baroque bow advice?

August 24, 2021, 2:58 PM · I am wondering if I can get some tips on how to buy a baroque bow... I am not a musician and want to buy it for my 13yo kid as a birthday present. The kid is playing at the "advanced" level (lots of Bach recently). Should I look in the particular price range? Going over $200 will be very difficult. I am thinking about finding it on Amazon as I don't know other sources.
Do I need to be concerned with the wood (snake, Brazil,..)? Any advice is much appreciated!

Replies (30)

August 24, 2021, 3:03 PM · If you are in the US, Shar music currently has one on sale for $149. They would probably let you try it out.
August 24, 2021, 3:13 PM · I am in Canada but my friend will buy it in the US and bring it to me. Unfortunately, trying/exchanging/returning is not possible.
August 24, 2021, 3:31 PM · In my experience, baroque bows aren't that complicated as modern bows. Go for snake wood, since it is an authentic choice. Ironwood would also be okay. Bows were also made from ipe, larch an various different woods endemic in the northern hemisphere.

I'm from Europe and don't have access to Shar, but when I thought about purchasing my first baroque model, I would have bought from them since I've heard good things about them. Rachel Barton Pine advocates them, and it seems to be relatively common in school programs and youth orchestras.

Yes, you could order directly from China and probably save a few dollars. But you never know what you'll get. Often it's the B and C stock they blow out via ebay or aliexpress. From a large and reputable sales company like Shar, you can expect halfway consistent quality.

August 24, 2021, 3:50 PM · I'm confident that Shar sells a good bow for the money.
August 24, 2021, 4:13 PM · I am not, its a $30 bow sold for $150
August 24, 2021, 4:48 PM · Actually, related question:
Is there a fundamental design difference between violin and viola baroque bows? My kid is used to his 60g bow and would love to have the bow a bit longer (as he has long arms). I see that the viola bow is 62g and 1 inch longer than the violin bow. Should I get the viola bow or it is a stupid idea?
August 24, 2021, 4:55 PM · I am not sure if I can post a link to amazon but I see one of the bows there ($97) that says in description "extended edition 74.5cm Snakewood Stick Baroque Violin Bow Master Level Well Balanced)
How bad can it be?
August 24, 2021, 5:09 PM · Some of the less expensive Baroque bows sold online have concave sticks (like regular bows) instead of convex out!
Edited: August 24, 2021, 5:25 PM · And none of these bows are really snakewood, or Pernambuco, they're all Chinese equivalents.
August 24, 2021, 5:38 PM · Indeed, it seems $97 dollar one is concave - thank you, I did not know if you can still market them as baroque. Then the best choice is still the one at Shar music? Viola or violin?
August 24, 2021, 5:46 PM · On March 23, 2018 there was a post similar to this with relevant advice.
August 24, 2021, 6:13 PM · See this discussion:

August 24, 2021, 6:50 PM · what about Vio Music#709 Old German Baroque Style Beautiful Snakewood on Amazon for $109? Does it look like it is convex? Sorry for so many questions and thank you!
August 24, 2021, 7:33 PM · Here is the one I saw:
Edited: August 24, 2021, 9:16 PM · Here's one for $30 including shipping, but may take a month to get there, outward camber

Edited: August 24, 2021, 9:22 PM · Here's another one, $50, outward camber, but the snakewood pattern looks painted on

August 24, 2021, 9:47 PM · Strongly recommend you consult with your child’s violin teacher.
August 25, 2021, 4:04 AM · Many if not most violin teachers wouldn't have a clue about baroque bows.
Edited: August 25, 2021, 8:04 AM · Mary Ellen makes a good point about consulting with the teacher, regardless of whether the teacher is experienced with the use of a baroque bow. The teacher might ask you not to do this as it could be a distraction to what they are trying to teach your child at the moment. I can well imagine that a student whose right hand is not too secure would not benefit from the physical confusion of practicing with two entirely different bows.

If it's just something to mess around with, then just get something cheap and don't worry about it too much. If your child decides to get serious about baroque playing and needs a better baroque bow later, then the issue can be revisited then, in full consultation with the appropriate professionals.

