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Difference in fiddle bows?

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GUEST,ossanflags at werk 06 Mar 06 - 04:13 AM
GUEST,Donald 06 Mar 06 - 04:51 AM
Sttaw Legend 06 Mar 06 - 07:29 AM
fiddler 06 Mar 06 - 08:10 AM
Sorcha 06 Mar 06 - 09:48 AM
JohnInKansas 06 Mar 06 - 01:42 PM
Bert 06 Mar 06 - 02:35 PM
Sorcha 06 Mar 06 - 02:50 PM
Hand-Pulled Boy 06 Mar 06 - 02:57 PM
LilyFestre 06 Mar 06 - 03:05 PM
Bert 06 Mar 06 - 03:05 PM
GLoux 06 Mar 06 - 03:44 PM
Sorcha 06 Mar 06 - 04:22 PM
Bert 06 Mar 06 - 04:32 PM
Sorcha 06 Mar 06 - 05:20 PM
Bert 06 Mar 06 - 05:31 PM
Sorcha 06 Mar 06 - 05:34 PM
Bert 06 Mar 06 - 06:44 PM
The Fooles Troupe 06 Mar 06 - 06:50 PM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Mar 06 - 07:51 PM
JohnInKansas 06 Mar 06 - 10:34 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 06 Mar 06 - 11:35 PM
Pauline L 06 Mar 06 - 11:46 PM
fiddler 07 Mar 06 - 04:31 AM
GUEST 07 Mar 06 - 06:44 AM
GLoux 07 Mar 06 - 07:40 AM
katlaughing 07 Mar 06 - 10:03 AM
Bert 07 Mar 06 - 01:25 PM
LilyFestre 07 Mar 06 - 07:21 PM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Mar 06 - 07:25 PM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Mar 06 - 07:35 PM
LilyFestre 07 Mar 06 - 07:53 PM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Mar 06 - 07:56 PM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Mar 06 - 08:00 PM
Sorcha 07 Mar 06 - 08:03 PM
LilyFestre 07 Mar 06 - 08:10 PM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Mar 06 - 08:11 PM
JohnInKansas 07 Mar 06 - 09:00 PM
The Fooles Troupe 08 Mar 06 - 02:07 AM
fiddler 08 Mar 06 - 03:53 AM
GUEST,ossanscookie 08 Mar 06 - 08:11 AM
GUEST,Donald 08 Mar 06 - 09:20 AM
Pauline L 09 Mar 06 - 12:04 AM
Bert 09 Mar 06 - 01:33 AM
JohnInKansas 09 Mar 06 - 04:13 AM
Bert 09 Mar 06 - 04:20 AM
fiddler 09 Mar 06 - 04:43 AM
fiddler 09 Mar 06 - 04:57 AM
JohnInKansas 09 Mar 06 - 05:49 AM
GUEST 09 Mar 06 - 09:09 AM
Sorcha 09 Mar 06 - 10:34 AM
Scoville 09 Mar 06 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,catsPHiddle@work 09 Mar 06 - 11:01 AM
Bert 09 Mar 06 - 12:24 PM
Pauline L 15 Mar 06 - 12:42 PM
Grab 15 Mar 06 - 03:32 PM
Desert Dancer 09 Jun 11 - 02:39 PM
GUEST,FloraG 10 Jun 11 - 05:26 AM
Tootler 10 Jun 11 - 06:39 PM
Bert 10 Jun 11 - 06:48 PM
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Subject: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST,ossanflags at werk
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:13 AM

It is a question that was raised by delegates at a recent drinking conferance in Whitby recently.Why are some fiddle bows so expensive? and were lies the differance betwen a cheap one and more expensive ones?
In some cases more expensive than the fiddle itself.
I have asked a few fiddle player and the only answer they have come up with is that a fiddle player just knows.

Is this a closely guarded secret among the fiddle playing fraternity?

Constructive answers only Mr Oakley please !!!


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST,Donald
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:51 AM

Osson

How the devil are you - nice to see you in Fartlington recently.

