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On the bow hunt....


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I am now on the bow hunt, and I would really appreciate some tips and tricks for getting the most out my time amongst hundreds of bows, and what checkpoints to keep in mind as well. I've never done this before as I've always bought fiddler man carbon fiber... those had served me well, but I feel it is holding me slightly back, and I just graduated...

Edit: I am playing quite a few bows in and out of my price range at the shop.

Thanks all,

Flatt

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Me too! Except I already have a decent bow.  I too am looking though!

If you are looking for a serious bow, I have to say you have to try them out.  Try out a ton of bows.

I'm looking to get one from auction where I won't be able to play with the bows, but that is only because I have one that I already like and a new bow would just be for the sake of having one.

Lastly, I also have a carbon fiber bow.  It does lots of lovely things for me.  It does not compare with a good wooden stick in terms of sound.  Just my opinion though.

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35 minutes ago, violinnewb said:

...If you are looking for a serious bow, I have to say you have to try them out.  Try out a ton of bows...

That is my advice, too.   If you gave your general location, you might get some recommendations for dealers with selections of bows you could visit to try them out.

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Try some good CF bows, too. Although some people think that they don't sound as good as wooden bows, this general statement is incorrect.

Just like wooden bows, some CF bows match very well to some violins (as good as a wooden bow), and not so well with others. The better Coda bows, for example, are very good players.

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How does the song go...?

”I’ll know, when my love comes along, I’ll know, then and there...”

add to that Cinderella “man I’m kissing a lotta frogs and not one prince yet!”

And that’s all you need to know.

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There are few tricks in knowing what to look for, at what price ranges. Because bows can be so different. Of course, one would want to check how straight the bow would be at rest and under tension. Not too much a worry for composite bows, but wood bows do an assortment of things. For less expensive woods, look for imperfections. Small imperfections are expected in most bows, but there are great ones on occasion. The quality of frog, fit and button will make your re- hair person happy.

Pernambuco, right? In the past almost every player would want a light, stiff, resonant bow. That seems to be changing... I keep looking...

Try to understand your own playing and how one approaches making tone. Does one pull a straight bow? What are your quirks during bow changes? String changes? Knowing how you play and noticing how a bow changes your playing for the better can be be found during a search.

How a bow engages is important. Notice up down up bow changes. The other way, down up down, especially in forte work is also telling. Also what the shop rosin might be? Bernardel, Andrea, Pirastro.

Play with eyes closed, play with eyes focused on bow. Listen and look for obvious anomalies. 

Sometimes one has to play past the anomalies to get what they want out of a bow. There are always limitations at every price point.

Do not be afraid to ask about weights. You can locate the balance point. If the bow is used, check for possible repairs. Two of my bows have been repaired ( done well ) and were purchased for significantly less than the market price. That was a risk I chose, but knowing the shop, it was a very small risk.

Ask about trade- in values. But If you make the effort to look for a bow that you like, you are more likely to keep it, and will have to save up for the next purchase.

Recently, I have not looked at inexpensive bows ( not that you are looking for an inexpensive bow ) but the pricing structure seemed to have changed. Check on the groupings. Here on the westcoast, Arcos Brasil bows have been the starting point for inexpensive ( nickel ) and might have mentioned that I purchased a higher- end Arcos bow, not because it was Arcos, but because it was the best bow viola bow for a student preparing for a competition. It ended up being too heavy for a student ( a combination of being slightly bit tip heavy and 2 grams ) but the her prep work with that bow was excellent when she found sounding a bit more tip light. 

Not sure of the availability of Arcos in your area, but be aware there that they are stamped, and whether they are made by the stamped maker or now, they appeared to be filtered. The tip styles are somewhat uniform by stamp. Some names have spanned a decade. I have at least two Chagas bows viola and cello each, but can not remember which. So this has been useful to me, where I start by asking for the a group of inexpensive pernambuco bows and usually there are several Arcos bows to help set a standard.  

