How much should I spend on my bow

September 2, 2019, 12:57 AM · Hj there!
I finally have saved up some money on my own to buy a decent bow in my opinion, to go with my fantastic Mirecourt violin. The thing is, I don't know how much to spend and what is my budget. I would like a bow that could last a long time before upgrading again. I have saved $2000 NZ that's (approximately $1250 US dollars.) Would that be enough? Just to let you know,I am planning to study music at university and I am playing in the top youth orchestra in my country currently playing don Juan with tricky bow techniques. I've heard your bow should be 1/3 of the price of your violin, but does that really matter. Can you get bargains on bows? And luck?

Thanks in regards


Replies (35)

September 2, 2019, 2:47 AM · A good question!

I stuck to this rule of thumb, and spent roughly 1/3 of my violin cost on a new bow. Little did I know, the violin had appreciated over time, meaning I ultimately spent less than 1/3 of the cost on said new bow. Despite this, I’m actually very pleased with my violin bow.

Who knows if what you have saved is enough. Ultimately it depends what you are looking for. When you go bow shopping, make sure you take your violin, and test all the bows in your price range blind, so you are not swayed by maker or cost.

Good luck!

September 2, 2019, 4:12 AM · Would it be better of buying a carbon fibre bow or a pernumbuco bow at this price range?
September 2, 2019, 4:21 AM · I use carbon fibre for both violin and viola, due to the nature of what I do (performing outdoors, different spaces and regular travelling). I also found that the carbon fibre for both instruments performed better at the price point I was paying.
Ultimately it’s down to you and what you prefer when you play. When I did the bow shopping, I wasn’t actively looking to come away with CF bows, but that is what I preferred at the time. If I upgrade my viola bow again, I think I’d prefer a wooden bow.

There are also folk on this forum that can give you far better advice than me, seasoned knowledge in this section of the internet!

September 2, 2019, 4:34 AM · I think at the kind of price point you're at, carbon fibre makes a lot of sense. There are some outstanding carbon fibre bows out there that seem to me to represent good value for money. I recently went through the process of buying a new bow, and came to the conclusion that old pernambuco bows carry a price premimium simply because they are old and pernambuco. It doesn't mean they're good.

I auditioned several bows and once I'd overcome my initial distaste of the idea of a carbon fibre bow (I'm not immune to the snobbery attached to age and material), I had four on evaluation and subsequently chose a Codabow Marquise which is within your price range. I love it and so does my teacher - her bow is old/pernambuco and worth many times more than the Marquise. And whilst it is better to play, it's only a very marginal difference and it doesn't sound any better.

September 2, 2019, 5:08 AM · How much does a Mirecourt cost, £1,500? It used to be the case that you'd spend £500 when you could get a good pernambuco bow for that money, but nowadays at that price point carbon outperforms wood. And the rule I've been told is for carbon spend a quarter of what your violin is worth. If I had a £1,500 violin, I'd probably get a Coda Prodigy or similar.
September 2, 2019, 5:53 AM · I have a CF bow made by Jon Paul, and it works relatively well. Can pull off a number of "advanced" bowing techniques on it. I'd recommend it
September 2, 2019, 7:41 AM · Have one of the big shops send you three or four CF bows to try. Include the JonPaul Avanti -- this bow has been praised repeatedly by good players on this site.
September 2, 2019, 7:51 AM · The answer is: as much as you can afford.
2nd answer: the least money for the best bow possible.
CF bows can perform very well and feel good in your arm, but the sound (within that price range) will hardly match a good wooden bow.
Edited: September 2, 2019, 9:51 AM · Darren, you can get a good bargain at auction houses for bows. Tarisio in NYC has the T2 auctions with tons of good affordable violins and bows. I’ve seen Hill workshop bows at these auctions (in good condition) sold for under $1,000 USD. I wouldn’t personally go the carbon fiber route. There are in my opinion better affordable sticks made out of Amourette and Ironwood than carbon fiber. Good luck on your hunt!
September 2, 2019, 9:28 AM · I would suggest go try as many bow as you can at all price range.

