Carbon fiber bow?

September 21, 2017, 4:21 PM · I am an intermediate to advanced student looking for a bow, probably around $300. I've been trying carbon fiber bows but a lot of them seem really stiff. I'm wondering if wanting a more flexible bow is a product of inexperience or if I am right to either keep looking for a more flexible carbon fiber bow or get another wood bow. Also do more flexible bows have a higher action, because I also fiddle and all the carbon fiber bows sounded scratchy when I fiddled, but I tried a few wood bows and did not have this problem.

Replies (82)

Edited: September 27, 2017, 10:18 AM · Wood bows tend to sound better than CF, CF's forte seems to be their playability according to players.

If you look around you should be able to find a decent nickle mount Pernambuco German production bow for $300 or a good Brazilwood one, strong brazilwood can be just as good as weaker Pernambuco.

September 21, 2017, 6:15 PM · It might help if you tell us which bows you've tried. Carbon fiber is more consistent within a brand than wooden bows, so many will have a general idea of what you mean. I'd be willing to say that by the intermediate-advanced stage you should have a good idea what feels comfortable for you - if it feels too stiff for you to be comfortable then I would say it's likely too stiff.

The rosin used might also be suspect - too much, too little, or a brand that doesn't like your strings.

After seeing Paul Deck mention it several times, but otherwise finding next to no information about it, I just today ordered a Cadenza *** Master 'Hybrid' bow - that is carbon fiber core with a pernambuco veneer.

I'll admit this was half curiosity, half desire to try something new. I'll be happy to report back to you when I get my hands on it next week - especially wither I choose to keep it or send it back.

Edited: September 21, 2017, 6:58 PM · Michael I'll be keen to know what you think of it. That bow (the Eastman Cadenza 305) is around $450 and the OP wants to spend $300.

One thing about CF bows is they are a lot more durable.

It's really hard to compare bows against one another because you can't be sure that they have the same kind (or age, or cleanliness) of bow hair or what kind of rosin, and how much, in the store.

Oh by the way Michael I also have the Cadenza Master viola bow for my viola, and I think I might like that even more than the violin bow.

As for stiffness, it would kind of surprise me if the makers of CF bows didn't work pretty hard to come up with a material that has pretty close to the same modulus as wood.

September 21, 2017, 7:18 PM · Paul,

I absolutely should have specified - I ordered the viola version. I'm glad that you find that one even more satisfying than the violin version. I find when I play violin I tend to use my viola bow anyway - it is such a rare occurrence that it is usually only in passing and what I'm used to. Cost me a little more than $450, but that's because it's in Canadian dollars.

As for Op,

Don't count out the cheaper 'pernambuco' bows just because they're around $300. They might be pernambuco, they might be who knows what. What matters is if it's a good bow or not. At that price range I think there is a limit to what you can expect, but it's also quite reasonable to shop around and try all the options. I think I paid about that for my Knoll, which I love dearly.

September 21, 2017, 10:32 PM · I wasn't taking about new Pernambuco bows out of China in the OPs price range, those are not real Pernambuco, I was speaking of older German bows back when genuine Pernambuco was readily available.
Edited: September 22, 2017, 5:27 PM · Used Glasser braided carbon fiber- round is fuller, octagonal is brighter and slightly more lively. (I own both in viola and violin, round cello and round bass-I double.) Excellent value. By using the round violin and viola sticks, I can easily go back and forth with little effort or thought. Codas are ok, but comparable level sx or gx is pricier.
September 22, 2017, 5:41 PM · Pernambuco might not be necessary in a $300 bow...
September 22, 2017, 5:41 PM · CF bows can break, even if that is a fairly rare occurrence. Back in my folk-fiddling days I bought a CF bow for the excellent reason that I expected it to be resistant to accidental damage in certain folk music venues. After a few months I noticed that when I tightened the hairs there was a curious bending that shouldn't have been there just short of the tip. Worried, I took it back to the violin shop and they immediately gave me a replacement by a different maker - a fine bow that I still use. It turned out that the shop had had 4 or 5 bows, all from the same source, brought in with the same problem, and one had actually broken at the tip. I don't think the shop used that source again.
September 23, 2017, 3:05 AM · Well, of courseevery product can be faulty and I suggest it was the maker not the material in this case.
I use my CF in orchestra if a piece has col legno parts because it does not hurt the bow.
September 23, 2017, 5:57 AM · Christina, if you just want another bow, sure, make your choice and get one.

But I wonder if you are not about to buy what you already have.

While every bow is different, maybe you have specific technical and musical reasons for upgrading, and if that is the case, are you going about choosing a new bow in a way which will get you what you need?

What does your teacher recommend? How does your teacher "sound" when he or she plays your instrument and bow?

Edited: September 23, 2017, 8:34 AM · Hrm. I was just realizing that the OP says they are "intermediate to advanced", which means that they should be reasonably competent to determine what they need and like out of a bow. If that $300 represents an upgrade, their current bow is pretty certain to be inadequate, and for a student at that level, spending more in the upper end of the $500-$1k range makes more sense -- get a JonPaul Avanti or another CF bow in that class, or a Marco Raposo pernambucco bow, or the like.
Edited: September 24, 2017, 4:51 PM · Personally I have never tried a CF bow that I liked the sound off. IMHO, wood just sounds better.

