Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Which is more important? Cello or bow?


PhilipKT
 Share

Recommended Posts

On 12/31/2021 at 10:34 PM, Jeffrey Holmes said:

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.

 

Haha, not really ...

As you say, putting too many bows in front of a client just causes brain fade - people start going round in circles and then they need food before they start again.

So when people come to the shop I tend to put out about 6 bows that seem suitable, and then try to remove them quite fast until we're down to two. Even with two bows on the table, most people take the choice extremely seriously - it would appear that even with very limited choice, the bow is a very important thing to them. I've never noticed people taking less time than they do over the choice of a violin. 

But a lot of our business is remote - either sending out bows or travelling with them. Often we are offering just one bow or maybe two, and that comes after a lot of discussion. I prefer to do as much elimination as possible before taking bows out of drawers or cases, or before getting on a plane or train.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 99
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

3 hours ago, martin swan said:

Often we are offering just one bow or maybe two, and that comes after a lot of discussion.

This is so curious to me, Martin! How do you (and others) put into words the performance qualities of a bow? How does a customer? How do you match them?

For example, last year I got a new fine vintage bow that is noticeably easier to control at the frog than my other fine bows. Before playing that bow, I would not have even thought to ask for that as a quality that I was looking for because my other bows were not a problem in that aspect, but then I discovered this one is just easier.

I also respect the fact that this question might be asking more than you want to reveal as to your sales process, so no worries about saying so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi George,

No secrets here, but how to answer briefly ...

In some case clients are looking for bows by a particular maker or group of makers, or their budget is very specific, so that narrows things down. 

Generally people have an idea about what sort of weight they favour, and whether they feel more comfortable with a bow that's a bit more balanced towards the heel or the tip or "normal".

Very often people look to a bow to correct slight imbalances in their instrument, so they want something that's pure, or grainy, or dark, or brilliant, because they don't find quite enough of that quality in their instrument.

More holistically, talking with people you get a sense of their personality. The way they talk or express themselves verbally tends to correspond a little bit to how they use a bow. Some people are blunt and to the point, others are subtle and nuanced.

Even more fuzzily, there's quite a division between people who want to use a bow to impose their technique on a violin and people who are asking the bow to take them into new areas of self-expression. The former group like stiffer sticks, the latter like bows that are more supple.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

53 minutes ago, martin swan said:

More holistically, talking with people you get a sense of their personality. The way they talk or express themselves verbally tends to correspond a little bit to how they use a bow. Some people are blunt and to the point, others are subtle and nuanced.

Even more fuzzily, there's quite a division between people who want to use a bow to impose their technique on a violin and people who are asking the bow to take them into new areas of self-expression. The former group like stiffer sticks, the latter like bows that are more supple.

That is an excellent insight.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

That is an excellent insight.

Very much agreed. There are some people who seem to think that their publicly professed level of expertise will be enhanced by a higher level of bitchiness, and flawed fault-finding.

Fortunately, I am in a position where I can just show such people where the exit door is.

It can be entertaining to set BSers up with other BSers. They might even fall in love for a while, before becoming outraged that someone was trying to BS them. :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting, @martin swan. Thanks for the detailed reply. 

Do you measure and record all your bows for stiffness and balance point?

Is there a measurement for camber such as location of the lowest point?

Do you test to know empirically if a bow is going to make a relatively darker or brighter tone or is that even possible?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

 

Do you measure and record all your bows for stiffness and balance point?

Is there a measurement for camber such as location of the lowest point?

Do you test to know empirically if a bow is going to make a relatively darker or brighter tone or is that even possible?

When we are thinking of buying a bow or taking it on consignment I check the balance point. If it's a bit wacky we wouldn't want to sell it. We don't measure stiffness but equally we have our own standards. Very important to check lateral stiffness as well as vertical - something can feel very stiff if you play without rotation but become utterly unusable when you tilt the bow. A lot of bows that end up at auction are like this :lol:

Camber - I do check the camber visually and where necessary by setting the bow on a straight edge. But different bows benefit from a different centre point. A good Tourte camber is pretty straight for the first half for instance. C20 Mirecourt bows tend to have a very sharp camber in the last quarter ... no fixed rules. We often correct the camber before putting things up for sale.

