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Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle

NicoleC 18 Dec 01 - 06:53 PM
Ned Ludd 18 Dec 01 - 07:00 PM
Murray MacLeod 18 Dec 01 - 07:03 PM
Deckman 18 Dec 01 - 07:21 PM
NicoleC 18 Dec 01 - 07:36 PM
GUEST,Les B. 18 Dec 01 - 07:47 PM
Murray MacLeod 19 Dec 01 - 06:53 PM
Les B 19 Dec 01 - 09:04 PM
Jon Freeman 19 Dec 01 - 09:50 PM
NicoleC 19 Dec 01 - 09:52 PM
Mark Clark 19 Dec 01 - 10:43 PM
English Jon 20 Dec 01 - 08:31 AM
GUEST,Les B. 20 Dec 01 - 12:45 PM
Sorcha 20 Dec 01 - 01:10 PM
Sorcha 20 Dec 01 - 01:12 PM
Jim Krause 20 Dec 01 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Anthony 26 Jan 12 - 08:50 PM
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Subject: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: NicoleC
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 06:53 PM

Hi folks,

I'm looking for some different opinions on a new bow purchase. I've found quite a bit of information on choosing bows to suit violin styles, but nothing on fiddles.

Unfortunately, there's only one music shop with fiddles where I live (aside from a few student orchestra rental places), and they don't stock any fiddle bows -- so I won't have the luxury of trying different ones out. But since I'm still playing my Cremona student violin (an SV175), I bet almost anything will be a big improvement! :)

My biggest beef with my current bow is the balance -- it seems very heavily weighted toward the tip, and I think I would like something lighter. Budget is definately an issue, but neither do I want to outgrow my new bow in another year.

Any comments? Is pernambuco really that much better than brazilwood? How are the newer composites for fiddle players? Has anyone tried "cerejeira wood," which I gather is a type of brazilian oak?

Thanks for any comments!


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Ned Ludd
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 07:00 PM

you've hit the nail on the head- balance is the thing and it's what suits you. A straight one is also good. Fiddle or Violin the only difference is (sometimes) the price.


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 07:03 PM

The fiddler with whom I play has just had a selection of carbon graphite fiber composite bows on approval for a week, and is making her final choice tonght. She loves them all and thinks they are a vast improvement on her old (cheapie) wooden bow. As I understand her, they "hold the tension" better, and don't "bottom out" ,whatever that means. At $1000 plus, they better had.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 07:21 PM

Hi Nicole ... I'm not a violin player, or a fiddler, but your question caught my attention. I'm afraid that my post will NOT help you much in your quest, but you did remind me of a personal story I grew up with. My late childhood friend was a master musician: concert violinist, played every instrument in the orchestra, orchestraconductor of five symphony orchestras. (He passed away of cancer some 8 years ago). It was from him that I received much of my formal music education and musical courage. Anyway ... to my story. He received his masters degree in music from Oberlin. His graduation gift from his parents, was a new violin bow ... of his choice. The year was about 1965. The cost of that bow was $30,000. True! Again, I can't help you in your quest except to perhaps give you some encouragement and perspective. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: NicoleC
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 07:36 PM

Hiya Bob --

I've seen quite a few bows in the 6-figure range, which I don't understand at all. But I really start to cough and wheeze when I see advertisements for "Low-cost student bows starting at only $1000!" Good lord, that's two house payments! :)

The nearest dedicated string players store in my area is 3 hours away in San Francisco -- and their bows start at $2500... but they have many antique bows that they decline to discuss the price of unless you are a serious buyer.

Heaven help me, I've picked a white elephant for a hobby, and I love it too much to put it out of it's misery.


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 07:47 PM

I'm still wallowing around in the swamp of intermediacy when it comes to fiddle playing, but I'll stick my two bits in: To figure out where the balance point on your old bow is, simply slide/balance it across your extended forefinger until it won't tip one side or the other. This should be somewhere about the middle, and should be where you need the least up or down bow to keep it shuffling across the strings. Some people put a piece of tape there when practicing, to work at staying at the most efficient portion of the bow. If the balance point is closer to the tip, then indeed you're tip heavy, etc.

I went to a lighter wooden bow ($65 US) from a cheap fiberglass bow ($40 US) a couple of years ago. There was a slight improvement in being able to move the bow more sprightly, but I missed the weight of the old bow. If you remember to hold your fiddle fairly level (not all hunched over like some of the crippled up old timers :) -then that weight seems to work for you in keeping the bow down on the strings and making a decent tone.

Last fall I bought a newer Glasser composite bow for about $99 US on the internet, and I'm liking it fairly well, no huge, flashy improvement in bowing or sound, just a good solid bow. It is straight, and tensions well. What the person above meant by "bottoming out" (I think) is that if you're really pressing hard on a bow stroke and your bow isn't tensioned well, sometimes the stick will touch the hair and you get a scraping sound as the stick also scrapes the strings.

I'm not sure about all the woods, but pernambuco is supposed to be resilient and springy which is why it's traditionally used in better quality bows.


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 06:53 PM

Now I understand why David Russell Young abandoned guitar-makimg and started making violin bows. I have worked with wood all my life and I cannot for the life of me see how these sort of prices can be justified. I mean, you can buy a really nice handmade guitar for under $3000. How many hours go into making a bow, compared to making a guitar?