Posted under my own FULL name in accordance with the rules of Vcom.

Cheers Carlo

September 24, 2017, 5:05 PM · I found a decent stick for $500 at Cleveland Violins. They sent three, and they did sound noticeably different from each other. Because I couldn't draw firm conclusions about the sound while playing, I asked for opinions from family (who found one they very much preferred). I haven't compared it to the JonPaul line, so I can't be helpful there (yet).

Most of the time, good Pernambuco bows sound better, often by a lot, but those don't grow on trees these days. And much depends on the violin being used, the adjustment, the shape I'm in, the weather...

September 24, 2017, 8:14 PM · Carlo,

No middle names? :P

September 26, 2017, 1:35 AM · @Michael. For the record "Ettore" after my Italian grandfather, who was a tapestry weaver in Florence.

Cheers Carlo

September 26, 2017, 1:51 AM · Oh, I like. That's a good one. :)
Edited: September 27, 2017, 10:58 AM · A good wooden bow is also able to hold the tension. Cheaper ones are usually a bit too soft, which helps the sound but kills playability.
Edited: September 27, 2017, 3:07 PM · I still prefer my pernam bow for my chamber music sessions. I agree, I CAN get a much richer and more nuanced tambre. That said, I don't like it or need that sort of sound when playing in orchestras, especially when switch-hitting viola and second. That's when I prefer the easier playability and homogeneous sound of carbon that is more forgiving of any bow placement, angle, and pressure faux pas.
Edited: September 28, 2017, 4:01 AM · A top quality job of rehairing a bow will take account of the thickness of the stick and the physical properties of the hair. For example, for a soft stick, less hair should be used, while for a stiffer stick more hair may be required to optimize the hair tension and stick restoring force and flexure.

Some craftspeople capable of performing an immaculate rehair may still use a "standard hank" of hair which will probably over-hair a soft stick. If you have a soft stick you may be able to trim a few hairs to effectively stiffen it up. Of course some cheap wooden bows are just too soft to recover. If you are going to trim hair do it on the inside of the "hair ribbon," not the outside - evenly across the ribbon and probably no more than 5 hairs at a time.

Until just about 16 years ago* I had been making measurements on a number of violin, viola, and cello bows and came up with a range of 133 to 205 hairs for a group of 16 violin bows for optimum behavior that correlated with the measured stick stiffness (the optimum number of hairs correlated with the average stretching (or strain) of a single hair in the bow. I found that bows tended to sound better if the hair was strained a specific amount* (of course there is variation in the diameter of the hairs used - so everything is approximate and average). (*That amount of strain was 0.5mm and on average required the force equivalent to a weight of 2.5 grams hanging from it --multiply by the number of hairs in the bow to get the total force on the hair of a bow.)

I was about to unleash my measurements upon a very large collection of bows (not mine) with a new measuring rig I had acquired when 09/11/2001 happened and the next day I ceased measuring bows and hairs forever and decided it was more important to me to use my bows entirely for making music.

September 27, 2017, 5:01 PM · Very interesting research Andrew.
September 27, 2017, 8:17 PM · Andrew Victor is a national treasure. Who else would do that?
September 27, 2017, 10:19 PM · Andrew, how did you measure stick stiffness? I'd assume by suspending the stick from the ends and measuring deflection per unit of force from the middle. And what range of values did you see?
Edited: September 27, 2017, 10:56 PM · I received the bow I mentioned above on Tuesday and have to say I wonder more and more how much of the wood vs. cf debate is placebo/tradition instead of fact.

Beyond that, enjoyment of music is so subjective that declaring one as sounding better or not is problematic. Even which plays better would be quite subjective - hand strength, technique, particular use, etc, will all effect how someone would rate a particular bow, and differing tastes and preferences will dictate how someone would rate the sound of one.

It's almost sillier than the sr v. no sr debate because it's too individual to empirically say x is better than z. At best we can say the sample tested preferred x better than z, or z better than x, or found no consistent preference. Normally we can use this data to make a statement about the population, but I'd be willing to bet each sample would yield differing results.

So it boils down to: Go try some bows, keep an open mind, and buy the one that 'speaks' to you. There's always a better bow - there's always a better instrument. Enjoy the experience instead of getting too caught up in the semantics. You have a budget, explore it, and pick what you like.


Andrew, you should consider releasing the data. I think it would be interesting - people always obsess over the stick, relatively little consideration is given to the hair beyond 'is it good quality/is it worn out?'.

September 27, 2017, 11:02 PM · "I wonder more and more how much of the wood vs. cf debate is placebo/tradition instead of fact. " -- what exactly made you start wondering about that after you received a CF bow? Did you find no difference for the better or worse?
Edited: September 27, 2017, 11:25 PM · Hi Han,

I only fail to provide details due to a lack of experience, and not a reticence to back up my opinion.

