Beginner experience with different bows. Too new to splurge on violin bow?

September 4, 2017, 5:22 PM · Birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I'm tempted to get myself a good violin bow up to $700-800 max. I'm still quite a beginner though and part of me thinks I don't deserve it just yet. 6 months and still on 14/17 (Minuet 2) in Suzuki v1. I'm generally a very curious person so I'm itching to try out bows for the fun of experimenting and differentiating like my experience with buying my first violin and trying out different strings... but knowing myself, I'd end up getting a new one =/ Perhaps I can keep saving and double my budget in a year.

My current bow is Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow (link at end of post). Way better than my first rental bow. During a lesson about three months ago, when I started putting more pressure on my bowing, I noticed myself making stuttering? sound as I near towards the middle of the bow. It also mostly happens when I'm on 3rd and 4th finger. Instead of a clean yiiiiiiiiiiiiiing sound, it goes yiiiiiiyiyiyiyiiiiiiiing. I notice the middle of my bow oscillate. I loosened and tightened the tension of my bow, but it still happens frequently.

Asked my teacher and borrowed his CF bow. Voila! It wasn't happening as much! Since then I have tried other's bows too with similar improved results (all three of them wood). Even my friend's cheaper wooden bow didn't oscillate as much! Of course most of it is attributed to proper skills. Perhaps it'll go away as I get better, but leads to my desire to find a new bow.

I'm limiting myself to CF due to traveling between completely different weathers and I'm hoping to get one that will last my lifetime. I'm eyeing on trying out JonPaul Avanti (or the Carrera if I want to be really ambitious hahaha), though I still feel too new to deserve it :(

My current violin is Revelle 600 with regular Vision GDA and Pirastro Gold E strings if that matters.

Here's the link to the bow I currently have.

Replies (42)

September 4, 2017, 5:56 PM · Have you let your teacher try your current bow? If not, please do, so you'll know if it's your fault or not. If you really need a new bow, I personally don't think you'll need a really expensive bow. One that'll serve you well for many years to come is enough. I use a cheap student bow and am very satisfied with it, and I've been playing for several years.
September 4, 2017, 6:45 PM · I don't think you're currently at a stage where you are likely to be able to choose a bow for a lifetime. The $750 or so that a JonPaul Avanti costs, or another similar CF bow in its class, should serve you just fine; you'll never need another upgrade.

So you have a couple of choices.

It sounds like your teacher may agree that you'd be better served by another bow, since they were curious enough to momentarily lend you a bow to check if a problem was primarily you or primarily the bow. However, they may not think you need one now -- my guess is that unless your Fiddlerman is especially bad, it's fine for the moment -- and they may believe you should wait until you have the bowing technique to be able to pick something better.

You could choose a somewhat better bow -- spend $250, say, with a shop that will allow you to do trade-in for full value. (But most shops don't allow trade-ins on less expensive bows, at least not a full value, so be careful with this.) Have your teacher help you choose the best thing you can in that price range; there are plenty of CF choices.

I would consider waiting to spend more money unless budget is of no concern and you don't mind losing money on a lateral trade, for instance. As you become more advanced you'll start having opinions about what you want out of a bow, which makes it likely that if you buy something now, it won't be what you want for a lifetime of playing, even if you don't move price classes.

Edited: September 4, 2017, 8:30 PM · The problem with the bow is probably most likely your arm and wrist not being relaxed enough. From what I remember when trying out my friends basic Fiddlerman bow is that while it weighs about the same as my other nice composite bows, it feels much lighter.

The Fiddlerman bow is a very good beginner bow, but you may have trouble finding the balance of the bow, which could cause the issue that you are experiencing.

I would say that a better composite bow will give you an improved the sound from the Fiddlerman bow which you have, and if the violin will be a lifetime hobby for you, it will still be a good backup bow after you invest in $$$ bows.

September 4, 2017, 11:18 PM · @Ella
I don't remember if my US teacher has tried it. I won't be taking lessons for at least 2-3 months since I'm still catching up on practices before I could benefit again from lessons.

@Y Cheng
I'll try relaxing my arm and wrist a little bit more tomorrow and find a good balance between relaxing and adding pressure. My bow definitely feels much lighter that the ones I've tried so far. My teacher's is also light but has a nicer balance to it.

And yes, I do want violin to be a lifetime hobby :)

I agree with all the things you said. My teacher will definitely say that I don't really need a new bow right now and just focus on improving my skills. In fact he said that if I can get good with this bow, then imagine how much better I would be with a better bow.

I have read that different bows vary on performance and could be better or worse depending on a player's preference, playstyle, and technique + type of music being played. Since I haven't really developed those yet, I understand your point that I may end up wanting to change my bow again in the future.