I own many bows, from really cheap Chinese made to good old French. But trust me, you can find really good pernambuco bow at cheap price, just that it takes a lot more time.

My cheaper Chinese bow performs no less than a some of the good contemporary bows I own which cost like 10 times more. But just that I also spent like 10x more time at 2-3 shops trying like 100+ bows before I found this one.

Edited: September 2, 2019, 10:02 AM · Don't buy any bow unless you can inspect it and try it first. Auctions often have bows that dealers have unloaded there because they cannot sell them in their retail store.

Often times people buy a bow that plays like the bow that they are already using, and therefore miss-out on buying a better higher-performing bow because it feels different than what they are used to.

Try a lot of bows, and let your teacher try your final candidates, if possible.

There are great CF bows available in your price range, and they can match really well to many violins.

Edited: September 2, 2019, 10:35 AM · For the money you have, you should be able to find a decent Brazilian workshop pernambuco bow. You definitely want to try and compare before you buy. Even bows of the same model and makers will differ significantly, no two bows are the same and there is no guarantee that more expensive = better. When I upgraded my instrument I actually downgraded my bow for one that worked better with the new instrument. Weight and balance point is an important element of your choice, and you should compare enough bows to make the determination of what works for you. Note that what works for you now, may not work for you later as you develop your technique.
September 2, 2019, 1:23 PM · Thanks for the responses. I see that the coda diamond gx and the Jon Paul Avanti are very popular being a carbon fibre bow, I'll probably check them out. I may check out some older pernumbuco ones as well, perhaps the ones which have lost its value or something beacuse of a small head break in the tip etc...
Edited: September 2, 2019, 3:14 PM · Yes, Roger's advice is good... the only challenge is that you would need to sample many of them to find a few worth considering. Tap test first: good on the right, bad on the left pile - discard and do not look again. Then all other tests, including all kinds of bow techniques. Has to feel like an extension of your arm. Listen, listen and listen. Has to match your violin and bring the best out of it. If you know your instrument well, it will be much easier. Good luck!
September 2, 2019, 3:36 PM · Thanks!
Edited: September 2, 2019, 5:26 PM · Darren, whether a CF bow might be a good choice or not can only be decided by yourself, and by checking them out in person. I really liked the Arcus A and S series on a couple of violins which were on the warmer side, and also other (more budget) brands performed surprisingly well for the money. On the other hand, my own violin hates them. It's gorgeous and I love it, but it's more silver than gold if you understand what I mean, and with a CF-bow (and my playing style maybe) it tends to tip over into shrill, while with the right wooden bow it turns into my personal "violinists wet dream".

Although I find the suggestion of Amourette, ironwood or even ipe interesting, even Pernambucco bows do not necessarily have to be overly expensive, and especially if you're looking into contemporary Brazilian makers a really great bow can very well fit your budget. Also Czech bows are often of very good (and sometimes outstanding) quality, but a lot cheaper than American, French, or German. Also antique bows can offer good value for your money, as long as you stay clear of collectible names. But the process of finding a good antique bow (nameless or obscure maker) is much more time consuming than buying new, and you also need to be lucky. As long as the previous owner didn't pass away, there often is a reason why a certain bow is on the market, and another one isn't...

As an illustration: the four best bows out of my collection are
- made by the most reputable living (but retired) German maker, 35 years old, bought from a musician and collector for the very very modest price of €4,9k
- made by one of the most reputable active German makers, bought directly from his workbench for €2,7k
- made by a living but retired American bowmaker who didn't have a very high output but is well known in certain regions of the US, but unheard in Europe, bought out of the legacy of a deceased local musician for €350
- one of the better pieces from a well known but not particularly reputable Saxon maker in the 1920/1930ies, bought from the same source for €250
None of these bows really falls off or stands out against the others. Different characteristics, but all of them play and sound extraordinarily well on my instrument. If I had to decide for only one of them, the choice would be a hard one.
(And then there's still a dozen of other bows... one of them a really weak antique stick from a very well known French maker which I'd happily give away...)