I find it plays like any other bow - I move it along the strings and sound comes out. It is an improvement over my current bow in both playability and tone, but my current bow isn't exactly a master work either. I would describe it as well balanced and producing a focused sound - quicker to respond in changes to pressure or speed than other bows I've had experience with (Coda Bow SX, JP Avanti, a few Knoll Bows, bows from $100-2,000 price bracket, but nothing higher). If I had to compare it to one of them I would say it's quite similar in feel to my limited exposure to the JP Avanti.

It does 'feel' a little different, but there is a similar difference between any other two different bows I've used.

This is my first 'long term' exposure to carbon fiber - I don't see anything immediately to hate about it and strongly suspect it's just a matter of preference of sound.

If someone cannot see your bow and doesn't like your sound, is it a result of the bow being cf or simply a matter of them not preferring the same sound you prefer?

Edit: I should add that I'd never ague that CF and wooden bows are the same. They are different beasts - but to say one is objectively better than the other is a different proposition. I posit that they're just different and think it's very important to keep options open.

September 28, 2017, 12:24 AM · Stating that they are different beasts is just as strong a statement as suggesting that the perceived differences may be a placebo effect. Make up your mind! ;-) (I assume that we're talking about handling and sound, not looks and material, because those are obviously different.)

I'm still trying to figure out from the opinions of the people here which physical properties of a bow could be responsible. My suspicion is that the sound has more to do with hair, hair tension, and rosin, whereas the stick itself affects handling in various fast bowing techniques and maybe the response during the attack of a tone. But typical statements like "Expensive bow X pulls a much nicer sound than affordable bow Y" are a bit too vague for me. And I couldn't notice much difference myself when I went out to replace my warped kit bow by a CF one, when I was a three months beginner (not so long ago). I moticed a difference in weight and stiffness, but not in sound and playability.

Edited: September 28, 2017, 12:33 AM · Wood sounds like wood, CF sounds like some kind of plastic, artificial, unnatural. While they're called Carbon fibre, the carbon fibre make up a small part of a bow made up mostly of some kind of epoxy resin, which holds the carbon fibres suspended, at least from what I understand.
Edited: September 28, 2017, 12:48 AM · You're right Han, and I am of course referring to sound and handling - cosmetics are secondary to performance, although as I've discovered CF bows come in forms that look like wooden bows, making appearance even less a factor.

I am a little wishy-washy because I am hesitant to say anything too strongly - I'm not a particularly masterful string player and the world is still relatively new to me, I do however have a basic science background and the ability to form opinions and think for myself. That said the main reason I'm cautious is I don't want to lock myself into something that will bite me later or ruffle too many feathers. I have a lot of respect for the people here and don't want to appear to be chastising them, because I most certainly am not. On the other hand I do want to encourage experimentation and discussion on the topic.

I think the perceived lack of quality may be placebo/tradition kicking back as opposed to a straight up inability to perform at a similar level as wood. I think tone is too subjective to measure, but handling is something that is a little easier to agree on. It's worth considering that a synthetic product can likely be tweaked to a much higher degree than relying getting the 'right stick', and will lead to an increase in performance as more research is done into carbon fiber materials.

I might not be making much sense - I'm quite tired!

What I will absolutely own up to is agreeing with you - I strongly suspect that rosin, hair, and the tension to which it is tightened, have a greater effect on tone than the material of the stick - hence why I was so interested (as were you!) in Andrew's data.

Interesting info Lyndon - you've made me a little curious as to the manufacturing process now. :)

September 28, 2017, 12:47 AM · I'm not sure what wood sounds like - kind of "wooden" I guess. Likewise plastic. Not so much a circular argument as a zero-dimensional one.
September 28, 2017, 12:49 AM · Han, I can guarantee you that the sound of bows is a characteristic of the stick.
I have sticks had rehaired differently and they never changed their characteristic. Same with rosins. The soundcharacteristic also stays the same with different hair tension. It will change slightly but the overall will stay the same.
If you have a good violin and test different bows you will realize that the difference in sound is bigger than with strings or at least comparable.
The worse the violin the smaller the difference, same for a lot of bows.
September 28, 2017, 1:03 AM · Marc,

I wonder how much of that is due to the density of the material and how the flaws in it behave under the forces of playing.

It's interesting to try and measure things like this because it's quite 'magical' until someone discovers the secrets of why each individual bow sounds how it does.

September 28, 2017, 2:02 AM · I used to read hifi magazines in which much debate was made over the degree to which the sound was affected by such factors as the speaker wire. One influential writer strongly advocated painting the edge of CDs green. I guess some of use just don't possess the physiological apparatus to perceive these subtleties, thank goodness.
September 28, 2017, 2:12 AM · Steve,

We are really just chatting about it - there will likely be no profound revelation or clear right or wrong here, nor a winner or loser. It's just nice to converse with other people who are either like minded or differing minded, but invested, on the topic.

It's fun to chat - otherwise we wouldn't have evolved so many methods to communicate with each other.