Side story. It's very similar with picking a racket for tennis; there are different sizes, weight, balance, etc. and each racket perform better or worse in certain areas. We also have has many different kinds of strings including gut =P My first $30 aluminum racket cracked. Demo'd about 8 rackets and bought my 1st "pro" racket for $185 (top of the line costs $180-215 at that time). I would try other player's rackets from time to time. After a year, as I developed my skills, I happened to be wowed by a friend's racket I tried. Went back to the store and tried around 5 rackets within similar specs. The owner joked to me that it's only been a year and she thought I really loved that racket. I did, but as my skills and playstyle grew, my preference changed. Traded my 1st one for a heavier one as back-up. The new racket lasted as my main one for a good 6+ years from 2009-2015 before getting a new one with similar specs but larger head frame since my skills deteriorated from not playing as much anymore.

Back to violin. I will ask the violin shop where I got my violin from if they have an upgrade program for bows. The luthier is actually more specialized in bows than violins I believe. They do 100% trade-in for violins if upgrading to 150% or more value. But aren't bows more likely to deteriorate and get damaged?

September 5, 2017, 12:51 AM · The problem I see is just: a bow must match player and violin. Your technice is not developed yet so nobody will be able to tell if this bow will be the right one in the future.
A bow in this price range will loose value,you need to spent way more to get one with increasing value.
I got my first bow in this price range after about 5 years of playing and it was an huge upgrade giving my bowing technic a big push. It basically got me through my student career. The next upgrade had rhe same value for my playing btw.
If you want to buy one, ask your teacher to evaluate its playing in a few adavanced technics.
I think its from longer use to buy a bow than a Samsung s8 and if I get this in relation I dont see why you should not treat with a bow if you can afford it.
September 5, 2017, 2:07 PM · I think I will go ahead and try out different bows, but not necessarily max out on my budget. If I can't notice improvement in playing and/or sound improvement, then I'll settle for the cheapest one.

Do CF bows appreciate in value? I think the bows that can appreciate in value is probably way beyond what I'm willing to ever spend. I'm already happy and settled with my current violin. Just looking to see if I can lessen or get rid of that oscillating part, which I find very annoying, by upgrading my bow.

@Mary Ellen Goree (in case you see this post) and Lydia Leong
Anyone's opinion is welcomed too.

Regarding your Avanti's
1) What rosin do you use?
2) How different are the in-model variations? Could there be enough difference that it feels like a different model?
3) Did you do online or store trial?
4) Any opinion on used and new CF bows with regards to trial?

New as in no rosin ever applied to it. I noticed it took many days for my new bow's hair to settle in with rosin. The hair felt different from day 1 vs now. My concern is I would think a used one might be a "reject" by violinists who has tried it.

September 5, 2017, 2:41 PM · If you want growth in value you need at least one of the very good old German bows (10k+), better an middle valued old french one (20k+). This is a whole different level and beyond what an amateur usually puts into a bow. I think this is just not important to this discussion. The essence is, you will more likely loose value than gain.

This oscillation can indeed be caused by bows, enforced by side movement. It can be small enough for the hair not to move but if you hit orthoganly in the bow there are quite a few starting to oscillate.
I dont agree to anybody that says in this price range (300-800) one material is better than the other. There are wooden and CF bows I liked and disliked, no favour for me.
If you buy an old wooden bow the value will propably stay about the same, a new CF will drop a bit further.
Rejected bows dont mean they are worse, it is dependend on violin and player so for you it might be the perfect fit.

New bow hair needs a bit of time to built up rosin, thats normal.

September 5, 2017, 3:27 PM · Basically irrelevant to this discussion, but good antique French bows don't start in the $20k+ range; you can get makers like the Morizot brothers at around the $7k price point, and sub-$20k will include makers like Thomassin and Voirin. High-quality contemporary work, which may appreciate over a lifetime, is typically going to be $4k+.

Carbon-fiber bows don't appreciate, and effectively lose value over time, like most items of technology -- older models are supplanted by newer models that likely play and sound better for the same price. There's no reason not to buy a used CF bow, assuming that it's in good playing shape (which it should be, since they are nigh-indestructible). In the $500-$1k range, both new and used wood bows are fine, though you will want to be more careful about the condition of a used bow.

Within a given model of CF bows, there will be some significant similarities but each bow is unique in handing and sound. Try a few of a given model if you can, but if you really hate a bow's feel, you will probably find you don't like others of that model either.

