Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Which is more important? Cello or bow?


PhilipKT
 Share

Recommended Posts

7 hours ago, qwerty189 said:

Professional musician here. The entire premise of this discussion rings false to me, as it is a sensitive balance between the individual style of the player, bow, and instrument (and strings and rosin and setup, ad infinitum)…but I enjoy the thought experiment.

I think people who doubt the importance of the bow either do not have the technical and musical facility to properly gauge the basis of their argument or have not tried the absolute finest bows that exist.

With my best bows, I can coax colors and a huge density of sound out of relatively mediocre instruments. My job description is basically to send out as wide a range of dynamics and colors as possible into a huge hall and in such a way that my colleagues in orchestral or chamber music settings can quickly latch onto what I am doing. It makes my job much more difficult with bows that aren’t as sophisticated sounding in the overtone spectrum. Additionally, it is very frustrating to play bows that don’t keep up in terms of playability (by that I mean they don’t offer a wide palate of articulations and strokes throughout the entire length of the bow and are inherently limited somehow)

Due to the nature of my work, I sometimes have to play on instruments that aren’t as fine, but I know from experience that years of training plus having fine bows, my intention will come across better with fine bows.

Yes, a fine musician will sound good regardless, but a fine bow can offer limitless possibilities and impose its qualities on a lesser instrument.

Could not agree more... but most pro- musicians take out loans (often given as an interest free loan from their institution or orchestra) to barely scrape the price of a nice instrument. "The absolute finest bows that exist" are pretty much always out of the question for most pros due to their cost. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 99
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

A balance yes.

But, technically, the bow is less fundamental.   The strings are on the cello.  The soundboards and sounding are integral to the cello.   You can pluck the cello and make music without the bow.   And, a very skilled hand can draw much with a merely functional bow.

As important as great bows are, they are part of the last mile, not the body of the journey.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, germain said:

It is a personal preference. Some people still prefer gut strings (Eudoxa, Oliv) vs. perlon

Well of course, personal preference plays a role, and even at my most fervent disagreement I of course grant people the freedom to make their own choice. I don’t wanna pass a law banning carbon fiber or anything like that, ha ha. I do continue to insist that wood is objectively better, however. Except possibly the cheapest bows of wood, matched with the cheapest bows of carbon fiber, The CF certainly is more durable.

But even my youngest students play on real bows at their lessons. I told him to leave their ghastly K Holz bows in the case and use mine, and they always notice a difference.

BTW I played a Christmas job with a violinist who has a violin made by Germain. It made me think of you…

Edited by PhilipKT
Spelling
Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, David Beard said:

A balance yes.

But, technically, the biw is less fundamental.   The string is one the cello.  The soundboards and sounding are integral to the cello.   You can pluck the cello and make music without the bow.   And, a very skilled hand can draw much with a merely functional bow.

As important as great bows are, they are part of the last mile, not the body of the journey.

And a very skilled hand can make great music with a purely functional cello :D

If you are plucking, the finger is the bow, and a pretty limited expressive tool it turns out to be for the purposes of making music.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

41 minutes ago, germain said:

Emile Germain was my first decent violin I owned hence my screen name. Consistently- very solid instruments 

Yes it was a lovely violin and the lady who has it is happy with it. However her boyfriend has an Amati cello So when they play duets, there is something of an imbalance, ha ha

Link to comment
Share on other sites

56 minutes ago, martin swan said:

And a very skilled hand can make great music with a purely functional cello :D

If you are plucking, the finger is the bow, and a pretty limited expressive tool it turns out to be for the purposes of making music.

 

Well said: most cellists and violinists pluck with the first finger, I dislike using first finger for many reasons, And I use thumb or second, and I have been quite surprised at how much tonal difference there is when one changes the finger from one to two to thumb, and changes the contact point location on the string.

But That’s merely expanding a very limited range a little bit more. If you want to pluck something, go buy a guitar…

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love the way "we" are capable of overthinking and over-complicating things. ^_^

A cello needs a bow to function fully. Goes without saying. However, if we absolutely have to play favourites...

...a cello can be played and can be musical without a bow.

What can a sole bow do? 

