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


mezzopiano
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Wow, that's a lot of info to digest!
I need to factor out the instrument, because it's due for an upgrade in the next year or so.

I have not been too specific about the bows I've included in the test, because I did not want the discussion to become centered about "is bow X better than bow Y?", given how subjective the choice is.
But it's no secret: the bows I'll be testing are Codabow SX, Müsing C3, and a Dörfler pernambuco bow. I expect them to be quite different.
Having read some more about Coda, I wonder whether I should have included a NX in my order.

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Hi MP,

I’m an adult beginner with no musical background.  I’ve been playing for almost six years now.  My first bow was a composite JonPaul of some sort that I got used as a kit from my luthier.

Bows are bows, right?

At some point I realized it was composite and not wood and I decided I’d prefer wood for the simple reason that I wanted a wood bow.  My luthier let me try out a bunch of different bows on trial.  I realized that some were more comfortable than others.  At this point I’d been playing for about two years.

I didn’t love any of them.

Then when I returned a little while later and had my bow rehaired, he gave me a wooden bow as a loaner.

It felt perfect in my hand immediately.  Light, balanced, and just fantastic.  The frog has the perfect gap size for my finger size.

I bought it and I have not used my old bow since, that was four years ago.

Since then I’ve learned that my bow is a bit flexy and can get whippy if I dig in.  I wouldn’t have understood this four years ago.  I’ve also learned that this bow communicates a lot back to my hand when I’m really in tune, again…this meant nothing to me four years ago.

Bottom line, I think the answer is try a lot of them.  What feels right feels right for a reason.  In time and with experience you’ll figure out if the bow performs as you want.

But I’m of the opinion that one plays better when one is comfortable, so the bow should feel comfortable.

Most here have more experience than me and I value their input, but these are my thoughts.

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Makes very much sense.
Actually, not being happy with the shape and size of the frog of my current bow is the main reason I'm looking for a new one: if I hold the bow properly (they way my teacher wants me to), the ferrule digs into my thumbnail. This does not happen with other bows I tried. Besides, it's 67g, and I'd prefer a ligher one.

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4 minutes ago, mezzopiano said:

Makes very much sense.
Actually, not being happy with the shape and size of the frog of my current bow is the main reason I'm looking for a new one: if I hold the bow properly (they way my teacher wants me to), the ferrule digs into my thumbnail. This does not happen with other bows I tried. Besides, it's 67g, and I'd prefer a ligher one.

Funny.  My composite weighs about the same, 67 grams.  I’ve found the heavier bow does, for me, make playing double stops a bit easier.  

But my wood bow is a very nimble 54 grams.  I barely notice it’s there in comparison.

 My sole bit of advice is don’t compromise on comfort and fit of your fingers into the frog.  If it bothers you it bothers you and you’re going to start resenting it over time.  

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This might be "sacrilegious" but I like, and play, my Howard Core 600 CF bow more than the Alfred Knoll Pernambuco that I paid a lot more for. The Knoll is a very nice bow so this is saying something.

It's all about what plays right and sounds right for each individual.

 

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21 hours ago, GoPractice said:

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.

Really? Carmen Fantasy in Suzuki Violin Book 6?  Things have changed since I played these years ago.  I only remember a couple of Sonatas, Allegro by Fiocco, and La Folia Variations by Corelli.

Now I am interested in buying the updated Book 6!

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Hands down a good wooden bow will produce the best tone.  Its wood.

I love carbon fiber bows for students because they are cheap and I have not found one that a student could not spiccato or whatever technique I was teaching.  

Going from a CF bow to a wood bow, and vice a versa, does not require any more technique adjustments than going from one wooden bow to another.  The technique fundamentals remain the same.  

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16 hours ago, mezzopiano said:

 ( ... )


Having read some more about Coda, I wonder whether I should have included a NX in my order.

Product lines are interesting. I worked in an assortment of manufacturing ( resulting in widgets ) and any process is not perfect. The best engineers try to maximize yield, but there are fringes. The higher the expectations, more units on the fringe.

Many in the GX line was impressive. Escent ( sic ) and the Marquise are new, and people I respect for their knowledge like them. And many had said the same for the GX > SX > NX lines. At one shop, I jokingly asked if it were a M. de Sade, and the guy literally stared me down. ( Obviously an old guy. ) *cough* I would like a mute. 

There were some NX series bows that were of excellent value. As we near $1kusd, the GX is a more difficult sell. The Coda feel is that there is an American bowmaker bias, not necessarily because that they are an American company. It just feels that way playing them. Perfect for me but not everywhere. The Arcus, European? Not sure yet. I like mine, but have put less than 40+ hours on the bow. I have paid, so it is all mine. Not sure they solve the stiffness issue with the compensation of weight. Fun to play.

