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Wood vs. Synthetics - Is it a matter of ethics?


Mark Neukirchen
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Where I live, here in the wild and woolly west, many old time fiddlers swear by their Glasser fiberglass bows, and Red Label strings, and wouldn't think of changing them, for just this reason, and for the fact that they often play outdoors, with no amplification, and in many different weather conditions. Fiberglass or carbon fiber bows work extremely well in these conditions

Wooden bows often seem WAY too weak or fragile for them.

In that new commercial (have you seen it?) with Charlie Daniels, where he's showing the classical violinist at a restaurant “how it is done” - well, there are fiddlers out there who chronically hit that fiddle just that hard...

Your post made me think of that commercial even before you mentioned Charlie Daniels. Here it is on Youtube.

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You're right, from what I read here and there fiddlers, electric violins players or blue grass players would rather use fiber bows. Well I have one too but again it's too early in my learning curve for me to really feel the difference.

Good luck with the music.

I'm a fiddler taught by a thirty year classical violinist who switched to fiddle after seeing Byron Burline play Cajun fiddle live.

Her words - " It looked like he was having so much fun!".

I love my wooden bows, (and Dominant strings) and would not get rid of them for anything, and yet I am continually tempted to buy a Coda bow after having tried one. It's a simply different "feel" and response.

I do remember not being able to really notice much of a difference between different bows, for about the first five years of playing, though I used to say what a huge difference there was, because it seemed expected...

(I know, I used to like to plaese everyone...)

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But, this thread is SO ripe for this (what I would consider obvious) point to be made, that I hate to waste the opportunity.

Isn't it?

Perhaps it is blunt or contrary, but, a hesitation to point out the obvious, is very often exactly what renders a coversation utterly beside the point.

A polite bit of agreement.

Not exactly why I post here.

I once worked with an individual that when confronted with the fact that something was obvious, would say, “What’s obvious to one person may not be obvious to another.”

I found it funny the first time I heard it, but unfortunately, there is some truth in that thought.

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The talented young violinist will find the ethics of bow material choice in the same place where the unwritten "Rules" are published.

Unwritten Rule #1. Teacher knows best. :)

Jim

My unwritten rule #1: "Question everything" Might want to read Erick Friedman on teaching:

On Galamian: He taught something that was absolutely crazy: that the bow should describe a figure-eight across the strings. I don't know why other than that this dictum sounded good because it didn't address what the hair does on the string, since when the hair is perfectly perpendicular on the sounding point with the right pressure, you will get a perfect sound. He always - again by default - taught one to play close to the bridge. Of course, you don't play close to the bridge, but rather as close as you can get away with! As soon as you get past the sounding-point, you must do something to protect the string, otherwise you get a squelch, an uncomfortable sound. That's why all of us used to say that you could always tell a Galamian student, because they all scratched!’

On teaching: ‘There is a standard of medical practice that is accepted by the profession, but a violin teacher can teach anything he pleases. Teachers, often with the best intentions, will teach their students things that they have never really thought about, e.g. “you have to round your fingers”, “you have to see your elbow”, “hold the violin in the centre”, “hold the bow so you don't lose it”. They might as well be giving them an infection. They're teaching them problems! There isn't a great violinist in history who automatically rounded the fingers. I wear a 37-inch sleeve. Does that mean that someone who wears a 32-inch sleeve has to manage his arm and fingers the same as I do? Fingers are equally disparate. Most violinists with any degree of security play the same way: with their palms; not their fingers. The fingers fall. Perlman's great security comes from his enormous hands, well- developed arms and long fingers. Heifetz and Milstein and Stern had this too - knowing where the hand is. You don't find notes with the tips of the fingers!’

‘If you were studying with me, I'd tell you that your elbow must be under the violin, which seems natural. But what if I hang you by your feet? Now your elbow would be over the violin! All of which is to say that consideration must be given to the angle of the violin. People with short necks tend to hold the violin flatter. I have a very long neck, so I hold the violin at a considerable angle and my elbow has to reflect the difference in angle. Once there was a publicity photo of Heifetz playing with a lowered bow hand elbow, when in fact he held that elbow very high. It seems that the photographer had asked Heifetz to lower his elbow because he couldn't see his face, but the pose was slavishly imitated.’