Therefore, a sole cello is more important than a sole bow.

Now...debating the minutiae of the differences between good/cheap cellos versus the playability of good/cheap bows at beginner versus elite levels is an entirely different question. 

And then...of course...let's bring provenance into the mix...and personal preferences...

"Yes! The only bow worth having must have been made by Gaston Hommealarc, in 1881, under the waning moon, when Jupiter was in in third house, of pernumbuco with silver fittings, haired with unicorn hair and must weigh exactly 79.78965432 grams."

 

F.X.Tourte_engraving_by_J.Frey_1818.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 minutes ago, Rue said:

 

...a cello can be played and can be musical without a bow.

 

I tried to point out the fallacy of this argument above (no offense to Rue).

A cello cannot make musical sound without the strings being activated. If you pluck, you are using your finger as a bow, and it's a pretty crap bow at that. This illustrates perfectly how important the bow is ... 

Is it important to have a GREAT bow? It depends who you are - for most people no. Is it important to those people to have a GREAT cello - equally, no.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Let me try again ...

Several people have put forward the argument that the instrument is more important than the bow on the grounds that you can make sound with the instrument without a bow, but you can't make sound with a bow without an instrument.

I am saying this is a false argument, because if you don't use a bow you have to use something! You can make sound from a cello by plucking, you can hit the strings with a drumstick, you can use a battery-operated face-fan to strum the strings if you like or you can attach a horsehair to a string, cover your fingers with rosin and pull at the horsehair - they all act as as way of introducing energy into the string.

If you don't introduce energy, no sound ...

To remove either the bow or the instrument from the equation is pointless.

Conventionally, people see the relative importance of the instrument and the bow mainly in terms of their relative financial value. And all other considerations aside, bows are worth less because they are smaller, they require fewer materials and they are faster to make.

Yet everyone spends just as long looking for the right bow as for the right instrument. If the bow is less important than the instrument, why does everyone agonize about the decision so much? Why do I spend so much of my life watching or hearing them agonizing? Why do so many people describe finding the right bow as a transformative experience?

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone searches for their dream instrument first... then the bow search begins. Never heard of anyone buying a Voirin or a Tourte to play on a JTL/ Mark Laberte violin/cello etc.,

For years I used a great playing bow stamped P. Serdet (commercially made in Mirecourt for the Serdet workshop) with instruments from a completely different legue

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Yet everyone spends just as long looking for the right bow as for the right instrument. If the bow is less important than the instrument, why does everyone agonize about the decision so much? Why do I spend so much of my life watching or hearing them agonizing? Why do so many people describe finding the right bow as a transformative experience?

Not everyone. :)

One reason people agonize over the decision so much is the price of high-end bows, which is I guess is your primary market. 

I also think that how a bow feels and performs in one's hand has a lot to do with it. You once pointed out that people will buy a new bow that is mediocre because the feel is what they are used to, rather than buy an objectively better bow that requires some getting used to. Maybe that is part of the agony, too.

So I think getting used to playing with a great bow that just "fits" is transformative. 

But I have never heard a bad-sounding violin suddenly turn great with a great bow, nor a great-sounding violin suddenly become awful with a bad bow. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

But I have never heard a bad-sounding violin suddenly turn great with a great bow, nor a great-sounding violin suddenly become awful with a bad bow. 

I have!

I would definitely recommend you taking a fine instrument and a selection of bows from student sticks to workshop sticks to the finest modern sticks to the finest vintage bows and I am sure you will hear huge differences in projection, color, and expression, especially from the back of a concert hall (that distance is often where the finest bows prove their worth). 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Rue said:

I love the way "we" are capable of overthinking and over-complicating things. ^_^

A cello needs a bow to function fully. Goes without saying. However, if we absolutely have to play favourites...

...a cello can be played and can be musical without a bow.

What can a sole bow do? 

Therefore, a sole cello is more important than a sole bow.

Now...debating the minutiae of the differences between good/cheap cellos versus the playability of good/cheap bows at beginner versus elite levels is an entirely different question. 

And then...of course...let's bring provenance into the mix...and personal preferences...