A decent bow is expensive because it's just so hard to get the balance spot-on. A cheap bow feels heavy and tiring to play, and is not as responsive in the hand. You just can't play the trickier phrases as cleanly with an el cheapo bow.

"I have asked a few fiddle player and the only answer they have come up with is that a fiddle player just knows."

Alas this is true! Here's a link that may lift the veil of secrecy a little!

http://www.thesession.org/discussions/display/7464/comments#comment160007


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sttaw Legend
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 07:29 AM

Its all in the wrist action Mick!


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: fiddler
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 08:10 AM

Thats right!

My most expensive bow is carbon fibre @ around £450 (equivalent wooden bow £900 - 1500) I love it, it feels right and does exactly what I want when I want. A pal borrowed it and hated it.

They also sound different - very different - but that is also related to how the player uses them. some fiddlers use a cello bow on a violin which gives a fuller richer tone - another discussion.....

I used to use a maker in Sherfield on Loddon (Hampshire UK) he had unhaired bows at around £3000 - not what we want fo folk but definitely the sort of thing an orchestral player might use on a £100,000 fiddle.

Expressions about horses and courses come to mind but the final answer with a bow is: -

"I have asked a few fiddle player and the only answer they have come up with is that a fiddle player just knows."

sorry

Andy


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sorcha
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 09:48 AM

The best bows are made from the heartwood of the pernambuco tree....it must be old enough to have a long enough piece. The stick must be exactly shaped by hand so that the 'camber' (curve) is just right for that piece of wood. Pernambuco is a tropical wood, and with the destruction of the rain forests.....carbon fiber seems to be an 'acceptable' substitute, but I hate them.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 01:42 PM

Pernambuco is a resource that, according to a Smithsonian Magazine article back ca. April 2004 has been subject to a very aggressive conservation program, instigated and pushed mainly by bow makers.

While some pernambuco has been available, the "very good pernambuco" needed for the best bows was virtually impossible to find not too long ago, and it's still not plentiful. Some very fine bow makers were able to keep working using stock on hand "being cured," but replenishment was a problem reaching a critical state.

Better quality new stock is available now than could be obtained a few years ago although it's still a limited supply. Opinion is divided on whether what's available now is as good as what bow makers could get fairly easily a hundred years ago, but it's at least close, and improving.

I had hoped to link to the article, but although Google finds multiple links to it, they all get redirected to the magazine home page (for the current issue) and the link to back issues there has been removed. Only a few very recent issues are accessible. If your library keeps the magazine, it's an interesting piece; as much for the rare existence of an apparently successful conservation effort as for the info about the wood.

John


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 02:35 PM

Well I'm not a fiddler but I am an engineer and when I come across something that nobody can define then I've found that there's an awful lot of bullshit around.

If there is really a difference between bows then there must be some definable parameters that create the difference.

With modern technology and materials is should be simple to make a bow of a given weight and put the balance point pretty much where you want to.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sorcha
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 02:50 PM

Called carbon fiber, Bert.....I just don't personally care for them. Prefer the action of a good wood bow.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Hand-Pulled Boy
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 02:57 PM

I use a plectrum. Mind you, what a selection to choose from. Plus all of the different colours. You lot think you've got problems...........................


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: LilyFestre
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 03:05 PM

I have a pernambuco bow but I did a "blind" test of about 8 bows of made of varying materials and weights. This particular bow just felt the most comfortable to me. The luthier was interested in trying to sell me a bow with more fancy doodads (wrapping and I believe it was a solid silver tip?) but I couldn't tell enough of a difference in my playing and comfort level to justify the cost.

I recently tried a friend's bow. I know it was not a pernambuco bow but beyond that, I can't tell you anything except he paid under $100.00 for it and it was a little heavier than my bow. Sometimes I like the extra weight and have thought about purchasing one for those occassions.

I wish I had a more exact answer for you. If you are shopping for a bow, take several home and try them out. You'll know which one is for you fairly quickly.

Michelle


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 03:05 PM

Hi Sorchieluv,

I can well understand the aesthetical preference for a well made wooden bow, but as an engineer I wonder if any fiddler could tell the difference in a blindfold test if the parameters were exactly the same.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GLoux
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 03:44 PM

Bert writes:

With modern technology and materials is should be simple to make a bow of a given weight and put the balance point pretty much where you want to.

