Bow tight enough?
Look at around 1:09. His bow is so tight that the stick looks to be bent in the opposite direction. I was waiting for it to snap! Why would he do this? Doesn't putting that much tension on the bow destroy it's playing qualities?
Yes, it does. It looks almost like a baroque bow ahaha
Freeze at full screen and hold up a ruler to it. It's not quite straight FWIW. I speculate that the bow is by a maker known for the flexibility of their bows, and Shaham is just bringing it up to a tension more suited to stiffer designs because he's found the combination to work well for him.
One of my bows, my favorite as it happens, is about a century old and was bought for my mother in the early 1920s when her violin playing was starting to take off. According to the bow maker who rehaired it for me a few years ago, it was made in Germany in about 1920 - there was a feature of the frog that he homed in on that enabled him to deliver this verdict, and I hadn't mentioned its provenance.
One can also adjust the quantity (number) of hairs to balance the stick stiffness and the hair tightness (or strain) for optimum playing properties.
Maybe it's a noodle of a bow, and that amount of tension is where it works best?
Thank you for your replies everybody. I figured that Gil Shaham knows what he's doing. I just never saw a bow tightened like that. It was a little startling.
I have seen very tight bows quite often in performances. The way I learned the rule is: The distance from hair to stick where they are closest should equal the diameter of the stick at that location. If you are used to play with tighter hair (like I was when I first learned the rule) it takes quite some time to get used to.
The OP wrote:
Lol. It goes without saying that these things happen gradually over time.
Maybe it's worth it. What do we know? ...
I never said it wasn't though.
Glad to hear that Mr. Brivati is alive and kicking!
I'm not really sure why his bow is tightened that much. Would it allow for greater control in certain bow strokes? Perhaps more of a trampoline effect?
"I wonder if a carbon fiber bow would last longer than a wood bow with more tension applied. I assume it would."
I’ve known a few people who have had trouble with the bow hand shaking under pressure, so they opt for using a tighter bow because the stick is less likely to bounce on long notes. I think it’s better to investigate what’s causing the hand to tremble rather than ruining a nice bow’s camber by over tightening it. If you get to play a really good 19th Century French bow, you’ll notice they vibrate more than your average decent bow.
While he is playing rather soft at that moment, you can see later where he is playing a bit more aggressively and the stick is much closer to the strings. Unfortunately, he's really using the wrong bow for this performance and you can really hear it in his tone. It's very sterile and lacks dynamics and projection. This is do to more "slip" than "stick" motion of the hair. Which I discuss in more detail in this article: https://adbowsllc.com/2016/01/26/how-tight-to-tighten-a-bow-and-its-effect-on-tone-production/
I have a significant number of bows. Twenty years ago I measured the force required to bend the sticks measured amounts (and some others I had in hand - a total of 29 violin, viola and cello bows) and tabulated the results in units of k=Newtons(force)/meter(deflection). I also measured all characteristics of the bows and their hair that I could. I also generated some equations to calculate the number of hairs that would optimize the performance of each bow. I have kept the results in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet was available in a website that I ceased supporting in around 2012.
My daughter's 3/4-size violin came with a bow that really worked well for her -- it played well, sounded good, a great bow considering it was part of a kit. But, you had to tighten it until the stick was nearly straight. As David suggested, it was just a weak stick -- a "noodle." She'd go to summer camp and her teachers would wag their fingers at how "tight" her bow was, but tension is not measured in millimeters. The problem now is that the resale value is basically zero because everyone assumes it's a bad bow because of how straight the stick needs to be, but it's a really good bow actually, as fractionals go.
It worked for DuPre.
I tried a noodle-ish Simon last year. The dealer specifically suggested I look at Shaham (who allegedly uses a Simon), and said I could get better handling on this bow if I cranked it up.
You are making a blanket observation about bows that is not supported by material science.
Too many hairs on a soft stick = wet noodle!
But then Carmen, on that same note, the bow-maker might not be able to tell which bows can or can't handle the strain. The changing flex of the bow is a pretty unambiguous way of being able to tell that a bow is under strain, and by inference, stress, so why not err on the safe side when faced with a lack of information? Perhaps the act of playing, itself, is a form of cyclical loading that would have outsized effects when the bow is already stressed. Although maybe the initial stress from tightening the bow is much more important a factor than any cyclical loading.
I always tighten up two of my four bows until the stick is pretty well straight - but then they're baroque bows. If I didn't tighten up a baroque bow as it maker designed it to, then it just wouldn't play well.
If a bow maker cannot tell if the bows they make can stand the stress/strain, then I suggest they need to do more research.
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