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Tips for Buying a Bow? Bow Maker Recommendation?


tchaikovsgay
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Hi. I have finally saved up about GBP1000 to get a better bow. My current bow is beginner quality (less than GBP250), which was constantly criticized by everyone for a long time. (my violin is about GBP3000 though; intermediate price?)

Now I've practiced and studied a lot every day, I think it would be reasonable for me to upgrade to a better bow before starting my Masters degree in September.

Although I have been hardworking, I never have a lot of experience of buying violin accessories (or interacting with luthiers and bow makers), specifically bows. To be honest, when I look at the bows online, they all look the same to me

https://www.martinswanviolins.com/violin-bows/violin-bows-low/

https://www.corilon.com/shop/en/bows.html

staring at these pages for a few minutes, I couldn't tell any differences apart from the price; they are just with different designs???

Last time I get a bow, I bought one for GBP100, and when I use it during the lesson, my teacher was really angry. He pointed out the winding is dirty and poorly made. He also guessed it correctly that the seller "gave me a discount" (the seller says the bow is worth GBP150 but sold me for GBP100); he thought I was being ripped off. That bow has a very heavy tip (for my skinny arms), and I never used it anymore.

So, I tried to get as much info as I can. I won't lie to others but I don't want to be tricked either. Now I understand what materials can be used to make bows, but there is not much info on selecting bows online. A few questions are:

German bow vs French bow?

modern bow vs antique bow?

Thank you

P.S. sorry for the chaos caused in my previous post, I won't talk about NSFW stuff again publicly, as someone inboxed me and gave me some good advice and solution, thus not everyone likes to see NSFW stuffs in a strings board, I understand

 

Edit 01/06/2019: Me and my family came to a decision: we fix the problems on my current GBP3000 violin (strings overlapping in pegbox) and GBP250 bow (straightness), thus continue using them before I saved enough money, and most importantly, have enough experience to identify good instruments; there are a lot of scam "teachers" who sells you things and irresponsible dealers from my country. When I'm really ready, I'll go to Martin Swan.

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Go to a dealer and try bows. Don't be afraid of trying and comparing good carbon fiber bows, too. The Codabows in your price range can be excellent players, but CF bows can be brighter than wood bows on some violins. This is not necessarily a noticeable thing on many violins.

I'd recommend you ultimately buy a bow that weighs between 58 - 62g. Some people prefer heavier or lighter bows, but this is generally the sweet spot for violin bows. Also, learn how to measure the location of the balance point, and understand how to determine if a bow is well-cambered.

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I think the price guidelines for purchasing a new bow are less reliable than for violins.

You do pay for materials - high quality pernambuco, silver or gold, etc . ...

But - at the end of the day - you want a bow that works for you - the proper weight, the proper balance, the proper response to technique; does it bounce when you want it to bounce, does it pull smoothly when you want it to pull smoothly, etc.

A more expensive bow is more likely to perform well (because it's well made out of quality materials) - but not always.

And - each bow will react differently to each violin...

It's best if you can try several bows with your violin.

If it's dirty - or not - really isn't a reflection on quality or playability - just on maintenance.

...and, just like any object, price can also reflect provenance. You will pay a lot for a Tubbs bow - even it's a crappy bow.

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I contacted a respected maker, we talked about my preferences, and he said he would call me when he had a good sampling of bows (viola). After some time my husband (a good violinist) and I journeyed to his studio. First I played and my husband listened (blind), noting preferences. Then we mixed up the order and he played while I listened. We agreed on the top two.

Today, 20 years later, I am completely happy with my bow.

I think it is very important to strive for a more objective perspective and not be overly swayed by the materials and appearances. When it later came time for my husband to shop for a bow (different maker), we used the same process but ended up buying two: the ivory one he fell in love with and the ebony that sounded /played better to me. Guess which one which one he loves most now, fifteen years later? The ebony.

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I would reinforce what others are saying - you simply have to try a lot of bows, preferably with your eyes shut.

I have access to some of the finest bows ever made, but I choose to use a humble Cuniot-Hury - I have never found a bow that suits me better, though perhaps it just suits the kind of violins I gravitate towards ...

