Violin Bow Recommendations under $200 for Late Intermediate/Advanced Students

December 26, 2020, 10:50 PM · I'm a late intermediate student violinist who has been playing violin for the past 3 years. I'm at the point where I'm enjoying it and considering taking my violin practices very seriously as it may be something I want to pursue in the future.

My parents have upgraded my instrument a year ago to something more reasonable for my current level, but they seem to be unconvinced that spending more than $200 on a bow is the right thing to do. They think a wooden stick or even carbon fiber shouldn't cost more than $50 let alone $200.

Hence, I'm looking for recommendations of a good bow that will cost under $200 which will perform well with spiccato and sautille just as well as legato strokes.

Replies (43)

Edited: December 27, 2020, 10:06 PM · Buying a bow that costs over $200 would be a worthwhile investment depending on the cost of your current violin. For example, say you were playing on a $10000 violin but only a $200 bow. Unless that bow is just the best bow of all time and does everything you need it to do and more (it would likely have to be antique) you would need to spend more than $200 to buy a better bow that will suit you and that violin. Other the other hand, if you were playing on a $600 violin I think $200 is pretty reasonable for a violin of that caliber and it could be debated whether or not you'd upgrade the violin or the bow first.

Anyway, to answer your question, it'd likely be a waste of money to get anything other than a carbon fiber bow for the price of $200 or less. Wooden bows at this price range are usually outperformed quite easily by carbon fiber ones unless you get extremely lucky. $200 or less doesn't give you much to choose from though, even when looking for just carbon fiber bows. After a quick search on Sharmusic, I see they have their presto line of carbon fiber bows with a few options under $200. I haven't personally tried them, but you can always set up a trial and try them yourself, and perhaps someone else on this site has some experience with them. Personally, I think a Codabow Prodigy would do you more good than any of them. Codabow is well-known for their high-quality carbon fiber bows. The Codabow Prodigy is going to be out of your range by about $100, but it would be able to stay with you longer and it can always be a backup bow when you eventually upgrade again.

Unless you get lucky, cheap bows just aren't going to do what you need them to do. My main bow is $300 but it's antique and I got lucky when I tried bows at the luthier shop that I go to when I'm at school and was better than the $600 stick I was using before. I found another bow there that was $950 and the only reason it isn't my main bow is that it didn't have as much warmth as the other on romantic rep. But it's great for baroque and classical for when I want that extra brilliance so I bought it as well.

December 27, 2020, 1:00 AM · Thank you for your reply Christian. I find that most violin shops tend to add an additional overhead cost to their instruments and bows, and I have tried to search for old bows, but it has becoming increasingly hard to find something good for a low price. This is true not only for wooden bows, but also carbon fiber ones too.

I got lucky with my violin because my parents found a retiring violinist who decided to sell his backup instrument for a very good price and it was one of the nicest violins I have played compared to many of the shop violins costing over $10k. Unfortunately, it came with a cheap bow which the seller even admitted needs replacing for a serious violinist.

My parents were pretty exhausted with my violin search last year, and they're limiting the budget to $200 (because they felt that enough was spent on the instrument itself already) which is why I'm asking this community for help to see if there are bow recommendations, if anyone is looking to sell their bow or if there is a one stop location for me to select a decent bow.

Edited: December 27, 2020, 1:12 PM · I'm looking to buy a car, but I only have $500 to spend. I want it to be in good, clean running condition, no more than 30,000 miles and no more than 3 years old, good tires, good report from Carfax, will pass inspection, etc. I would prefer a car with a red color. By the way I am an advanced driver, having driven for 56 years so I need a very fine car.

I am asking if anyone in this community is looking to sell their vehicle. Perhaps there is someone retiring from driving. My parents are both dead so they can't help me, and I really don't want to work at Walmart because they exploit their workers. Thanks!