Then why haven't "they"? My wife hasn't found a non-wood bow that she likes. And she's tried a bunch. As an engineer, I have to agree with your statement, but that doesn't mean that it has been done. Maybe you should take a run at it...

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sorcha
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:22 PM

I'd be willing to give it a go, Bert....bring on the bows...


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:32 PM

OK, I need the folowing information from your best bow.

Length of hair
width, thickness & number of hairs
length from start of hair to end of frog
balance point from frog end
tension in hair, measured as deflection at center of hair for a particular load.
total weight.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sorcha
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 05:20 PM

No way to gauge tension....but I can have all the rest tomorrow...
Including balance point
Can't get exact dimensions of hair either....but I can get you the @ number...


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 05:31 PM

To gauge tension hang a weight on the hairs at mid point and measure the deflection, or failing that what is the pitch of the screw and how many turns from just loose to just right.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sorcha
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 05:34 PM

Huh????


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 06:44 PM

OK, enough of this engineer talk.

Take your best bow and rest it on the fiddle so that the middle of the hair touches the strings. Now measure how much out of straight the hairs are. You might need someone else to measure 'cos you'll be holding both the fiddle and the bow.

Without having either a fiddle or bow here I would guess it's somewhere around a quarter of an inch, but I need to know exactly.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 06:50 PM

The pitch of a screw is the distance it moves 'forward' for one exact rotation.

By knowing that, and also knowing how much the bow hair bends at mid point under a known weight, the tension can be easily calculated.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 07:51 PM

The better carbon bows are made according to strict engineering principles, and are intended to reproduce the best characteristics of high-quality wooden bows: a great deal of research and measurement has gone into this.

The carbon bow I have is as good as I will ever need; it solved all the problems I had that resulted from having previously been obliged to use cheap wooden jobs, though it isn't as good as a bow I once tried that a friend had got with an unexceptional fiddle he bought out of someone's attic: it was worth far more than the instrument, and did all the work for you.

Players who are used to good quality wooden bows often dislike carbon because it doesn't vibrate in the way they are used to; although it may produce just as good a sound, it doesn't feel right to them. The best playing experience is one that involves the whole gamut of the physical and aesthetic, but most of us are happy enough to settle for a result that sounds well, and that we can afford to pay for.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 10:34 PM

Bert -

You have omitted a couple of very important things that you need in order to make your "technological bow."

While the weight of the bow is an important feature, to get the right "feel" it's necessary to get the right weight with the right center of gravity and with the proper longitudinal moment of inertia. The longitudinal moment (IL) determines how readily the bow follows pitching of the bow when you move from one string or another.

While one can achieve a particular weight, c.g. and IL value with a variety of longitudinal distributions of the weight along the length of the bow, violinists prefer a different effective IL when they play near the frog than when they play near the tip, and the preference doesn't appear to be linear with how far up or down the bow they are contacting the string. Thus the entire weight longitudinal weight/mass distribution is critical to making a bow with the right "feel."

The most obvious innovation with the Tourte bow is that the bow is necked down near the tip, and the principal "spring" under moderate pressure against the strings is by rotation of the tip via very localized bending at the tip, with little deflection along the length of the bow. For best feel, the spring constant is non-linear, by design, so that the tension in the hair changes very little for small deflections; but of course to allow the fortissimo, the spring rate has to increase fairly rapidly for larger deflections. When the tip rotates the direction of the hair tension is in a different direction relative to the tip and the "springy" part of the bow adjacent to it, so a different spring rate can be brought into effect by the detailed shaping of the "head" and the immediately adjacent shaft of the bow, without requiring a substantial deflection of the main shaft.

It is not sufficient to have the right weight. You have to also get the right IL.
It is not sufficent to get the right weight and IL, you have to get the right variation in effective IL with changes in the location at which the bow pivots on the string.
It is not sufficient to get the right deflection under load against the string. You have to also get the right change in the rate of deflection over a range of pressures of bow to string.

