Where to buy a decent baroque bow?

Edited: November 13, 2020, 12:28 PM · I am wondering if anyone might have tips on where to find a decent baroque bow.

I am a professional player, but am looking for something to get my feet wet so far as baroque bows go, and a bow that won't break the bank. I can splurge on a more expensive one if I really take to the style. Can I get something playable in the 100-300$ range?

I live on the east coast and would be willing to drive to NYC or Philly for a bow, but wouldn't be against purchasing online from a recommended seller that has given good experiences to other customers.

Thanks in advance!

Replies (34)

November 13, 2020, 1:20 PM · Hey James, if you can managed one day to travel to NYC, why don't you give Gabriella a call or visit (www.gabrielasbaroque.com).

Anything in the $100–300 range is really just a BBSO (baroque bow shaped object). Following the mantra of "buy nice or buy twice", you probably need to be at the $1500+ to find something that's usable.

Of course if the purpose of buying a baroque is just to trick audience in thinking you're playing on historical equipment, you can find plenty bows that's less than $100 on eBay.

November 13, 2020, 1:33 PM · Thanks, I'll check her out!

You're probably right about the price range, but I wanted to make sure, as I have tried relatively inexpensive modern bows that were surprisingly good before, and these days I would mostly use it for video recordings so the visual is most important to me with a decent, if not stellar, playability.

November 13, 2020, 2:02 PM · I’d start here:


Andrew Dipper is one of the foremost period instrument restorers around, and I’d trust his judgment in selecting good quality and appropriate bows for baroque playing.

November 13, 2020, 3:51 PM · There are a wide range of lengths, and weights in baroque bows. I agree that it is advisable to find a shop or maybe a HIP department to try several out of each type.

Grabenstein, and Hawthorn are two early bow makers worth looking into. Expect to pay upwards of 1,500, as others have said.

I have played with some of the Chinese bows. Some are of course essentially unusable. However, others are fine.. If you go the China route, ensure at the very least the the bow has an outwards camber.

November 13, 2020, 4:57 PM · I'd really like to learn, from experts, what the difference between a high end baroque bow and a lower end one is.

Some years ago in Cremona's exposition i played some notes with an expensive baroque bow.
Then 1 year ago i bought a 100 euro baroque bow online.

I can't determine the difference in usage and in sound between the two, as far as my memory tells me.

What am i missing ? ....

Edited: November 13, 2020, 5:28 PM · I highly recommend Rodney Mohr and his daughter, Kate (website Mohr and Mohr). I got a bow from each on trial (the daughter's bow was half the price of Rodney's bow) and I liked both so much--they were so different!--that I bought both. I also recommend Aaron Fini (Baltimore), who made my Baroque cello bow; it is amazing. So far, I don't have a Baroque viola bow, but I am sure that's next. Once you discover the wonderful maneuverability of the Baroque bow, and want to trade up, you will be hard pressed to retrieve the value of a low price range bow. I think you will need to start at $1200 to achieve and realize the difference between your modern bow and your "new" Baroque bow. Good luck!
Edited: November 13, 2020, 6:13 PM · Adam LaMotte is a pro baroque player who sells selected Chinese bows. If you can't try some live and end up tempted to order something you might talk to him about your needs.

As one gets into the higher price ranges it becomes possible to buy bows from people who have studied originals extensively, which is of course ideal. Some of these have sensitivity to the visual style traits of the originals, and some not so much.

November 13, 2020, 6:34 PM · We have two of the cheaper Chinese Baroque bows, both in the $100-150 range. They are fine if you tighten them a lot and they definitely will give you the general feeling of playing a Baroque bow. But having played a few times on a really nice Baroque bow, the sound quality isn't the same. My kids use them as a learning tool but don't usually perform on them.
November 13, 2020, 8:32 PM · I bought the $150 snakewood baroque bow from Shar just to "get my feet wet". I actually like it quite a lot.
Edited: November 13, 2020, 9:06 PM · "I'd really like to learn, from experts, what the difference between a high end baroque bow and a lower end one is."

I'm certainly no expert, but I'm assuming it's the same difference for a modern-design bow: The higher end bow should be more playable and it should make your violin sound better.

I'm waiting to see when the Suzuki Books will be revised to include the baroque bow, and at which "level" they will introduce it.

November 14, 2020, 1:57 PM · Some really interesting, great replies. Thank you all!
November 14, 2020, 2:22 PM · I've a friend, a wonderful violinist now a section player in a big orchestra who tried a fantastic baroque bow by a highly regarded maker, and said I don't get it, and I suspect my friend simply think it's bad. And that's alright. It's fascinating to see and hear people of different backgrounds reacting to equipment.

I suspect modern players understand better some of these "lower end" models, possibly because it lets one sustain more than it probably should, and at the same time give an allure of historical authenticity and experimentation. The good thing is that baroque bows on both the low and high end are relatively much more affordable. People's aesthetic will and should grow and change. I think that's where the fun is. A $150 Shar bow is a very cheap gamble, but love it or hate it, hopefully it will lead one to explore the possibilities out there.

November 14, 2020, 3:17 PM · Great point, Dorian; the buyer gets a better deal on a Baroque bow than on a modern bow in the same price range. I don't know why, but it means you don't have to spend as much to get a superior Baroque bow as you do for a good modern bow.
November 14, 2020, 7:02 PM · From a modern maker, a baroque bow is about half the price of a contemporary bow. There is no metal work and takes just less than half the time.

Even if you end up with an inexpensive bow, it would be worth trying several bows by makers that actually know what a baroque bow should do. Many of the inexpensive bows are too heavy and too big. They are too puffy in the head carving and the frogs are massive. They also tend to be stuffed with way too much hair from the "factory".