December 27, 2020, 2:05 PM · If you are an late intermediate/advanced student, you really need a better bow than you are likely to get for $200. Have you tried getting your violin teacher to talk to your parents about the importance of a better bow? You really almost need to be a string player to understand why a stick with hair could be worth $$$$.
However, if that’s really all you can do right now, I have played and personally own-plus have several students with Jon Paul Fusion bows that sell for around $200 that should at least allow you to develop the basic advanced strokes.
I also had a student purchase a Fiddlerman carbon fiber bow for around $200 that was capable of spiccato/sautille etc.
Are either of these as good as more expensive bows? Nope, but they shouldn’t significantly hold you back while you save for something better and are much better than the cheap Glasser Fiberglass/cheap brazilwood bows.
Edited: December 27, 2020, 2:24 PM · Wow Bruce, you know how to make a point!

Kevin, you are very fortunate to have parents that will budget $200 for a bow, and also spend a large sum and a great deal of time finding a good violin for you. Chances of finding a good bow that matches your violin are slim, but it can be done. My suggestion would be to find a bow, thank your parents for the $200 they are offering, then raise the rest of the money yourself.

December 27, 2020, 2:59 PM · "they seem to be unconvinced that spending more than $200 on a bow is the right thing to do. They think a wooden stick or even carbon fiber shouldn't cost more than $50 let alone $200"

What's your appetite for:
- convincing your parents
- increasing your budget by covering the difference yourself (find your target bow budget, find a job, a gig, figure out how long it will take, etc., or if you are not old enough for outside income, what kind of deal can you make with your parents who support you as far as putting in your own effort to affect the budget?) (And what are you currently using? How long are you willing to put up with it for, how much is it currently - or about when is it expected to become evident that it is - holding you back?)

Here is a recent thread with advice on bows. I'm also going to plug Anthony DiMambro's post on that page about his article on bow shopping because while I have a personal anecdote about finding a nice pernambuco bow below his specified range, his info is really helpful for being aware of what you are most likely to find in given ranges.
https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=4769

Another way to put it, economically, is to view the cost of the equipment alongside - do you take private lessons? $200 is maybe 2-3 hours of lesson tuition? At late intermediate to advanced level, do you take 3-4 hours per month? Part of the teacher's role is to teach you to use your equipment; when is the lesson fee worth or not worth the obstacles that may or may not be presented by using less capable equipment?

December 27, 2020, 3:08 PM · At 3 years in, it sounds like you might be getting ahead of yourself. Are you actually playing pieces that require spiccato and sautille, or are you looking forward to some years down the line when you will be?

If you want to start taking your practicing seriously, then go do that now, and don't rely on getting your equipment perfect to push you to want to practice. You can upgrade your bow when it's holding you back. What are you actually playing now and where is your teacher in this conversation?

You seem to be working backwards.

December 27, 2020, 5:09 PM · Whenever I feel dissatisfied with my violin and bow (€700 in total) I ask my teacher to play it. I instantly see that my violin sounds quite well...
December 27, 2020, 10:03 PM · "they seem to be unconvinced that spending more than $200 on a bow is the right thing to do. They think a wooden stick or even carbon fiber shouldn't cost more than $50 let alone $200"

They're more right than wrong in the sense of material cost and apparent construction complexity. But if you factor in restriction on trade of Pernambuco and the cost of living of modern archetiers making them by hand to the best of their ability, the pricing makes more sense.

What also makes more sense than looking at the price of these devices alone is learning to use them well and thereby being able to distinguish the good from the bad at any price level.

As the teacher referenced in the other thread probably meant - there are decent bows that can be found at any price level, and a good $100 bow may well be much better than a bad $1000 bow, and to discern that, you need knowledge and ability beyond looking at the price tag, and brand/model, as being handmade and from natural products, they're always going to vary from sample to sample, as well as with your own hand.

December 28, 2020, 5:17 AM · Bruce Berg surely shows what happens when you are a grouchy Juillard graduate who got stuck teaching in the middle out of nowhere in Texas: unnecessarily mean and sarcastic to a child and his parents who don't know much about music or musical instruments!