"Yes! The only bow worth having must have been made by Gaston Hommealarc, in 1881, under the waning moon, when Jupiter was in in third house, of pernumbuco with silver fittings, haired with unicorn hair and must weigh exactly 79.78965432 grams."

 

F.X.Tourte_engraving_by_J.Frey_1818.jpg

You realize that Mr Tourte Is giving you an annoyed look, right?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, martin swan said:

 

Let me try again ...

Several people have put forward the argument that the instrument is more important than the bow on the grounds that you can make sound with the instrument without a bow, but you can't make sound with a bow without an instrument.

I am saying this is a false argument, because if you don't use a bow you have to use something! You can make sound from a cello by plucking, you can hit the strings with a drumstick, you can use a battery-operated face-fan to strum the strings if you like or you can attach a horsehair to a string, cover your fingers with rosin and pull at the horsehair - they all act as as way of introducing energy into the string.

If you don't introduce energy, no sound ...

To remove either the bow or the instrument from the equation is pointless.

Conventionally, people see the relative importance of the instrument and the bow mainly in terms of their relative financial value. And all other considerations aside, bows are worth less because they are smaller, they require fewer materials and they are faster to make.

Yet everyone spends just as long looking for the right bow as for the right instrument. If the bow is less important than the instrument, why does everyone agonize about the decision so much? Why do I spend so much of my life watching or hearing them agonizing? Why do so many people describe finding the right bow as a transformative experience?

 

 

That’s exactly my point.

The colleague who stimulated the question in the first place had said that a bow is just a tool and therefore it was irrelevant what he had. Yet he has himself a very nice cello, so nice that I can’t mention it because someone might figure out who he is. I was astonished that he was so casual about bows given the quality of his cello and the quality of his playing. The situation arose because one of his extremely gifted students came over to look at my bows, and he chose three that he liked very much: All fairly inexpensive, all worthwhile, all with some condition issues, that lowered the price. He took them back to his teacher and they spent the afternoon playing the three of them and at some point during the trial the teacher made the comment which I quoted above. I was so startled that I posted the question.

Of course I strenuously disagree with him, and I strenuously disagree with those who believe that carbon fiber can equal good wood.

I submit that the very fact that there are Bowmakers making and selling, (and not cheaply, either!) and that this gifted young boy spent considerable time looking for a suitable bow, instead of merely buying an affordable CF bow, refutes both of those arguments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

36 minutes ago, qwerty189 said:

I have!

I would definitely recommend you taking a fine instrument and a selection of bows from student sticks to workshop sticks to the finest modern sticks to the finest vintage bows and I am sure you will hear huge differences in projection, color, and expression, especially from the back of a concert hall (that distance is often where the finest bows prove their worth). 

Last week a friend came over with a nice northern Italian cello she is trying out. Two other friends came over with their own cellos, but we spent most of the time playing that single cello, and we played perhaps 10 different bows on that cello and got astoundingly different sounds. Gillet Gillet, Liu, Liu, Closner, Seifert, Mohr, plus another couple of names that slip my mind.

It was a documentary of revelation about how different bows in the same hand Created different sounds. And when we switched players and went through the same sequence, They were different qualities from person to person, but the bows continued to be different. Even my two Gillets Pulled different sounds. It was a tremendous amount of fun, and amazingly revealing.

We liked the cello too, for what it’s worth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 minutes ago, martin swan said:

I can assure you that people agonize at all price points! We sell a lot more Hills than Tourtes, so i know what I'm talking about ... :D

I think anybody considering a purchase at the top of their affordability will be agonizing. Agonizing over a $3000 bow, when all you have is $3000 is no different from agonizing over $30,000 bow, when all you have is $30,000.

At least I think so… I’ll let you know if I’m ever in that position.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, martin swan said:

 

Let me try again ...

Several people have put forward the argument that the instrument is more important than the bow on the grounds that you can make sound with the instrument without a bow, but you can't make sound with a bow without an instrument.

I am saying this is a false argument, because if you don't use a bow you have to use something! You can make sound from a cello by plucking, you can hit the strings with a drumstick, you can use a battery-operated face-fan to strum the strings if you like or you can attach a horsehair to a string, cover your fingers with rosin and pull at the horsehair - they all act as as way of introducing energy into the string.

