How does one choose a good Baroque bow?


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6 hours ago, sospiri said:

So do I. But does the type of bow matter that much? 

Yes it matters.  Not to say you can't apply historical performance precepts to modern equipment, but the full effect only comes with the full equipment.  How far down that road you want to go, or what aspects are important to you, is of course a personal decision. 

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13 minutes ago, Andres Sender said:

Yes it matters.  Not to say you can't apply historical performance precepts to modern equipment, but the full effect only comes with the full equipment.  How far down that road you want to go, or what aspects are important to you, is of course a personal decision. 

Well do we even understand the rhythms Bach heard in his head while composing this music? 

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Thanks for all the comments and suggestions! They have all lead to some interesting reading. Much appreciated.

To be clear, I am not looking to reproduce an historical sound or performance. I just want to try a baroque style bow to see if I can use it to create some different expression and color, particularly on string crossings on triple and quadruple stops in Bach partitas on my modern violins.

So I ordered an early 20th century pernambuco Baroque-style bow made by a good German maker. It seemed to fit the specifications I was looking for after reading the information I was pointed to on this thread. I will let you know how it works out. 

 

 

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5 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions! They have all lead to some interesting reading. Much appreciated.

To be clear, I am not looking to reproduce an historical sound or performance. I just want to try a baroque style bow to see if I can use it to create some different expression and color, particularly on string crossings on triple and quadruple stops in Bach partitas on my modern violins.

So I ordered an early 20th century pernambuco Baroque-style bow made by a good German maker. It seemed to fit the specifications I was looking for after reading the information I was pointed to on this thread. I will let you know how it works out. 

 

 

I is not "legato" style bow. You will need also a baroque violin with gut strings, no chinrest, good teacher to show how to hold it right and  play fully chin off. Otherwise it will be same modern playing style with bow which is not well suited to do in that way. And using it on modern  strings  is not most stupid thing ever. And so on - you will be able to get out most of the bow only after time. And you need to study many of tractati of old violinists to understand how they ....

Otherwise it will like using BMW cabrio for agricultural purposes.

 

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6 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

I ordered an early 20th century pernambuco Baroque-style bow made by a good German maker.

As far as I'm aware there are no real baroque style bows by good German makers before the second half of the 20th century, if you don't count the rough stuff produced for Harlan etc. which usually were meant for viols not violins. You might have found something else carrying a brand?

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Not trying to make too much of a point, but some observations. And not directed at the original post.

Virtually all performers on period equipment can reproduce the technique using modern bows. Not to discourage getting any particular type of bow, but imitating other players' style can be insightful.

Baroque bows and some transitional bows are lighter simply because they are shorter, with little or no wrap, and many have narrower ribbons of hair. And many have lighter frogs and buttons. I use metal screws but have made boxwood and mountain mahogany buttons and frogs with no linings in the past.  

Some long-nosed or "pike" style tips that I have played are actually weirdly tip heavy. Holding a tip heavy bow closer to the middle helps offset what might feel a little unstable at speed. Holding a modern bow near the wrap can simulate the lighter feel of a shorter bow.

Based on pictures in available books, I experimented making "period" bows - decades ago - as did another person in an earlier post. When I made several, visiting local university collections confirmed that what was made was somewhat close to what they had on site.

For my students, I have them play on fractional CF bows to get a feel for the length of a shorter bow. Some period bows made of exotic hardwoods are surprisingly heavy and not-so-flexible so somewhat match the characteristic of some of these CF bows. I was in gift shop killing time with some other players between rehearsals when someone pulled out a Harry Potter-esque wand out of a box and commented that it felt like another player's baroque bow.

In trying out bow reproductions of any early period for modern set ups, I purchased mostly ones made of pernambuco. It appeared that pernambuco, has been best suited ( having tried hundreds of various period bows and having recently purchased at least a dozen ) for myself and for those who tolerate ( or do not ) my playing. They tend to be more lively and they sound fuller for the newly initiated. I often gift one of these bows to students who start the Ciaccone. They must first play at least one Fugue with a modern bow. To clarify, switching strings to varnished/ plain gut was more likely to evoke feelings of period performance than switching to "period" bows. But as a player, the feel is certainly a new and sometimes useful experience. 