I did a store trial and because I bought my JP Avanti for backup use, rather than everyday use, I spent an hour with it in the shop and bought it -- I knew it was good enough and didn't feel compelled to do a deeper search. (I also got a great deal on it.) By contrast, my older French bows were the result of months of searching.

Use your regular rosin when you try bows. (I still wish I knew what my last purchase came rosined with, as it was better than anything else I've ever used.)

September 5, 2017, 4:12 PM · I was talking about bows you can be sure to increase in values, not french in general.
You still didnt find out the rosin brand? Damn.
I was suprised when Mr. Gr√ľnke told me they use Salchow for their bows. It worked better on the bows than my Andrea Solo, which suprised me even more.
Contemporary bows are hard to judge in value development.
I know Arcus Sonatas are sometimes found at about $500. If you want CF you could seriously consider it, but they are very light.
September 5, 2017, 7:20 PM · Thanks Lydia. Anything in particular that the Avanti does better/worse compared to your main one? Just curious.

Anyone here have any experience trying out bows online? I'm particularly looking at I get too conscious playing when strangers are listening, so I'd prefer to do trials at home.

September 5, 2017, 7:27 PM · No one in a shop really cares about how you play, and they may not be paying any attention at all. Shops are better because you can try a lot of inventory all at once, and then take things home once you've winnowed the pile down.

My JP Avanti is inferior in every way (both in tone and pretty much all aspects of handling) to my other bows (two antique French, one contemporary American, although these days I'm only using my most recently-acquired French bow, with the Avanti as a spare and for orchestra playing that requires col legno) But it's also perfectly functional.

I think of it as a pretty neutral bow -- it probably won't offend anyone or wow anyone, but it's a serviceable nigh-indestructible tool at a very good price point.

September 6, 2017, 6:29 AM · I had an experience where I put on new strings from china and wiped them with a tissue. The tissue turned black with oil from the strings. If I had used the bow, the hair would have oil on it. I'm wondering if that could have happened to your bow, John.
Since you are a Fiddlerman customer, you know that if you have a concern with any of his products, he will make it right for you.
My Fiddlerman bows (3) have all been perfect for me. Their real value though is that I can use them as a base (with which) to compare other bows.
September 6, 2017, 7:33 AM · That's horrifying. New strings should always be clean.
Edited: September 6, 2017, 8:15 AM · John C., I by no means am an accomplished violinist but as a student myself, I have experienced a similar situation and thought myself ready to move up in bow quality, but due to my nature and occupation, I first felt compelled to isolate the problem. Fortunately for me I have a very tolerant teacher who in her experience believes that violins and bows are frequently blamed for poor or incorrect technique

To make a long story short, after my teacher and another student tried my bow, my stuttering problem was resolved with a little work on my bowing technique and experimenting with a less grippy rosin.

Unfortunately I lost the excuse to move up in bow but it did allow me to save a little longer for an even better quality bow than I would have originally been able to aquire.

In my case, I definitely benefited by learning to first seriously examine my technique and other variables before blaming my equipment. I continued with that bow for another year and it served me well. Of course your situation could be completely unrelated but thought my experience worth noting.

As a related side note, a violinist in our symphony related her experience to me with a stuttering type issue on a nice bow she was using as an intermediate student that was resolved with a rehair.

September 6, 2017, 10:13 AM · I know I'm adding interest to this item. I know I won't be bidding on it. I used this as an example of a possibility.

There appears to be a lot of interest in this one. I seen one similar that I liked better that already sold. With bows like this, do we really need to feel we are splurging?

September 6, 2017, 10:28 AM · Nobody sells a Pecatte without certificate!
Edited: September 6, 2017, 11:03 AM · @Lydia
I'm sure they won't mind. I just somehow get very nervous and shaky with others around other than my teachers. It's funny how shaky my sounds becomes too! But you're right, going to the shop is probably my best bet. Would cost me a bit more, but on the positive side I'll be able to try many many bows.

My bow's hair is clean and well taken care of. I actually also tried a couple of cheap bows lying around the music school I had lessons at and the hair had some blackish dirty areas. Although the hair didn't feel very nice on my strings, it didn't stutter as much.

Wow, that is indeed horrifying.

What in particular did you adjust with your bowing technique? My bow is workable, I just have a narrower margin of error before it starts oscillating compared to other bows I tried. I start applying more pressure as I move from the bottom to the top of the bow. EDIT: I might be applying too much pressure too soon. I'll experiment more later.

I use D'Addario Kaplan Artcraft Rosin, Dark. I haven't done much research on rosin. Which rosin helped you?

September 6, 2017, 10:39 AM · Looks like it had previously sold before.

Seller relisted it. Hmmmmmmmmm.......

