Jump to content

High-end (carbon) bows also for low-end players?


mezzopiano
 Share

Recommended Posts

Picture an adult beginner somehwere between Suzuki books 2 and 3 planning to upgrade their brazilwood bow with a carbon fiber bow (any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental). This person is mainly looking at CodaBow, Müsing, and Artino models (JonPaul is not readily available where they live). They would like a bow that is not much lighter and stiffer than a wooden bow and that's why they have excluded Arcus.

Ideally this person would like to buy a bow that I can play for several years without feeling the need to upgrade again, but they're not sure this makes sense. That's why I'm asking here.

I've noticed that some brands such as CodaBow advertise some models being more suitable to different levels of playing (https://www.codabow.com/pages/path-to-mastery) and I was wondering whether that works just upwards (players need better bows as they progress), or also the other way round (i.e., the higher-end models not being suitable for less advanced players).

I know the choice is highly personal and testing and comparing different bows is best. But my question is more generic: Lower-end bows are sometimes stated to be "calm" and "forgiving", while higher-end bows are advertised as "lively" and "sensitive".
So, should a beginner stick to a calm and forgiving bow (say Codabow Prodigy or Diamond NX) until their technique gets better, or would it make sense to get an advanced bow already at the start (say Diamond GX or even Escent/Marquise) and get peace of mind? "In medio stat virtus", goes a Latin sayig, so clearly a mid-range bow (say Diamond SX) might be the solution.

If I got that right, Müsing bows are different and my question does not really apply: they have similar mechanical characteristics across the range C2 to C5, and they mainly differ in resonance, and thus in the quality of the tone they produce, while balance, stiffness, and responsiveness are essentially the same.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 56
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I’d buy whichever feels best, after you have had some on trial.


However, there is a danger in buying an expensive bow, when essentially still a beginner. You will not be able to get the best out of it for many years, and by then, what you look for in a bow could have totally changed.
‘’Upgrades” happen for many reasons…

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If at all possible the best route is trying out the bows in person.  There are some articles about picking out a bow.

https://stringsmagazine.com/a-guide-to-buying-a-bow/

This is just one, there are lots.

If possible get a more experienced player to try them out as well or if there is a teacher have them try the bows.

 

DLB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As an adult (re)learner myself, I reasoned that I should invest in the best bow possible, within my financial capabilities - I want(ed) something I can grow in to and not have to fight to overcome a bow's limitations compounding my own limitations. 

I got a DZ Strad Pecatte off Amazon and prevailed upon my Teacher for evaluation - She opined that It was much better than my Horst Schicker Bow, so it was a keeper. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Arcus are the best carbon bows hands down. They have an extensive line with a model for pretty much anyone. I have a few bows from the original Austrian production line. I believe they are equivalent to the S models in the new German production line. Very stiff, around 47/48 grams and extract more sound out of any violin.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

no, it does not work inversersely. A better bow will work better always. I quite like Arcus, but only starting their nr 6, below that I think they on't sound well. I'm looking into the Müsing right now and I'm wondering: it is the same guy that makes Arcus bows right? So is the main difference that Arcus bows are lighter?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First, thanks all for your advice: it was helpful for narrowing down the choice a bit.

I will eventually try a few out myself from different brands, now that I learned it's safe to pick the best I can afford from each brand. Will also throw in the mix a wooden bow in the 500-600 usd/eur range to compare the sound of the carbon bows to an entry-level pernambuco bow.

Müsing bows have a different construction than Arcus bows, as Wood Butcher said, and a bit more resin in their composition. They are in between pernambuco and Arcus bows in terms of weight and stiffness. They are less expensive than Arcus bows and only go up to Nr. 5. I've also read in another review - in line with what baroquecello says - that the real "Arcus experience" starts at Nr. 6 and up: that's above my budget.

Edited by mezzopiano
minor clarifications
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/12/2022 at 3:49 PM, Swing Monkey 1 said:

Has anyone heard or have any experience with those carbon fiber bows coming out of, I believe a Cleveland violin shop? 

