Best French Bow for Student

February 29, 2020, 7:53 PM · Am looking for a new bow and any help or recommendations would be appreciated. I am about to complete my last violin exams and am starting to realize now I am needing a new bow, especially since I have such a good instrument. My current carbon fiber bow feels fairly unbalanced and too light at the frog, the contact point isn't quite firm and I could be getting a higher quality sound. I know that France is well known for their bows and having a French instrument, also having French bow would be nice. I already have a carbon fiber bow and I am not a big fan, so looking for a classical timber bow. Also it would be good if it was not a mass produced bow maker and made by hand, I don't want its value to dramatically reduce. I am only 14, so only having savings for a bow up to around $500 AUD (it if is a good bow, I may be able to spend a bit more). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Replies (23)

February 29, 2020, 8:03 PM · Good + French > $500. Always.

You can probably find good carbon fiber, or maybe get lucky on a Brazil-made wooden bow.

February 29, 2020, 8:21 PM · What Stephen said.
Edited: February 29, 2020, 8:57 PM · It doesn’t have to be french to be good or to match your violin.
Edited: March 1, 2020, 6:25 AM · I've read that Fritz Kreisler favored German bows, namely Nürnberger. But really good pernambuco (wood) bows are now made in many places, although the fine makers grumble that decent pernambuco is more scarce than ever before. You might find an OK pernambuco (workshop) bow for $500 but you cannot depend on "brand" recommendations - (and definitely not a "fine" bow, which is what people are thinking of when they talk about "French" bows).

By the way, who made your French instrument?

You might also find a decent non-wood bow - but even there you cannot depend on the "brand" alone. You have to try each bow on your own fiddle, no matter what material or what maker.

February 29, 2020, 10:53 PM · So AUD $500 is about USD $300, and US-based readers should probably be thinking of a bow that costs $250 or less (USD) because of shipping and import duties and taxes and whatnot.

For that amount of money, the best thing you're likely to find will almost certainly be a basic functional carbon-fiber bow. When you hit roughly $500 USD (budget $800+ AUD), you will start to get into the master-produced Brazil-made bows, which can be fairly good workshop bows -- Arcos Brasil is the umbrella under which you can get a Raposo, Chagas, etc. branded bow -- but even in that price range you are likely to find better playing response in a carbon-fiber bow. (The wood bows in that range may have a nicer tonal quality, though.)

The kind of German bows that Andrew Victor is talking about generally go for $3k+ USD, and they will be antique workshop bows. For French bows, you are looking at $4k+ USD for a contemporary fine bow and $7k+ for an antique fine bow. Well outside your budget.

March 1, 2020, 3:09 AM · Thanks everyone. Looks like I may need to keep options open or expand d my budget. I have a bernadel late 1800s violin by the way for those that asked.
March 1, 2020, 3:54 AM · From a technical point of view, most CF bows (even the cheapos <200 USD) will definitely do the trick. If you do not like them because they're not a good tonal fit for your violin, you're in the same situation like me.
Technically, nothing in your price range will be nearly as good as CF, as long as you're not extremely lucky to find something you can buy privately out of a heritage or so. You might consider hybrid bows, which are CF bows but coated with a thin wooden veneer. They are technically perfect like CF, act like CF, but give a warmer sound most of the time. My former teacher bought an unbranded no-name of this species years ago when they were the new hot thing, for about 300 USD and it was good enough that it brought him through university. Things that are good enough aren't necessarily expensive.
March 1, 2020, 9:04 AM · There are some good Chinese pernambuco bows that start in your price range.

I have been very impressed with the Guy Laurent bows from Shar that I have tried.

March 1, 2020, 9:18 AM · the Chinese bows are not Pernambuco, but rather some mystery wood, maybe Chinese, a lot of people get suckered by this, Brazil has stopped the exportation of Pernambuco, so there isn't any new wood to supply the market.
Edited: March 1, 2020, 10:00 AM · Lyndon, I'd be interested to know where your information comes from since I can't find anything more specific than rumour on the web.