No one is doubting that each bow is different and they all have their own characteristics - but rather the ability of the different materials to perform to a similar level and why/why not. It's fun because without doing some serious experimentation it's just subjective and conjecture mixed with anecdotes, which really just makes it more fun.

Edited: September 28, 2017, 2:58 AM · Its all fun to you, but you accuse serious parties with years of experience of being delusional about the tonal differences between wood and CF, may I postulate that its also possible to be delusional about the idea that there are no tonal differences between wood and CF, otherwise known as being tone deaf.
September 28, 2017, 2:40 AM · Fair enough. I was encouraged to detect a faint note of scepticism in Michael's posts so couldn't resist sticking my oar in. Unfortunately words can never adequately describe subjective sensations in a way that each of us will comprehend. Therefore every perception should properly be described in terms of opinion and shouldn't be confused with fact.

I like my CF viola bow, but then you can play a viola with the horse!

Edited: September 28, 2017, 3:26 AM · I worked for years in the audiophile loudspeaker business(and no, I'm not talking about speaker wire nonsense), we also sold "rock and roll" models, that had more distortion, less flat response, but more bass and treble, I was always made aware that only a small percent of the population has highly developed ears that can detect subtle differences in sound, other people are easily fooled by louder but less refined sound, same goes for violins and bows in my experience, not everyone can hear the differences between bows relative tones, calling those that can hear a difference as being delusional or suffering from placebo effect, just exposes your own lack of perception, not that of the ones that hear the differences.
Edited: September 28, 2017, 4:01 AM · Han N, I measured the deflection by holding the frog end of the horizontal bare stick (frog removed) in a "jig" and measuring the deflection of the stick with a certain fixed weight a fixed distance from the frog (almost at the tip).

The EXCEL spreadsheet I constructed from this work, with all the data, was posted on line for many years --until I gave up my website about 4 years ago. I would be happy to email the spreadsheet to someone else to post on line, but I do not want to get involved with posting my email address and having to respond to multiple requests for it. With a few exceptions I own, or did own all the bows in the SS.

I think that whether you prefer a CF or wood bow depends to some extent on your hearing. A friend of mine uses Rolland SPICCATO and CODA Cla, CF DURROssic bows on his $150,000 Enrico Rocca violin in preference to his Lamy. I have CODA, SPICCATO, ARCUS, CF DURRO and BERG Deluxe non-wood bows - I have owned other brands too. I generally prefer to play with some of my wood bows.

It is my understanding that wood density affects the speed of sound in the bow and this has an effect on the sound the bow makes on a given instrument. Lucci (a bow maker, I believe) was selling a device for measuring sound speed in bow wood for material selection. The owner of the ARCUS bow company was very "big" re. this correlation/effect in his material design for that brand of bows. Of course, the bow would also have to be fabricated just right. Perhaps one should also consider not so much how the material of the bow enhances the sound, but how much it might spoil it.

Anders Askenfelt is probably the leading researcher on "bow science" and those who are interested should check out his scientific papers, many of which are available on line.

September 28, 2017, 4:44 AM · I should practise what I preach and not attempt to put myself into anyone else's head. I shouldn't even doubt that some "golden-eared" individuals are able to make unlikely-sounding acoustic discriminations that defeat the rest of us. Consider only the waveform of an orchestra - to my knowledge no machine is able to analyse the signal (consisting of a single dimension of sound pressure against time - mono is good enough) into the simultaneous "sound objects" that go to make it up; violins, flutes, trombones, what have you. This is a phenomenally clever but often overlooked function of the human brain. I know my brain can do it and I tend to assume that everyone else's can, but it wouldn't be surprising to find that people possess the capacity to differing degrees.

However, there are objective ways of determining whether an individual can indeed make the discrimination he or she claims. The simple way is of course a "forced choice" protocol between two alternatives presented several times in random order, for example is that violin being played with a bow made of wood or carbon fibre? Why are there so few properly controlled trials of this sort? Maybe that would put an end to an entertaining debate, but sometimes I yearn for a definitive answer.

Edited: September 28, 2017, 5:28 AM · Thanks for that Lyndon, ad hominem attacks are always appreciated and do nothing for civil discourse.

Thanks for posting that Andrew, I will research Anders Askenfelt - I really appreciate your experimental spirit and ability to carry a conversation about the topic. I am hesitant to post a longer reply since I am delusional and tone deaf for daring go against the party line!

Lyndon Taylor
Edited: September 28, 2017, 2:58 AM · Its all fun to you, but you accuse serious parties with years of experience of being delusional about the tonal differences between wood and CF, may I postulate that its also possible to be delusional about the idea that there are no tonal differences between wood and CF, otherwise known as being tone deaf.

September 28, 2017, 6:21 AM · Heya Andy, you could put the spreadsheet up as a Google Sheet. That would probably be the easiest way to have it hosted these days.

The tonal differences between different bows, be they CF or wood, are not at all subtle. The difference is far greater than with strings. If you have trouble hearing differences between violins, though, you might also have difficulty hearing differences between bows. I don't think this is a hearing issue per se, in terms of physically hearing all the frequencies (assuming you are not hearing-impaired); I think this probably has to do with the brain processing the information in a way that drops the detail.