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  • 5 months later...

I think I read somewhere that Charley actually cuts some of the hairs so it will look that way. it's part of the act (but of course, I don't know if that's true).

Anyway, I think that sometimes the idea of ethics and tradition can stand in the way of the evolution of our instrument. You might remember that a similar arguement went on for a while over Pegheds and Perfection pegs (which I personally think was a great invention and I have them on all my violins). There seems to be less disagreement over them now as players begin to see that they can work to one's advantage. Don't get me wrong as there's nothing wrong with a smooth working set of standard pegs, but few other stringed instruments are still using them today.

I personally dismiss teachers who are locked in to tradition as a governing mode of all violin education. And I dismiss ethics entirely in this case.

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Sheeple don't need encouragement, do they ?

E...

Ah yes, ethics...

What is truly ethical behavior, and what is simply self serving rhetoric?

A long life and many years have taught me that pretty much anyone who views others as "sheeple", is simply refusing to see that such traits are not ever exclusively the domain of "others".

Be careful here. Why identify a pile of crap, just to step in it yourself?

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It seems to me that the real "ethics" issue here is the "moral dilimma" that this parent faces. She has a "talented young violinist" for whom she has sought out and paid good money to a "well known and influential" teacher.

Does this parent chose to follow the dictates of an instructor whom she believes to be of benefit to her child, or does she teach her child to think for him/herself and not follow blindley what they are told?

There are times when we all must do what someone else wants us to, whether it be our boss or a customer who is paying us, or a "significant other" with whom we just want to "keep the peace". Usually, when we really don't want to.

There are other times when we simply decide that we are going to do something "my way or no way" and we don't care how much they are paying us or want to argue about it.

If you are paying someone to "teach", at what point do you decide you are just going to do it their way and at what point do you decide that you don't care how "well known and influential" they are.

Moral Dilimma indeed. My Dad taught me that part of becomeing an "adult" was learning that "you live and die by your own choices and decisions", but to also remember that often times, both choices have their gains and losses.

Moral Dilimma, indeed.

I think it might be best to simply offer information on the benfits of each and let this parent make the decision regarding what is best for her own child. A well informed person can at least change their mind when or if circumstances dictate.

-----Barry

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How much of this post can you apply to yourself ?

I stand BY what I said. Not IN it.

McBenet: I like what you have to say in your post. (#36).

E...

Thanks Eric,

My oldest son is 33 and my youngest is 17. I've been raising kids for 33 years, 34 by the time my youngest turns 18, and I'm not really any smarter, just tired a lot. :)

Many moral dilimmas over the years. I have told them all, I do the best I can with what I've got and I did everything believing it was in their best intrest. Time will tell if I did anything right or not, but so far, the two that are in their 30's are doing pretty darn good if I say so my self (and I do all the time - lmao).

Anyway, the question still stands:

Given that no one is "perfect", when do you ignore the "expert/instructor" that you are paying, and if you are going to ignore the "expert/instructor", why are you paying them?

-----Barry

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I recently had a conversation with the mother of a talented young violinist in need of a new bow. She mentioned that her son requires a very strong and rigid stick because he is such an aggressive player. Out of curiosity I asked if he had tried any of the new high-end carbon fiber bows, and she replied that this was not an option because his teacher already had a firm discussion with him on the "ethics" of using a synthetic bow. His teacher is well known and influential within the violin community.

I found the use of the word “ethics” in the context of a violin bow choice rather interesting. I can see the word "preference" based on the importance one places on tradition, but ethics? Any thoughts on this?

Hi,

I would replace the word "ethics" with that of "dogmatic" It better fits the teacher!

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I recently had a conversation with the mother of a talented young violinist in need of a new bow. She mentioned that her son requires a very strong and rigid stick because he is such an aggressive player. Out of curiosity I asked if he had tried any of the new high-end carbon fiber bows, and she replied that this was not an option because his teacher already had a firm discussion with him on the "ethics" of using a synthetic bow. His teacher is well known and influential within the violin community.

