How do you know if a bow is better if it feels weird?

Edited: September 20, 2019, 8:51 AM · Hi, quick question here. Imagine you want a new bow and go bow shopping. You try one that you like aesthetically, that you know "must" be better than your actual bow but that feels weird or "worse" than your bow.

How can you know if you simply need to spend 2 weeks with it to get familiar with the new shape and balance?
How do you know if it's simply worse for you and it's not about getting used to it?
How do you know if it's you, that are used to your unbalanced, bad bow, and not the bow, in which case you should totally go with the new one even though it feels very different and control it much worse?

I've experience this when trying out violins from friends, my teachers... you know they are way better than yours, but nonetheless you feel way less comfortable playing it, and have zero control compared to your current own violin. I don't know about you, but I tend to get so used to my current set, and when I change something drastically, something like the bow or the instrument, it all gets really weird.

Replies (14)

Edited: September 20, 2019, 9:34 AM · It can take time to get used to a different bow. Potentially, there can be a number of differences that affect the way a bow can be used optimally. These may include weight, balance (i.e., weight distribution), thickness at the thumb leather (i.e., wrap), amount of hair, stick stiffness, position(s) of stick flexure and others.

I have found it can take me up to 2 weeks to get a decent feel for some bows. There was one bow (Berg Deluxe) that I received by "mail," tested for 2 weeks, returned to the seller and after a week of reconsideration reordered and bought. In another case, it took me a long time to get used to the different balance and weight of an ARCUS bow.

Finally, because of the differences between instruments and the physical differences of our bodies and playing techniques and abilities, a better bow for one person might not be better for another.

September 20, 2019, 9:51 AM · For bows, the conventional wisdom is that if it doesn't immediately feel pretty decent, forget it. But that's assuming that one already plays with decent technique.

Ideally, one gets a bow from the start that doesn't actively encourage the wrong technical approach. That bow doesn't have to be expensive.

If your technique is screwed up because of your equipment, you pretty much need to rely on your teacher to help you find the next step up and force yourself to get over the bad habits you built before.

September 20, 2019, 10:44 AM · @Lydia Leong, you wrote:
"For bows, the conventional wisdom is that if it doesn't immediately feel pretty decent, forget it."

In my experience, the only exception i'm aware of, regarding what you wrote, are Arcus bows. It happened to me several times that a professional violinist uses for their first time an Arcus bow and rejects it because "it has poor sound".

One week ago i went under an examination for being admitted to a small italian conservatory. I was not admitted, not because of what i played, but because suddenly there were no more free slots for older students.
And one of the examiner, a professional violinist, wanted to play with my violin and my bow (an Arcus Sonata). He rejected because "all carbon bows suck, they can't make a sound".

Well, i was not admitted (reasons of mafia....... we have invented in Italy, don't we? ....... ) :)
One of the reason, i was informed, was that i played with "too much sound"..... So ?...... the Arcus works for me and not for someone else?.... :)

The problem is that lighter Arcus bows have to be understood, as Andrew Victor wrote. I believe that a week is too little time, even ......

September 20, 2019, 2:23 PM · In my own experience, just because it feels weird at first does not mean it is not an excellent bow for you. I recommend patience in adjusting to what you can do with it. With viola, some people like heavy for a dark sound, others lime myself prefer light and agile. Sometimes more springy for delicate or rapid and precise passages or less so for more lyric and darker sound. They can feel completely unfamiliar if you have not trained on a widw
variety of bows.
September 20, 2019, 2:24 PM · Another variable can be the rosin you are using for different bows and different sounds.
September 20, 2019, 2:35 PM · Arcus is so unconventional that many of the bows will, yes, feel weird.

I find that the S8 and S9 are balanced in such a way that they feel comparable to the French antiques they're patterned on, staying in the string properly despite their weight. They don't feel like they need an adjustment of technique.

Edited: September 20, 2019, 4:05 PM · ...... but i was talking not about handling strictly.
Mostly i meant "sound".

When one learns how to let them go free, Arcus bows start to sound better.......

September 23, 2019, 1:07 PM · Marco, while I have limited experience with Arcus bows,your posts are starting to look like "humping" for revenue". Any high-level restorer or fiddlemaker can get paid for humping various products. My personal choice has been not to do that.
September 23, 2019, 2:08 PM · David, i did not understand what you said. English is not my language. If you please want to explain better...
September 23, 2019, 2:48 PM · English is my first language and I also did not understand David. :-)
September 23, 2019, 9:04 PM · Hahahaha, that's so funny.

So, what about violins then?
I made this post for bows, but it's also applicable to violins as well. When you reject a violin because it sounds whatever, it might simply be that you need to play lighter, louder, whatever. That you are used to your current rig and simply need adaptation.

September 24, 2019, 6:03 PM · Prognostication of what it might sound like if I.... is almost alchemy. I have only two instruments that I would never give up. The rest, keepers, but...I think Andrew Victor and I have spent way more money than some of our instruments may merit playing with setup changes. But then again, I venture to say curiosity is what makes it worthwhile for us. Apologies to Andrew if I offend.
September 24, 2019, 6:53 PM · If you play enough instruments in the company of knowledgeable people, you will get to the point where you can recognize a good instrument even if it is not a good fit for you personally.
September 25, 2019, 10:17 AM · It doen’t take long to be able to spot a good instument. As per “fitting” to a person... what gives? Violins are just about the only bowed instruments with millimeter tight tolerances in size. If one finds a good instrument within their budget, one should “adjust” to it.
Bows however are very different beasts... I agree.

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