Then there's the lateral anisotropy to be considered but ...

And the hair tension has to be easily adjustable.

And the bow has to look nice.

John


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 11:35 PM

Learn the grain, bend, lay of the pernambuco.

No need to run a "chicken-little" "harrium-scarium" because of a Sorcha scarcity.

Tens of thousands of these bows lay scattered world-wide.

GRAND- Hunting and best wishes for a good find.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

No matter the bowed instrument - this wood seems to reach into its soul and ellicit a vertually illicet voice.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Pauline L
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 11:46 PM

Bert said I can well understand the aesthetical preference for a well made wooden bow, but as an engineer I wonder if any fiddler could tell the difference in a blindfold test if the parameters were exactly the same.. It is obvious that bert is an engineer, not a violinist. I have played with many bows and bought a few, and I certainly can tell their relative worth blindfolded. A typical wood student-quality bow is difficult to handle and sounds crummy, even in the hand of a great violinist. Even my beginning students can tell the difference. I have two reasonably good pernambuco bows which I bought in the last 20 years for $400 and $600. If I put them away in the wrong cases, I don't remember which is which by sight, but I can tell a world of difference in the way they play. Professional violinists wouldn't even consider buying a bow for less than $1000, and they (and I) can certainly tell the difference. Some violinists and fiddlers use more than one kind of bow, suiting each to a particular kind of music. Baroque bows, for example, are often preferred for fast reels. Some people use a conventional wood bow and "choke up" on it instead of using a Baroque bow. Choking up on a bow is holding it somewhat closer to the tip than usual to get better leverage. The weightiest part of the bow is the frog.

The best traditional bows are made of pernambuco, but that is a natural source which is limited, and other materials are being used. Brazilwood is a generic name for non-pernambuco wood from Brazil. The cheapest kind ($40) of bow is made of fiberglass. It is nearly indestructible, so it's used in schools. I assumed it wasn't any good until I tried one, the K.Holtz FG bow (http://www.eastmanstrings.com/eastmanstrings/bows/kholtzfg.htm#model12) . It was surprisingly good. It is light weight and easy to control, and it sounds pretty good. Now I recommend it to students. There are lots of carbon fiber bows of different qualities in use. I tried one that sold for about $100, and it was pretty bad. I've tried others that are a lot better. The more expensive ones are better. The advantage of carbon fiber is that you can buy a good CF bow for less than a wood bow of comparable quality.    I've played with an Incredibow (http://www.incredibow.com/), which has a carbon fiber stick and hair made of "a space age material." I tested it extensively and wrote a review of it (http://www.violinist.com/blog/archive.cfm?violinist=paulinefiddle&start=4461) . I liked it a lot for most kinds and nuances of music except that it was hard to get it to play loudly.

Another factor to consider in evaluating bows is upkeep. The hairs need to be slackened when the bow is put away, even overnight, and tightened just before playing. If this simple act is neglected, the quality of the bow deteriorates fast. Rosin is important, too, and there are many kinds.

There is a lot more to violin bows than meets the eye, and a lot more than can be quantified with the current state of the art. The same is true of Strad violins.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: fiddler
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 04:31 AM

Gawd, You can't turn an art into a skill or an engineering project!

An old time fiddler uses a very loose bow and rarely lets the stick (the wooden bit) touch the strings, they get a particular sound this way which goes with the music.

A Cape Breton / AKA Scottish fiddler will use a very tight bow and because of the higher level of attack (some would say agressive playing but that is not true) will often find the stick touching the hairs when playing, again this gives a particular sound to the music.

Classical however, where many of us hail form originally have a whole different set of parameters and look for a much smoother more rounded sound accross the spectrum and range of notes and pieces.

some fiddlers hold the bow well up the stick others in a more classical style over the frog.

I could go on, I could get angry you cannot define art in engineering terms, a bow and its use is art in the same way that Van Gough could not and would not paint like vermeer but both used brishes and pallette knives!

Lets get real and appreciate the art of the Luthier and the art of the player. I like Sorch but |I also like my carbon fibre bows, she's a good fiddler (on the roof too!) but loves her wooden bow.