If you don't introduce energy, no sound ...

To remove either the bow or the instrument from the equation is pointless.

Conventionally, people see the relative importance of the instrument and the bow mainly in terms of their relative financial value. And all other considerations aside, bows are worth less because they are smaller, they require fewer materials and they are faster to make.

Yet everyone spends just as long looking for the right bow as for the right instrument. If the bow is less important than the instrument, why does everyone agonize about the decision so much? Why do I spend so much of my life watching or hearing them agonizing? Why do so many people describe finding the right bow as a transformative experience?

 

 

That's merely the reductio ad absurdum argument.

More significant to me, is my personal sense that the limits of the musical, articulation, and tonal results I can draw from an instrument depend first of all on me, second on the instrument quality, and only third on the bow quality.

That's provided we are varying the quality of bow and violin from basically functional to wonderful.

And, if we're varying the qualities down to barely playable, then a bad violin gives me more pain than a bad bow.

 

But, that's a very personal perspective.  I know many good players say to prioritize having a good bow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, qwerty189 said:

I have!

I would definitely recommend you taking a fine instrument and a selection of bows from student sticks to workshop sticks to the finest modern sticks to the finest vintage bows and I am sure you will hear huge differences in projection, color, and expression, especially from the back of a concert hall (that distance is often where the finest bows prove their worth). 

Okay, thanks for sharing your experience. Interesting!

I agree that the tone changes. I don't have any experience playing in concert halls, so I can't speak to that, but I can see that the volume could change, too. But in my experience, a bow cannot change the core tone of a violin. A violin that sounds like fingernails on a blackboard (h/t martin) will not improve much regardless of the bow quality.

All of my good bows sound pretty close to the same on all my violins individually. My preference comes down to the one that feels the best and gives me the most comfortable bow control, particularly up at the frog.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, martin swan said:

Yet everyone spends just as long looking for the right bow as for the right instrument. If the bow is less important than the instrument, why does everyone agonize about the decision so much? Why do I spend so much of my life watching or hearing them agonizing? Why do so many people describe finding the right bow as a transformative experience?

I certainly agree that the whole question is off point.  Both, are inescapably essential.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, martin swan said:

1) Yet everyone spends just as long looking for the right bow as for the right instrument.

2) If the bow is less important than the instrument, why does everyone agonize about the decision so much?

3) Why do I spend so much of my life watching or hearing them agonizing?

4) Why do so many people describe finding the right bow as a transformative experience?

1) Too many choices.

2) Too many choices.

3) Because you gave them too many choices.

4) Because it took them forever to make a choice, 'cause they had too many choices.

Yes... I'm joking, but there's an element of truth here. If a player visits and can accurately describe what they want/need from a bow and give me good data to work with, I can often go to the drawer and pick a few out they like... I'm not a psychic or a genius. I just listen well and have a pretty good understanding of what the bows I have can do. Then, more times than not, their curiosity takes over and they want to try a bunch... however, the vast majority of times I've seen this happen, they buy one of the bows originally suggested for them, or something very similar.

In one memorable case, I pulled only one bow out that seemed (to me) to be a dead match to the player's description of desired qualities. They then tried a half dozen more in the shop, but ended up taking the first bow I pulled out on trial. It was returned a week later and the player headed off on a bow quest to New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. They tried scores and scores of bows, but couldn't settle on one. Came back for a visit and asked if I had anything "new". I did, so I pulled out three "new" ones and also placed the bow I'd first recommended on the table (and didn't tell them). The player played them and declared the bow they'd taken out on the first visit and returned was fantastic...just what they were looking for.  I then fessed up.  They laughed and pulled out their checkbook.

I have similar stories about instruments.

I honestly don't think this is odd or silly on behalf of the player.  If they are looking for a change (and improvement of some aspect), experiencing that change might not feel all that natural at first.  They have a process they need to go through.  Sometimes it takes 5 minutes, sometimes it takes 100 bows.  Could be part of the transformative experience. :) Maybe best to ignore the agonizing and have a cup of tea.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...