The sound of a bow is unique on a particular violin. Furthermore, within CF bows, even within bows of the same model, there are significant tonal variations. However, CF bows tend to have different frequency response characteristics than wood bows.

The telling trait in CF bows tends to be what I think of as a thread of high-frequency sound. I personally describe that sound as metallic; with some CF bows on some violins, it has the effect of making the sound screechy. In some CF bows, that oddly sharp thread can be spread out over a broader range of frequencies, in which case the bow sounds noisy or grating. It's possible that if your high-frequency hearing is attenuated(this is a natural effect of age), it won't be as obvious to you.

My observation is that the tonal difference between CF and wood has declined over the years as the CF bow-makers have refined their materials. Also, sometimes the CF frequency response bolsters particular violins. (Years ago, Bernd sold me an Arcus that he thought was terrific for projection, thanks to its sharp amplification of high-frequency response. It wasn't good on my already-brilliant violin, but it worked very well on a friend's dark-sounding instrument, and I traded it to him.)

The JP Avanti that I have probably wouldn't be detectable as CF by a listener hearing me blind, though you can hear the CF traits if you are actively listening for them; I chose a stick that sounded as non-CF-like as possible, among plenty of tonally unpleasant CF alternatives.

I was playing in an orchestra for a bit with a stand-partner (a pro) who was using a JP Vetta. I don't think anything about his sound betrayed the CF, at least not in the orchestral context.

The Arcus S9 I tried while I was bow-shopping really impressed me -- it's competitive with antiques in its range in terms of playability (putting it up against makers like Morizot). I highly doubt that most listeners would hear that an S9 was CF, though it doesn't have the beauty of sound of a high-end wood bow, and there's a subtle bit of something almost akin to surface noise that seems to be its CF sound signature. (If I were doing a lot more orchestra playing, I'd probably choose an S9 as my main bow, though.)

In general, I would bet that players who buy CF bows (and choose them consciously, rather than having them thrown in with an outfit or the like) probably choose sticks that don't sound harshly CF-like on their violins. But if you try a bunch of CF bows, the majority of them will likely interact with your violin in a way that produces a distinctive sound signature that's very different than wood.

September 28, 2017, 6:46 AM · Andy shared his spreadsheet and I've converted it to a Google Sheet: LINK
Edited: September 28, 2017, 6:49 AM · Wow Lydia that's a superb reply and exactly the sort of discourse I was hoping to get on this topic. Thank you very much for posting it.

I'd have to agree that if you can't hear the difference between violins then the same person likely would have trouble hearing the (imo more subtle, at least than two violins!) difference between bows. I also agree that it probably has little to do with physically hearing. It makes me think of people who, when first introduced to classical music, can't pick out the separate instruments of an orchestra, and then upon greater exposure and time begin to break out the pieces more and more, even without realizing it. Without knowing the cues and what to listen for it really is just a wall of (beautiful) sound.

I think your second point is why it will be so hard to empirically decide if CF is 'up to the job'. There would be so much to control, it's why I would rather argue that it's just a different sound - not necessarily worse. As you mentioned I think that as time goes on and research into the material and bows is conducted cf bows will continue to improve. I think a lot of the history is taken for granted - how long did it did the modern violin bow to evolve? CF has only had a few decades to play catch up and I think it's done quite well. The middle high end of the CF range, as you note, as very convincing.

I think there being significant tonal variations is a good thing - it is much the same as with wood bows. Some bows and instruments 'pair' very well while others maybe not so much. I think that you are also right in that some cf bows just do not mix with some instruments. There are even more variances when you add in the differences between player technique. I actually have heard that high frequency you speak of, but only once. I think it's fair to say that like any other bow it does need to be tried by player and instrument before purchasing it as the variances are quite large (much like wooden bows, if in different areas) between bows, brands, and price points.

I think an important bit of research could be comparative - what is different about the bow you chose compared to the ones you didn't? Besides your preference and it sounding better, what physically makes it different? I think if manufactures could hone in on that it might help to make CF better all around. Could it just be chance - the material settling in just the perfect way? Or is there some flaw in the others that a manufacture might eventually be able to control for. Because CF is manufactured and not grown, there is a greater opportunity to reproduce results consistently, even if we aren't quite there yet.

On the note of the Arcus, I've read (here and elsewhere) that they play very different from a regular bow. Since I don't have personal experience with them, would you describe it as something you would still enjoy if those handling qualities were present in a wooden stick?

Aside from the screech, I'm not entirely sure that a different sound signature from wood is a terrible thing. It's not necessarily evolution of sound, but it is something that gives more options for a player seeking 'their' sound.

It reminds me a bit of a book: 'How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony, and Why You Should Care'. I wonder if CF will eventually become the new norm from a practical standpoint, if not an acoustic one, and if that were to happen, would the first generation to grow up in a CF bow majority world prefer the sound of CF over wood?

Edited: September 28, 2017, 6:53 AM · That's an amazing amount of data,

Thanks for collecting it Andrew, and Lydia for sharing it.

