Need of a new bow? +Price for a decent bow.

December 14, 2020, 8:42 AM · I'm currently playing a 1.400€ violin with a bow around 100€.

My bow needs a rehair and I asked my teacher if it was worth for the price of the bow, or if I should upgrade it. She told me that for the price, the rehair wasn't worth, and that i'd rather buy a new 25€ bow, explaining that for the 25€-1000€ range, there isn't really a big difference in bow quality.

I was a bit shocked, I trust her, but just wonder if the market is that drastic. Maybe she isn't aware of all the options, what do you guys think?

Any advice, or explanation relating bow price to technique level requirements would be very helpful.

I'm currently playing the Viotti violin concerto 23, and Monti's Czardas (so that you can get an idea of my level).

Replies (14)

December 14, 2020, 9:12 AM · Quality and price are not completely correlated, especially when you look at small bands. That doesn't mean you can't do a lot better with $1,000. Just that there is some junk, and a lot that is just good enough that you won't feel the need to upgrade for a while.

The best thing to do is visit a shop and try out what is in your range. If the expensive stuff isn't better, or if you can't tell the difference yet, then save your money.

If there is a bow that will make your fiddle sound a lot better and make possible a lot of technical growth you hadn't imagined, then that is different.

December 14, 2020, 9:37 AM · Stephen is right that price isn't everything. Just cause a bow is expensive doesn't mean that it's going to be good. The same can be said for violins as well. Coincidentally, back in August, I was looking for a new bow because my main bow was starting to give me trouble. It was great in high school and got through my first three years of my undergrad, but once I started trying to do Sautille in the 3rd movement of Wieniawski 2 it wasn't able to keep up because the balance was off. I went to the luthier I go to while I'm at school and asked him to give me all his bows under $1500 rather than giving him a more strict price range of something like $1000-$1500. I was given about 15 or so bows and wasn't told the price of any of them to prevent bias. Towards the end of me trying them, I found 2 that I really liked. Both did off the string strokes really well so the Wieniawski was much easier than before. The one I ended up choosing stood out because it sounded warmer on romantic repertoire which is what I was looking for at the time. The other was also really good, but it was a bit brighter in tone and was really shining on Baroque and classical repertoire like Bach and Mozart. When they told me the price of the first bow I was floored because it was only $300. It's an old antique unnamed German bow that just says "made in Germany" on the stick. I also asked how much the other bow was because it was also really good, but was just a bit too bright for romantic era repertoire but as I said sounded fantastic on Baroque and Classical era pieces. The price of this one also threw me for a loop at the price of $950 and was also an antique. Long story short I went into the shop expecting to spend $1200-$1500 on one bow and ended up spending about $1250 (plus tax of course) for two bows.
December 14, 2020, 9:58 AM · All bows in the $25-100 are basically junk, some more playable junk than others, but all still junk.

We were able to get a used but rehaired high quality carbon fiber Coda bow for my daughter at a shop and it ended up being the perfect choice, as she is a bit tough on bows. We got the bow for half the usual price and it is high quality. She's about the same level as you are.

Edited: December 14, 2020, 7:53 PM · I would like to present the following paragraph from Norman C. Pickering's 1991 book "The Violin World."

"Each time a fine bow is rehaired there is some wear and risk of damage if it is not expertly done. Tests have shown that unless many hairs have been broken there is no need to replace it as often as most players believe. It does get soiled in a way that impairs its ability to retain rosin, but that can be corrected by careful cleaning with the right solvents. Players who follow this procedure have reported success in avoiding rehairing for decades. Most others continue to use traditional practice."

I must have read this 29 years ago, when I purchased the book because I have been cleaning my bow hair ever since. I have tried shampooing with detergent and water but it presented more risks than using alcohol. (Whether you use water, alcohol or some other solvent you MUST NOT get any of the solvent into the tip or frog of the bow where it can damage the wooden wedges or the glue that might have been used in there.)

I found the easiest way was to use the small alcohol swabs sold in all drug stores to prepare the skin for injection. I typically use up 4 swabs to clean the hair of one bow, folding the swab over both sides of the hair "ribbon" and pulling it the length of the hair, wiping the hair with an absorbent white cotton cloth, folding the swab the other way and repeating the whole process. I do this with each of the 4 swabs or until the dissolved rosin is no longer visible on the cotton cloth. I've never needed more than 4 swabs. I do not apply fresh rosin to the bow hair until it no longer feels cool to the b ack of my hand - once the alcohol has all evaporated I re-rosin the hair normally.

If a bow still does not satisfy me after cleaning the hair and re-rosining, only then do I have it rehaired.

This does not mean I never get my bows rehaired - I had 3 violin bows rehaired in the past year - but those were my first rehairs in more years than I can remember. I have never had one of my viola bows rehaired and I started getting serious about playing viola 5 years ago. The last time I had a cello bow rehaired was right after I bought my most recently acquired used cello bow at a shop about 20 years ago and sent it to the maker (who was still living then) for some other maintenance as well.

Over the years I have posted more detail of my hair cleaning process both at this website and at Maestronet.com

My advice to Alvaro is to try cleaning his bow hair before going shopping for a new bow.

