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What makes a good bow work?


Omobono
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There are also neurotic bows...I just want to play the music so well, but I'm afraid of what you'll think. Should I lean or play flat or maybe at the tip. Oh what would my mother say, or her friends for that matter. I believe Hofstadter said it best discussing all of Bach's intricacies. There are too many options. I just can't, but maybe?

That's all the Woody Allen I could come up with.

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I know that it can be a lightning rod issue around here, but I'll admit that I'm a confirmed and committed Arcus bow user. Having said that, I can definitely feel vibrations running through the sticks of my Arcus violin bows. It seems to me that learning to allow those vibrations by a gentle bow grip, not choking them off with too heavy of a hold, is key to getting Arcus bows to work their magic. I think this is true with good wood bows too, but for me the experience is not as direct as it is with my Arcus bows, if I can put it that way. That tactile quality of my Arcus bows gives me a relationship with the strings, and therefore an expressiveness, that I simply can't get from my wood bows.

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2 - does it actually enhance/amplify desirable sound from an instrument?


3 - to what extent can it also absorb/dampen extraneous/undesirable sound?\


 


2 - The bow provides the energy to activate the string.  No other element of the violin amplifies


(Makes Stronger, Adds Energy) to the sound.  Other parts of the system transmit energy


from one medium to another (ultimately air) with some filtering.  


 


      So the question should be : Do all bows (rosin, hairs, playing pressures, bow speeds etc)


      excite the (steel, gut, nylon etc.) string in exactly the same way ?


 


3 - The bridge does the major filtering job on the violin.  If you do not believe this,


     make a bridge with minimal filtering (NO holes anywhere) and listen to the


     screech of unfiltered string sound.  


 


     A good bow makes it possible to activate the string in many different ways,


     all easily managed by a competent player (At least 10,000 hours in the practice room).


     Probably the most important parameters are stiffness and the second moment,


     center of percussion, although I have not played bows made of light woods, lighter than


     density 1.0. 

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The bridge does the major filtering job on the violin.  If you do not believe this,

     make a bridge with minimal filtering (NO holes anywhere) and listen to the

     screech of unfiltered string sound.  

I guess that's something that interests me with regard to the bow.

I'm wondering when we say 'that's a good bow'

is this one of the things it is doing - assisting in refining the filtering process?

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I guess that's something that interests me with regard to bow.

I'm wondering when we say 'that's a good bow'

is this one of the things it is doing - assisting in refining the filtering process?

I'd say it's likely. Bow makers are very concerned with grain, density and stiffness, but many have invested a good deal of money in Lucchi meters to grade the sound travel properties. I don't think they do this for nothing.

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So when I sense a particular bow seems to produce

a richer, fuller, smoother sound on a certain instrument,

with just a bit of 'gritty' woodiness',

what is happening?

Are the properties of that bow somehow in sympathy with or complimenting

the frequencies /overtones that go to make up the sound I like?

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I'd say it's likely. Bow makers are very concerned with grain, density and stiffness, but many have invested a good deal of money in Lucchi meters to grade the sound travel properties. I don't think they do this for nothing.

 

So this is not some sort of voodoo like free plate tuning that some say is?

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try putting some blue tack at various places ....and perhaps the bow has changed ...if not ....the bow doesn't vibrate

Jim

Just to look at the issue from another perspective

here is a brief analysis of the movement of a length of wood from another instrument,

namely the Xylophone.

 

http://www.phys.uconn.edu/~gibson/Notes/Section4_1/Sec4_1.htm

 

Agitated by some force the length of wood is set in motion (vibrates) and emits sound.

 

But this motion is complex, as nodal points are established (emitting diverse overtones?)

 

Maybe this gives some idea of what is happening when a bow (through its hair) is agitated by friction against the string?

post-86-0-76632700-1431133876_thumb.png

post-86-0-75488200-1431133887_thumb.png

post-86-0-55434500-1431133898_thumb.png

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The fun happens when you use a really big string and a tunable strobe light.  You can see the string vibrating in fractions in the harmonic series.  I think it is a pretty common thing in college physics classrooms.

