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Advice needed: Buying a new bow


Lafont

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Hello,

I am on the waiting list of a highly regarded french bow maker who has won many awards over the last decade. After 3 years he is going to make my bow in the end of the year. One big question for me is: Should I buy a silver or a gold mounted bow? The maker said that there is no difference between gold and silver mounted bows by him regarding playability. Only that he uses more shiny wood for the gold ones.

Any opinions or advice highly appreciated.

Chris

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The maker said that there is no difference between gold and silver mounted bows by him regarding playability. Only that he uses more shiny wood for the gold ones.

I'd listen to what the maker has to say. The maker is saying that the difference is a cosmetic and not a playability one. So you have to decide if cosmetics is worth the extra cost for gold. Is the difference in price the usual thousand dollars or so?

How did the maker determine your playability preferences?

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the difference in weight between silver and gold is more than just cosmetic IMO and can effect the balance of the stick

If a maker can't account for the difference in weight of silver and gold in arriving at a final weight for the bow, then that's not much of a maker. There's no reason a gold mounted bow has to be heavier that a silver mounted one.

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Thank you for your first comments. As I already said, the maker is one of the top contemporary makers, so I think that he will compensate for the different weight of silver and gold. I haven't specified things like weight, balance etc. with him. At the moment, I'm in the inner process of deciding if I go for gold or not. The price difference is about 950 USD.

Chris

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Thank you for your first comments. As I already said, the maker is one of the top contemporary makers, so I think that he will compensate for the different weight of silver and gold. I haven't specified things like weight, balance etc. with him. At the moment, I'm in the inner process of deciding if I go for gold or not. The price difference is about 950 USD.

Chris

Have you seen and played both silver and gold mounted bows from this maker? If so, what was your preference? If not, can you try both a silver and a gold mounted bow?

But here's the problem:

Lay a silver and a gold mounted bow in front of a player, and one player may find the playability of the silver bow to be better than that of the gold bow. The next player to try the same bows may feel that the gold bow plays better than the silver one. Bows are a matter of intensely personal preference in terms of playability qualities. If you're looking for some kind of rule that relates gold or silver mounting to playability qualities, I think that's a hopeless task. The maker himself is saying there is no such correlation.

But if you're looking for which bow will please you the most in appearance, well, that's entirely your personal preference. Some people will say gold bows are more beautiful than silver, while others will find a gold bow to be ostentatious and gaudy, and prefer the simplicity of silver.

One functional difference might be maintenance, and maybe the bow technicians and makers out there can offer their opinion on whether gold or silver mounted bows are easier or harder to work on and maintain. For instance, is there any difference in the hardness of the metal between a gold and silver ferrule which makes one more likely to become misshaped and thus make a bow rehair harder? I know some bow techs will not accept tortoise shell frogs for rehairing because that material can be fragile. Maybe there's some difference between gold and silver in terms of ease of rehair. I don't know, and never thought that would be an issue, but I'm no bow technician.

One difference between gold and silver is that silver will tarnish and gold won't. So it might be easier to maintain the appearance of a gold bow. But if the player wipes down a bow after each use, including wiping down the metal on the frog and screw button, then there should be no problem with the silver tarnishing.

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I had the same question and ordered a gold and a silver, both. My maker told me he uses the only best wood for the bow, and there is no differences...

Actually I asked it ti Gary Leahy and he told me he uses more handsome wood for the gold. So maybe there is some difference between the makers.

3 years of waiting, maybe Yannick LeCanu?

And the weight, Gary Leahy told me that doesn't matter and modifying thickness of metal, or using lighter ebony, etc can compensate the weight

You have the same question like me and I hoope this will help you..

For me, I prefer gold mounted one, :)

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Hello,

I am on the waiting list of a highly regarded french bow maker who has won many awards over the last decade. After 3 years he is going to make my bow in the end of the year. One big question for me is: Should I buy a silver or a gold mounted bow? The maker said that there is no difference between gold and silver mounted bows by him regarding playability. Only that he uses more shiny wood for the gold ones.

Any opinions or advice highly appreciated.