September 6, 2017, 11:48 AM · Thanks John. Buyer could have folded on the deal. Could be a relist.

If they are into selling fake distressed bows they are really good at it.If it's two different bows, they can't be very smart to list an identical bow under the same name.

I don't personally mind if there is no certificate. I'm not looking at resale value.

Don't discourage me so you can buy it LOL.

This might bear some more research though.

I already drove the price up in putting it up, that is, if this is legit.

September 6, 2017, 12:01 PM · This is a fake stamp. The wood seems ok. Thats all i can tell you.
September 6, 2017, 1:47 PM ·

Article about bows with no certificates. Out of curiosity, I asked the seller if the item has one and why the item was relisted. He said no and the first buyer did not pay.

No worries Timothy, all yours :P I'll stick to CF bows.

Wow, did not expect that there's a technique which involves hitting the strings with the actual bow! I could see why you would need a CF bow for that one.

September 6, 2017, 1:52 PM · A colegno is one of the reasons I own a CF bow, too. You dont want to destroy your precious french bow for an unimportant orchrstra part.
September 6, 2017, 2:07 PM · If this were actually a Peccatte, it would be more than worthwhile for the seller to get it certified as such -- to send it to an expert like Paul Childs, or Raffin, for instance. Or if they just wanted it out of their hands, to just hand it to Tarisio or another auction house and let them deal with it. There's no way that they would be eBaying it.

There are no "opportunities" to miraculously pick up a legit Peccatte through eBay.

September 6, 2017, 2:12 PM · Marc, French bows under $20k from the makers that I mentioned absolutely have appreciated and continue to do so. My Thomassin is worth well over 2x (closer to 3x) what I bought it for. Voirin's work is selling for about double what it was when I was looking for bows back then. Etc. (Applies also to Morizot, Vigneron, etc.)
September 6, 2017, 2:13 PM · Also the headshape is completly wrong and the frog not original. Dont think you can buy a $80 000 bow on ebay for a few dollars, its lost money.
September 6, 2017, 2:38 PM · I'm not very knowledgeable about violin bows, but I was thinking exactly what Lydia said. If it's real, it's easily worth the hassle of getting it checked and certified or be sold at an auction that isnt eBay.

Hmm.. now I'm curious on investing on violin bows. Probably doing better than my actual stock investments <_<

September 6, 2017, 3:30 PM · If you choose the right ones, sure. If the market stays the same it is a very good, but non liquid investment. One of my bows increased significantly too, the contemporary ones not, my CF dropped in value.
Lydia, I agree there are a few names that went up in value significantly, the ones you named and a few more and therefore I should correct my statement. Still if somebody investst keep in mind that the value increase is not at every "cheaper" french maker.
If somehow people start thinking that contemporary bows are better the value can implode too. Outside the violin world nobody cares for F X Tourte and propably never heard of him. That means if the violin world looses interest, the value will loose, whereas a Strad is already outside the violin reality worthfull as a historic artefact and will stay valuable even if violinists start loosing some of the interest.
Again, this bow from ebay is not even a copy, just a bow stamped with a big name having not obviously bad wood.
September 6, 2017, 4:05 PM · Back to the original topic. The violin shop here responded and I'll likely be dropping by in a few weeks. Perhaps I'll take a day off on my bday. They would allow me to do home trial for a week. Will stay within my max budget of $800. In the meanwhile, I'll be making a list of things to test. What's everyone's process when testing a bow?

September 6, 2017, 5:51 PM · See what feels comfortable to you, but I would shop with your teacher or another accomplished player if you can. Certainly your teacher should try any bows you are seriously considering.

You don't yet have the technique to try the usual bow tests.

September 7, 2017, 12:48 AM · You'll get a better sound with a pernambuco bow than a CF, whether you like the playability as much is another question.
September 7, 2017, 8:15 AM · @Lydon, I agree. The best sound has been from my wood bows as compared to CF. Yet I was prepared to try an "indredibow" just for giggles.

While I can see the wisdom in buying for investment purposes, I doubt most intermediate/beginners are in that camp. At that stage it's more about function.Sure, if the right one comes along, I'll buy it, however I'm still looking at function over future resale value.

Places like Ebay and Craigs list are often stigmatized.Some of that stigma is for good reason. To be fair though, not all sellers are knowledgeable. Think of all the reason why people sell. A family member suddenly dies and leaves no clear instructions. Those left are trying to liquidate speedily. I hesitate to bring it up, but some have stolen or are under financial duress due to bad habits or unexpected life events.

The trick is to separate the riff raff from the real gem.

To assume everything is fake could be a real missed opportunity.