Andy


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 06:44 AM

Oss
What *have* you started here ?!

Actually, it's all very interesting


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GLoux
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:40 AM

I think the major difference between pernambuco bows and the carbon fiber bows is not the weight distribution and weight, but rather the "give" of the wood when pressure is applied (bow hair is upon the violin strings)...is this elasticity?...the carbon fiber bows have no give and seem very rigid and cold. There's probably a better way to articulate the difference, but that's my best shot.

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 10:03 AM

I didn't realise just what a difference a bow made until I inherited my dad's fiddle and bow. My sister told me it was the best bow she'd ever used. I believe her. My playing is one hundred per cent better than when I use my old bow, which is not a bad bow, at all. Quite old and served me well as a kid, as well as my sister and my dad. But, the one that was his is incredible. It is wooden, made in Germany, has mother of pearl inlay on the frog and the end of the frog is old, old ivory. A beautiful, exquisite bow. I have rediscovered my love of playing because of that bow.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 01:25 PM

I said "if the parameters were exactly the same." If a particular bow feels different then obviously this is not true.

JohninKansas, Thanks for that long discussion on inertia. You talk about the proper longitudinal moment of inertia but then say "a variety of longitudinal distributions of the weight along the length of the bow," Distributions of weight ALONG the bow would NOT affect the inertia in the direction of bowing. They might affect the rotational inertia about the cg a little but considering the structure of a good wooden bow a maker would not have a great deal of control over this. Bows are made with a long smooth taper to the wood. If rotational inertia was a significant factor then one would expect to see bows with thicker parts in odd places to adjust this factor. For example if you wanted to reduce the roational inertia one would place more weight near the cg. This is not apparent in anny bow that I have ever seen.

I love these discussions and readily admit that there must be vast differences between bows.

So send me the details of your favourite bow and I'll compare them and
see what I can come up with. Let's get this defined.

When I hear lots of vague opinions without dimensions and definitions I suspect that I'm hearing a load of old codswallop.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: LilyFestre
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:21 PM

Funny, when I hear all the technical garb, I suspect that I'm hearing a load of old codswallop *smirk* What the heck is a codswallop, anyway?

Sorry, for me, it is how it feels in my hand and the feel of it sliding along the strings.

Good luck in your quest for a solid definition, I'm most interested!

Michelle


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:25 PM

"What the heck is a codswallop, anyway?

Sorry, for me, it is how it feels in my hand and the feel of it "


The answer to that question might have to be in a mature humour thread, especially when one reads your subsequent sentence...


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:35 PM

Codswallop = nonsense.

The story goes that a gentleman by the name of Hiram Codd patented a bottle for fizzy drinks with a marble in the neck, which kept the bottle shut by pressure of the gas until it was pressed inwards. Wallop was a slang term for beer, and Codd's wallop came to be used by beer drinkers as a derogatory term for weak or gassy beer, or for soft drinks.

This theory has appeared in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, but there are problems with it. Codswallop is not recorded until the mid-20th century, rather a long time after Codd's invention, and there are no examples of the spelling Codd's wallop, which might be expected as an early form. These are not conclusive disproof of the theory - it is conceivable that the term circulated by word of mouth, like many slang terms, and that the connection with Codd's bottle had been forgotten by the time that the term was written down - but they do shed doubt on the tale.

http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutwordorigins/codswallop


But "cods" is slang for the male dangling genitalia. The many differing names of the output of these has long been used as slang for 'things that are worthless, especially not in the proper place'.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: LilyFestre
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:53 PM

LOL..uhm...thanks for the definition....I think!!!

:) Michelle


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:56 PM

You asked for it!


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 08:00 PM

Think yourself lucky I did not respond to the "quest for a solid definition" part of your post....


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sorcha
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 08:03 PM

LOL!


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: LilyFestre
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 08:10 PM

OMG!!!!!

LMAO!!!!!!!!!

Michelle

PS. Sorcha, what the hell are you laughing at? Huh? Huh? Huh? LOL!