A student recently tried several full silver, newly manufactured German bows. She liked them. ( one very much. )  Ultimately, they were tried against far more expensive ( 4x - 10x ) bows and the less expensive bows did very well during the trial over several weeks. Her playing improved. And with much coaxing ( spending time ) on the more expensive bows, improved further. I was there just as a consultant and guided the student through the choices. The parents who heard the playing ultimately chose a far more expensive bow. I would argue that these particular production bows were excellent. The one she liked was better than the other two. Strangely, it was difficult to sway her from a production bows. The bow purchased was also excellent. I agreed with the parents that the more expensive bow would likely improve technique and playing over the next few years, definitely through the teen years. I am not the student's teacher, nor do I know the teacher.

My take on the production bows were that they behaved very well. When pushed ( not pressed, tugged, think arm weight ) they were not the higher quality and premium "German" bows, but many aspects of student playing were executed well. Safe, comfortable, nice sound and excellent balance. Timing improved significantly. We asked for a few Nurnbergers and the new production bows played better in her hands.

It does help to have an advocate, but at this price range, the risk always appears reasonable. If on the 2nd day of ownership, there is an adverse affect ( allergy ) to the bow, then the loss would be like trying to privately sell a newly purchased car off the lot. But in half a year's time, there is a better understanding and "grasp" of the bow. There would not be much of a financial loss for experimenting at xxx digit pricing. Many of us would prefer not to take any loss, but not me. It's the reality of tuition. 

Would maybe also advocate for an understanding with your shop. Trades in the future?

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Arcus/Müsing exploit the distribution of production quality of their raw sticks and rank them accordingly: I guess Müsing C3 and Arcus 6-Series sticks are the norm (~average), everything better gets a higher number and vice versa.
Maybe that's what other brands do, as well, and then market their sticks under different names?
Codabow cannot really do this I suppose (or maybe just with Prodigy and Diamond NX?), because sticks differ between models. So I would expect more quality fluctuations among say several Codabow SXs than Müsing C3s, if that makes sense.

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Might be wrong, but the Prodigy and Conservatory are more related. The release of the XX products were a different range with the visual weave. Just mentioning as they "generally" play differently. Here in the US, there are used Prodigy bows that are in $xxusd that might require rehairing. Compared to an absolutely generic synthetic bow, I recommend the Prodigy as that model was engineered to play a particular way.

Ranking raw sticks is a bit of a problem. The ranking methodology makes a difference and we assume that Mus/Arc know what they are doing. I doubt that they will disclose to the public what they do.

What is most important, is that once the bows arrive that you play them, not neglecting your other responsibilities. You might even make a ranking matrix. Rank 1 - 5, the skills attempted and the results.

When do they arrive?

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On 9/16/2022 at 12:55 AM, baroquecello said:

One thing I find very good about Arcus, is that if you wish to upgrade to a better one, they will take your old arcus bow back and deduct the whole amount you paid for it from the new bow you wish to buy. (At least that used to be the case last year. Didn't check today)

This is a very friendly strategy for the manufacturer.

Synthetic bows do not break at the same rate as wooden bows. When a manufactured model starts to fail, the whole series will be done in x range of years given temps and humidity. But for the short term they destruct less.

I am whole heartedly interested in synthetics. If I could figure out a way to mineralize and texture a nylon thread to become the new bow hair, I would. If I could make epoxy porous, I would. But the back yard experiments have produced gunk.

Manufacturers measure risk, and that is important to their survival. They are trying and however grateful I might be, get the upgrade path in writing.

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3 hours ago, GoPractice said:

This is a very friendly strategy for the manufacturer.

Synthetic bows do not break at the same rate as wooden bows. When a manufactured model starts to fail, the whole series will be done in x range of years given temps and humidity. But for the short term they destruct less.

I am whole heartedly interested in synthetics. If I could figure out a way to mineralize and texture a nylon thread to become the new bow hair, I would. If I could make epoxy porous, I would. But the back yard experiments have produced gunk.

Manufacturers measure risk, and that is important to their survival. They are trying and however grateful I might be, get the upgrade path in writing.

I'm not sure what you are getting at here. Arcus gives you a 30 year warranty. The upgrade option is very attractive and makes buying an Arcus bow more attractive than other CF-bows, because other manufacturers do not give such upgrade options. It really turns upgrading into something relatively cheap. Sure, it is a marketing strategy, but anyone selling has one, so I don't get what the problem is with this one. Your last sentence seems to insinuate that the maker may discontinue this offer at a whim. That is ofcourse possible, I guess. BTW I just tried to find the trade-in option, but cannot seem to find it on the website any longer.

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Well, the bows are here and they could not be more different!
The Dörfler bow is, well, wooden: quite nice tone, average weight, rather flexible.
The Müsing C3 and Codabow Diamond SX have similar stiffness, but are 10g apart in weight: Not sure whether that's standard, but I would not have expected the SX to weigh 67g!
On my student violin, the C3 produces a cleaner and the SX a richer tone.
I have ordered a "modern" C3, but the leather is way too think and I don't find holding it comfortable. Maybe the classic version has a thinner leather?
The SX is comfortable to hold (thumb and frog), but I feel the glossy finish a bit slippery for the pinky and it feels artificial: the C3 feels more organic.
So, regarding ergonomics, I'm not really carried away by any.
From my initial tests, I prefer the handling of the C3 (apart from the leather issue) and the tone of the SX.
I am looking forward to my teacher's opinion regarding the more technical aspects and what they think is more appropriate for the development of my technique.