I think I remember reading, they were very good for the price, as a second or "picnic" bow.

Cleveland Violins was selling, some 5 or so years ago, carbon or synthetic bows from China with no brand.  $500.  They could be really good, if you took care to select the best.  I haven't compared mine directly to JonPaul or other quality synthetics, but I don't find myself wishing I were using a fine wood bow when I pick it up.  

I was introduced to them by a professional who knew that the Emerson Quartet was using them.  Whether for recording sessions and concerts, or lessons with more unruly students, I could not say.

I also do not know if Cleveland Violins are offering exactly the same line today.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That seems like a story where the lack of quality control can play in your favour. It's a bit scary, though.
Should I expect noticeable deviations between carbon fiber bows of the same model even for major brands (Arcus and Müsing excluded because they grade their bows before selling them)? CodaBow, to name one?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Adults are different than children...because our minds become another powerful variable. What we actually need often is overriden by want we think we need - and/or by what we want.

Go ahead and buy what you want.

It should decent quality AND you will want to play it...AND...you will happily bask in the warm glow of it all! :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is why we rely so much on double-blind tests in science.

Last time my head knew what it wanted and thought I needed: I bought it, quality was decent for a beginner's bow, and I wanted to be happy with it, but neither was my arm happy with the mechanics, nor my ear with the acoustics.
So I returned it.
This time I am aiming a bit higher, and getting more than one bow to compare.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a "learning curve" to how to bow. Every step of the way, there are adaptations.

But choosing a modern manufactured bow can be difficult, because it becomes a substitute for the "real" thing.

There are differences in construction. Composite bows should not be confused with Carbon Fibre bows. Many modern bows may use fibre- d material and resin, but many add other materials. There are not the extra monies avail to band saw apart bows on my free time, but try them and try to determine what makes a better bow playable.

Then it might help to back up and determine what makes a wood bow playable. Then we look at the person and try to establish what they lack.

A bow, in theory is the easiest to play in the middle when the mechanics of instrument and body are at a square or parallelogram. Play 10cm either way of "center" and the sound is the best one will get.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At the tip and the frog, the body ( human arm ) gets in the way. The body must compensate for the bow.

The better wood bows do compensate for the stronger players at their limits of playing. So the better bowmakers have better understood how players work at the limit.

There is an assumption that better materials, in tensile strength and or lightness make for a better experience, and that might be possible depending on how these materials are manipulated.

I have frequently loved composite bows as they do many things well for under $50usd. I recently played a viola bow by a manufacturer that many have ridiculed, myself included, and it was pretty good.

If manufacturers start to explain what they would like to market to players, they would be better for it. We are all improving are processes, both playing and manufacturing, and the art is advancing so we are on the way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

58 minutes ago, GoPractice said:

But choosing a modern manufactured bow can be difficult, because it becomes a substitute for the "real" thing.

44 minutes ago, GoPractice said:

There is an assumption that better materials, in tensile strength and or lightness make for a better experience, and that might be possible depending on how these materials are manipulated.

Thanks for the detailed explanation.

Not sure whether I got the quoted part right: are you saying modern-material bows (be it carbon+resin or with some other materials at their core) are different to the point that one would need to re-train themselves to some extent for switching to a better wood bow?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

blah blah blah.

The problem related to synthetic bows is that well made traditional bows have thresholds of activating sound, spiccato, martele, any number of techniques.

Higher end synthetic bows offer access better resolutions of flex and response.

I still pick out bows for my students, and different bows can offer better response when working on particular techniques. I recently picked up and older Arcos wooden bow simply because it played well. For the growing child with strength, this bow might offer better development of tone. And this was a purchase of a bow at a relatively lower pricepoint for a Pernambuco bow.

As for the Carbon or composite bows, they are getting better.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  

3 minutes ago, mezzopiano said:

Thanks for the detailed explanation.