I found the use of the word “ethics” in the context of a violin bow choice rather interesting. I can see the word "preference" based on the importance one places on tradition, but ethics? Any thoughts on this?

++++++++++++++++

A teacher is a teacher, is a teacher who knows better than his or her srudents at least for the time

when students taking lessons.

Do you want to hear a world class violinsist to perform a violin concerto with a carbon fiber instrument with carbon fiber bow?

If you bought a ticket for the concert, you would ask your money back for sure? People do not like cheap stuff. It is like cheating.

So, it is " unethical".

If money is not an issue, I would like a wooden bow. Do I like carbon fiber bows? I have three, because they are pretty good for the money.

My best three bows are not made of carbor fiber.

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If you knew that the world class violinist in question owned several multi-million dollar instruments; and after you enjoyed his/her performance, you found out that they played on a $25000 instrument........

would you want your money back ?

Would you feel "cheated" ?

E...

+++++++++++++

Usually in the program of the concert , it will mention that what kind of instrument the violinist is going to use.

The violinist would be provided (loan) with whatever expensive violin he desires. The combination is important, the artist and his tools.

The audience has certian expectation. Can you blame them?

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Ah yes, ethics...

What is truly ethical behavior, and what is simply self serving rhetoric?

A long life and many years have taught me that pretty much anyone who views others as "sheeple", is simply refusing to see that such traits are not ever exclusively the domain of "others".

Be careful here. Why identify a pile of crap, just to step in it yourself?

Just curious, are you able to see the contradictions in what you just said and how you said it?

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Just curious, are you able to see the contradictions in what you just said and how you said it?

Oh well, aside from the problamatic semantics of my post, the point has to with calling people "sheeple", as if we are so far above them, which I always consider a bit condescending and rude, as, outside of our particular field of knowledge, we can all be considered "sheeple", by others, or not, and I simply would prefer not.

It's the simple fact of resorting to name calling that I don't think is necessary nor do I agree that people are sheeple.

If someone has the freedom to call other people "sheeple", then, I should not say something about it, because that's not PC?

Interesting that just today I was listening to the radio, and (I think BOB radio is syndicated, so others might have heard this call also) a caller called in and left a message on their recorded message board saying;

"yeah, I've been listening to the show for a while now, and I think that all of the callers that have been calling in and leaving messages are a bunch of morons"

He was right, I guess.

(of course, I immediatelty thought of this thread...)

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If it sounds good and you made the music yourself without any electronic help I'd say you're good to go. Even great players making recordings dub stuff in and out to complete the final cut. Wood has been replaced in so many pursuits. I was a Competitive archer and I daresay Robing Hood would not have recognized much of my equipment! Just think of all the places wood had been replaced Skis, Fishing Rods, Gun Stocks on Target Rifles, Tennis Rackets, Golf Clubs, I think experimentation with materials is human nature ever since the first stone tools replaced sharpened wooden ones. I am no expert, but but the best stuff usually rises to to top on it's own merits. In the case of a bow it is hard to quantify what makes a great bow from just a good one, but it would make a dandy Doctoral Dissertation for someone! (weight, modulus of elasticity, rebound speed, balance point, weight distribution, etc., etc,) My on is doing his Masters Degree work studying turbine engines and his test cell looks like something strait out of Star Trek! If Carbon bows replace much of the middle ground it will leave more scarce pernambuco for high end bows.

Dwight

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Oh well, aside from the problamatic semantics of my post, the point has to with calling people "sheeple", as if we are so far above them, which I always consider a bit condescending and rude, as, outside of our particular field of knowledge, we can all be considered "sheeple", by others, or not, and I simply would prefer not.

....

"yeah, I've been listening to the show for a while now, and I think that all of the callers that have been calling in and leaving messages are a bunch of morons"

He was right, I guess.

(of course, I immediatelty thought of this thread...)

CT, I really appreciate your points in this post. But is this another contradiction?

If I heard you right, you object to being called "sheeple" but have no problem associating the posts of others with the word "morons"?

My guess is that I'm missing something here...

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