September 2, 2019, 5:44 PM · There are good Brazilian wood bows in your price range; you should get wood rather than CF if you can. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to choose several of the bows that sound best to you and have someone play your violin with them so you can hear what they sound like to people listening to you. Good luck!
September 2, 2019, 7:24 PM · for 1000 bucks usd no way i would buy a CF bow, tons of excellent permambuco bow in this price range.

if you choose to sell later down the line some shops i heard only buy wood bow and not CF bows.

Edited: September 2, 2019, 10:27 PM · “Auctions often have bows that dealers have unloaded there because they cannot sell them in their retail store.”

Auctions like Tarisio are good to buy and sell at because they have more views and traffic than dealers do due to their superior internet marketing and social media presence. Plus auction prices at Tarisio are far below what a dealer in a big city like NYC, Boston or Chicago charges for the same instrument or bow. So it is a attractive place to shop as a buyer - unless of course you prefer paying top dollar. The quality of instruments and bows at the NYC auctions I’ve been to rivals any major dealer. Lack of quality is not the reason an item ends up at auction. Usually a person selling at auction wants to sell something more quickly and get greater visibility for their item, instead of consigning their instrument/bow to a dealer for a year and not have it sell.

September 2, 2019, 10:36 PM · buying a bow you haven't played is a bad idea
September 2, 2019, 11:41 PM · agree with lyndon, unless its a cheap bow for like 100 bucks then yeah ebay away. for a grand nothing leaves my wallet til i try it out with my instrument with my rosin.
September 3, 2019, 1:28 PM · You want to have two bows that play well with your violin. A back-up bow, probably CF, that you use outside, in physically risky places, some of your practicing and rehearsing. The price and the label are the less important factors. What counts more are weight, balance, quality of sound, strength..., how it matches your violin, your bowing style. If you shop around and get a little lucky, you can find something that works for you at a good price. One of my better Viola bows is a heavy, out of balance, very cheap CF Violin bow. I liked the JonPaul least expensive "Bravo" model enough to also buy the "Avanti". For me it was Not better(!), just slightly heavier.
September 3, 2019, 1:29 PM · As long as you're looking for your main playing bow and your budget is limited, I also agree with Lyndon to 200%. You need to try it, and take it home for a trial period of at least 1-2 weeks. Anything else is either for a great bow for an exceptional price (a chance you just cannot let pass), or for collectors and dealers for whom this is rather a piece of art in its own right, or an investment, but who will not use it as a tool.
September 3, 2019, 1:56 PM · I would just go to a bunch of shops and try stuff out without getting caught up on the price, and then find out what feels right and sounds good to you. I remember a while ago, I found a (presumably real) Bausch for between 1000 and 1500, and it played really nice. I don't really see the logic of the 1/3 thing. You should find bows that you like and then see what fits your budget. I paid more for my bow than for my violin, but my violin also isn't a big name.

I think CF sound terrible, but let your own ears and hands be the judge. You may end up realizing that what you REALLY want isn't going to be in your price range, but you might be surprised with something inexpensive.

Take your time.

September 3, 2019, 3:37 PM · Darren,

Price is not a guarantee that a particular bow will improve the sound you make with your violin. For that matter price does not always guarantee that any particular instrument will sound better in your hands.

I have two bows. The one that came with the violin back in the mid-late 1800's is a no-name bow. The other, that I bought later on (for a song) is a Adolf C. Schuster *** (and yes I had it certified and insured). In my hands with my instrument both of these bows bring out different tone colors that I can use for accentuating various pieces.

I got the Schuster by trying just about every bow that the local luthier had in stock multiple times. There were bows that I tried that cost a lot more than the Schuster but they did not fill out the trio of me, the violin and the bow to my liking.

My advice is to try as many bows as possible, have fun doing it and do not let the high price tags influence your thinking.