A short article on my website may shed some light on your search for a baroque bow:

November 15, 2020, 5:57 AM · Many people have mentioned inexpensive bows, myself included. Do consider that bows require maintenance. If you buy a cheap one, you will still pay full price to rehair it.

If you have money to burn, then an inexpensive bow may be ok to try the baroque thing. Be mindful that the inexpensive bow may not provide a proper experience.

It really pays to get a decent bow as you suggested in your initial post. They appreciate in value, and most importantly play better.

November 15, 2020, 6:19 AM · Can you get CF baroque bows?
Edited: November 15, 2020, 11:08 AM · "Can you get CF baroque bows?"

It's not marketed as a baroque bow, but if you look at a 3/4 length carbon fiber Incredibow it's 27", the camber is correct, the balance point is roughly 9" up from the frog, the medium weight violin bow is 45 grams and the medium viola bow is 50 grams. Baroque bows aren't really standardized, but with these specs it might suffice as one. The high-tension option makes a more controllable and less bouncy bow than the regular tension.

PS: I think the bright, glittery Incredibows look tacky. But the plain or the polished look alright IMO. The polished finish reminds me of my Codabow...

November 16, 2020, 12:11 PM · If you get the opportunity, have a look at a snakewood baroque bow. It will probably cost more than a regular baroque bow because it is an expensive wood. Being snakewood, it is stiffer, a little heavier (perhaps 61gm as against 56gm of non-snakewood?), seems to add something to the tone - brighter perhaps on an old violin such as mine, and is a real pleasure to use.

If you choose snakewood make sure it is the genuine article from a reputable dealer. It is not unknown on so-called "snakewood" bows from some other sources (which I do not need to name!) for the snakewood pattern to have been painted onto a cheaper, lighter wood. An immediate indication that it is not snakewood may be that the bow isn't quite as heavy as it should be, and that it isn't stiff enough.

November 16, 2020, 12:37 PM · That would rule out what the Chinese sources are calling snakewood, my experience with it is that its quite light and weak.
November 16, 2020, 1:06 PM · Yes, snakewood is surprisingly heavy and still sprightly! How does that work??
Edited: November 16, 2020, 11:37 PM · Historical baroque bows and the bows modeled after them are very light. Speaking in grams, many early 18th c. baroque long violin bows weigh in the 40s, which fits with the few surviving original late 17th c. short violin bows usually being around 30. The late baroque style violin bows attributed to Nicholas Pierre Tourte from the 1740s tend to be right around 50.

Erin, snakewood tends to be quite stiff.

Edited: November 17, 2020, 2:25 AM · I played around with a "baroque" bow from Yitamusic for while, but came to the conclusion that using a "baroque" bow doesn't make a great deal of sense unless you also have a "baroque" violin, not to say a "baroque" technique. The hat is optional.
November 17, 2020, 4:24 AM · And a baroque conductor and a baroque audience and baroque clothing and a baroque milieu and...
November 17, 2020, 8:25 AM · I recall watching the violinists at a concert by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra 12 years ago and noting the way some of the violinists held their bows some distance from the frog. That would definitely change the balance of the bow to the hand and the effective force ("weight") of the bow on the strings.
November 17, 2020, 11:44 AM · I have a different opinion from Steve and would point out one can learn and do much with a Baroque bow on a modern violin (think Le Violon du Roi in Quebec, an orchestra that performs with Baroque bows on modern instruments).

We don't need to be turtles-all-the-way-down regressive, and say, "well, I need to also use gut strings, and then I also need to be chin off, and I also need to use candle light only, wear a wig, and use a chamber pot..."

Trying a Baroque bow, whether it's a piece of crap or a bow of great workmanship can be hugely informative.

November 17, 2020, 1:00 PM · No endpin for the cellists, either. :-)
November 19, 2020, 8:42 PM · What does the tailgut attach too??????
November 20, 2020, 10:02 AM · The end BUTTON. ;-)
November 20, 2020, 11:46 AM · its called the endpin
November 20, 2020, 12:43 PM · "its called the endpin"

Modern cellists all refer to the assembly which includes the spike as the "endpin" or "end pin". Manufacturers who describe said assemblies in detail commonly distinguish the spike as the "end pin" and the part the tailgut goes around as the 'button' in keeping with the usage found about half the time regarding violins.

The versions without spikes for baroque cello are commonly, though not exclusively, called "buttons".

Edited: November 20, 2020, 2:41 PM · On violin its called an endpin, the same would be true on a baroque cello. The button is the part of the back that's glued onto the neck heel.
November 21, 2020, 1:49 PM · In my lifetime as a cellist I've heard the cello spike + button combination referred to as "endpin assembly". This nomenclature is important because the cello end button differs fundamentally in its design from a violin's end button. The cello end button further has an axial hole to accommodate the spike, together with a screw mechanism to enable adjustment of the spike and to hold it in place when adjusted. The end button on both instruments was originally designed for the tailpiece cord, and still is.
Edited: November 21, 2020, 2:30 PM · Trevor--the complication is that about half the time the violin end button is called an endpin too. If Lyndon were framing his statements as arguments for how things ought to be in order to avoid confusion, he'd be saying something worth considering. But, as will not surprise most people, there is often a difference between what ought to be and what actually is the case.
November 21, 2020, 6:39 PM · It probably doesn't help with music nomenclature that terms can vary across the globe. I'm in the UK and use words that are prevalent in my country, which are not necessarily the same as those in the US.

A common example of different usage: in the UK the 4th digit of the hand is known as the "little finger" or "fourth finger", whereas on the other side of the Pond "pinky" is the preferred term, which, as it happens, comes from the Dutch "pink" meaning "little finger". So "pinky" has an European origin, presumably via Dutch settlers in the US. I have Dutch speaking relatives in Flanders, so "pinky" doesn't feel strange to me.

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