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 08:11 PM

"Where do you go to my lovely?"


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 09:00 PM

Bert -

The point is that you can have the same weight, and the same longitudinal moment of inertia around the center of gravity with many different distributions of the weight along the length of the bow.

In playing, the immediate rotations of the bow are mostly pivots on or very near to the point of contact of the bow with the string - which is a moving target, and the "feel" of the bow varies with each playing position. Different longitudinal weight distributions that give identical longitudinal moment of inertia *at the cg and identical weight can have very different variations in the perceived inertia, and hence the "feel," at different "points on the bow."

* Remember that the cg doesn't have to be in the middle, and it generally is not at the string, but some variable distance above it.

An additional complication is that the hand motion required for a given angle of pitching motion is much larger when playing near the tip than when near the hand.

The player can "compromise" the feel by playing at the point of string/bow contact where the "leverage" is balanced by "inertia" so it "feels best" for the particular passage being played, but the "preferences" for how to "make it feel right at the point where the player thinks it should feel right" are not simple.

Given a particular bow, you can "measure everything" and possibly could mass produce consistent copies of that particular bow. The set of "things to measure" that you originally suggested is not a sufficient set; but adding a few more things doesn't change the principle.

Unfortunately, only one specific player happens to like that bow, and all of the other players would demand that you do it all over to separately suit each of them.

The naturally occuring variations in "hand crafted" bows provides sufficient variation to permit selections and choices, and the best bow makers have a good instinct for what will satisfy fairly large groups of players.

A line of even the "best" of mass produced bows is unlikely to have sufficient range/variation in properties to satisfy more than a very small segment of the advanced player population because not every player wants the same bow.

John


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 02:07 AM

My ISP/Digital phone line can be a real pain at times, so I just go off and mow the grass or whatever, and get on with life... can disrupt the timing of one's thought processes - I don't really like 'cogitates interruptus'...

However, any discussion on the topic of codswallop would not be complete in a music forum without referring to WATKINS ALE. This makes me suspect that the original writer of the reference piece above at 07 Mar 06 - 07:35 may have known this song and was just trying to be clever and update it.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: fiddler
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 03:53 AM

Then to really complicate the issue - ever considered your rosin?

How much, which type, Stickability, granule size........

Define away - It is al par tof the fiddle players art after some fairly basic elements are in place.

As an aside - her below decks pulled out a lovely bow yesterday very heavy very nice balance and very thin - very springy too! It needs re hairing - I am longing to play wiht it it has a wonderful feel. subject to playing with it when re haired about the best bow I've ever played with but very different to my carbon fibre.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST,ossanscookie
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 08:11 AM

This brilliant stuff !!! bring it on !!


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST,Donald
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 09:20 AM

I have found that the black rosin is more effective than the amber type. Also definately 'scuff up' a new shiny block.

But as important is getting the bow rehaired when it needs it; otherwise you can scrub away at the rosin to no effect. A local violin dealer/repairer enlightened me as to why bows actually need rehairing from time to time - the hair apparently has lots of hook-like structures (like this: JJJJJJJJ) . When you rosin the bow, the curved end of the hooks retain the rosin. As the bow is used through time, the hooked ends get worn away, so you are left with fine straight strands like this: |||||||||||. Once this happens, you can rub and rub the bow with rosin but it won't stick - time for a re-hair!

Another tip - keep your block of rosin well away from any string- cleaner! I once left both together in the little storage compartment in the violin case: the cleaner leaked onto the rosin and turned its surface into a very sticky mess.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Pauline L
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 12:04 AM

JohninKansas, thanks for your discussion of the technical characteristics of a bow that can vary so much in so many ways. You're right -- notevery fiddler likes the same bow. The three-way interaction among the hand, the bow, and the fiddle is very important. When violinists shop for a new bow, they take the violin they will use with it most of the time and try the two together.

