How to Select a Bow

Selecting A Bow

   Choosing a bow is a very interesting journey.  Like your instrument, sound should be the most important consideration.  The selection process is just like that of an instrument, and might involve several trips to your local violin shop.
      Here are a few guidelines:

   1.  Quality of wood: String instrument bows come in  several varieties of wood, most of which may be either Brazilwood or Pernambuco.  Both woods come from the same tree.  The Brazilwood is the outer layers or newer growth.  The Pernambuco is the inner, stronger layers.  A good quality wooden violin bow starts around $250.00.  Cheap bows may seem to be affordable but they will warp very easily and have to be replaced.

   2.  How much money do you want to spend?  The prices of bows ranged from the inexpensive ($250.00) to very expensive.  A violin shop might carry bows up to tens of  thousands of dollars, so it is important to start your search with a price in mind.  A good rule is to spend between 25% - 35% of the cost of your instrument.  You will find that bows are like instruments, they each have their own personality and will bring out different qualities in your instrument and your playing.

   3.  Round or Octagonal?  The truth is . . . it makes no difference.  The makers creates a bow in accordance with that particular piece of wood.  Stability, weight, strength and flexibility all play a role in whether the stick becomes octagonal or round. There is no difference in the quality or value of either stick.  Which bow plays the best for you?

   4.  Wood or Carbon Fiber?  While carbon fiber is a good choice for a musician that might perform outdoors or in an environment that might not be safe for a wooden bow, the truth is that nothing plays better than wood bows.  Hundreds of years of experimenting have led us back to pernambuco time and time again.
      However, if a carbon fiber bow seems like the best choice for you, remember that the carbon fiber bows come in different qualities.  A well-made, professional carbon fiber bow will serve you much better than an inexpensive, student model.

   5.  How to select a bow:  When trying out bows, it is important to always use the same instrument.  Keeping the instrument consistent will help you easily discern the differences in bows.
     Try two or three bows at a time:
          1.  Play the same scale on each bow.
               Which bow makes your instrument
              sound better?  How does the bow
               feel in your hand?
          2. Try various bow techniques,
               such as spiccato, staccato, martele. 
               Which bow reacts the best for you?
          3.  Play long notes, listening to the sound. 
               Play different dynamics.
          4.  Play several lines of music on each bow.
               Which one handles slurs, rhythms,
               bow speeds  the best?  
     Eliminate the bows that do no audition well for you, add more bows to the mix until you have two to take home for a trial time.  Play the bows in different places such as your home, an auditorium or hall.  Perhaps another person or your teacher will listen to you and help with the decision.

   6.  Buying Online Without a Trial:  In a word . . . don't.  The old adage 'buyer beware' is more true than ever with internet sites.  Buying a bow without a performing trial can result in problems and a loss of money.