Dark/bright - no I don't think I can anticipate that. There will be quite a range of tonal personalities for the same maker. For example we have 4 pernambuco Dominique Peccattes right now, all with a different basic tonal profile. I suppose that in broad terms the more supple they are the more core tone you get. It's pretty inconceivable that any given player would like all of them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks - this is fascinating to me, @martin swan, because I look at how a bow is made, weight, gross camber and straightness, the balance point, and how it plays. But really the balance point and weight are the only "quantitative"  measurements I know.

One Archetier I know uses a system where she suspends the bow by placing the ends on platforms, and then hangs a weight at the lowest point of the camber to measure how much the bow bends vertically to get a quantitive measure of stiffness. I don't think she measures lateral stiffness like that - it would be harder, I guess. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

53 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

 

One Archetier I know uses a system where she suspends the bow by placing the ends on platforms, and then hangs a weight at the lowest point of the camber to measure how much the bow bends vertically to get a quantitive measure of stiffness. I don't think she measures lateral stiffness like that - it would be harder, I guess. 

I've seen people doing this but the problem is that none of these quantitative measures are very useful unless you can see the full context.

For example weight and balance point are irrelevant unless you incorporate an understanding of the lapping ...

With regard to stiffness, how any given bow plays depends hugely on the amount of tension you put on it. A lot of players who use fine early 19th century bows that are quite supple crank them up pretty tight.

Of course you can sketch out the broad lines with some measurements, but it's just not very useful data.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, martin swan said:

With regard to stiffness, how any given bow plays depends hugely on the amount of tension you put on it.

Sure. Of course, she performs this measurement with a completely loose bow, and I suppose it gives her some relative quantitative information about bow stiffness after having done this for many years. I must say that I prefer her method to watching someone pick-up a bow and bend it in their hands! That "method" always makes me cringe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not all 19th century French bows are created equal, so the first item on a check list when considering a bow is the quality of the wood used (for me always pernambucco), and the skill of the maker, this will determine all other factors. Correcting a poor/crooked camber on a lesser quality stick will not make it a great "player" for modern use irrespective of the maker. The ideal is a combination of strength and flexibility.

Personally, I have never taken the "balance point" into consideration. Apart from the weight of lapping used, older 'cello bows can vary considerably in length, gauge of metal mounts and frog size, but a fine bow will always tell you "what to do" to obtain the best results. The optimum weight is up to the individual player, my preference pivots around the 80 gram mark ('cello bow), but I know fellow professionals who prefer both much heavier or somewhat lighter bows. In my opinion fine early 19th century bows need not be "cranked up" pretty tight, that way they are liable lose the very qualities of suppleness and tonal variety for which they are renowned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/30/2021 at 3:59 PM, chiaroscuro_violins said:

I'll offer my answer based on what I've learned.  I am not a professional.  

When you're just starting out and on a budget, the violin is more important.  A $50 bow will get the job done, but a cheapo violin is going to really hold you back.  Violin set-up quality is probably the most important factor in this price range.  

When you have achieved a decent skill level and are ready for an upgrade, upgrade your bow.  A good student violin will take you a long way, but most of the bows that come with violin outfits are really hard to use for advanced techniques.  You can always put nicer strings on the fiddle to help it keep up with you as you advance.  

Then it's up to you.  For most players, I don't think there's a necessity to get a nicer bow than, say, $2-5k.  A bow in that price range will do most everything.  Violins, in my experience, have a much greater impact on how good you sound.  However, I don't think you could regret buying a nice bow.  A teacher I studied with owns a Tourte.  Her violin?  Gemunder.  I've tried a Sartory, and various other nice bows, and boy did they play great.  

When you reach an elite level of playing, you should probably toss my 2 cents out the window.  I simply don't know what it's like to be that good.  I know (and know of) people who prioritize the fiddle, and those who prioritize the bow.  They all sound good.  

This is a very good opinion summary.

My answer, based upon the above quoted responses, is that it depends.  Where are you (the buyer) at with skill level?  A good student instrument can indeed take one far.  

However, once that student reaches the limits of his/her bow, a good bow will help facilitate the next bowing skill levels.  As such, I would recommend a good bow over a good violin for students who are still learning certain skills.  

If you take a look at some of these $60 violin v. $1 million dollar violin YouTube(s), like the one with Ray Chen, even some of the cheap violins sound ok.  Now I understand sound quality variables with microphones, etc.  My point is, it really depends.  