There are many other popular and independent names. Ask questions about them to develop a better understanding of the market. I did find an Ary France bow recently that was inexpensive but sounded nice. The bow feels softer, so at first the students do not like it, but after awhile, the player stops squeezing and the stick stops bottoming out. Rather, it gets better as the bow speed settles. Keep information of what you liked. Sometimes, take pictures, if the dealer allows. I do not want everyone taking pictures of every bow they try/

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I agree with most of the above, but I don't agree that the bow has to be straight when it's tightened.

Bows that bend sideways slightly can have a more lively feel. The French bow makers recognised this and used it to their and the player's advantage. A perfectly straight bow is more likely to have a smoother feel. Both bows could be equally as good in different ways.

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If you have a good relationship with the shop, and if you're open to the idea, definitely ask if there are any repaired bows or "shop bows" that they would be willing to part with. I've been looking for a new bow for a few years, but kept getting frustrated with the search. I ended up mentioning that I would have no problem with a repaired bow, since I have a very good relationship with the shop and trust their repair work. My last trial of 5 bows included a Nurnberger with a repaired mortise and new frog, and a Hill with a repaired head. The Hill and Nurnberger blew the others in the price range out of the water, having the playing qualities of their former much more valuable selves. I ended up keeping the Hill, which had been used as a shop bow for years and wasn't really for sale per say, but it was worth asking. 

Not advice for everyone, but it worked for me. 

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On 5/12/2021 at 2:37 PM, PhilipKT said:

How does the song go...?

”I’ll know, when my love comes along, I’ll know, then and there...”

add to that Cinderella “man I’m kissing a lotta frogs and not one prince yet!”

And that’s all you need to know.

Haha! thanks... so so many options

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13 hours ago, pgidley said:

If you have a good relationship with the shop, and if you're open to the idea, definitely ask if there are any repaired bows or "shop bows" that they would be willing to part with. I've been looking for a new bow for a few years, but kept getting frustrated with the search. I ended up mentioning that I would have no problem with a repaired bow, since I have a very good relationship with the shop and trust their repair work. My last trial of 5 bows included a Nurnberger with a repaired mortise and new frog, and a Hill with a repaired head. The Hill and Nurnberger blew the others in the price range out of the water, having the playing qualities of their former much more valuable selves. I ended up keeping the Hill, which had been used as a shop bow for years and wasn't really for sale per say, but it was worth asking. 

Not advice for everyone, but it worked for me. 

That IS a good idea.. I have visited all the shops in nashville and this is THE shop for bows. and I know the "bow person" on a personal/out-of-shop-professional way... Thanks!!

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38 minutes ago, Flattmountain said:

That IS a good idea.. I have visited all the shops in nashville and this is THE shop for bows. and I know the "bow person" on a personal/out-of-shop-professional way... Thanks!!

That can really be good advice. I posted here a couple of years ago about a friend’s glorious Ouchard bow With a lift behind the head, I got lots of good suggestions about repair but my friend sent it to A well-known repairman in New York who did an effective but ugly repair. The bow still plays great, but is worth a tiny fraction of what a perfect 1948 Ouchard would fetch. Someone Who can ignore that unsightly repair will enjoy it very much

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A  well known pro fiddler who is a friend of mine broke his Michael Vann bow right on the shaft. It was repaired, but an ugly repair with wrapping over the shaft to stabilize and reinforce it. I probably couldn't stomach that one myself, unless it was already my own bow. On the other hand, the repair on my Hill is almost invisible, unless you were looking for it. Neither repair seems to have a noticable impact on the playing qualities. The Vann is still an amazingly nice bow.

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In my experience that often bows get broken at the head and can be repaired with a spline in the head.  Also often the actual playing with the bow does not suffer at all.  Of course the money value of the bow takes a big hit with such a repair with the repaired bow having a money value 30% or less of the value of the bow in good unbroken condition.  The repair can be done so as to be practically invisible.  If you really like the bow and weren't hoping to trade it in in the future, this way you can get a great playing bow.

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