Some of it is a bit beyond me, but I am going to try and get as much info out of it as I can. I love learning new things so fun times ahead.

September 28, 2017, 6:54 AM · Michael, Lydia has said over and over on this forum that she prefers her wood bows to her CF bow, if you can't hear the high end sizzle of CF bows, maybe your hearing is lacking in high frequency response, I don't know, poster after poster in this thread has said they prefer wood bows to CF, its not all in their head, and frankly I find the inference that it may be in their head to be quite insulting.
September 28, 2017, 6:55 AM · Yes, I'm sure it is all down to brain processing rather than just the frequency response of the cochlea. Lydia's description of the sound of CF bows is the best attempt I've yet read of an attempt to explain colour to the blind - maybe I'll try it one day. I find it easy to hear differences between violins under my chin but a lot harder at a distance. When it comes to recordings, they might all be playing the same instrument (just occasionally one stands out as distinct). I don't think I'm alone, because you very seldom find the reviewer of a concert or recording comment on the tone of the instrument. I suspect this is a capacity which is acquired over time by (some) players.
Edited: September 28, 2017, 7:06 AM · Lyndon,

Please show me where I have asserted that Lydia prefers cf over wood, have directly insulted someone, claimed I can't hear the high end sizzle of CF bows, and that it's all in their heads.

I don't appreciate your attempts to counter and suppress discussion by insulting me - it is very disrespectful and not needed at all. If Lydia is offended by my posts, or any other poster here based on my 'insults to them' they are happy to tell me and I will happily either clarify the statement that offended them, or apologize profusely as it was not the intent. I am curious about carbon fiber. I am interested in having a conversation about carbon fiber. I feel I am conducting that in a respectful manner.

Lyndon Taylor
September 28, 2017, 6:54 AM · Michael, Lydia has said over and over on this forum that she prefers her wood bows to her CF bow, if you can't hear the high end sizzle of CF bows, maybe your hearing is lacking in high frequency response, I don't know, poster after poster in this thread has said they prefer wood bows to CF, its not all in their head, and frankly I find the inference that it may be in their head to be quite insulting.

September 28, 2017, 7:13 AM · So you're in denial of half the things you have said in this thread????
September 28, 2017, 7:22 AM · That what sounds good is a matter of preference, and that preference is strongly influenced by traditional sound and the expectation of what one expects to hear? That is the only thing I can think of that you can be bent out of shape about, and in that case absolutely not.

Psychology has resoundingly told us so. If the fact that what someone prefers as a sound is personal preference is a fact that insults you and others, then I really don't know what to tell you. Some people don't even like classical music - imagine the horror! They must be tonedeaf.

September 28, 2017, 7:28 AM · Han, I'm a beginner (6 months) so take my words with a grain of salt. I'm doing home trial for 2 CF bows right now. I don't have a tool to measure flexibility, but there's a bowing technique where you bounce the bow on the strings. I consider my current CF bow very flexible and it's very hard to control the bounces. I keep getting more bounces than I want. The other two are much better. One of those two is very obedient with 1-3 bounces, but would need more effort if I want more bounces. I've never played a piece that requires that technique, so I dont know what I would prefer when I get to that level.

I also notice that my current bow bends a lot more when using pressure.

In terms of sound quality, the trial bows blow my current one. I'm not surprised that they would sound better, but I'm surprised by how MUCH better they sound. The difference is not as big as say jumping from a $300-500 to a $800-1200 violin (let's say that's a 100% improvement). The trial bows I'm using give about a 40-50% sound improvement.

September 28, 2017, 7:32 AM · Michael, I'm that horror you speak of =P I think I'm just about to get roasted here for admitting to that =s
Edited: September 28, 2017, 7:35 AM · Don't worry John,

It's called, not!

The common link is the violin, not the music played on it :)

September 28, 2017, 7:48 AM · I think "sizzle" is a good word to describe that carbon-fiber sound -- a surface noise that really is akin to frying eggs. Some of the sticks don't have it as prominently, or it's less prominent in combination with a particular violin. But it's a trait that seems to me to be pretty CF specific. I've never heard it in a wood bow, and fiberglass bows sound different but not like CF.

I would argue that in general, CF is less pleasant of a sound; there's a subtraction of warmth from the sound. You might think of it as roughly akin to a digital vs. analog sound, or perhaps the sound of a human voice singing versus a synthesizer "voice".

It's a pity that Bernd Musing doesn't frequent this forum (he used to be a frequent Maestronet poster), since I imagine that he could explain the process he's gone through with Arcus's tonal evolution. There's clearly a material property change throughout the Arcus line and throughout its history. I assume that some of the ways that the sticks are made result in higher manufacturing costs.

I also know that the CF manufacturing process is unpredictable still. My understanding is that CF bow manufacturers still "grade" the sticks; i.e., a bunch of sticks will be made through the same industrial process, but the end-results are different, and depending on the resulting stick quality, it will end up sold as a specific "model" in the manufacturer's bow-lines.