While I can appreciate that pernambuco of the right quality is fairly rare and hence expensive, manufacturing the thing once you have the wood is not rocket science, neither does it require Michelangelo-like woodcarving skills.

IMHO, a gigantic rip-off.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Les B
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 09:04 PM

Murray - better yet, start fashioning guitar picks out of some supposedly rare material, like "thousand year old tortoise shell from the wilds of Abyssinia" and charge $500 a pop. You're right, it's an elitist rip-off IMHO too!


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 09:50 PM

Drifting but on the subject of picks, I cut one shaped like the large Gibson triangle ones out of tigers eye today for no better reason than me liking the look of the bit of stone and wanting something different. This one is too thick - perhaps I should thin it down and see if I can play with it...

Jon


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: NicoleC
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 09:52 PM

Thanks for the comments. My teacher promised to discuss specific models, etc. when I'm ready to commit... but the more opinions the merrier.

Murray, maybe YOU should start making bows. I gather bow-making is somewhat of an art -- anyone can make one but to make one WELL is a different story. But as pernambuco is virtually extinct, maybe you can make your fortune experimenting with new woods :)


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Mark Clark
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 10:43 PM

Actually, bow making is pretty much rocket science. If anyone could just start turning out quality bows, everyone would do it and they wouldn't be expensive. In general a fine bow, equal to the instrument it's selected for, will cost about as much as the instrument. There really is a big difference in the way a particular violin sounds when played by the same player using different bows. A master violinist, aiming for the concert stage, needs a violin and a bow capable of responding properly and giving voice to his or her unique abilities and sensitivities.

I once needed to buy a bow and, thinking that was probably a pretty easy thing to do, walked into a little violin repair shop on Chicago's Ridge Ave. The shopkeeper was telling me that he didn't sell bows when an older gentleman walked in and joined the conversation. He told me he had bows for sale if I was interested. Giving me his address, he told me to go home and get my fiddle and bring it over to his appartment in Rogers Park.

When I got there and was admited, it was clear that I was in way over my head. In the living room sat a concert grand piano, full sized orchestral harp and a number of lesser instruments. He motioned me into a study and produced a selection of bows he thought might be appropriate and in my price range. He then asked me to play using each of the bows in turn. Well I can tell you there was no way I was going to betray my meager abilities in front of him and made some excuse—like not knowing how to play.

He then took my fiddle and the bows into an adjacent room out of my sight and had me listen while he played using each bow. We disgarded some immediately but after a short while, it was clear that a couple of them sounded far better than the rest on my fiddle. I voiced my preference and he played them both again just to make sure I could consistantly discern the difference.

Well I bought the bow and I still have it and, on those increasingly rare occasions when I still take my fiddle out of its case, I still use it. The man's name was Sol Turner. Many years later, telling this story to a friend who repaired violins for a high-end dealer in Chicago's loop, I learned that Sol was the Concert Master of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Did he manipulate the sound so that I would choose a bow he was anxious to sell? Who knows? He certainly could have made any of the bows sound any way he wanted subject to limitations of my fiddle. Still, I'd like to think that he really cared about seeing a kid (I was 21 but looked about 17) get a bow that would help him learn and stay with the instrument.

Good luck finding a bow, Nicole.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: English Jon
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 08:31 AM

I recently got a "Coda" brand graphite bow.£180 UK. Very pleased with it. Balance is quite good, possibly a little too light at the tip, if anything. They do another one for about £275 as well, which is said to be better, but I can't tell the difference! Having said that, my previous bow was a £25 job, so anything is an improvement. It's certainly a lot easier to play fast stuff with a good bow though.

Good luck.

EJ


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 12:45 PM

Nicole - you might want to take a look at the bows (and strings) at Concord Music - so far they're about the cheapest I've seen. http://www.concordmusic.com/dynamic_acc.asp?srch_category=Bows


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 01:10 PM

Bows are such a personal thing. I have not tried any of the "artificial" bows that I like--Coda, Glasser, composite, etc. To me, they just don't have the responsiveness of wood.

One of my bows is a Pernambuco that originally cost $2,000.00 US. I was lucky to find it on consignment for less than half that. The concertmaster of the Salt Lake Symphony had mail ordered it and had kept it too long when he decided he didn't like it. It is very heavy for a concert bow, but just what I like.

Violinists usually want a lot of camber in their bow--the shallow arc from nut to top of tip. Fiddlers don't ususally care that much--many of them play with a straight stick.

Being classically trained, I want a LOT of action in my bow--I want it to bounce all by itsself just below the center of the bow. I want it to do spizzacato, stacatto, and all those other fancy bowing words--if you don't care about that, you might be happy with a cheaper bow.

Try Shar Music, they have a large selection of bows, some not quite so expensive, and will mail order a selection for approval.


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 01:12 PM

When you get there, click on the on line store link, upper left. That should take you to a page where you will see a box with link to Bows on Sale.


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: Jim Krause
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 01:43 PM

Nicole: I found some afordable bows for sale at Elderly Instruments. Check 'em out. Jim


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Subject: RE: Help: Choosing a new bow for fiddle
From: GUEST,Anthony
Date: 26 Jan 12 - 08:50 PM

I'm in the process of choosing a bow from David russell Young. Spectacular bows. From $6000 to 7500...


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