The shape of the bow might dictate how sound is articulated in Bach and others, but these bows can be muscled in the lower half to play the 3rd mvmt of the Brahms concerto - just not at stage volumes. There are always exceptions, of course. I look for a heavier bow ( and longer ) when playing Bach Suites on viola. Heavier woods... But more often Pernambuco when playing Sonata/ Partitas down a 5th or at pitch. Getting a bite near the tip can often be difficult with the older style, so bow speed can vary a great deal. Also this type of tone or colour of the viola can be unfamiliar so experimenting with tempos becomes necessary. Many listeners might disapprove. Strangely Arcus CF bows with the lighter weight ( but the longer length ) has been a super fun bow to play in the "baroque-ish-esque style," but can not justify the purchase. For the price of one less expensive Arcus bow, it's possible to purchase ten "period" copies unless it is a fine Tourte family copy. But as I and other players grow older, I see more Arcus bows in cases backstage. 

Ultimately, perhaps, the more familiar one is with a decent bow, we can make it sound the way we desire. 

All these posts are interesting. Performance styles are so different between the cities on each coasts here in the US. And each ensemble leader has their ideas. Though we have a reference in Ms Podger ( gratefully ) there have been many wonderful if not interesting performances by Papa Jaap, Carmignola, Manze and Prof Huggett, that gives a bit of license for others to try things, right or wrong. 

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5 hours ago, mathieu valde said:

Otherwise it will like using BMW cabrio for agricultural purposes.

LOL. I appreciate your comments, but this is an experiment for me, not a commitment to HIP. If I don't enjoy playing with it, then I'll stop. Or maybe it will spark my curiosity enough to find a violin with a Baroque setup.  

1 hour ago, GoPractice said:

that gives a bit of license for others to try things, right or wrong. 

Yes, exactly. That is kind of the license I carry around.

4 hours ago, Blank face said:

As far as I'm aware there are no real baroque style bows by good German makers before the second half of the 20th century,

Yes, I will PM you. Could definitely be a later bow.

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2 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Not trying to make too much of a point, but some observations. And not directed at the original post.

Virtually all performers on period equipment can reproduce the technique using modern bows. Not to discourage getting any particular type of bow, but imitating other players' style can be insightful.

Baroque bows and some transitional bows are lighter simply because they are shorter, with little or no wrap, and many have narrower ribbons of hair. And many have lighter frogs and buttons. I use metal screws but have made boxwood and mountain mahogany buttons and frogs with no linings in the past.  

Some long-nosed or "pike" style tips that I have played are actually weirdly tip heavy. Holding a tip heavy bow closer to the middle helps offset what might feel a little unstable at speed. Holding a modern bow near the wrap can simulate the lighter feel of a shorter bow.

Based on pictures in available books, I experimented making "period" bows - decades ago - as did another person in an earlier post. When I made several, visiting local university collections confirmed that what was made was somewhat close to what they had on site.

For my students, I have them play on fractional CF bows to get a feel for the length of a shorter bow. Some period bows made of exotic hardwoods are surprisingly heavy and not-so-flexible so somewhat match the characteristic of some of these CF bows. I was in gift shop killing time with some other players between rehearsals when someone pulled out a Harry Potter-esque wand out of a box and commented that it felt like another player's baroque bow.

In trying out bow reproductions of any early period for modern set ups, I purchased mostly ones made of pernambuco. It appeared that pernambuco, has been best suited ( having tried hundreds of various period bows and having recently purchased at least a dozen ) for myself and for those who tolerate ( or do not ) my playing. They tend to be more lively and they sound fuller for the newly initiated. I often gift one of these bows to students who start the Ciaccone. They must first play at least one Fugue with a modern bow. To clarify, switching strings to varnished/ plain gut was more likely to evoke feelings of period performance than switching to "period" bows. But as a player, the feel is certainly a new and sometimes useful experience. 

The shape of the bow might dictate how sound is articulated in Bach and others, but these bows can be muscled in the lower half to play the 3rd mvmt of the Brahms concerto - just not at stage volumes. There are always exceptions, of course. I look for a heavier bow ( and longer ) when playing Bach Suites on viola. Heavier woods... But more often Pernambuco when playing Sonata/ Partitas down a 5th or at pitch. Getting a bite near the tip can often be difficult with the older style, so bow speed can vary a great deal. Also this type of tone or colour of the viola can be unfamiliar so experimenting with tempos becomes necessary. Many listeners might disapprove. Strangely Arcus CF bows with the lighter weight ( but the longer length ) has been a super fun bow to play in the "baroque-ish-esque style," but can not justify the purchase. For the price of one less expensive Arcus bow, it's possible to purchase ten "period" copies unless it is a fine Tourte family copy. But as I and other players grow older, I see more Arcus bows in cases backstage. 