As to Kevin: I think the best thing is to ask your teacher to talk and reason with your parents. I can understand where your parents come from. They are not musicians, and they do not understand why the choice of wood or workmanship would make any difference. It may take many tries to convince them or to even just make them understand.

BUT, if you absolutely can only stay within the budget of $200, I would recommend that you talk to Mike at the Fiddlershop. He or his father can probably help you within your budget.

Edited: December 28, 2020, 9:22 AM · I thought Bruce made a very clear point! I may borrow his idea for future use.

Saying that a bow should only cost so much because the materials are of relatively low cost themselves is like going to a four-star restaurant and expecting fine dining for just slightly over the cost of the ingredients. You’re not paying for the ingredients; you are paying for the skill involved in preparation.

December 28, 2020, 9:39 AM · Your best bet is to go to local shops and see if they will sell you a used Codabow (rehaired). This is what we did for my similar-stage daughter and we were able to get a quality carbon fiber with some cosmetic imperfections for under $200. Hers is still fractional, so it might be a little bit harder to get a full size, but this is likely your best option. Apart from that, you are going to have to raise some money.
Edited: December 28, 2020, 10:07 AM · Even carbon-fiber bows are meticulously hand-made. Because a rehair costs at least $75 in most locales, if not as much as $100, any bow in that price range is basically disposable. If you do treat it as disposable, the Fiddlerman carbon-fiber bow (about $60) is decently playable. I wouldn't want to be learning off-the-string strokes on it for the first time, but it behaves predictably enough to be usable.

A student playing at the "late intermediate/advanced" level deserves and should be able to hear the honest truth, and Bruce delivered it with humor; I don't see anything wrong with his response.

Kevin, you need to talk to your teacher and your teacher needs to talk to your parents about your needs. Setting a budget of $500 to $1,000 would let you purchase a decent Brazilian workshop bow or a very good carbon-fiber bow. I notice that you phrased it as your parents don't want to spend vs your parents can't afford it.

Edited: December 28, 2020, 10:51 AM · @Y Cheng, you may not have liked Bruce's sardonic discussion post, but his was a valid point. It's just as presumptive on your part to write,"I think the best thing is to ask your teacher to talk and reason with your parents." Despite several comments and even direct questions about lessons/teacher, there has been no mention in any of Kevin's posts about his teacher, lessons, etc. Kevin's posts do suggest that he has already tried to "reason with them," which resulted in a $200 allowance for a new bow. We don't know whether Kevin's parents are able to afford better for him, or whether they're the sort that has no concept of proportion when it comes to things like the costs of instruction and equipment for learning the violin as compared to other significant budget items like car payments, medical co-payments, or groceries. The study of the violin is an expensive undertaking, and not everyone can drop $100 a week on lessons, $500-1000 for a violin bow, etc.

To Kevin: If you are not taking violin lessons and cannot do so because they are beyond your parents' means (or because your parents are unwilling to pay for them), then it would be good to seek out a local violin teacher who might be willing to spend 15 minutes with you, just looking over your instrument and bow to see if the problem is your mostly gear or your technique at this point. Be sure to follow up with a thank-you note.

December 28, 2020, 10:53 AM · I just got back from helping a “late intermediate/advanced” student and her mother select a bow in a modest price range. She first tried out four bows, then I did a blind playing test so she could hear how the bows sounded. She settled on a Codabow Luma at around $600. I think this will be a good bow for her for at least the next several years, possibly lifetime. She is not on a pre-professional track but she very well may end up as a public school instrumental teacher.
December 28, 2020, 11:28 AM · Thank you everyone for your suggestions. As to answer some of your questions:

The songs am working on include Czardas by V. Monti which require sautille and Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major by Mozart requiring a lot more varying bow strokes.