December 14, 2020, 10:18 AM · I guess I don't follow the logic. You have a cheap bow, so your teacher suggests you buy an even cheaper bow instead of rehairing it, the implication being that you should just keep buying bows and never rehairing them? Seems a bit wasteful to me.

If you want a new bow, and you have a budget of 1000€, then you will need to try bows out in that range, but you will probably find that you can find something good for under 1000.

I agree with Christian Harvey. I upgraded my bow at about the exact same time in my playing - It may have literally been the 3rd movement of the Wieniawski (but it may have been earlier if I'm misremembering). Keep going with what you have for now - It's unlikely that you truly won't be able to play your current repertoire with your current bow. Once you start getting stronger, you will be in a better position to actually know what you are looking for in a bow. Just rehair the bow you have, unless it is a real piece of junk.

December 14, 2020, 7:15 PM · Under USD$1000 you're best off with a good CF bow like the JonPaul Avanti or the Codabow Diamond GX.

I agree with Andy Victor about cleaning your bow hair. The need for continual rehairs was invented by those who profit therefrom.

Edited: December 14, 2020, 7:49 PM · I've been thinking about bows under $1000 lately because I'm actually in a similar situation. I originally inherited a pretty good workshop violin (probably worth around $1500) without a usable bow, bought cheap bows in order to start learning before I knew much about the violin, and then switched to viola and rarely played violin for until this year (18 years after switching). As a result, I'm playing a $1500 violin with a $100 bow, and planning to buy a new bow in the next two or three months. (The only reason for waiting is that I am recovering from car accident injuries and can't properly try out bows right now.)

I'm currently deciding on a shortlist of candidates for an in-home trial. At the moment I'm looking mainly at JonPaul and Coda carbon fiber bows, and expect I'll most likely prefer JonPaul based on experience with both companies' viola bows.

I definitely would not go for something cheaper; there isn't a perfect correlation between price and quality but there is a distinct difference between $25 and $1000. I can tell my $100 violin bow is marginal at best, my $75 backup violin bow is definitely junk, and my $250 backup viola bow is leaps and bounds better than both violin bows. (All three are wood, so there isn't a wood vs CF comparison going on here.)

December 14, 2020, 7:56 PM · The only way to find what might be possible with a bow is to try bows over an unlimited price range - whatever the dealer will let you try. Only that way can you gain the information ("wisdom"?) that allows you to evaluate your final purchase choice.
December 14, 2020, 8:08 PM · Oh, I can see from $25 - $150 or so being pretty similar in quality -- they're all essentially disposable. But there are certainly distinct price bands beyond that, to the point where for about 600 Euro (US $750), you can get very nice carbon-fiber bows.
Edited: December 15, 2020, 9:36 AM · It's a weird situation. Quality perhaps doesn't vary, only the balance point seems to, and that doesn't justify such price variation.
It may be worth asking yourself if you ever plan to upgrade your violin, then buy a suitable bow before you do. That's what I did - I bought a GX in order to determine what I spent on my next violin - it is said that a CF bow should cost about a quarter of what your violin costs. But <=400 Euros isn't a price point known for its range of choice, is it? Coda and Jon Paul are probably the only ones worth looking at - I doubt you'll get a sudden revelation if you go further afield. Otoh, I have a Delille hybrid which I disliked for a long time, but now I am more balance-aware, it is increasing in my estimation.
Edited: December 16, 2020, 7:46 AM · You can have the balance point of a bow moved by having your bow-person add a weight to the tip or frog - OR - by modifying the weight of the winding near the thumb leather. A dime, penny or nickel can be taped to the frog or tip to see if it moves the CG the amount you want - then look up the mass of the appropriate coin and tell your luthier what you want - or the calculation is not difficult - you will be pretty close if you assume the bow mass is 60 grams if you cannot weigh it.

I have had such work done to three of my violin bows and they became much more playable and the tone they produced was unchanged (still very good, or I would not have bothered).

December 15, 2020, 1:49 PM · One thing to consider-- a $50 bow will probably have a crappy hair job. Even if it seems silly to have it rehaired by a pro, you will likely be increasing its quality enormously. Whether that is enough to make the stick seem like anything worthwhile is another question.
December 26, 2020, 10:42 AM · My favorite budget bows- Glasser Braided Carbon fiber 2005bcf 2005bcfk (round is a little more full sounding and octagonal a little more agile), Jonpaul Fusion (wood skin carbon core), CodaBow NX or CodaBow GX.
Any of these will be keeper second bows as you advance to a good Pernambuco bow in the future. They are also what I use for col legno, outside, and pit orchestra settings.
December 26, 2020, 11:33 AM · In a recent article, I break what's typically available in the varying price ranges: https://adbowsllc.com/2020/08/10/shopping-for-a-bow-part-1/

There are good quality bows in every price range if you know what you are looking at. I would have to disagree with your teacher about there being little to no difference from $25 and $1000 bows. Many teachers may be skilled musicians who have not shopped in that price range for a long time and have only seen bows their students have brought to them. Not being able to tell the deference between bows in that wide of a range may not be something to brag about either.

From an environmental standpoint, avoid getting something made of plastic or fiberglass cheaper than the cost of rehair. Getting a decent bow worth rehairing is a much more eco-friendly option.

Best thing you can do, is get to place where you can try several bows across several price ranges and see what you can discern yourself. Good luck!

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