For me, my bow is not a great bow by any means, but I can spiccatto, ricochet, martele, etc. with it fairly well.  So a good sounding and good playing violin is more important....although I have been looking at lots of bows lately.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Given most price ranges bows are more important to me. My instructors all stressed bow work and most left hand work was approached with bow pressure and velocity in mind. I learned the usual etudes in a week and then get spanked for the next two weeks with alternate fingerings and bowing to shape better phrases. "If you can't make music out of the etudes, how do you think the pieces will sound?" ... there were only so many hours in the day... thankfully there were no Playstations or internet, only a pile of textbooks.

Bowed instruments tend to be expressive and that implies a degree of sensitivities and subtle playing along with abrupt and transient changes.

One is more likely to find complexities ( and hopefully the sonic range of the darkest corners ) within a box with a bow that can locate and coax out those tones. There are instruments that sound great with the simplest of adequate bows, and they are not unique, but more difficult to locate as many desire playability as the main feature. But since it was not possible to find all qualities of bowed sound with one instrument, I have resorted to owning many. They sonically overlap as there is an expectation but there are violins that sound like violas and violas that sound more like violins and cellos that sound like violas.

But some bows allow for a greater tonal and dynamic range making it possible deliver or communicate to the listener, better? And some bows sound harsh under the ear but more detailed in the audience. Is that a good bow? Over time I have learned how to tame harsher or mushier bows and if I pick up a newly made bow, it takes time to learn and break-in.

As Maestro Holmes has pointed out, there is likely not a best bow to go shopping for instruments, but one that is familiar, one that is expressive, and one that is dynamic can be helpful.

    

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/31/2021 at 4:50 AM, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I don't think I'd ever offer that advice, as I've experienced how an appropriate bow enhances certain qualities of a specific instrument (over and over again on pretty much a daily basis for nearly 40 years in the trade, and to an extent more than a decade before as a student and player). Must be a bowmaker thing.

 ...

 

Sorry, this was the post. 

There are great bows, but using an 80s term or synergy, the bow and instrument have to work well together. There was a time in the 90s when playing an incredible newly made bows on an awesome newly made instruments was so stressful as it was difficult to produce a workable sound. When I played them, new instruments liked silky older bows and the rake-y new bows liked older instruments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/3/2022 at 6:11 PM, Robinfirman said:

 

Personally, I have never taken the "balance point" into consideration. Apart from the weight of lapping used, older 'cello bows can vary considerably in length, gauge of metal mounts and frog size, but a fine bow will always tell you "what to do" to obtain the best results. The optimum weight is up to the individual player, my preference pivots around the 80 gram mark ('cello bow), but I know fellow professionals who prefer both much heavier or somewhat lighter bows. In my opinion fine early 19th century bows need not be "cranked up" pretty tight, that way they are liable lose the very qualities of suppleness and tonal variety for which they are renowned.

I wish everyone was as open-minded, though I suppose the issues are different depending on whether you have a collection of bows or you're just looking for one catch-all workhorse.

We are more focused on violin bows than cello bows, and while there are significant variations in length, anything over 75cm has difficulty fitting in a case, so I can understand people not wanting to go there. Certainly violinists seem more tolerant of short bows than long ones.

I suppose balance point is something you can measure, and like weight and length it offers some reassurance in an otherwise uncertain world. But people vary hugely in their approach - some just play and don't want to know and don't care, others will measure the balance point according to their own special system before even deigning to try a bow.

Re cranking up, i have been pretty surprised by the amount of tension I see people using on early 19th century bows ... it does seem counter-productive, unless the bow is so floppy that it's borderline unusable.

On the other hand, I notice that when people try very valuable bows of ours they are liable to put too little tension on the stick - I suppose I am the same, always more nervous of breaking someone else's bow than my own. I often have to encourage people to give it another half turn before the bow will actually start to work.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, martin swan said:

I suppose balance point is something you can measure, and like weight and length it offers some reassurance in an otherwise uncertain world. But people vary hugely in their approach - some just play and don't want to know and don't care, others will measure the balance point according to their own special system before even deigning to try a bow.

Agreed. If the bow is balanced within reason, really only time I carefully pay attention to that factor is when I'm having something done to the bow that might alter the balance point (new winding, etc.). Can't really recall the last time a player actually checked it in my presence.

Weight is different. Orchestral players here (as a general group) tend to avoid bows on the heavier side of the accepted range. A number have explained that they feel less physically stressed after enduring multiple rehearsals and services with a not-so-heavy bow... though they may certainly have a more robust one in the case to use for solo gigs. Chamber music players and soloists, not so much... and I've notice comfortable weight is something that may change with age (did for me). I tend to like a slightly lighter bow now than i did "then".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm enjoying this conversation - really good to hear other peoples' experience, it's not something I think to ask about with colleagues.