 

DLB

 

The fun happens when you use a really big string and a tunable strobe light.  You can see the string vibrating in fractions in the harmonic series.  I think it is a pretty common thing in college physics classrooms.

DLB

Obviously that kind of 'twanging' is only visible in a relatively loose filament, not in a stiff piece of wood.

 

It will be the ribbon of hair that conducts vibration from the string (bridge and instrument) to the stick and allows 

some interference between the two vibrating bodies.

This is my interest, this interaction, and I'm guessing that this is where some damping and reinforcing takes place

which in turn creates that unique 'character' of the combination of one particular bow and one particular instrument.

I'm trying to say all this in non-scientific language.

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This is very general:

 

From a technical standpoint, there are basic issues such as length, weight, the relationship of weight and balance, camber, stick graduations, straighteness and issues like twist.

 

From a performance standpoint there are considerations of smoothness and strength of the draw across the string from tip to frog - considering weak spots where the bow might collapse or wiggle - and the bigger issue of spiccato, which is really a more generalized term encompassing a number of different bow strokes - where the bow needs to leave the string and return in a way that can be easily controlled and manipulated by the musician.

 

Great players can do amazing things with most any bow, but a great bow will make their already difficult job a little bit easier.

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From a technical standpoint, there are basic issues .....

From a performance standpoint there are considerations of smoothness and strength of the draw across the string ......

Great players can do amazing things with most any bow, but a great bow will make their already difficult job a little bit easier.

I guess I'm trying to home in on the sound that results from the  'interaction' between violin/cello and bow.

When a player (good or indifferent) picks up a bow that really works and sounds well for them

what is happening acoustically that makes it 'zing'?

I understand 'control' of the stick is another story.

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I guess I'm trying to home in on the sound that results from the  'interaction' between violin/cello and bow.

 

Have you ever heard any explanation at all over the years?  I can't remember hearing any.  

 

I have certainly been among several violinists who all hear remarkable differences between two fine bows, but never an explanation.  It must be a physical thing, but what?  And how we could duplicate a bow we liked is maybe more of a mystery than the ,,Segreti di Stradivari''   :)

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I found this description on theblog of bowmaker, Charles Espey:

http://charlesespeybows.blogspot.kr/2011/09/ebauchage.html

 

"The basic level of strength players currently want in a bow is fairly high given the scope of today’s repertoire but it is a mistake to over-react to this fact to the detriment of sound quality. Flexibility will promote warmth in the sound here so it will be more advantageous to make a bow that is almost too flexible than one that is more resistant than necessary.

 

ebauchage.jpg

 

For this bow I have gravitated in the choice to a lighter brown stick with a honey-brown striping, not too dense but very strong. The fresh shavings are light colored and darken in a few days in the air and light. The grain also has a certain pattern of perturbations that I feel will help accent the lower frequencies without cutting out the violin’s upper frequency incisiveness. The height and mass of the head and frog are important elements as well. Here I’m making a decision regarding the stick and how it is shaped based on experience and intuition. I’m confident I can make a bow that plays to my client’s taste, it’s the bow's sound potential that is my biggest challenge as a bow maker. Creating a sound signature in a bow is not something we can do with technical accuracy and the wood has a voice of it’s own."

 

I am intrigued to hear a bowmaker's language and am taken by his last statement in particular.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am pro. violin player and bow freak

After a lot of experiments I can say for sure that the bow stick do vibrate if you have a well made one.

The vibration is easy to feel in the frog area when you play on the lower strings.

What makes a good bow to work is the wright camber and the wright hair tension.

Yes, the correct hair tension is very important because the hair makes the contact with the string.

If the hair tension is too high, you have the feeling the bow has not enough grip with the string and you need to push(press) more in order to have the sound you need.

If the hair tension is too low, the bow feels soft and weak.

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