As a perpetual sceptic, particularly when it comes to bows and their material, I've a mind to try one made from Brazilian Ipe wood to see if it feels any different from Pernambuco. If I don't like it I could use it for archery, or get some more and make decking

March 1, 2020, 10:22 AM · Its not a rumour, all you have to do is look at the wood, it doesn't look anything like genuine Pernambuco.
March 1, 2020, 12:13 PM · "Good + French > $500."

You can put at least one zero behind that. Maybe two.

March 1, 2020, 12:26 PM · I mean the information that Brazil isn't exporting any Pernambuco. The sites I've read say that it is still harvesting and exporting a small quantity. I've also read that it isn't allowed to export unworked Pernambuco from the US but finished bows are OK.
Edited: March 1, 2020, 12:33 PM · Exporting TO the US, you mean. Yes-- Brazil sees Pernambuco wood as a major source of wealth, and if they can use it to encourage local industry, they shall.

In the back of their minds through all of this regulation is the rubber boom of a century ago. There was a time when they had a monopoly, and were looking to become the Saudi Arabia of their time. Then the Brits smuggled a few plants out to Southeast Asia, and it all went up in smoke.

The good news/bad news about Pernambuco is that it isn't hard to grow. Anyone with a thousand acres in Peru, Mexico, or Arkansas could probably raise a nice plantation.

March 1, 2020, 1:51 PM · Lyndon, have you looked at Shar’s Guy Laurent bows before?
Edited: March 2, 2020, 12:39 AM · I agree with previous posters that it will be impossible to find a French pernambuco bow for this price point and hard to buy any good pernambuco bows. Maybe a Brazilian maker and certain a Chinese maker would be around this price. Some Chinese bow makers do use real pernambuco and Brazil does export it legally to China; in fact the state of Pernambuco has a trade office in China just for this. A good Ipe wood bow may work for you also. I have a Yita Ipe bow that was less than $100 and it’s great.

And yes Lyndon, yes it is real Ipe.

March 2, 2020, 1:07 AM · If you only have $500, I would recommend waiting if you insist on a nice pernambuco.
Edited: March 2, 2020, 2:34 AM · Has any one heard of dorfler bows? They sell them at many music stores around Sydney and claim to be German genuine pernambuco bows.
March 2, 2020, 2:10 AM · I tried a gold grade 3 star tortoiseshell model before, I ended up not liking the thin sound of that overpriced bow that’s not even made by a master maker. I went with a Rodney instead.
Edited: March 2, 2020, 11:09 PM · There are "French Bows" and then there are "french bows."

The bows in the price ranges above have little to do with "French Bows."
In any case, the fine old French bows--the ones that are really good, are unaffordable. Even many of the expensive ones tend to not be so great because people hang on to the good ones. I've played many supposedly big-name bows that didn't impress me. Too heavy, too light, too flexible, to stiff--all probable reasons they were for sale.

March 3, 2020, 12:12 AM · ... on the other side, while the whole world is urgently after any bow with a french stamp, I enjoy my german high enders which are - comparably - almost cheap...
Edited: March 3, 2020, 11:23 PM · Hugo, Dorfler is a well-know name in German bowss. Google the Dorfler website to see the range of bows they sell. Google "Tarisio Dorfler" to see the range of auction prices of previously owned Dorfler bows.

The current Dorfler workshop produces a range of bows from "Brasilwood" to nickel-("German Silver")-fitted, silver-fitted, and gold-fitted pernambuco sticks.

The Seifert workshop still produces some decent bows (on the edge of your price range) - but there are also some clunkers. I had an adult student who could not get her "W. Seifert" violin bow to do anything for her (it did nothing for me either). I subsequently purchased a W. Seifert viola bow that does pretty much everything for me. Years before that I had owned a "Lothar Seifert" violin bow (considerably more expensive) that would not do anything for me, but when my luthier (also a damn good violinist) tried it he pronounced it was my best bow (even though he had my F.N. Vorin and Richard Weichold bows in hand at the same time) and he could do anything with the Seifert.

The lesson here is that each bow has to be taken on its own merits and faults as well as those of the player and their instrument - you cannot select by brand alone.

March 3, 2020, 11:10 PM · Thanks for your help everyone. I feel like now I have somewhere to go from here

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