I find most Arcus bows to be too light to be comfortable in the hand -- and I normally prefer light wood bows. At the high end of the Arcus line, I stop being aware that the bow is too light, which I'm guessing probably has to do with the way that the bow is balanced. (Tip-heavy bows tend to feel heavier to me, because you can feel your pinky having to counterbalance.)

Indeed, one of the problems that I had with having an Arcus as my spare bow is that it simply felt too different from my regular bow. The JP Avanti feels like an average decent bow, which means that I can swap to it from my usual bow without having to think.

Edited: September 28, 2017, 8:05 AM · Lydia, that warmth you're speaking of wood bows having, that CF don't is what I referred to as a "wood" as opposed to "plastic" sound. Violins sound best when made of wood, CF violins sound somewhat artificial and inferior by comparison, why would bows be any different, wood is the superior material for instruments like this.
September 28, 2017, 8:22 AM · Lyndon, have you heard the top-of-the-line CF sticks? They sound much closer to wood than the lower-end models -- close enough to wood that I expect the typical listener to not know the difference, and good enough tonally to compete with wood bows.
September 28, 2017, 8:41 AM · Lydia, I had those exact same thoughts last night about manufacturing as I was comparing two bows of different models from the same manufacturer. The two looks almost identical, but they sound and play differently. One is almost double the price of the other.

Since you mentioned it, do you prefer evenly balanced or tip-heavier bows? Or depends on the piece you are playing?

The bows Im trying are 62g and 61g. To my surprise, the 62g actually feels lighter. I balanced both and the 61g balances a few mm's away from the frog compared to the other one. I wouldn't have bothered doing these measurements if I didn't notice getting a little bit more tired using the 61g bow which also happen to sound better in my opinion. Luckily I've played a lot of tennis and have tried many many rackets, so I've gotten quite sensitive to feeling differences in weight distribution (which also makes huge differences in playing tennis). I just dont know yet the pros and cons of varying bow weight distribution when it comes to playing the violin. My newbie self likes the even balanced 62g, but if tennis gear taught me something... Is that I may prefer a completely different one as I get better.

Edited: September 28, 2017, 10:03 AM · I dont think one could recognize my S8 for beeing CF only by listening to the sound. I would not own it, if it was not a good bow. Cheaper CF bows are less close to wood than the good ones from my experience.
I mostly agree with Lydia, as often.
September 28, 2017, 12:33 PM · Bow preference is extremely personal. Bows have certain playing characteristics that are objective, but the subtleties of what instinctively feels good is different for each player.

I prefer bows that feel relatively light in the hand; they don't necessarily need to *be* light, but just balanced in such a way that I don't feel like my pinky is getting tired bearing the weight. I like the balance-point at the middle of the bow or just slightly lower. I want precision and predictability of response.

I tend to favor "Mozart bows" -- bows that feel elegant and lively and light, which are great for playing Mozart and similar repertoire. Alternatively, I want a solid and stable draw, with a strong and resilient stick that has effortless articulation.

I would recommend that a player who doesn't yet know what they want in a bow, choose something in an average weight range (60g is normal violin bow weight, +/- 1 gram is fine, +/- 2 grams is less common, don't go outside that range unless you know what you're doing), with a balance point at the middle and an even distribution of weight. The average cheap bow has fairly neutral handling traits.

September 29, 2017, 10:34 AM · The point is, the demand for good pernambuco (not talking about low grade wood gor manufactured bows) is too high. It cannot get satisfied, therefore I think it is an good idea to think of alternatives (does someone remember the bamboo violin bows?).
Also a good reason to look after the old bows, that they last as long as possible.
September 29, 2017, 3:31 PM · I'm not a player but I can assure you the shrill scratchy sound of CF, and the lack of warmth in the midrange of CF can be heard from 10 ft away, that's how I came to my conclusions.
September 29, 2017, 6:08 PM · As far as I know, a lot of current pro orchestra players use CF bows on an everyday basis. It's not universal that the unpleasant quality can be heard.
September 29, 2017, 7:23 PM · A lot of players in the orchestra play on relatively crappy violins, they still make up what we consider the orchestra sound, not that they couldn't have bought a better violin. Its hardly a justification for crappy violins or crappy bows.
September 29, 2017, 7:52 PM · The physics of the bow is well understood, which is why we live during a time when many good players find some engineered bows to be just as good for playing as well-regarded crafted wooden ones.

Stiffness, inertial and rotational "weights" and damping can all be varied to emulate good sticks. The real challenge is find a bow that matches your arm and the violin you are playing.

The "sound" of the bow itself is an interesting discussion point but I wonder if such opinions could survive a double-blind test. But I am willing to say it might have merit, but only as a non-projecting sound unless the bow has some unusual defect.