Not sure whether I got the quoted part right: are you saying modern-material bows (be it carbon+resin or with some other materials at their core) are different to the point that one would need to re-train themselves to some extent for switching to a better wood bow?

No, the explanations are extremely general. But the creators are learning along the way.

Well, I believe that even among the wooden bows, say a Tourte ( let me not be specific ) to a Voirin to a Peccate to Sartory, players make adaptations. Or perhaps that is just me. I am very open minded but will make an effort to play every fabled maker bow that a shop will allow me to play. Recently a wonderful Samuels and a two bows from the Olympic peninsula that looked great but sounded ok for the price. All out of my price range as there are other bills that need to get paid. No gigs, no candy.

Carbon bows ( of the same line ) have the same difficulty. I can virtually address every bow stroke of every Suzuki book from the first slurs in Minuet one to the Carmen Fantasy in book 6.

As for the sonic virtues, Arcus has surprised me. I have an Coda Conservatory which is surprisingly good compared to others. The NX to GX tend to me much more similar but some sound different.

When one is to bow say, mp, on longer slower bow and change the amount of weight on the index finger, some carbon bows react better. The little finger ( pinky? ) weight and position on an assortment of students might make a difference and the length of the pinky. Whether the response to place it lightly or deliberately on the stick makes a difference as to how it works during strokes or other techniques.

Ultimately, I am a tonal person and not one of high technique. I am currently struggling with a sequence of descending triplets played in succession for a performance later this month. This on the Tourte ( an exceptional copy ) while on any other bow, it is quite easy. This is a personal struggle as the parts were written by Mozart. Before FX Tourte ever dreamed up the modern bow. Sound does not always trump technique. It is possible to play the part, but it needs to sound effortless. So even with great equipment we struggle. 

When shopping for a new bow, it helps to have a great advocate. I have helped, but also confused the issue. This is not all "hearts and flowers." If it were not possible to meet, as  I tell parents, the amount of joy a player receives from an investment is relative. I make bad purchases all the time. If it possible to trial a bow one likes, that might be the best. The differences are around what one can afford. At $xxx vs $xxxxx, the 5 figure purchase requires more research.

Keep up the dialog.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm looking at 3-figures synthetic bows ($nnn) right now as I've come to the conclusion - thanks to everybody's advice - that it's too early to invest in a finer bow, because I would not be able to appreciate it properly.
Besides, it seems like high-level synthetic bows ($nnnn) are unforgiving and just frustrating in the absence of adequate playing skills.
But I don't my bow to be too forgiving either: I think that for improving I need to practice on a bow that I can just barely control, and learn how to tame it.
For forgiveness and smooth tone I have my $100 brazilwood bow, which works surprisingly well.
I've played two carbon fibre bows priced at $200 and below but was not carried away: one too stiff, one oddly balanced, and on both the tone was maybe strong, but thin.
So I'm looking at a slightly higher price range, now. I've now ordered three bows in the $500-$600 range to try: two are synthetic, one is pernambuco. I'm not expecting wonders from pernambuco in that price range, but I want to hear whether and how much improvement in sound there is with respect to by brazilwood bow.
I will try them for a few days on my own, then ask my teacher and listen to their advice: I already hear them saying to send them all back and continue playing on my current bow and save toward a fine pernambuco bow instead of synthetic...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, mezzopiano said:

 ( ... )


For forgiveness and smooth tone I have my $100 brazilwood bow, which works surprisingly well.
I've played two carbon fibre bows priced at $200 and below but was not carried away: one too stiff, one oddly balanced, and on both the tone was maybe strong, but thin.
So I'm looking at a slightly higher price range, now. I've now ordered three bows in the $500-$600 range to try: two are synthetic, one is pernambuco. I'm not expecting wonders from pernambuco in that price range, but I want to hear whether and how much improvement in sound there is with respect to by brazilwood bow.
I will try them for a few days on my own, then ask my teacher and listen to their advice: I already hear them saying to send them all back and continue playing on my current bow and save toward a fine pernambuco bow instead of synthetic...

