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Found 1 result

  1. Bow Purchase Indecision/Regret

    Hi Folks, I've recently decided to upgrade my viola bow in an effort to reinvigorate my efforts in the practice room. I've played the viola for over 30 years, but only for fun the last 15 or so. Recently though I've rededicated my efforts and study, and am steadily getting back to my former ability. I'm not a professional player and am only searching for a bow to enrich my studio and practice. One day I hope to play in a small group or semi-professional Orchestra again, but right now it is about technique and form. Never having had a nice viola bow, I've always suspected that it was holding me back. So, I saved up the money, did tons of research and created a list of makers who's bows I wanted to try in the $5k-$6k range Ultimately I chose 10 bows to try: a few antiques like Bazin, Nurnberger, & Pfretzchner but most were contemporary makers by design: Mohr, Begin, Tepho, Zabinski, Gagne, Raguse, & Halsey. The good news is that my suspicions were confirmed. Indeed my bow was holding me back. With most of these bows I could suddenly play difficult passages more easily and tone was improved overall. Almost immediately my right hand was in sync with my left and familiar music was new again. So, needless to say I was excited and set down to the task of choosing one of these bows to purchase! This methodology might seem presumptuous to some, but I know myself and the rabbit hole of endless decisions and doubt (over having too many options) will only make my eventual decision impossible to backup. So, I decided from the beginning that - even if I was happy with only one or two of these bows - I would not do a second trial. So, I won't go into the details of each maker's bow, but suffice to say that I played on each bow to get first impressions about which of them made an impression. Ultimately I took comprehensive notes on each bow's pro's and con's before settling down to a top 3. This took several days and, by the end, I felt that I had a good sense of what each bow could offer me. This was also an educational process and I learned that I needed a stiffer stick (as I have a rather heavy bow arm) as all the soft sticks fell flat for me. While several makers jockeyed for the 3rd position, there were two major stand-outs for me. Emmanuel Bégin and Georges Tepho. Both bows were round sticks of medium stiffness (maybe the Bégin a little stiffer) well-balanced, and produced wonderful tone on both of my violas: a late 18th century viola and larger contemporary instrument. (note: not all the bows traveled-well between the two - and this was a major concern for me) So here's my dilemma. The Tepho and Bégin were neck-to-neck most of the time. I would like one for one piece but the other for a different one. In some cases, I like them both for the same piece but for different reasons. I would characterize the Bégin as a super-charged race car. It played fast pieces extremely well and with almost surgical-like precision, but was a bright bow in tone (and a glorious resonance would be produced on the D and A strings) but sometimes lacked the ability to pull emotion out of my viola's lower register. On slow pieces requiring more finesse, it seemed to be hard to control - or hold back - if you will. Still a lovely bow and a strong contender. The Tepho on the other hand is much more refined in terms of handling and tone. It is darker than the Tepho, but brighter than many of the other bows I tried. It too played fast pieces well, but not with the precision of the Bégin . It is a few grams heavier, weighted a bit more towards the tip, and that really gave me much more control over the bow when playing in the upper 1/3, not to mention advantages with tone. My wife compared the Tepho's tone to a well-aged wine - smooth but with lots of color, whereas the Bégin was like Champagne - bubbly and bright. In my notes for the bows, the Bégin blew me away with what I could do with it, but the Tepho I fell in love with. I still struggled with my decision so I made lots of recordings of back-and-forths between the two bows so I could hear them from a distance. In most cases the Tepho won each time. While the Begin transmitted it's precision and lovely upper-register tone, it didn't move me like the Tepho. So, I made my decision and purchased the Tepho. I had to take about a week of rest after the intense bow trial as I was experiencing some finger-tip numbness in my left hand. So, when I started playing again I was a bit rusty to say the least. So, I tried to ignore my bumbling and get back to playing as I did during the trial. I'm close now, but finding the bow much changed. Maybe it's all in my head and I'm just having regrets now that all my options are back in the shops. It seems very heavy to me all the sudden, and my control of it seems to reflect that. I'm not playing with the same confidence as before. I find myself thinking about the Bégin quite a bit and wondering if I made a mistake. I'll be the first to admit that my bow technique is not good. I tend to play at the tip too much and because of my stronger heavy arms, I don't play with much finesse in the lower bow. This is something I am working on. It's also something that makes me think that the Beginning - with its effortless lower-bow playability - was the better choice for my goals. I mean, it didn't sound bad, I was just moved emotionally by the Tepho more. Maybe this is simply a matter of indecision and poor bow technique and I'll grow into the Tepho. Perhaps some of you have had similar issues with new (& expensive) purchases. I would appreciate your advice. (sorry for the long read, but congratulations for making it to the end...) -Jeremy