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How far can one go with a cheap bow?


KillinKatz
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Outside of obvious tone production issues, how do inexpensive bows limit a person's technical advancement? I see in old posts where it is said that cheap bows are difficult to control for some things, spiccato being one example. Does this mean an advancing student will have trouble learning advanced technique on a lower priced composite or brazilwood bow?

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Fropm my own experience I can tell you that going from a very cheap brazilwood bow to an inexpensive ($150) pernambuco bow made a big difference. My new bow was much easier to control. The old bow often started bouncing, but my new bow does not.

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two issues for me:

1) the actual sound the bow makes interacting with a given instrument and set-up (the bow performing the dual function of both enhancing favored sonorities and damping unwanted elements)

2) the control and 'feel' of a bow (which brings in both the notion of suiting a particular player, as well as being adequate to respond to technical demands)

Ideally a quality bow performs both functions well. In a less than ideal case I guess you have to "trade off", making a choice or compromise between sound or feel.

A player with poor bowing techniques (like me, Haha!) will probably go for sound to compensate and for some self-satifaction. If you don't know what a bow is supposed to do or how to use its potential, you won't be able to tell a quality bow anyway.

How's that sound?

Omo.

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Good equipment helps, but I know of a local cellist who gets a $50,000 sound out of a $100 bow and probably a <$4000 cello.

You can usually feel the difference once you try hard stuff on a better bow. There are some things you can't do on a fiberglass bow, but if you're not in the position to buy better gear right away, don't worry about it. There's still a lot you can do and learn with any instrument and bow that sound.

-Aman

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I haven't played any bow better than my less-expensive pernambuco H.R. Wilhelm ($250), which is "cheap" (don't tell my parents that) by some standards, so I don't know.

But I've played lots of yucky really cheap bows (my students', etc.). I'm really glad I have mine to work with. If I had to play with something else I would get quite frustrated.

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Thanks to all you experienced folks! I guess what this means is that if I come across a technique I'm learning that I am having mega trouble with, I can try a better bow, and if the bow alone makes quite a difference, then I'll know it's time to upgrade. (If not, then maybe I need to be upgraded! tongue.gif LOL)

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There is always a reason that quality demands a higher price. Violin bows are one of the quirkiest things around.

A good bow will feel like and extension of your hand. A good bow will bounce when you want it to, gently caress the strings, dig in deep when you want that penetrating accent, and glide effortlessly when executing a long slurred passage.

What should one pay for such a bow? When you find that bow you will pay what you must to get it.

Once in a while you luck out, I found a nice old pernambuco round stick in a junk shop for twenty bucks. I liked the feel of it so I had it rehaired. It plays like a charm. My best bow though I payed a "bit" more for, it is a nice full sized octagonal pernambuco. I am not sure of the origin. Regardless, it does the job nicely. It is second or third hand, and has some quirkyness to it; it wasn't cheap, but it wasn't a fortune either.

To answer your question, a good bow will allow you to be more expressive musically. As to what constitutes a good bow, you will need to pick up a lot of bows to understand what feels just right.

Be patient, you will probably go through this process a few times.

Good Luck

DC

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I have a realty heavy cheap brazilwood bow that is heavier at the tip and I have a really light chinese bow that is evenly balanced....I rarely play the brazilwood anymore because it is so hard to control.

$65 and $20 respectively...I know...I am embarrassed to admit it! HA!

here is my question: I have little trouble with faster playing...but for REALLY legato things..neither bow does what I want. What do I need to look for from a bow for playing expressively in these situations? I like the feel of a lighter evenly balanced bow...but I have no clue what to look for in bows when shopping around? HKV???? anyone?????

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If you consider Arcus to be a relatively cheap bow, don't forget about the German international soloist (but I'm very sorry that I can't recall his exact name right now. Something like Teitlitz?) who thought so highly of the Arcus bow that he was (maybe now also) using a Concerto or Cadenza bow exclusively.

Even the Arcus Cadenza is surely considered a "relatively" cheap bow, nowdays.

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Some things to look for in bows: tone quality and surface noise (most evident in the highest registers), playability/feel (spiccato, other bouncy stuff), clarity of attack and response. Compare the new bow to the old bow, and do a variety of stuff for different styles, accents, etc. Don't compare too many bows (or instruments) at a time.

Try other people's bows to get a taste of the differences. To get an even better feel for it, take the fundamentals of your bow arm to the next level and maybe learn/refine some "advanced" bowings. The difference will be like shooting past what used to be a wall.

-Aman

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I'm becoming convinced that although great bows may be rare and very, very expensive, it is possible for really talented players to get fine rsults with relatively inexpensive sticks.

BUT BEWARE! Sometimes the bows we get our hands on have been made much worse by inexpert lutherie!

The sound quality one gets from a particular bow may require that the bow maker chose a very perfect peice of wood and worked it perfectly as well, however, some less than great sticks can be optimized as to their use by proper rehairing and adjusting the balance of the bow by selection of wrap and tip plate.

If a bow flexes over an appropriate length of the stick, it can be haired and balanced to behave quite well. On the other hand a bow be a great maker can be spoiled (fortunately often just temporarily) by having too much (or rarely - too little) hair, or too much silver wire wrapped about it.

You would not believe (I certainly didn't until I experienced it) how much certain behaviors of bows can be changed by seemingly unrelated changes in the distribution of weight or the amount of hair.

A really nice Richard Weichold bow of mine was really almost nowhere for decades. It would not grab the string properly - wanted to bounce off, it would not behave well for spiccato and brush strokes. Turns out some luthier had so weighted the frog end with silver wrap that the bow weighed 65 grams and that heavy frog made the whole bow feel light, but spoiled its fine performance characteristics - then I took a chance and had all the silver wrap removed - and EVERYTHING about the way that bow performs and sounds improved.

A mushy stick can be compensated for by reducing the amount of hair on it. The effect IS DEFINITELY different than just tightening the hair more. Even a soft stick can perform "crisply" if the interaction between the hair and the stick's flexibility are correct. A very stiff stick can be compensated for by having more hair. A very stiff stick may offer you more stability in performance - especially if you have a tendency to bear down to stabilize your bowing.

One of the keys, I think: if you flex the bow in your hands and see that the bending seems to occur only in a small region of the stick - there may be serious limitations what you can do with that bow, on the other hand, if a large length of the bow shows flexure, the bow may be quite good to play with, even if it's cheap. As a first guide, gauge the flexure by relative changes in the distance between the stick and the hair when you flex the bow.

Granted, my own tendency has been to go for relatively inexpensive instruments (very carefully selected), and spare less on bows.

Andy

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