Ultimately, perhaps, the more familiar one is with a decent bow, we can make it sound the way we desire. 

All these posts are interesting. Performance styles are so different between the cities on each coasts here in the US. And each ensemble leader has their ideas. Though we have a reference in Ms Podger ( gratefully ) there have been many wonderful if not interesting performances by Papa Jaap, Carmignola, Manze and Prof Huggett, that gives a bit of license for others to try things, right or wrong. 

Arcus makes several models of light CF bows having different weights and stiffnesses.  Do you remember which model you liked?

I've been making ultra light violins and violas and players seem to like them for Baroque music and I found they play better with light tension strings and I'm beginning to suspect that a light bow might also be better.  

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While it was not part of George’s question, has anyone here actually played upon a genuine baroque period bow?

I know they are very rare, but just wondered if anyone has had the opportunity to try a real one against a modern reproduction, and what their thoughts were.

 

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On 3/3/2021 at 9:35 PM, GeorgeH said:

I'd like to buy a good Baroque bow for playing Bach, but I have never played anything using one.

What qualities does one look for to determine if a Baroque bow is good or not?

Are there any brands of good carbon fiber Baroque bows?

Snakewood with black hair (for baroque chamber music)

 

Baroque Bow black hair 1 .jpg

Baroque Bow black hair 2 .jpg

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22 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

LOL. I appreciate your comments, but this is an experiment for me, not a commitment to HIP. If I don't enjoy playing with it, then I'll stop. Or maybe it will spark my curiosity enough to find a violin with a Baroque setup.  

But you will simply not be able to understand the bow and it's technique. It is different. And HIP will "survive"  anyway even without your commitment. :D

 

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On 3/5/2021 at 5:57 AM, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Arcus makes several models of light CF bows having different weights and stiffnesses.  Do you remember which model you liked?

I've been making ultra light violins and violas and players seem to like them for Baroque music and I found they play better with light tension strings and I'm beginning to suspect that a light bow might also be better.  

I have played at least a hundred of the Arcus bows over the past 10 years. But only a few were gold mount, as the earlier models were likely to be silver. Any opportunity to play one in a shop has been educational. Less frequent is when a friend or acquaintance is selling one. I appreciate it that it has been pre-vetted and even before playing, the owner will have an opinion.

The question is a good one but there were so many variables in trying each bow, that I am not certain if any opinions would be useful.

Disclosure: An acquaintance was some sort of a bow distributor for Arcus at one time. I have not purchased any bows from him though one student directly purchased a highly sought-after living maker bow. I have been lent an Arcus bow by this person long term.

The disclosure is important as the Arcus bows are good. I like them and want one. But given any price point, there are other bows that pull me away. They are also priced high and can be difficult for stores to stock. Of the more expensive composite bows, I own more coda bows for loaners and teaching tools though there are boutique makers out there worth considering. But the expertise at Arcus appears to be better than just about anyone else in the composite materials area for bowed instruments. Coda is very nice, but the feel, not necessarily the sound of the Arcus, works better in my hands. And Coda bows are significantly less expensive. Like two nice Chinese student or one very nice Chinese instrument price difference ( for violins and violas, anyway. ) When a good Coda bow is found, it can be a fine spare for many of us and a reliable companion for others. I have not tried the new Coda series due to the current sitution. 

SO to answer Maestro Kaspzryk's question, there was a fantastic Cadenza model that a friend played while she endured therapy for an auto accident. That was one that I almost purchased and have from time to time regretted not have purchased. It was louder but the tone was not superior to what appealed to me at the time. Now, it would be welcome. Have been looking for a similar one ever since. 

The Concerto models were also fine and I missed one when my friend was selling one for half price. Having had second thoughts, the bow was sold a day before I inquired about it the next day.

The weights... the weights are so off that I rarely ask, though there are models now that feel and have more "oomph." The "P-" series maybe or the "S?" This is a criticism as I can not keep track of the models as well as the difficulty of identifying the pricing of the Coda Diamond series. When some one asks if it is a good "deal" during a rehearsal, there will not be a phone to look it up. The balance of Arcus bows also is relative to other better bows as they appear to be engineered to behave evenly.  

