John Paul Corona & Bow "Blind Test"

December 26, 2019, 3:15 PM · Anyone have a John Paul Corona bow? Curious how you like yours. I had a blind test this afternoon with 5 different bows, and the results were a bit surprising.

It was as much a blind test as I could make it, 5 different bows: a mixture of wood, carbon fiber, and one quite expensive Pernambuco. I was left alone with them and my violin, I kept the bows turned so I could not see the labels - I wanted to avoid bias from some preconceived idea of material or price.

Bow 1: I hated, it just felt too heavy, as if it were dragging my hand down. 

Bows 2-4: Felt the same as my Codabow.
Bow 5: Quite different from the others - string crossings became much easier, the bow felt lighter and my right hand/wrist more agile.

I was quite surprised at the difference, and even more surprised when I allowed myself to look at the labels on the other side of the frogs. The bow I hated? THAT was the $1,500 Pernambuco. The bow I liked, was the least expensive of the bunch (still twice the cost of my CodaBow Protege)  - another carbon fiber bow. 

Obviously the John Paul Corona has the best balance for me out of the 5, which really brought home the lesson about balance being far more important than either material or cost. I did not buy it, yet, no need to rush.

Replies (17)

December 26, 2019, 3:57 PM · Don't forget to listen for sound. Quality/sexiness of tone, but also dynamic range, quickness of response, etc. Spiccato and triple-stops, sure, but also ability to project pp legato.

You might find if you fuss long enough with those ideas that a less-comfortable bow might actually get you better results.

Edited: December 27, 2019, 8:47 AM · $1500 is not generally considered quite expensive for a wood bow. Not surprised is outperformed by CF.
Edited: December 26, 2019, 4:45 PM · Also keep in mind that every bow has something to teach to you. A bow might feel uncomfortable at first for the same reason why it might be exactly the right bow to learn certain more advanced techniques or help you to achieve a richer sound. That's maybe where a mentor comes in... The better the bow, the further it will get you, and the faster it will get you there. But as long as we're stuck in learning the basic techniques, it's not easy to evaluate a bows qualities.

It's wise to take your time. I remember, after one year of playing, I ran into a bow which immediately felt like an extension of my arm, like a part of myself. Although it was far beyond my intended budget, not buying it almost broke my heart, but after several hours of test driving I came to the conclusion that I just wasn't able to draw a really big sound with it from my violin. (I even considered switching the violin for that bow...)
Three years and literally hundreds of bows later, owning already a relatively nice one (I always used to call it my 80% bow) and a handful of "funny bows" of lesser quality (mostly restauration objects from garage sales) I had the same feeling again. And now I own a bow that has it all...

What I'm trying to say is, you should never underestimate the role of a good bow in your efforts in learning to play the violin. A bow that "feels just right" is a huge advantage. But what feels right today might feel weird in a year. If you can afford owning several different (decent) bows, then happy you. If it's one or two bows that fit into your case and budget, then get advice before allowing yourself to fall in love.
Have fun, good luck and all the best!

P.S. While bowshopping, don't forget about hybrid bows! They're basically CF bows with a thin coating of pernambuco wood veineer. They're as precise and consistent like any other CF bow, but often have a warmer and fuller sound. Soundwise, my violin has never been happy with CF-bows, although I really liked the feeling and behaviour of the Arcus A and S series. With hybrid bows we had some positive surprises, and definitively the most appealing candidates in the <1k range.

December 26, 2019, 5:10 PM · To me $1.5K is expensive, though some day I would consider buying one that ticked all the boxes, that's what savings are for. That particular bow felt like it was dragging down my hand, so regardless of cost it wasn't the one for me.

The John Paul bow SEEMED to produce a bit more resonance from my violin, but that may have simply been from a different balance that allowed me a bit more flexibility? Unsure, but it's a thought.

Wasn't aware of hybrid bows, so that's something more to consider, thanks for the tip! It also makes sense to approach this slowly, I appreciate the advice.

December 26, 2019, 7:46 PM · I haven't tried the Corona version. I did buy their least expensive model, "Bravo", and liked it enough to buy the "Avanti", but it wasn't better or different. Bows are strange, you never know which bow will work best with a specific violin. Price and label are not as important as weight, balance, strength, elasticity, etc.
December 26, 2019, 8:28 PM · Thanks Joel! That was what I began to see today. I wanted to do the blind test as well as I could to try and rule out label/price induced bias. The results were quite interesting, I'm glad I did that.
December 27, 2019, 7:12 AM · The Corona is my favorite bow out of the JonPaul line.
December 27, 2019, 2:44 PM · and, to add to the mystery, if you have a collection, more than two violins and four bows, you might discover that bow #2 works best with Violin #1, but not Violin 2, etc.
December 27, 2019, 4:28 PM · It's not at all surprising that a good CF bow would outperform a $1500 pernambuco bow. I realize that $1500 is quite a bit of money in absolute terms but not when it comes to violin bows. A good pernambuco bow can be well into five digits.
December 27, 2019, 8:01 PM · I recently bought a $500 pernambucco bow from china.
It's a bit heavy - but helps with the sound in the upper half.
Bounces very well and controllably.
I'm happy with it.
And for people who think I haven't tried a decent bow.
I also have a James Tubbs bow (that I've been assured is genuine).
It's NOT as good.
December 28, 2019, 6:17 AM · Mary Ellen, thanks for the context, that is helpful. I liked the feel of the John Paul Corona so much that I've decided to save for one. It's twice the price of my Codabow, but I could certainly tell a difference in right hand agility. I'm in no rush, but I learned a lot from the experiment and I appreciate the comments from everyone.
December 28, 2019, 8:00 AM · Two years ago, I bought a $250 “Master” level pernambuco bow from Yita in China. It replaced my $70 Fiddlerman CF bow. Since then, I have also purchased a JonPaul Avanti CF, and a nickel mounted Arcos Brazil pernambuco bow. Of the four, the Yita is my favorite, in terms of handling and the sound it pulls from my violin. The JonPaul handles very well and pulls a purer, cleaner tone. However, the “color” I get from the Yita (and the Arcos) makes for a really nice sound.
Edited: December 28, 2019, 11:25 AM · All bows feel good after nine Coronas... ;-)
December 28, 2019, 12:19 PM · If you remember to put a lemon wedge on them.
December 28, 2019, 12:39 PM · I can only speak for myself... most probably nine coronas will make any bow feel good, but as a matter of fact any bow will play like a lemon after such a treat.
December 28, 2019, 12:44 PM · Lime, Stephen, lime!
Edited: December 29, 2019, 1:28 AM · Oh, right. Sorry— I haven’t had my biennial beer for a while.

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