I also worry about dropping a Tourte, particularly if it belongs to someone else :lol:

In every pile of one hundred cheap bows there will be one gem. As you go up in price the statistics get better, but I don't know of a single maker who hasn't occasionally turned out a lemon. 

 

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

 but I choose to use a humble Cuniot-Hury - I have never found a bow that suits me better, though perhaps it just suits the kind of violins I gravitate towards 

I remember some time ago when it was time to pick up my Cuniot-Hury from a rehair.  The lady manager mentioned something along the lines of "that's one hell of a stick boy".  Then I mentioned what it was and long story short, let her/them keep it for another week.

I remember another member here ran across a Lamy that he or she wanted opinions on weather to pursue for purchase or let it go by the wayside.  That one could of been a twin of the Cuniot-Hury I have and I mentioned to go for it with the Lamy at 61 gr. , if I remember right.  Must of been a good deal.  She never came back to Maestronet to report back.    

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For starters, what country are you in ?

When I was importing British bows, Brian Tunnicliffe's always pleased everyone who tried them and were pretty modestly priced. (Of course, he was just getting started). He seems to fly under the radar for some reason.

If in Britain though, I'd play through Martin's stock before deciding, for sure.

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7 hours ago, martin swan said:

I would reinforce what others are saying - you simply have to try a lot of bows, preferably with your eyes shut.

I have access to some of the finest bows ever made, but I choose to use a humble Cuniot-Hury - I have never found a bow that suits me better, though perhaps it just suits the kind of violins I gravitate towards ...

I also worry about dropping a Tourte, particularly if it belongs to someone else :lol:

In every pile of one hundred cheap bows there will be one gem. As you go up in price the statistics get better, but I don't know of a single maker who hasn't occasionally turned out a lemon. 

 

Wasn’t Voirin famous for burning any bow that he thought he didn’t need his standard?

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I’m sure others have said this, but the way to learn about bows is to play bows.

And it does no good to play 100 bows that are selling for $500 each, because even though you might find a splendid stick among them, it will be splendid on a much lower level and what you want. Go into the shop and asked to play his best bows. All of them. Truly great bows are magical, just magical and until you pick one up you can’t understand. And when you do pick one up, you will be thunderstruck.

Before you can find something you like, you have to decide what you like in the first place; what weight do you prefer, what balance what indescribable traits are you looking for?

Once upon a time, I loved my AC Schuster, and I still have it,   And it is still a fine bow, but I never play it. It did not change but I refined my desires.

I’m sure almost everybody has said basically the same thing, without realizing it, you are asking us to tell you what you like,  what to buy, where to buy it, and how much to spend on it.

 

Edited by PhilipKT
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A luthier saw me play once and said... "Have you really tried different bows and found something that worked for you?  Because I think that bow you are playing is not working for you."  Yeah, he's a friend, but I took his advice to heart.  I happen to know a famous bowmaker and I went to him and said--I want a bow, how do I proceed?  He sent me home with a case with six bows, after hearing me play each one.  Each one of these bows was exquisite, BTW, but I liked the lighter bows best (he later pointed out that the bows I liked were from a particular log of pernambuco that he said... has something...)  I played for two weeks and came back with my two favorites, one of which was my favorite in the first five minutes of playing.  He had me play those for another two weeks, and the one that was my instant favorite indeed stood out, still.   I said, I think that's my bow.  He said, Well, you can have that one, but this one (pulled out from behind him) was the one I made thinking about the way I saw/heard you interact with the other bows.  It was... perfect... (and from that same log...) And violating what everyone here always says, it has been the best bow to use on anything I play.  So I recommend going to play the best bows you can find, and find something that gives you that experience.  

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While you’re at it, find a shop that has an Arcus in your budget.  If an online dealer, they will send a few for trial (depending).  I was reluctant to spend a good sum on an Arcus bow, but it was well worth it to me.  It can’t hurt to try one and see if it’s a good match.

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Go into the shop and asked to play his best bows. All of them.