My teacher believes that it's a matter of skill and not the quality of the bow that matters. He claims that anyone can play spicatto and sautille on any bow even if it's a $50-100 student quality wooden bow as long as if you can find the proper balance point on it. He did demonstrate it a while ago by finding the balance point on my cheap bow and marking it, then playing with the bow, but when I was looking for violins a year ago, I also tested some bows and found that certain bows I can play with ease while others, it was nearly impossible for me to do any type of off string strokes. The ones I could easily play were all outside of my budget.

Lastly, to clarify what I wrote earlier, my parents did not splurge $10k on a violin. It just sounds like some of the $10k ones I played at the stores. The price is closer to $3-4k (teacher approved of course) and I'm very thankful to have it, and yes it is literally the most expensive item in the house, my prized possession, and I love it a lot.

I have noticed that a few of you have mentioned Fiddlerman carbon fiber bows. I will definitely give that a shot.

I haven't experimented much with carbon fiber bows. Are there sound differences between carbon fiber and wooden bows?

December 28, 2020, 11:46 AM · "Are there sound differences between carbon fiber and wooden bows?"

If you believe it, so it will be.

December 28, 2020, 12:53 PM · 3 years of lessons at $100 per week at 50 weeks per year for easy math = $15,000
Not knowing what Kevin's family pays in lessons, we could be conservative and halve that = $7,500

Is 7k a splurge? Is 7k over 3 years a splurge? Mary Ellen said her student's $600 bow could be a lifetime bow. For purposes of math, let's say lifetime = 10 years so that's a simple (no present value, no opportunity cost, no maintenance) calculation of $60 per year cost of use. There is a range of possibilities between and outside of "buy a new Fiddlerman carbon fiber bow every year" and "save for 10 years for Codabow Luma". Is Kevin's violin a lifetime violin, how long is Kevin's new bow intended to last, will it be outgrown skill-wise in 3 years? (60x3=180+tax=200)

"Of course" a pro can make a beginner bow sound like a million bucks, but did the pro get to that point by practicing on beginner bows? How much of the learning was facilitated by the better equipment and when, so that the pro gained the skills to tame the inferior equipment into submission? What is it worth to the player to get an equipment boost? The bow is part of the instrument, yes physically two distinct items acquired separately, but try playing Czardas or Mozart without the bow... (I'm also hoping the $3-4k violin isn't getting $20 strings or something like that.)

As it's said: good, fast, cheap - pick two.

X good: Spend the up to $200 now on something (likely) lesser, which may or may not need to be upgraded within [we don't know enough about Kevin's progress], tentatively "buy nice or buy twice" (I know pre-professional track is another story).

X time: There are ways around "outside of my [current] budget" such as spending the time to wait for / look for a deal, to earn or raise the additional funds. I paid only moving and tuning/maintenance costs for my 49" Kawai upright piano, obviously quite a unique situation that happened at an opportune time. (If the amount is meant to be SPENT NOW, well, buying a gift certificate or putting down a deposit takes care of that.)

X cheap: Recommended ranges have been given that are not bottom pricing.

Edited: December 28, 2020, 1:00 PM · I think everyone pretty safely assumed that the OP had a teacher because one doesn't get to an advanced stage of playing in just three years without really excellent private teaching.

Skill certainly matters, and a skilled player can pick up total junk and force it to work for them because they already know precisely what to do. But learning skills without proper feedback from your equipment is really hard.

For a $3k-ish student instrument, a bow in the $500-$1k range is a perfectly good match in quality.

There are definitely tonal differences between different bows, and between wood and carbon-fiber. There are some very nice-sounding carbon fiber bows, though, and at this price point, playability matters more than anything else, because you're trying to learn the technical skills for advanced bow control.

(By the way, I'd consider the OP to be, given what they've said, solidly "intermediate", not "late intermediate", much less "advanced".)

