bows clearly have a concept in the tapers of the sticks.

The vast majority of inexpensive 'baroque' bows, yes I am being a broken record, have modern conceptions and are just superficially doctored to look like someone's conception of a baroque bow. But then in the end it's all a question of what you're buying it for. Even many players in baroque orchestras are using bows with Tourte-like graduations and atypically heavy heads. (The ginormous 'baroque' shaped heads we are starting to see, which probably weigh MORE than Tourte heads, are particularly uh, striking.)

August 13, 2019, 3:27 PM · Andres, I completely agree with you.
August 13, 2019, 7:34 PM · Andres, thank you for that explanation. I'm a bit wiser now!
August 13, 2019, 9:03 PM · Nuuska, what's the source of those decent sub-$100 baroque bows? I wouldn't mind having one as a toy.
August 14, 2019, 3:24 AM · Lydia, I'll pm you.
August 14, 2019, 3:41 AM · I bought "baroque" bows from several different Chinese sellers on Ebay. Some of them are cambered just like a modern bow and don't give that baroque feeling when playing. But some had almost straight stick without tension and bow outward under tension. And play surprisingly well considering that the price was well under 100 $. I occasionally play with a baroque ensemble and we bought bows for the whole group from that seller (Melodywoods). It certainly has made it easier to get into the baroque style. In comparison to these cheap baroque bows a modern bow - even a good one - is fighting the player; it wants to sustain where we want more of a "wavy" sound. For most of us baroque is not our main focus, so a real baroque bow is not high on the priority list. These cheap bows get us at least some of the way.
On Ebay search for "baroque bow outward camber snakewood" and you should find it without problem. They have a few different models and all appear to be real snakewood (or a wood with similar apperance) and not painted to look like snakewood. Together we bought 20 bows some of which were cello and viola bows and for the violin bows some had bone frogs and some had snakewood frogs. There was some variation in weight and in stiffness between the bows. I don't think there was significant difference between the bows with different frog material. The viola bows are slightly longer and heavier than the violin bows, but there was variation in weight and the lightest viola bow was lighter than the heaviest violin bow.
So it is a bit of a lottery, but all the bows we got are usable.
August 14, 2019, 3:32 PM ·

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