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I'm posting this picture to show the differences in frog shape and leather thickness.
The third bow is a Arcus S7 knock-off which does certainly not play the same, but I find it very comfortable to hold (it has the same weight as the Müsing but the thinner leather of the Coda).

Anyone knows whether the "classic" version of Müsing bows have a thinner thumb leather?

IMG_0665-crop-sm.jpg

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I have a 2nd hand codabow gx I got for my son. It plays well. It is loud, but perhaps that's just because the other bows hadn't been rehaired in a while. 

I did look at an sx someone was selling locally and was surprised by how beat up it was. There was a spot on the frog that was starting to wear way and the winding had come unwound. This is just to say that even CF bows need basic care. 

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Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention that the Codabow SX is the loudest of the three. Might be due to the fact that it weighs 67g 62g, 10g 7g more than the Müsing? Is that a typical weight for a SX?

Edited by mezzopiano
Wrong weights corrected: my scale was badly calibrated.
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5 hours ago, Mr. Bean said:

I really do have some experience with CodaBow and a weight of 67 grs for a SX violin bow is unthinkable. You really  should check your scales!

Actually, you are right. I calibrated my scale and cross-checked with a different scale: the Müsing C3 is 55g and the SX is 62g. I'll correct my post(s) above. It actually feels better now that I know I did not get an outlier, otherwise I would have ordered another one...

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19 minutes ago, baroquecello said:

I would not let the leather influence my choice. It is such a cheap part to replace and will need replacement eventually anyway.

The point was that with some bows my thumbnail touches the ferrule, depending on the size and shape of the frog. Even more so if the leather is thick. So with bows that come with a thick leather, it's difficult for me to assess how they would feel with a thin leather.

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On 9/17/2022 at 3:55 PM, baroquecello said:

I'm not sure what you are getting at here. Arcus gives you a 30 year warranty. The upgrade option is very attractive and makes buying an Arcus bow more attractive than other CF-bows, because other manufacturers do not give such upgrade options.   ( ... )

Warranties are good. The best are less conditional and the manufacturer/ producer/ artisan, does the best to correct the issue. But that is also dependent on the intent of the "owner." I own quite a few items where, as the 2nd owner, the warranty is not viable. I understand, sort of. In many cases, the manufacturer should not be able to slither away from the original warranty.

On 9/17/2022 at 3:55 PM, baroquecello said:

 ( ... )

It really turns upgrading into something relatively cheap. Sure, it is a marketing strategy, but anyone selling has one, so I don't get what the problem is with this one. 

( ... )

I have to disagree for many instances. There is the rule of "reduced returns." Just because an additional $2k is spent, there is not necessarily a $2k improvement. One might yield less in the greater spending. But for the pairings that occur in real life, I do like the idea of the option. Some shops have this option regardless of equipment.

Not going to discuss what certain dealers might think, but when business is lean, upgrade/ trade ins are not helpful. There are differences where an exceptional dealer can defend the work but is at the mercy of a broken string. I know what to do with a broken Tungsten string, but when the customer complains... I realize that bow purchases are different to a degree, but I have been in the position to defend broken wood bows. Carbon bows break less frequently, but then there is customer satisfaction. Which is far more subjective. In theory, I could continue to upgrade between rehairs.

On 9/17/2022 at 3:55 PM, baroquecello said:

 ( ... ) The last sentence seems to insinuate that the maker may discontinue this offer at a whim. That is of course possible, I guess. BTW I just tried to find the trade-in option, but cannot seem to find it on the website any longer.

Not on a whim. Corporations, publicly traded entities, governments make decisions thoughtfully and strategically. I know of of Luthiers in the guitar realm who allow trade- ins at full value on the first ten instruments of a new line. The limit of x instruments make sense, as some bugs may not be fully worked out when the first few, of a new model, are produced.

I do not know the owners of many of the general European bow making industry. Certainly not those of synthetic bows. I did have a heated discussion with a representative of a Righetti bow, but there was no resolution, then and now.

The business approach is cool. Synthetics are stronger than wood until they start to fail, decades from now? But Synthetics generally do not increase in value. If anything they maintain or fall. I am sure like any other form, a collectible will increase in value. 

Your information is helpful. But as an old man, my guess is that I do not complain enough, because I have been burned by many warranties and rebates.

It's not fair to many, because as a corporate dude, my brother yells at a lot of people on the phone. Thus, a happy user of internet services and subscriber and awards recipient. I am still trying to locate a modem from my apple 2. Instead, uniformed teenagers behind fast food counters cower at my rath. On occasion, I play a bunch of Philip Glass. That has them reduced tears. Worker shortages? I might make up a percent or two.   

 

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