December 28, 2020, 1:30 PM · Kevin,

You received some good advice already. If you can (I realize we're living in pandemic times), the best way is still to test out the bows before buying. If that's not possible, try Fiddlershop and "test drive" their bows within your price range from home -ask them about their trial period. Good luck on your search.

December 28, 2020, 2:05 PM · Hey!

I'm leaving the site..... as I feel I did not do anything seriously bad here, I'll explain why. Years of bad experiences and insulting... so many new members I never heard of, illogical pseudonames... yes, it's just not safe anymore.
I have absoultely no problem with the owner of the site. The only reason I was here till now is to see Buri post here again, and to know who you are Mary Ellen. Now I know, and I'm glad you have students!

December 29, 2020, 8:18 AM · A minors Stimulus payment belongs to his parents.
December 29, 2020, 2:54 PM · I'd have thought that the purpose of a stimulus would be to help people who are out of work or income due to the pandemic and need assistance towards basic needs such as food and housing, not for what would by most be seen as a luxury good that one wouldn't otherwise be able to afford.

But I think the whole world has learned that we can't really understand US politics or policies, so I'm giving up, or at least I can do that anytime I want.

December 29, 2020, 7:43 PM · Looks like the $2000 stimulus package got blocked. I'm also ineligible for it since I'm still considered a dependent.

$100/hour for lessons seem like a lot to me. My teacher only charges $25/hr which is the cheapest in the area. I've heard of local rates typically hovering between $40-60/hr.

I had another recent talk with my teacher yesterday evening. It seems like he wants me to save up and work with what I have concentrating on my off string bowing skills rather than hunting for the "perfect" bow on my parent's budget. Again, I thank everyone for their input here.

December 29, 2020, 11:29 PM · I’d like to comment on the Jean Paul Fusion and the Fiddlershop carbon fiber since I have both of them as back up bows. Both are quite good for the money but in my experience the Fiddlershop carbon fiber is better for spiccato and sautille than the fusion.

Also if your parents would stretch a little I’d strongly recommend a Presto Ovation. It’s my favorite bow after my good pernambuco bow and handles spiccato and sautille very well and of course legato. They are very well made and mine hasn’t needed rehairing even after a year of decent use. You can find one online for about $285 and I think they play well above their price point.

Good luck!!!

December 29, 2020, 11:53 PM · @Krisztian Gabris I hope you won't leave us. I know I've teased you about your "stream of consciousness" rants, and if I've overstepped in doing so, I apologize. Much of what you write does come across as drivel, but occasionally there are gems of wisdom, and you always write from the heart, which I respect and admire. Cheers, Paul
December 30, 2020, 5:10 AM · I also think it is sad that Krisztian is leaving the site. We are here because we love the violin. In that we have a lot in common. It is tragic that despite such commonality that we can treat each other badly, even if only in jest. It is also important to remember that this is an international site. The interpretation of a foreign language, and foreign culture may be different than ones own native tongue or culture.
December 30, 2020, 2:22 PM · I think the issue was more that Krisztian tended to post when drunk, which led to predictable results and reactions.
Edited: December 30, 2020, 8:34 PM · Many years ago I posted a relevant entry at Maestronet.com:

https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/22770-ok-so-the-winner-is-the-glasser-carb-fiber-but-isnt-the-coda-supposed-to-be-best/

My first post there is the 2nd post in the thread. Lydia can attest to the experience of the 'Glasser-composite vs. Maline' "shoot out" because she was there too.

I should add that the Glasser-composite bow would probably not be a choice for tone but it sure responded properly to the players' moves for off-string strokes..

Edited: December 30, 2020, 4:53 PM · Wow, no actual suggestions yet ...I’d go with a carbon fiber bow, to get the most for your money. Here is one from SHAR: https://www.sharmusic.com/Bows/Violin/Intermediate-Violin-Bows/Presto-174-Audition-Carbon-Fiber-Violin-Bow.axd
December 30, 2020, 5:58 PM · @Laurie - Actually I strongly recommended the Presto Ovation bow if the OPs parents can stretch up about $80, or the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber (new model) if not; I own both bows and like them but the Ovation plays well above its price point; both are good for spiccato and sautille, and allow for a wide range of expressiveness.