Since you are not located in the US, offering advice is a bit more difficult.

But you appear to be learning from your experiences.

People tend toward what they know and understand. Does that make sense?

When driving a nail into a board, if we hold the nail tight, the hammer might not be as accurate. If we hold the nail gently and focus on the strike of the hammer, the strike might be on axis and drive accurately in the wood.

You're sampling is correct. Keep looking until you are certain.

As for personal biases, there are very few bows synthetic that sound "warm." Many are too stiff. But that is tradeoff for control. Synthetic bows tend towards being straight, while less expensive wood bows wander a bit.

The higher resolution feel required in sensitive playing comes from the slightest, most narrow section of the bow. Just recently, I have thought about actually filing a composite bow, but perhaps that is the neu- thing to d for 2023.  

Do not get frustrated. It can be a slow process. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A more firm, or stiffer bow helps a less experienced student. The feel is more likely to connect the player with the string. The better rosin, given one's environment, activates the string better. A stiff synthetic bow, is completely different from a stiff wooden bow.

The stiffness is something to feel overall. As one squeezes a synthetic bow into a string, establish where it releases first. A bow grabs at the diameter of the string. If the first 1mm drops from near the tip, yay. It only needs to be soft enough to rotate a better string. Even a piece of absorbent paper inserted at the tip of the bow, above the mortice is enough to get a string to respond. But for a more expressive bow arm, it the bow has to be supple enough to agitate the string to full ampliture.

The playability of the string is it's ability to activate the string. That is the micro effect. The macro effect is to get it make sound. There are many layers to this. One is the string's ability to wobble to max amplitude.

In the electric guitar world, they are selling ( somewhat overpriced ) effects pedals. In the digital realm of these pedals, there is the "impulse response" signal processing, where it "virtually" tricks the brain into thinking the origins of sound is sound from something else. The impulse response of an over generalized effect can be contoured.

When it comes to better understanding a higher end bow, it might be in the feel ( and the response to it at the ear ) of how it activates a string. It is a very fast neurological response. I have very expensive bows, that are very difficult to play, but they sound amazing. I can not fight how they exist, because they are better bows than I am a player, but work to better understand how they respond.  

My argument is that if the right hand is flexible, soft and the work fingers work uniformly, as a unit, the better the bow might be evaluated for the player. It is always ( almost always ) to change shape and apply tensions/ pressure/ whatever.  From that "neutral" relaxed, the player can "add" to the filtering and articulation of sound. I am also a pianist. I know how each finger can have a personality of its own.

Stiff synthetic bows are less likely to articulate or be more open sonically ( compared to a well made wood bow ) but like Coda, better bows are being made. On the whole, better behaviour and the emanating sound are the two main factors. Bows that activate strings, yet can accommodate the clumsier arm offer perhaps rounder sound. With a better arm and softer hand, a stiffer bow with a springier tip can articulate a more advanced technique.

Your request might be for a bow that offers a firm ( not stiff ) overall stick and a springier tip response.

Not saying that I understand much of anything created post- 2020. I have not been able to try as many bows or instruments. But as one becomes a better player from beginner to amateur, bow technique in cooperation with a smooth, softer left hand allows for one to find better bows.

In your price range, a better Brazilian manufactured bow might be better. Try testing a Brazillian made bow with a slightly tip light balance point. The bow will not lose much and value and what you experience and learn would be beneficial. With guidance from a teacher, drawing to tone should be easier.

And at the higher price range, what one learns is great. Synthetic bows will not likely go up in price but what is learned from a more hand- crafted, supple bow, is worth it in time.  

Blah blah blah. I comment too much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Get a supple, but reasonably firm synthetic bow. That is for the feel. It is easy to make a stiff synthetic bow, but far more complex and difficult to find one that loves the string.   

Can't be there for the sound, but if it feels right, the player will get the strings to max amplitude.

I have only told my most thoughtful students this, but a bow should love the instrument and the instrument also love the bow. What is the interface? The hair, the rosin, the string. 

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...