Purchasing a New Bow?
Having a good bow is one of the most important steps in achieving the quality experience that you desire while playing music. Not all bows are equal; each featuring a different tone, feel, and capability. Every player is different, therefore a bow must be fitted to your specific abilities and preferences. Buying a new bow can be intimidating if you are unfamiliar with the process, but knowing what to look for, what to expect, and what your specific needs are will be helpful in the process.
When buying a bow, knowing your budget ahead of time will make the process go much faster. Bows range in price from as little as fifty dollars to thousands of dollars. The more advanced you are, the higher the quality you will need. One with a good curve and strong stick is all that a beginner needs. As your skill level increases, so do your bow needs. A bow should not be too heavy or too light, too hard or too soft, and should be straight when viewed down the stick. Your bow should complement your playing and make advanced techniques become more effortless. A well made, nice quality bow should help you achieve this. If you are still struggling even when playing on a nice bow, it may mean there is an issue with your technique. When you don’t have to think about it as much and the bow becomes an extension of your hand is when you know you have found a good match. Make sure and bring your own instrument and bow when purchasing a new bow. Bows respond slightly differently to each instrument, and you will have the most accurate experience if you test out new options on your own instrument. Bring your old bow as reference to where you are upgrading from. Test out many different options of bows, starting with your price range and going slightly above. With each bow that you are testing out, try multiple different bowing styles and techniques with all sections of the bow. Choose the same section of music to play, going from one bow to the next, so that you hear how they all perform differently on the same song. Once you have narrowed down your selection of new bows, you may want to ask to take them out on loan for a week before you make a final decision, so that you can get the advice of your teacher and spend more focused time with them. You should feel confident and happy with your decision, and knowing what options are available will help in this process.
There are many types of bows, all varying in material and shape. The price of a bow is mainly based off of the materials that it is made of. There are three basic types of bow sticks: brazilwood, pernambuco, and carbon fiber. Brazilwood is a name used for multiple different varieties of tropical woods. Brazilwood bows generally range in price from $50-$200, making them suitable for beginner through early intermediate students. Pernambuco wood is a Brazilian wood and has been used since the 18th century. This wood is dense and heavy, perfect for advanced playing. Makers are careful to only use the highest quality pernambuco wood and usually end up not using most of it. Due to a shortage of this wood, Brazil has put limitations on how much is allowed to be exported out of the country, making it rare and expensive. Some say the best bows were those made in the 19th century by French makers, claiming that the wood used then is no longer in existence. Others are perfectly content with modern-made bows. Carbon fiber has become a common material in recent years, partly due to the shortage of pernambuco. These bows are made of carbon fiber bonded with resin. They can be comparable to pernambuco. The durability and value is good for its price range. Fiberglass has also been used for student bows, mostly because of its affordability and durability. Some bow sticks are round and some octagonal. Octagonal sticks are slightly stiffer, more rare, and may be more expensive.
Each bow, although can it sometimes be subtle, has a different sound. It usually comes down to personal preference. A bow that is stiff and strong will produce a brighter sound, although an extremely stiff bow may sound rough and edgy. Bows that are more supple usually have a smoother, fuller sound, although can lack clarity if it is too soft. Your goal should be to find a bow that is the best of both. Your bow should have a quick response to your playing as well as smooth clarity. This combination can be hard to find, but it is best to be patient with the process - the end result is well worth it!