I disagree with this. After a Tourte or a Persoit or a Kittel, anything in your price range is going to be a crushing disappointment. Why do that to yourself ? Why end up perenially disappointed with a bow you might have really liked, had you not compared it against something completely out of its league ?

An old violin shop axiom is to not let anyone looking for an instrument play whatever primo fiddle's on offer, for the same reason. After a really good one, anything else, even if modestly nice, will be drek.

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55 minutes ago, A432 said:

After a Tourte or a Persoit or a Kittel, anything in your price range is going to be a crushing disappointment. Why do that to yourself ?

The "old violin shop axiom" is BS.

A432, I sense that you are not in any doubt about your opinions, but on this you are wrong, IMO. Learn what is out there, and find out where the bargains for players are.  They exist.  There are bows being made today as good as Tourte or anyone.  Without playing the good stuff, you won't know what the good stuff is.  The only crushing disappointment is that you could find the equal of your Kittel under $5K, after you just mortgaged your future.  I'd put my bow up against any of those terrifically-expensive famous names.  As would any luthier who has rehaired it.  They always say... you realize--this is a very. fine. bow.  Yeah, I know.  There is no reason to buy an old violin or bow if your agenda is the quality of playability or sound.  There is a deep bench of quality in modern bowmaking, and I think it is the equal of any historical maker.  A432 has drunk the Kool-aid, or they have deep pockets and have fabulous old French bows and a Guarneri.  Good for you.  But there are other ways to get there.

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5 hours ago, palousian said:

A luthier saw me play once and said... "Have you really tried different bows and found something that worked for you?  Because I think that bow you are playing is not working for you."  Yeah, he's a friend, but I took his advice to heart.  I happen to know a famous bowmaker and I went to him and said--I want a bow, how do I proceed?  He sent me home with a case with six bows, after hearing me play each one.  Each one of these bows was exquisite, BTW, but I liked the lighter bows best (he later pointed out that the bows I liked were from a particular log of pernambuco that he said... has something...)  I played for two weeks and came back with my two favorites, one of which was my favorite in the first five minutes of playing.  He had me play those for another two weeks, and the one that was my instant favorite indeed stood out, still.   I said, I think that's my bow.  He said, Well, you can have that one, but this one (pulled out from behind him) was the one I made thinking about the way I saw/heard you interact with the other bows.  It was... perfect... (and from that same log...) And violating what everyone here always says, it has been the best bow to use on anything I play.  So I recommend going to play the best bows you can find, and find something that gives you that experience.  

Hi palousian, that's interesting. May we know what you paid for the bow?

I'm not a player, but learning to. I am an amateur violin builder with some cheap and a few self made bows. All bows sound a bit different, all of them lacking in certain areas.

The difference when my violins are played by a pro player with a good bow (one has a Sartory) is mind blowing. I can't afford a Sartory, so i guess i could look for a good contemporary bow (or even a repaired one).   

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I think maybe A432 and palousian are taking at cross purposes.

As I said, not all great makers consistently made great bows, and in many violin shops you will find less than ideal examples which for some reason or another have been sitting around unloved for a long time. Of course you can find a superb but inexpensive modern bow which will outplay an indifferent Dominique Peccatte (though I think it will cost the OP quite a bit more than £1000).

But if you play a really great Persoit or Tourte for long enough to really understand what it offers, then you are destined for disappointment ever after.

There is also the question of what you are wanting a bow to do. I am painfully aware that I can't really judge how well a bow will perform in soloist repertoire, but listening to great players trying out bows in serious concert spaces, it's pretty obvious which bow offers tone and projection and what doesn't. Even a 5% improvement is enough to justify a 100% price hike to a concert violinist.

Many of these "needle in a haystack" cheap bows will fall flat on their faces when confronted with a world-class player. That doesn't mean they aren't a terrific bargain for someone a few rungs down the ladder, or for someone who isn't constantly attempting down bow flying staccato.

Horses for courses ...

Voirin - I am pretty sure he was more concerned with his level of workmanship and the quality and stability of the wood than with minute judgments of playability. He had a pretty broad range of what was acceptable in terms of strength, balance etc (judging by the ones he didn't burn that have passed through our shop ...)

 

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