How To Select A Violin Bow
First: How much should I spend on a violin bow?
This may surprise you: 30% to 50% of your violin value should go to the bow. For example, if you have a $2,000 budget, plan to spend between $600 and $1,000 on the bow.
Why so much? The short answer is that the bow makes that much difference in your ability to play advanced passages and in the quality of the sound your violin produces.
Wood vs Carbon Fiber?
A good quality carbon fiber bow has many advantages. Expect to pay around $300 for one that is properly balanced and plays well. Most professional players keep a carbon fiber bow in case they play out of doors or in a tight orchestra pit to avoid breaking a tip. High quality carbon fiber can now be quite expensive and are very good.
General advantages of carbon fiber:
- Great for beginner and intermediate players
Pernambucco Wood is the preference of the vast majority of advanced and professional players.
JonPaul Carbon Fiber
Violin Bow Condition:
- Carefully look for cracks or repairs. remove the screw and frog and examine the hidden parts and look for cracks.
- Is it straight?
- Does it have sufficient strength to withstand the pressure of bowing? If the stick is weak, it will bend too much and may allow the stick to touch the hair.
- The condition of the bow hair is unimportant as it is replaced every year or every few years. Bow rehairing costs $40 – $70 in most areas.
- Condition of the leather grip and windings. These can also be restored for =/- $100.
Remove the screw to examine bow for cracks
How to try bows:
- Test bows on your violin. The same bow will sound different on various instruments.
- Play scales without vibrato – listen to the sound quality. Draw big, bold sound. Draw softly.
- Play each bow style and see how it responds. Some bows will be very responsive to your touch, others will feel sluggish. Some will bounce well, others will be too soft.
- It is best to try a number of bows. Spend only a minute or two with each one and quickly remove that ones that don’t interest you. Narrow it down to 2 or 3 that you spend more time with.
- You may want to take the best one or two out on trial for a few days in order to make a final decision. You may also want to have input from your private teacher. (But understand, it’s your bow, not theirs and they have a different playing style than you.)
Tips & Considerations:
- Is the bow straight? If not, can it be fixed? You will need a professional opinion.
- A cheap bow will make a great violin sound bad.
- Only buy a bow after trying it – don’t buy online unless you just want a cheap entry level bow or you can afford to make a number of mistakes. There are now many, many counterfeit bows that look like the real thing – the counterfeits generally don’t play well and won’t fool an experienced player.
- A player needs different qualities in a bow as their skills progress. An unskilled player will struggle with an expensive bow because the lighter tip will be hard to control. You may need to upgrade several times as your skills improve.
- If the bow is an investment grade bow, don’t buy one that has been repaired on the shaft or that has a head splice. These severe repairs dramatically reduce the value of the bow.
- Should a buy a bow that has been repaired? If the tip has been splined or the shaft repaired, the bow will have drastically reduced value and will be almost impossible to resell.
Hoyer violin bow – made in Germany