It's true that very few clients measure the balance point - at least while I'm looking ... I do have a couple of regular clients who are very demanding in that respect. But a lot of clients are interested in it and aware of it in a general sense, to the point of comparing one bow with another.

My experience that if I buy or take on consignment bows that are far off the norm, they just never sell. So I check every single bow before taking it on, and where possible modify lappings to get things within that 2cm "acceptable range".

It's funny, over here we tend to sell heavier bows to orchestral players, but then for me heavy would be around 61-62 grams. I can see that something heavier would be a struggle on a long day, particularly if you're being asked to hold the bow off the string from time to time :lol: but we do our level best to avoid having bows that are over 63 grams, because so few people seem to like them. Unless it's a Sartory of course, where people seem to be happy to pay by the gram.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, martin swan said:

I'm enjoying this conversation - really good to hear other peoples' experience, it's not something I think to ask about with colleagues.

It's true that very few clients measure the balance point - at least while I'm looking ... I do have a couple of regular clients who are very demanding in that respect. But a lot of clients are interested in it and aware of it in a general sense, to the point of comparing one bow with another.

My experience that if I buy or take on consignment bows that are far off the norm, they just never sell. So I check every single bow before taking it on, and where possible modify lappings to get things within that 2cm "acceptable range".

It's funny, over here we tend to sell heavier bows to orchestral players, but then for me heavy would be around 61-62 grams. I can see that something heavier would be a struggle on a long day, particularly if you're being asked to hold the bow off the string from time to time :lol: but we do our level best to avoid having bows that are over 63 grams, because so few people seem to like them. Unless it's a Sartory of course, where people seem to be happy to pay by the gram.

Yup.  I enjoy it too... and the variation in tastes connected with geographical locations is alway interesting.

I think one reason I don't "check" the balance point religiously is due to my 17 years at the firm before moving on.  While my role there was working with older instruments and with/in the restoration/making shop, we imported thousand(s) of new bows a year in addition to the older bows. A good portion of the new ones needed to be inspected and tested... so all hands were on deck. I probably should have kept better track of how many I tested there over the years, but maybe that would be depressing. :) I became pretty comfortable detecting if the balance point was out of whack simply by picking the bow up and feeling it's gravity "pull" in my hand even before putting it to a string.

Yes, heavier weight seems to be more acceptable when it comes to Sartorys, Peccattes and a few other desirable makers work. I recall a very nice Peccatte that weighed in at a tad over 64 grams that was coveted by several great players.  An example closer to you; I seem to recall that when he was alive and active, Jose Luis Garcia used one that was about that weight and strong as heck. He also used a very nice G/T Tubbs (for Hill).

For more pedestrian (affordable) violin bows that cross the 63g mark, an ex principal violist (Cleveland Symphony) used heavier violin bows during his career, so due to his influence there is still hope for the one or two I have at that weight in my drawer. Slow going though. If I take one on, I advise the owner to settle in for a long wait.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Back when I worked in a violin shop when the bow vendors would come by Peter, an older Korean gentleman (who I learned a lot from), would sort through hundreds of bows to find the 10 or so that we were going to buy fairly quickly.  He would tighten each bow, hold it hair up with his thumb on the ferrule and his index finger just below the grip, and lightly tap the screw several times.  I adopted this little ritual when evaluating bows, and I find that on the better ones you not only feel lively vibrations through your (light) grip but you also tend to hear the soft but distinct pitch of the tightened stick.  On the lesser ones, the vibrations rattle and dampen out fairly quickly and audibly you hear more of the rustling of the hair.

This might be a good technique for sorting good from bad bows, but matching a good bow with an instrument is probably a different matter.  Perhaps just as a bridge is a low pass filter for the instrument, the “pitch” and quality of the bow also compliments the individual instrument’s weak points and/or tones down it’s aggressive edges.

Has anyone else noticed or tried a similar technique?  Am I crazy?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 hours ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

For more pedestrian (affordable) violin bows that cross the 63g mark, an ex principal violist (Cleveland Symphony) used heavier violin bows during his career,

You wouldn't be talking about Robert "boom boom" Vernon would you? The boom boom nickname came from his big sound.

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...