Chris

++++++++

Two important choices of the stick material, pernambuco wood or carbon fiber? Unless you are prepared to pay for pernanbuco wood, carbon fiber

is not a bad choice. A good wooden bow may cost you $2000-3,000. Not many shop carry them neither. If you Compare the the mount

of gold used on it, it is not that much. A good bow is a good bow, with or wthout gold used. You choose a good bow first. If it happens to be gold mounted,

then it is fine.

What is a good bow? A bow meets all your needs. It is neither too stiff nor too soft to your liking. Once my old violin teacher cried when he

talked about his lost bow. It was that serious. Another teacher skipped my lesson when he was carried away talking about his favorite bow.

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carbon fiber

is not a bad choice.

1st hand experience here, to put it simple, pernambuco > carbon fiber.

The tone character you can get from wooden bow is much better than what you can from carbon fiber. Something about the material or acoustic properties of carbon fiber is affecting the tone character in a way that it draw out a sound that's rather boring. Clean, but boring, and usually not as rich as you can do with wooden bow.

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1st hand experience here, to put it simple, pernambuco > carbon fiber.

The tone character you can get from wooden bow is much better than what you can from carbon fiber. Something about the material or acoustic properties of carbon fiber is affecting the tone character in a way that it draw out a sound that's rather boring. Clean, but boring, and usually not as rich as you can do with wooden bow.

++++++++

True, in a degree. You have not played a bad wooden bow before. Some wooden bows can be really bad.

There are snake wood bows too. I do not know the difference. If you shop around, you will know your choices

which is not unlimited.

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LaFont,

There is a factor to consider. And that is whether you are a professional who needs the best playing bow to your manner of playing and your violin, or if you are thinking as a collector who might just put the bow away. There is a big difference!

This is only an opinion, but it's based on buying a lot of bows over a lifetime. If you're thinking as a player, (and I know this will irritate the makers), I would rather go through a pile of bows at a shop than order a bow. Just because a maker has won awards means little as to how any given bow might play. Of course, as long as you are allowed to reject the bow at no expense, then you are protected. The problem is that you get into a waiting game because the maker will certainly offer to make another, then another for you. If you need a bow as a player, get out there and try bows until you find one that fits you like a glove. They do exist. One thing I'm absolutely sure of is that you will end up with a better playing bow by that process. I think there is a general rule here: Any given single bow by any given maker, no matter how famous the maker or expensive the bow, can be a lemon. Out of the 15 or so Tourtes I've played, half were so-so and only the one mentioned below was divine. The rest were pretty good, but perhaps not worth the money to a player.

As to gold and silver. I have rarely seen a gold mounted bow that plays as well as I like. The two most perfect bows I've played on were a Tourte and a Eury, both simple silver. I have never bought and never intend to buy a gold mounted bow for my own use. I see that people are saying the makers use the best wood for gold mounted bows. That may be true for any particular modern maker, but when the maker picks out a piece of wood he has no idea how the bow will turn out. I have heard it said that, at least in the past, sticks that don't end up playing especially well are sometimes "dolled up" with fancy mountings. I believe this is not as prevalent today.

As to the matter of the balance of the bow, the maker, in the process of making, has to eventually deal with adjusting the balance (or at least not messing it up) by his choice of materials and how much to use. If someone is bound and determined to have a gold mounting for a given stick, the balance may suffer.

If you are a player, I would say to the maker that I want the best playing stick he can make and that I don't care what mountings he uses.

If you're thinking as a collector, by all means go for the gold, and anything else that would make your bow stand out as more unique and rare.

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LaFont,

There is a factor to consider. And that is whether you are a professional who needs the best playing bow to your manner of playing and your violin, or if you are thinking as a collector who might just put the bow away. There is a big difference!

This is only an opinion, but it's based on buying a lot of bows over a lifetime. If you're thinking as a player, (and I know this will irritate the makers), I would rather go through a pile of bows at a shop than order a bow. Just because a maker has won awards means little as to how any given bow might play. Of course, as long as you are allowed to reject the bow at no expense, then you are protected. The problem is that you get into a waiting game because the maker will certainly offer to make another, then another for you. If you need a bow as a player, get out there and try bows until you find one that fits you like a glove. They do exist. One thing I'm absolutely sure of is that you will end up with a better playing bow by that process. I think there is a general rule here: Any given single bow by any given maker, no matter how famous the maker or expensive the bow, can be a lemon. Out of the 15 or so Tourtes I've played, half were so-so and only the one mentioned below was divine. The rest were pretty good, but perhaps not worth the money to a player.