September 30, 2017, 5:35 AM · I dont know of which professional orchestras you speak, but I dont know crappy violins in the local one. I would guess that the average value is at about 50k value for each violin (no bows included), somewhere between 15k and 300k for each. The sound of a section highly depends on the instruments, thats why you simply wont make it into it with a crappy one.
I am very positiv that the sound a violin makes played with different bows would clearly be possible to see at double blind tests, its not subtitle at all. Altough I always had the feeling that the difference between bows gets less over higher distances its always there. Even when playing open strings.
September 30, 2017, 6:06 AM · I was speaking more of our local symphonies, not top professional ones like the LA Philharmonic.
September 30, 2017, 6:53 AM · There is no longer a tonal difference. (I used to be in the "CF sounds inadequate" camp myself.)

Just the other day, testing a C. N. Bazin against my Coda Marquise, the few listeners (fellow musicians) unanimously preferred the Coda. I wasn't playing for them. They had no idea whether they were listening to CF or Pernambuco or 20th Century French or manufactured synthetic.

September 30, 2017, 7:17 AM · Which Marquise do you have, Jeewon? Really curious about this bow -- I don't know anyone who has one.
September 30, 2017, 12:13 PM · Jeewon now you know why I don't like camping. :)
September 30, 2017, 5:19 PM · Paul, I don't mind a variety of camps... But I guess it does mean we must suffer the dogmatic "fundy" camp.

Lydia, I have the GS, though I'm not clear on what all the letters mean. It's more supple and sounds better than my Diamond NX, but of course, at almost 4 times the price.

Edited: October 1, 2017, 12:22 AM · It means God Stick. It's that good.

"High-sensitivity carbon fibers extending continuously from button to tip plate bestow in it a natural response and beauty. Referred to inside the workshop as the 'Gold Standard', this Marquise design appeals to discerning players more than any other and is the clear choice as the standard-bearer of the Marquise Experience."

From their website. And no, before someone accuses me, I'm not paid nor sponsored by CodaBow. If they did they will probably lose money. I'm a terrible beginner! Hahah

Edit: Just joking about the God Stick part. I've never tried this bow.

September 30, 2017, 11:56 PM · If I read that marketing BS I'd definitely shop elsewhere, on principle
October 1, 2017, 12:31 AM · But Steve, you have to try them! They're full of beauty from tip to button! It appeals more than any other!
October 1, 2017, 1:30 AM · I already discovered I'm not a "discerning player", being unable to distinguish between the sounds of my CF and pernambuco bows (I'm willing to accept that some people can!), so that lets me out
Edited: October 1, 2017, 11:37 AM · My bow experience has lead me to believe that the tonal problem is that "worse" bows mess up some frequencies and that "better" bows don't have that problem. In the cases of my experience the problems have also been instrument related, "so the "better" bow on a particular instrument may not be better on another one.


1. Many cellos I have played have been problematic in the upper 2 octaves of the C string; (all 3 of mine are). I have 8 cello bows, only my ARCUS Concerto (CF bow) is reliable and consistent in that range (even if it is not comparable to playing a really great cello), My other bows include a Paul Martin Siefried, an old Albert Nürnberger, and a Marco Raposo. The best of my bows on my old (1877) Lowendahl (Mittenwald) cello has been a CF DURRO I bought just before I bought my Coda Classic, however that preference seems to disappear when I installed a Krentz wolf eliminator on that cello - go figure.

2. My Enrico Rocca violin owning friend prefers a Coda Classic or a Rolland Spiccato (to his Lamy) on that violin. When a quartet mate asked to try the Coda bow he didn't like it one bit, but when he tried it on the Rocca he liked it.

October 1, 2017, 10:05 AM · Thanks, Jeewon.

And for amusement: A few days ago the Coda website had placeholder marketing-copy, with instructions on what to write there, and it had stuff like "ego-stroking". ;-)

October 1, 2017, 10:41 AM · I've been looking at various bow websites yesterday. I think CodaBow does a good job with marketing hence their popularity despite constantly getting beat by JonPaul based on majority of what I read from reviews. JonPaul's website, on the other hand, can use some improvement. I don't mean adding a gazillion buzzwords like CodaBow though.

Lydia, that's funny! Any chance you took screen shots?

October 1, 2017, 11:02 AM · I always prefered the Arcus line, although a bit more expensive. His descriptions of the bow quality however are verry bold.
October 1, 2017, 11:45 AM · Lydia, that is hilarious. I wish I had seen that.
Edited: October 1, 2017, 12:39 PM · Andrew, Lowendall is not Mittenwald although he may have commissioned higher end instruments to be made in Mittenwald, he operated in Dresden then Berlin, although certainly his cheaper instruments originated in Markneukirchen/Schoenbach.
October 1, 2017, 2:49 PM · Lyndon - sorry about that (it is my Carl Sandner that was made in Miitenwald - or so says its label). My Lowendall was not in playing condition from 1963 - 1990 and I bought the Sandner to replace it. After I finally found a maker who would repair the Lowendall for an affordable fee I started loaning it to adult students until it finally returned to my home in 2014. I guess I had not looked inside it for a very long time.

Thanks for setting me straight.

Edited: October 3, 2017, 9:20 PM · Lowendall made some good instruments, the better violins can be worth up to $5,000 or more, but there are also some cheaper instruments with his label that aren't worth much, 1877 would be the Dresden period, these tend to be worth more than the later Berlin period.

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