I do appreciate that these composite bows are graded and priced accordingly, as the pricing must reflect the cost of materials and workmanship. But the pricing may not be suitable for everyone. Also there so many materials out there being used in composite bows that it is mind-numbing. I still use a very nice fibreglas fly rod waiting for the day it snaps from the exposure to UV - and that technology is 30 years old.   

I believe and expect your instruments to have a rich midrange, which is so important in baroque performance. Since the voice is such a standard to compare other instruments by, that solo instruments that sound more voice-like would suit that midrange texture well. I do feel the immediacy of the response can make more for a much more exciting rise and fall ( more difficult ) fall in dynamics. Texture in sound might be better manipulate with a wood bow that has a progressive degree of flex, allowing for easier grinding into the strings. 

The Arcus bows could be a very good fit for those who believe that they feel faster. I image that "faster" implies a better response or activation of string. If the instrument is also responsive and does not feel a bit on the sluggish-side, it may be an good coupling. Perhaps even a better pairing if the instrument activates slower. Not so sure about this.

Apologies for the tediousness of the post but Arcus bows are expensive.

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59 minutes ago, GoPractice said:

I have played at least a hundred of the Arcus bows over the past 10 years. But only a few were gold mount, as the earlier models were likely to be silver. Any opportunity to play one in a shop has been educational. Less frequent is when a friend or acquaintance is selling one. I appreciate it that it has been pre-vetted and even before playing, the owner will have an opinion.

The question is a good one but there were so many variables in trying each bow, that I am not certain if any opinions would be useful.

Disclosure: An acquaintance was some sort of a bow distributor for Arcus at one time. I have not purchased any bows from him though one student directly purchased a highly sought-after living maker bow. I have been lent an Arcus bow by this person long term.

The disclosure is important as the Arcus bows are good. I like them and want one. But given any price point, there are other bows that pull me away. They are also priced high and can be difficult for stores to stock. Of the more expensive composite bows, I own more coda bows for loaners and teaching tools though there are boutique makers out there worth considering. But the expertise at Arcus appears to be better than just about anyone else in the composite materials area for bowed instruments. Coda is very nice, but the feel, not necessarily the sound of the Arcus, works better in my hands. And Coda bows are significantly less expensive. Like two nice Chinese student or one very nice Chinese instrument price difference ( for violins and violas, anyway. ) When a good Coda bow is found, it can be a fine spare for many of us and a reliable companion for others. I have not tried the new Coda series due to the current sitution. 

SO to answer Maestro Kaspzryk's question, there was a fantastic Cadenza model that a friend played while she endured therapy for an auto accident. That was one that I almost purchased and have from time to time regretted not have purchased. It was louder but the tone was not superior to what appealed to me at the time. Now, it would be welcome. Have been looking for a similar one ever since. 

The Concerto models were also fine and I missed one when my friend was selling one for half price. Having had second thoughts, the bow was sold a day before I inquired about it the next day.

The weights... the weights are so off that I rarely ask, though there are models now that feel and have more "oomph." The "P-" series maybe or the "S?" This is a criticism as I can not keep track of the models as well as the difficulty of identifying the pricing of the Coda Diamond series. When some one asks if it is a good "deal" during a rehearsal, there will not be a phone to look it up. The balance of Arcus bows also is relative to other better bows as they appear to be engineered to behave evenly.  

I do appreciate that these composite bows are graded and priced accordingly, as the pricing must reflect the cost of materials and workmanship. But the pricing may not be suitable for everyone. Also there so many materials out there being used in composite bows that it is mind-numbing. I still use a very nice fibreglas fly rod waiting for the day it snaps from the exposure to UV - and that technology is 30 years old.   

I believe and expect your instruments to have a rich midrange, which is so important in baroque performance. Since the voice is such a standard to compare other instruments by, that solo instruments that sound more voice-like would suit that midrange texture well. I do feel the immediacy of the response can make more for a much more exciting rise and fall ( more difficult ) fall in dynamics. Texture in sound might be better manipulate with a wood bow that has a progressive degree of flex, allowing for easier grinding into the strings. 

The Arcus bows could be a very good fit for those who believe that they feel faster. I image that "faster" implies a better response or activation of string. If the instrument is also responsive and does not feel a bit on the sluggish-side, it may be an good coupling. Perhaps even a better pairing if the instrument activates slower. Not so sure about this.

Apologies for the tediousness of the post but Arcus bows are expensive.

Thank you very much for for relaying your experiences.  I concluded that I need to take more lessons before I can even understand the issues.