Regarding the bow's weight, I advocate for getting the lighter baroque bow, not the heavier viola bow. The whole idea of the baroque bow is to play pear-shaped longer notes with a plaintive, airy tone, and to blaze out sixteenth notes like an Uzi machine gun, all the while swaying gaily like a minstrel of yore.

There are other ways to flesh out your child's violin study in different directions besides a baroque bows, but these depend on your budget, and again you would want the advice of your child's teacher. Examples:
* A viola.
* An electric pickup and amplifier.
* Traveling to a competition.
* A summer camp experience.

Edited: August 25, 2021, 10:49 AM · Thank you Lyndon and Paul!!!
I'll buy one of these bows today. It is for messing around - Paul immediately saw it :)
Last year was both difficult (the teacher is "online", no performances- even for the family friends who have to listen anytime they come to visit :))
and exciting (lots of work on technique was done, and "soul" is starting to appear in the playing, so "sky is not the limit" now)
viola/competitions/camps can be sanctioned by the teacher only.
Electric pickup and amplifier is a sin :)
Baroque bow is innocent - right?
Paul, love your description of playing with a baroque bow :)
Pear shaped notes: how do you play those? I am not a musician, so, this is the first time I hear it. Does it come from almost noting and then swells? Do you increase the speed of the bow in the middle?
August 25, 2021, 11:28 AM · Mich - for a modern setup, and generally in the modern conception of 'baroque' technique, yes the swells come from bow speed changes. There are a few bow demonstrations and tutorials by active pro baroque players dotted about Youtube--from these you or your son can assemble an idea. There may be others of value but once you get outside this narrow range the proportion of misinformation goes up dramatically.

I agree with Paul's comments, leaving aside the obligatory swipe at baroque players.

August 25, 2021, 11:43 AM · Mich, for being a non-musician you understand violin-playing very well. Sorry about my poor humor but it's been one of those days already. At least I spared you my usual recommendation of sawing a couple of inches off the fingerboard.
Edited: August 25, 2021, 11:53 AM · I think the 'pear shaped' notes is a reference to the messa di voce. This is the gentle shape of a small crescendo and diminuendo on a long note. It was often labelled an ugly term 'baroque bulge' by some modern players; and in fairness some first generation baroque players did perhaps over exaggerate this.
Tartini writes about it in detail in his letter to Maddalena Lombardini (compulsory reading to all violinists playing 18th repertoire and on IMSLP). It continued well into the 18th century and early 19th (think about Fiorillo 8, Kreutzer 1 etc).
The shape of the baroque bow very much helps this shape on the long notes. The early 19th Century Tourte bow more favoured equality and sustaining notes which is where the practice of longer lines in the 19th century comes from (I generalise).
August 25, 2021, 11:51 AM ·
August 25, 2021, 12:47 PM · Yes, Paul hit on what I was thinking by saying that the parent should consult with the teacher. I can think of numerous students in my career where the ill-timed gift of a Baroque bow could have potentially interfered with right hand development.
August 25, 2021, 1:42 PM · I (Devils advocate) think a Baroque bow is a great adjunct to learning to bow, as it is much more versatile than the conventional is lighter and more maneuverable. I wish I had gotten one much earlier in my playing life!! Now have three... go for it!
August 25, 2021, 2:11 PM · Son's teacher is the top player and he likes to play with a baroque bow sometimes. Thank you James for the link to Tartini's letter. His Devil's trills will be rediscovered now once the new bow arrives :) I decided to go for a $50 bow :) - it can always be improved later. In general, are professional baroque bows cheaper than Tourte models?
August 25, 2021, 3:22 PM · YES! Almost half the price for US makers...
August 25, 2021, 3:40 PM · Indeed. The price range of the six baroque bows I purchased from their maker during the last 2 years (three of them went to professional performers so I'll have to reorder another viola model as soon as my financial situation will allow...) was €1000-1200. For similar quality for a modern model you should expect to pay at least three times as much. Don't ask me why. A bowmaker might know.
Edited: August 25, 2021, 3:43 PM · One factor for sure is that pernambuco is an endangered species and worldwide demand for quality pernambuco is high. While snakewood (and not even to talk about all the other options) is less sought after.

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