What About the Bow?
I'm new to the forum, so a brief introduction. I'm a three year self taught violin player with decades on accordian and guitar. I have three violins, all under $1500 and set up by a professional luthier/builder. Each has it's own voice. My question is about bows. I have four, two cheap carbon fiber, one yellow sandalwood, and one pernambuco. Why do I get the cleanest tone from the cheapest bows? The sandalwood and pernambuco seem to have more bite and have more coarse hair than the smoother hair on the cheap bows that give me a nicer sound. When people take a bow in for a re-hair, doesn't the luthier use the same hair on each bow whether it's a $100 bow or a $1,000 bow?
I believe my bowing technique is good with a bent wrist at the top and bottom of the bow stroke, bend at the elbow and not the shoulder and I tend to use the right side of the bow hair rather than the full width of the hair. I've experimented with different bow pressure with my right hand index finger, but I still find the cleanest sound comes from the cheaper smooth haired bows.
I'm thinking of upgrading to an $800 Coda bow hoping that I can get the clean sound I'm looking for.
I'm more of a violin player than a fiddler playing mostly church hymns and country music.
Sorry for the long post, but I'm hoping for some direction from the experts here.
I would guess that cheaper bows tend to be stiffer and more top-heavy, which makes it easier to keep them going straight across the string, at the cost of agility.
An excellent professional violinist told me ten years ago that I'd have to spend $2000 to find a pernambuco bow that plays as well as the $350 carbon fiber bow that I was using (and am still using). So I'm definitely in the camp that believes that CF bows are probably the best choice on the low end of the price range. However, all CF bows are not identical so my suggestion to you is to actually try before you buy rather than just shopping by price and brand reputation. My bow is the Cadenza silver-mounted three-star or "master" bow (also known as Eastman BL305). I love it. I have two of them for violin and one for my viola.
Jim, You have said nothing about the kind(s) of rosin(s) you use or how you use it/(them) and clean up afterwards. Also, how do you care for your strings after each playing session?
If you are a new player and self taught, you probably aren't capable of getting a good sound out of your violin, no matter the violin or bow. A good core sound can be aversive to player who aren't used to it.
Jim, I know the feeling! You're asking for direction from the experts; to be frank I don't think anyone here, no matter how proficient a player or teacher, should claim to be expert on the vexed question of bows and the sound they make, or rather the sound they help you to make. We all have an opinion based on our personal experience and those opinions are often contradictory. Some will tell you how much money you need to spend, others that you may be lucky and find a bow that suits you at any "price point".
Mostly I'd guess AndrewH is right.
We're all guessing! I'd guess it's unwise to trust anyone's advice EXCEPT your teacher's (and be pretty circumspect about that too).
@Christian, I remember when I first recorded myself, I went into a state of shock.
I do know how I sound, and therefore I continually correct as I go along, and in the recording it's the combination of sounds and corrections that is excruciating.
Andrew Victor - I was hoping you would reply. I've read your comments from other posts and have respect for your many years of experience.
"I get the best tone from the smoother hair."
Jim, I think you are doing the right things with your bow hair and your strings. When I think my strings or bow hair are misbehaving I get more serious about cleaning them. I use a clean, dry toothbrush to celan and separate bow hair as well as gentle rubbing with microfiber.
If violinmaking is a dark art then archetiers are Sauron. Bows are a mystery.
Generally speaking, the highest quality bow hair is pure stallion. Lesser quality is mare hair. The difference is the smoothness. Stallion hair is smoother than mare. I made the mistake of getting mixed mare on my old bow and it bit so much on the string and was so scratchy I couldn't stand it.
Following up on what Ann wrote:
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