As to gold and silver. I have rarely seen a gold mounted bow that plays as well as I like. The two most perfect bows I've played on were a Tourte and a Eury, both simple silver. I have never bought and never intend to buy a gold mounted bow for my own use. I see that people are saying the makers use the best wood for gold mounted bows. That may be true for any particular modern maker, but when the maker picks out a piece of wood he has no idea how the bow will turn out. I have heard it said that, at least in the past, sticks that don't end up playing especially well are sometimes "dolled up" with fancy mountings. I believe this is not as prevalent today.

As to the matter of the balance of the bow, the maker, in the process of making, has to eventually deal with adjusting the balance (or at least not messing it up) by his choice of materials and how much to use. If someone is bound and determined to have a gold mounting for a given stick, the balance may suffer.

If you are a player, I would say to the maker that I want the best playing stick he can make and that I don't care what mountings he uses.

If you're thinking as a collector, by all means go for the gold, and anything else that would make your bow stand out as more unique and rare.

Will is offering a lot of sensible advice. The distinction between buying a bow as a player vs collector is an important one.

Will's point that I would stress is the one about the individuality of bows, if you are buying as a player. For one capable player the ideal bow may be bow X; for another capable player, bow X may not be that good at all. Bows can be very personal and individual in fitting what the player wants in terms of "playability." I assume your maker has or will have a good knowledge of your personal preferences for playability.

Another point worth considering is that there is probably not one ideal bow for a good player for all kinds of music. The bow you want for Mozart might be different from the bow you want for Brahms, and the bow you want for Bach might be different, again, from the first two. But now we're straying from the gold/silver distinctions into defining playability in the context of musical genres.

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If you need a bow as a player, get out there and try bows until you find one that fits you like a glove. They do exist.

The two most perfect bows I've played on were a Tourte and a Eury, both simple silver.

Very good advice, that's exactly the right way to acquire a bow IMO. It's true that by special ordering a bow, you have one shot. Better to try a pile and discard tons before arriving at the perfect bow. Interesting, though, that the 2 best bows you tried were - perhaps no surprise - by two great french makers.

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This is just for discussing the nature of things. I'm curious what experience others have had.

It's been my experience in requesting specific things from violin and bow makers that they have never, that I can remember, succeeded very well; often making something that wasn't as good as the instruments or bows that made me seek them out in the first place. For the most part I have given that up and leave the maker to do the best he can. And either buy or don't.

It brings to mind the great line of Phillip Kass in an article on Guadagnini. Something to this effect: "Count Cozio wanted G.B. to be more like Stradivari, but Guadagnini only wanted to make Guadagninis." I have mixed feelings about the relationship of player to maker. On the one hand certainly a young maker needs feedback, but at some point a player probably only gets in the way.

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This is just for discussing the nature of things. I'm curious what experience others have had.

It's been my experience in requesting specific things from violin and bow makers that they have never, that I can remember, succeeded very well; often making something that wasn't as good as the instruments or bows that made me seek them out in the first place. For the most part I have given that up and leave the maker to do the best he can. And either buy or don't.

It brings to mind the great line of Phillip Kass in an article on Guadagnini. Something to this effect: "Count Cozio wanted G.B. to be more like Stradivari, but Guadagnini only wanted to make Guadagninis." I have mixed feelings about the relationship of player to maker. On the one hand certainly a young maker needs feedback, but at some point a player probably only gets in the way.

I've commissioned two violins, and one commission was very successful, but the other one was not. I think a successful commission is a matter two things:

1. Making clear to the maker what it is you want, what's important and what's not important.

2. Asking for an instrument which generally accords with the kind of instrument that maker would make, and not violating the basic values, aethetics and making practices of the maker in the specifics of the request.

Both of these points deserve a lot of elaboration, but what both have in common is that the commissioning buyer has to have a good knowledge of the maker's instruments and the maker's preferences, and has to have good communications with the maker.

Point 1, making clear what you want:

You'll want to state which model, if the maker has more than one, and whether it should be antiqued or not, if that's an option.

