New bow shivering

February 8, 2020, 7:53 AM · I've been playing for 30 years but gave up any aspirations of playing professionally due to my EDS and joint issues many years ago. I still love playing, and try to do daily exercises to keep improving. There are some issues though, vibrato has been excruciating for a long time, and I have a slight residual tremor in my right hand. I recently bought a new bow and violin. I've spent most of my life playing on a very basic Chinese made violin and a very cheap bow. I recently spent more money on a lovely old German trade violin and a better bow, not anything as good as most probably play, but given I can't ever do more than play for enjoyment I spent what I was comfortable spending. I got an advanced student pernambuco bow which was around £150 but ever since I'm having so many issues. It seems super sensitive and bouncy, most noticeably I can actually hear my tremor coming through the bowing, I don't hear it using my old Brazil wood bow, just this new one. I'm at a loss, is the bow just too good for me, or too sensitive? I'm going back to basics, practicing basic scales and all the books I see recommended here, but after a week of playing with it, it's not getting any better!

I e checked and experimented with the tension, making sure it's a pencil distance when I use it, I've tried short bows, long slow, tried upgrading rosin, and checking that I can't hear the same thing with any of my other bows. Any advice? It's the most expensive bow I've ever had and I really don't want to give up and go back to my 20 pound one without really attempting to figure it out but I'm at a loss as to what's going on! Any advice?

Replies (5)

Edited: February 8, 2020, 8:21 AM · Suzy,

I've noticed this with my students when they "graduate" to a wood bow. What I have found is that the issue isn't the tension of the hair but the lateral stiffness of the bow. I have two relatively old bow and they have very little lateral flex as compared to newer wood bows.

I've also looked at comparably priced man-made bows (Fiberglass, Carbon Fiber) and found them to have lateral stiffness comparable to my old wood bows. Bottom line: the quality of the wood isn't what it used to be and the really good wood bows are very expensive.

While I kind-of participate in the mystique of the wood bow, the reality is that some of the man-made bows are just as good and currency-for-currency the man-made are superior.

Edited: February 8, 2020, 8:39 AM · George makes a good point that the stick could be quite different in terms of its mechanical response properties.

But you also wrote, "I checked and experimented with the tension, making sure it's a pencil distance when I use it."

The distance from the hair to the middle of the bow may be the same for both bows, but that does not mean the tension of the hair is the same.

Start as you are, with both bows having their hair a pencil width from the stick. Now do an experiment: Push down on both bows on your A and D strings until the hair just touches the stick. Do you find that you have to push harder with one bow vs. the other? If so then their hair tensions are significantly different. That also assumes you have the same amount of hair on both bows.

If the old bow is old and has dirty hair, you might be applying more downward pressure ("arm weight") to achieve the same tone. The application of this downward pressure could be smoothing out the wrinkles caused by your tremor.

I stand in continual admiration of the members that we hear from, so frequently, who continue to enjoy our favorite instrument, despite various physical challenges. Suzy, you have my respect and I am sure I am speaking for many.

My final comment is that the "better" bow is the one that works better for you.

Edited: February 8, 2020, 8:41 AM · My experience has been that a flexible bow will expose right-hand tremor more than a stiffer stick. It is possible (even likely) that a flexible stick will have come to you with too much hair and some relief is possible if the bow has less hair.

One possible solution is to hold the bow differently so as to reduce the effect of your tremor. For example you could try holding the bow around the frog as some beginning children are advised to do.

I have bows that cover a wide range (62 to 133 N/m: Voirin to ARCUS) of stiffness and when my tremor is at its worst I have to use my stiffest bow AND hold it like a child. It is easy enough to switch to a more conventional hold while playing if and when I can.

February 8, 2020, 9:11 AM · I'm wondering if the old very cheap bow was heavy and has therefore accustomed you to pressing the bow too lightly against the strings with your index finger?
February 8, 2020, 9:21 AM · Thank you, I will do some more experimenting tomorrow. I have a cheap bow that claims to be cf, however I belive its wood covered with cf fabric however its been repaired a few times with the hair coming out from the frog end, so it may very well be that the hair is looser than the new one, and a Brazil wood bow that's been rehaired recently with synthetic hair. Both are very well looked after and don't have lots of loose hairs, I'm very careful with them and quite particular about my rosin. I initially rejoiced at how light the octagonal pernambuco bow was, as my right knuckles are sinking so light means less pain, but I'm thinking that the heavier bows produced a better tone for me. It's frustrating, I live in the Highlands in Scotland so have no access to a violin shop, and bought the bow from a well regarded shop but online, I suppose it may be worth contacting them and asking them to exchange it. It took a lot to get myself to spend that much money, and I know its still a cheap bow, but it's a considerable amount to me! Maybe they can send me some on approval and i can send the one I'm not getting on with back, it's worth asking anyway.

I have a friend who plays professionally and he did offer to take me to the big city and a shop to try out, but at 2 hours each way, and such a limited budget I wasn't sure it was a good idea. I don't want to either fall in love with something I can't afford or be too tired and sore to try them. I will keep trying out suggestions and contact the shop I purchased it from for options.

In the meantime any suggestions for etudes to practice bowing? I already use shradiek , sevick and scales etc regularly but as we all know these things can become... Somewhat of a chore!

Thank you so much for your suggestions. I've been lurking for a while now, and get endless enjoyment from seeing some of the more interesting if less serious suggestions.


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