I've noticed some players use one instrument and one bow that they've had forever, always use the same make strings and play all kinds of music well while other players, have several instruments, bows, experiment a lot with strings, rosins, sound post positions and on and on always trying to find something that works best for whatever use.  

Sort of like Bud Lite vs. craft beer drinkers.

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On 3/5/2021 at 10:47 AM, Wood Butcher said:

While it was not part of George’s question, has anyone here actually played upon a genuine baroque period bow?

I know they are very rare, but just wondered if anyone has had the opportunity to try a real one against a modern reproduction, and what their thoughts were.

This very question is one that had been meditated on for a long time. Thank you. Some bowmakers might have had this experience.

I have played original transitional bows at exhibitions and in collections and was not sure what to expect as the sampling was not large. One must be careful when allowed to touch any of these artifacts. Still, fun if while holding one's breath.

The visits to these schools were decades ago and was too awe struck to ask if the bows were from the era. I was permitted to play a few open strings at one collection. Stiff, short and lifeless was how the experience was remembered. They were unlikely from the period. But even if they were, it did not matter. When shopping for a Pike Head Bow Shaped Object, the one that might suit a particular style of playing is selected... simply by playing them as they would perform the music as imagined. 

My thoughts round around the fact that a bow is but a bent stick with a tapered cross-section. There are many unanswered questions about the behaviours of the bow. But over centuries, problems in both manufacturing and technique have become overcome enough ( and at some cost ) that it manages to compliment the primary instrument.

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10 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

I thought we were discussing baroque bows?

Yes, but perhaps the baroque bow experience.

If that experience is mostly about reducing weight, the Arcus company produces a violin bow that is about 10g lighter without sacrificing the length.

If it is about playing multiple string stops at low volumes, then it is about a tall pike head with a reversed camber. 

The baroque style bows made of composite materials are available now. I would shamelessly use a touch of white glue during rehairs.

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9 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Thank you very much for for relaying your experiences.  I concluded that I need to take more lessons before I can even understand the issues.

Not at all. Bowing is mostly about bow speed and the changing distribution of weight. The changing of bow direction, smoothly or detached, is less discussed. Because some historic bow designs were short, the complexity of bow changes is magnified for some.

Some players are practical and some are dreamers. Getting excited about making sound is foremost.

9 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

I've noticed some players use one instrument and one bow that they've had forever, always use the same make strings and play all kinds of music well while other players, have several instruments, bows, experiment a lot with strings, rosins, sound post positions and on and on always trying to find something that works best for whatever use.  

Sort of like Bud Lite vs. craft beer drinkers.

Much depends on the individual path one chooses. I am an inferior player in that preparations for auditions were never at the level of the top Symphony players.

I did have single long term instruments and a "forever" instrument but purchasing property would have been a better long term use of that money. As work diversified, others had opinions of how the sound should develop. If one is insecure or not getting work, something has to change. 

Microphones that are closely placed, and their "engineers" who place them, like certain instruments for a particular tone that rests in the mix. These instrument may not carry sound far into the hall but they are intimate and communicate well. There are other instruments for clarity into a deeper hall but they make some pieces sound as if they were written in All Caps.

Like hearing one's own voice, listening to the playback can be tough. Having trusted listeners in a hall is also important for those who play in large halls. 

I will go back to one instrument in a short while. Since there are very few performances now, ensemble work is shabby during rehearsals and the sound is just ok.   

A small part of it might be about getting work while a greater part might have something to do with the insecurity of not getting work.

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I work mostly with/for historical performance specialists. Most would tell you a bow is the first most critical element of exploring the repertoire, followed by gut strings. 

I would like to echo the suggestions of some of my esteemed colleagues above - get as many bows on trial as you can from the most respected specialists in the field. Tell them what repertoire you're interested in and let them guide you towards particular styles of stick. Andrew Dipper, Chris English, Steve Marvin, Ralph Ashmeade, Rick Riggall, and for good measure contact Gabriella's Baroque in New York - she's the sole agent for Pieter Affourtit in the US. 

 

Additionally, education is critical to understanding how to use your new equipment. The treatises of Leopold Mozart, Georg Muffat, Geminiani, and Quantz are invaluable.

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When I tried a baroque bow by Rodney Mohr, I was delighted by its maneuverability.  When you find a "bow with a brain", you really know it -- they are few and far between; the bow seems to know where you are going! (Anyone else experience this?)   I have only one other bow with a brain,  a David Samuels...well worth the search.  There are no shortcuts;  just keep looking & trying.

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