I contacted that seller and they said the other seller had folded. I know nothing about the bow. It brought over 5 bills which didn't seem bad for a bow like that. Certificates can be fabricated too. I think one needs to look over all of it.

Marc is most likely correct about the bow.I wouldn't have minded having something like it since I'm looking at function.But that's me.

September 7, 2017, 8:54 AM · Its quite possibly a german copy worth about $500 if its real pernambuco, does it have a return policy?? you can get it appraised, if its fake it can be returned as not as described if the seller didn't just say stamped pecatte but said by pecatte.
September 7, 2017, 9:58 AM · @Lyndon, you're the kind of guy that tinkers. Did those stamps look new to you? It would be difficult to make a burned stamp look old but possible I suppose.

A new burn is most likely going to look recent.That burn had some wear and age on it. This doesn't mean it wasn't faked years ago. This could account for the aged look.

The frog looked to be in very good condition, maybe even a replacement.It has been re haired obviously. A person with no knowledge of bows wouldn't have had it re haired.They would have probably sold it as is.

I agree. If it's pernambuco it's probably worth that amount, even if it's a fake. A good copy of a good bow should mean something.If it is somehow not a fake, someone has a real value.

Stradivarius violins have been copied and played for hundreds of years. I don't see why we can't use that same logic for bows.

I wouldn't want it if I knew it was stolen though.

September 7, 2017, 10:09 AM · The frog does not really fit the stick, but the quality suggestscit should, so I think it is a replacement frog.
The fake labels and stamps are very often found on violins/bows from 19th-21th century.
It does not look like a trash bow to me, but its quality is hard to judge in pictures.
September 7, 2017, 10:28 AM · Germans made plenty of bows stamped Pecatte, they might even stamp it france next to the frog, Stamps are no more reliable than labels, really, is it silver mount, is it pernmabuco, then it might be worth $500 at least, these are questions to ask even though some French bows were nickel mount and they did use woods other than pernambuco, but they're not worth as much
September 7, 2017, 10:46 AM · Thanks @ Marc and @Lydon. Good to know for future reference.

I guess I'll stoop low enough to buy a copy if it's a good one :0)>

I question the "why". If the bow is good in it's own right there shouldn't be a need to stamp it with a fake label.The only reason to stamp a bow otherwise is the bow is inferior or they're trying to make it seem better than it is OR possibly they think it will give the bow more value by name recognition.

I'm really beginning to dislike this whole violin business.Fake labels and fake stamps seem commonplace. Just sell me the bow for the 500.00 it's probably worth and let's be done with it. What it amounts to for me is distrust in almost everyone. I was already skeptical before this.

September 7, 2017, 10:50 AM · Is it Peccatte or Pecatte? ebay listing has two C's

I heard there's some really good CF's that's on par with pernambuco. I read that the $1350 JonPaul Carrera could be as good as $2000 pernambuco or even better.

I'll still likely stick to CF because I need durability and resistance to very humid weather. In my hometown, wood can get soft and moldy. Over time, even molds grow on paper. I'm worried enough for my violin. I'm not going to add bow in my list of worries.

September 7, 2017, 11:07 AM · Don't go by my spelling LOL

Carbon fibre have good playability, the tone is never as good, when people say a 1300 CF is as good as a 2000 pernambuco, they're not talking about the tone it produces, just the playabilty or playing characteristics

September 7, 2017, 11:17 AM · I dont know, my S8 is close to my wooden bows. There is a tendency of course, the CF beeing more brilliant, which helps in projection but may lack in sound depth. There are also good CF bows soundwise. It is much easier to find a good sounding wooden one though, thats right.
September 7, 2017, 11:17 AM · Misspelled words can work in your favor on Ebay, although they've grown wise to it and in some cases the misspelled word is also in the search.Not in every case though. I know a few who have done really well in intentionally searching misspelled words that are close to things they want to buy.

I'm not sure how much moisture affects pernambuco wood. I'm inclined to think that since it's a Brazilian rain forest wood, moisture wouldn't be a major problem unless you dropped in in the lake.If you have a fairly tight house and climate control it shouldn't be an issue.

That bow went for more than 5 bills-

September 7, 2017, 11:27 AM · I think the hair is more humidity repsondednd than pernambuko. Never had problem with the wood (of course also not with CF).
Edited: September 7, 2017, 11:56 AM · I recognize the bow, I mean the others that look just like it(making the rounds on ebay), each with a different Famous French makers stamp, in the same position, the same not like pernambuco looking Chinese??? wood, the same leather for the grip, the brand new frogs with artificially aged stick, obvious fake probably cost the seller upward of 100-200$ You did well not to buy it, trust me

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