The Presto Audition you suggested is probably very similar to my Ovation but I haven't played one so can't personally recommend it. :)

December 31, 2020, 11:26 AM · Kevin Lee wrote:

"I had another recent talk with my teacher yesterday evening. It seems like he wants me to save up and work with what I have concentrating on my off string bowing skills rather than hunting for the "perfect" bow on my parent's budget".


Best advise ever!!!

December 31, 2020, 3:23 PM · Once you have enough saved, consider Coda bows. We recently went bow shopping and my daughter who is super picky liked one that was around $900. The one that she liked more was a wood one that was over $5,000.
December 31, 2020, 4:27 PM · I like the Coda bows as well and have found that my students are able to use them as they move to advanced bowing techniques.

I do agree that one should "work with what you have" and maximize what you can do, but it's also very important to understand that it does make a big difference, whether or not you have a well-balanced bow that enables you to move on to more advanced techniques. Some bows make it very, very difficult, and at a certain point the only way to improve is to get better equipment.

Same goes for the quality of the violin!

Edited: January 1, 2021, 10:36 PM · I think it's reasonable to pay between 100 and 300 for a graphite bow considering that a new graphite tennis racquets - made now almost exclusively in Japan, China, and Taiwan - cost about the same and include a significant amount of manual labor in their production.

Carbon fiber might work a bit better outside if you are playing to play outdoors too.

Price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. A Ferrari sports car and a Honda Civic can both get you betweens point A and point B with the latter at certainly at less cost, greater fuel efficiency, and perhaps fewer costly electrical problems.

January 2, 2021, 2:25 PM · But can you play Paganini with the tennis racquet? And will your pro shop help it deliver better tone?
January 2, 2021, 2:35 PM · I have a dorfler pernambuco bow, excellent for the money
Edited: January 7, 2021, 1:28 AM · I gather Fiddlershop have just released a new improved cf bow, but that's just their $70 model. They do a hybrid for $120. Col Legno Standard is fine, but I'm using it less nowadays as I'm preferring to have the balance closer to the frog. Delille hybrid isn't bad.

Before Christmas I made a snyde cryptic comment on a post where a (very slow) piece was generally prescribed before a student used vibrato (!). You need to bear in mind such a player will be advised on many forums like this one to buy a $2000 bow. It's BS.

January 7, 2021, 9:08 AM · My Codabow Prodigy retails for around $300 - perhaps refurbished, or blemished, are available for less? I didn't pay for it as my first violin shop tossed it in with my first violin as part of the whole package.

It's a nice bow, for me the balance point is too far from the frog and I can tell the difference these days. I've since upgraded to a JP Corona - while still under $1k it is well outside of your budget. It's a bit heavier than my JP which is neither good or bad - and I still use the Prodigy once a week or so.

January 7, 2021, 4:10 PM · That Prodigy is a nice looking bow. 5 year warranty too!
Edited: January 21, 2021, 8:05 AM ·
https://musicalinstrumentreviews.com/violin/best-violin-bows/

You can check this article. This article helped me finding the best violin bow under $200.
January 21, 2021, 11:30 AM · Andrew, glad it worked for you, but "Samuel's" describing one bow as weighing 12.8 ounces - and he did it twice, throws doubt on everything else. A typical violin bow, at 60 grams, weigh only about 2.14 ounces.
January 21, 2021, 1:27 PM · Getting back to Kevin's query, one useful exercise might be to talk with the teacher and had the teacher talk to the relevant parent. A demo with current stick and teacher's best (or find example at violin shop) might allow for re-framing the question.

That doesn't cover all values of violins, or all household budgets, of course. But if the current bow is limiting progress, then they need to hear that from someone knowledgeable. Not just a student cruising the internet.

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