September 3, 2019, 4:33 PM · ... but do also try anything you're allowed to, for getting a sense for your own preferences, and let the more expensive bows teach you what to look in "minor" bows. It's fun!
When I actively went bow shopping (the first and until now last time) this took me about 8 months. It's a very personal thing. Try as much bows as you can, no matter if for sale or not, and no matter if affordable or not, and make an informed decision. Don't waste your budget and buy only when you're sure that you've found the right companion for the next couple of years. No 90%-decisions...
September 3, 2019, 5:38 PM · The last violin I bought at Tarisio auctions, I tried for 10 minutes in NYC before bidding. I don’t regret the decision one bit! Not everyone needs a few weeks to make a decision, if you know what you’re looking for in a violin or bow. I agree with Lyndon, you should definitely try a instrument or bow in person before buying/bidding. I tried a very good bow at Tarisio, but I knew right away (within a minute) it was not for me. All instrument auctions like Tarisio, Skinners, Brampton’s etc. let you go there and try the items in the gallery.
September 3, 2019, 7:51 PM · the OP is in New Zealand
September 3, 2019, 9:07 PM · Yeah unfortunately in New Zealand we don't have a ton of options
Edited: September 4, 2019, 1:37 AM · And makes a difference if you're an experienced seasoned pro, adding one piece to a well working collection, or a young student at the beginning of his journey.
September 4, 2019, 1:53 AM · My mom was from New Zealand, great country!!
September 4, 2019, 3:27 AM · A quick Google shows up quite a few violin bow shops in New Zealand? (I understand it is a large country though!)
Edited: September 4, 2019, 4:10 AM · @Joel: -
"You want to have two bows that play well with your violin. A back-up bow, probably CF, that you use outside, in physically risky places, some of your practicing and rehearsing. The price and the label are the less important factors." Good advice. My teacher has a bow that cost her £6,000, and her backup is a Col Legno Standard.
Edited: September 5, 2019, 1:07 PM · You MUST try bows before you buy. Bows and players are so individual, you HAVE to pick what's right for how you are playing right now and what you want to play in the future. People need different bows at different times in their career.

CF vs. wood is not actually a crucial decision. Go to a shop, try a bunch of bows CF and wood, and see what you like. For $1200 US you can get very credible new pernambuco bows from workshops like Arcos Brasil, or you can buy a high end Codabow or a low-end Arcus. Or you can look at old (20th century) workshop bows by not-famous makers or unknown makers. Lots of choices.

And really there is no requirement that you spend $1200. Try bows in different prices ranges -- you may actually find that an inexpensive bow works well for you. I have played on $120 Shar carbon fiber bows ("Presto" is the brand) that were really quite credible. In other words, there ARE bargains in bows in the sense that more expensive isn't always better for a given player.

If you do study music and advance this will probably not be your last bow, so consider working with a bow shop that gives you trade-in privileges. It's awfully nice if you can get full value for this bow towards, say, a $3000 bow in a few years.

If there is no violin shop in New Zealand, maybe take a trip to Sydney where I'm sure there would be several great shops.

September 15, 2019, 9:56 AM · Hi Darren,

Congrats on making the step up to a nicer bow. There's nothing better for your playing than the stick. Regarding the 1/3 rule that some people follow - that can be misleading. You may have an amazing fiddle by a lesser known maker that doesn't appraise for much but sounds like a dream. This doesn't mean you should cheapen the bow. I know many people who spend as much on the bow as the fiddle, and for food reason. Check out some German bows and some modern bows. CF is a good backup, but I get the sense that you want to really play and you won't find the tone you're looking for without quality wood on the stick. The best advice you'll get is to go to as many shops as you can and try stuff in different price ranges. Be upfront about your budget, probably plan to spend slightly more than you want because once you hear that sound you won't forget it :) If you can develop a closer relationship with one shop owner or an independent seller and ask them to be on the lookout for you, that can really help you find the right bow because you won't be the only person looking.

Best of luck!


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