But more specific information might also be helpful. The easiest way to do that is to use an existing instrument or bow of the maker's as a reference point. With that reference point the buyer can be very specific about the qualities wanted. Eg: "Make the new fiddle darker (or brighter) in tone." "Let me put more energy (bow pressure) into the instrument." Or "I have to work too hard to pull a tone on the reference instrument." "I have small hands and would appreciate a vibrating string length which isn't any longer than standard, and I would be delighted if it could be a couple of mm shorter."

State preferences in player's terms, not maker's. So no offering bout width or plate length numbers. Let the maker decide how to translate your player stated preferences into the specifics of making.

Point 2, Stick to asking for an instrument which the maker generally makes:

In the one unsuccessful commission I was involved in I went to a maker who seemed to use primarily a Strad model rather than del Gesu and liked to antique heavily. I asked for a straight varnish on a del Gesu model which would have all the tidiness, accuracy, and care which one might put into a Strad model. The fiddle I got had a bit of the casualness one might find in a del Gesu. While not flat out antiqued with dings and soot, the varnish was shaded somewhat and somewhat differently textured in various places, something I didn't want. If I had asked for an antiqued Strad model, I think the results would have been more on the mark; but my request was just the opposite, pretty much the opposite of what the maker's standard output was.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Actually, it depends on who is ordering it and what they ask for...

But if the bow isn't a personal order, you are correct.

A short reply; The #1 function of every bow is the tone that it will produce on your instrument. Like a violin, I would never order any bow by any maker simply because you cannot judge the tone or the feel, along with all the other factors tht make up a really good bow. OT

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A short reply; The #1 function of every bow is the tone that it will produce on your instrument. Like a violin, I would never order any bow by any maker simply because you cannot judge the tone or the feel, along with all the other factors tht make up a really good bow. OT

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

I do not buy anyrhing if I do not know what will be turning out in advance. Commisioning a bow is a no-no to me.

I have tried bows in a shop before, seldom I like. It is hard to get what you want even it is lying in front of you.

Since your question was a matter of choice between silver or gold, I would go for gold, asumme all other things being equal.

As the bit higher in price, I would not consider it a big deal.

It is easy to buy an old bow you like and have the luthier change its mounting in gold. Make sure the mounting is done right.

You have better controll of its result.

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fellows exactly right, if your commissioning a bow for $5000, and you go to a violin shop and blindly add your $5000 bow to their choice of 19 bows the're selling for $5000, and lets just pretend youve never seen your commissioned bow so dont know which one it is, what are the chances your commissioned bow will be your favourite out of 20, or that you pick any one of the shops 19 instead, i hope this isnt hard to imagine, the point im making is the chances of your bow being your personal favorite out of 20 good choices is pretty low IMO, no ones doubting the quality of the bow your commissioning, but good bows are like favourite chairs, you don't know if you like them until you sit in them, and you cant go by appearances like gold mounting or fancy shell inlays, in many ways its harder to find a bow youre happy with than a violin

on the other hand if youve played several bows by this maker, not just one and you basically like them all then you are making an informed decision to commission a bow from him.

also if the maker gives you a trial period and money back return, your covered(does anyone do that)because you can go to that violin shop and compare

or if your just totally in love with this maker and his work, have played one, and you dont care if you could get a better bow you just want his, then by all means go ahead and buy

but to go back to the beginning of the thread, i dont know for sure, but the idea that any maker could make two identical bows, one gold one silver and there would be no difference in weight, balance, playability etc, seems ludicrous to me, since silver is twice the strength of gold and half the weight(roughly) to make a gold bow the same weight as a silver bow, the gold fittings would have to be 1/4 as strong, and half as thick, and while ill admit that can be done, its unlikely and more probable your gold mount is going to be heavier, which might be a good thing or not, a ferrule thats half as thick, and 4 times as bendable doesnt sound good to me, though

my old boss was a respected california bow maker that got up to $5000 for his bows, partly because he did a lot of fancy inlay, tortoiseshell and gold fittings, he never skimped on gold to make a bow light like silver, but he made heavy sticks, and got a lot of volume from his bows, im no expert but i think the point of using gold is to make the frog and bow heavier, because some people prefer the tone of heavy over light, given that your maker does what hes says and makes the gold weigh the same as the silver, i would reccomend silver, if he were to say i can get a better tone with a heavier frog by using gold, then id be more likely to get the heavier gold one

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