Kat, I'm glad you had a "born again fiddler" experience with your new bow. Be sure to take care of it well so that it will serve you well for a long time. The most important things are (1) slacken it whenever you put it away and (2) have it rehaired periodically. I have mine rehaired once a year, but the timing on this depends on how often you use it. I hope I'm not insulting you by telling you things you already know. I hope someone who reads this will find it helpful.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 01:33 AM

OK, less of this talk, lets have some dimensions.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 04:13 AM

Bert -

I've found relatively little detailed information on bow making, while looking about in a number of "the usual places" including the web. While looking for the Smithsonian Mag article I mentioned on Pernambuko conservation, I did come across a site called Gaia Way that mentions a fund-raiser project to put together a book of bowmakers' articles on making and repairing instruments and bows.

The link describes the project, but doesn't say how one might be able to get the book - if it's been published. The article came out two or three years ago, so there may, or may not, be a book by now. A link, at the above site, is to the Pau Brazil Conservation Project where there's some more description of the project, but again no info on how/when/where the book might be found, that I found. I expect to look for it, but as a fund-raiser it's likely to be out of range for my budget, and looking isn't high on my todo list.

(Note that pau-brazil is a local and trade name for pernambuko. The country, Brazil, is named after the wood, not the other way around as often assumed.)

Your first difficulty in getting measurements will be in finding someone who has a bow for which there's a consensus opinion that it's "very good." It might not be too difficult to get someone to measure a few parameters like weight and cg. location, or even to let you make simple measurements that can be done quickly "while they watch." Getting detailed "variational measurements" that you'll need may require resorting to black magic and trickery.

I don't know to what extent professional bow crafters use any standardized measurements. It's quite likely that most rely almost exclusively on "it feels right" with a lot of experience.

A technique used by craftsman makers of snob-quality fly rods suggests a method that might be applicable to "charactrizing" a bow. The rod is clamped simulating a typical grip next to a large backboard, and the "curve" is simply traced onto the board. A few "standard loads" are applied at the tip, and the entire curve of the rod is traced for each load. Once the curves are recorded, the flyrod-fixer can bend a damaged rod back to match the original curves if the "action" deteriorates.

Since wooden fiddle bows are made straight, and then steam or other heat is used to "set" the proper curve, I suspect that at least some fiddle-bow crafters do use "standard curves" at least as a reference during the bending; but the curves used are probably "personal to each maker" and so far as I've found only "crude estimates" are published.

With the more complex action needed for a fiddle bow, to develop useful curves you would probably want perpendicular loads at the tip, for the "gross stiffness" and additionally you would need accurate measurements of what happens to the entire bow, and especially at the tip, when loads are applied against the hair, or at least for a couple of differenct loads at the tip in the direction of the hair tension. Since some of the characterstics of a good bow appear to rely on small deflections, your curves will need to be quite accurate.

Once you have an accurate set of "standard deflections," you should be able to "impute by analysis" what specific mechanical properties are needed for a "techno-bow" of your own design.

John


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 04:20 AM

I don't think that the curve matters too much because both ends are tied. As long as the rotational inertia is not too far out (And it can't be because of the shape of the bow) Its going to be a matter of where the CG is, and the total weight and the tension.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: fiddler
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 04:43 AM

The curve relates to the 'bounce' of the bow and how it is used in certain situations. Classical tighter, old time very slack I covered all this above.

This is all great but I can't help feeling its a bit of an emperors new clothes trail. I'll post a story by a (now dead) top luthier in my next post (so you cna ignore it if you wish) whcih may help to illustrate - BTW I'm not saying it is a waste of time - we cna all add ot our knowledge, I am just dubious as to the outcome.

Andy


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: fiddler
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 04:57 AM

A group of Americans (sorry guys but it was) who were studying Stradavarious violins and trying to work out why they were so good visited a luthier in UK. A well respected luthier trading from a shop London and supplying violins to many major orchestral players throughout the world - so not just any Tom Dick or Harry (actually a John!)

They had analyised the glue he used and found traces of iron in it whch they attributed as contributing to the sound quality of the violin. They wanted an opinion.

John took them in to his workshop and began stirring his glue pot thoughtfully, 'theres the answer' he said! The visitors were bemused.

He stirred his glue pot with a metal stirrer and the glue pot was (like many or all glue pots) cast iron - so where did the iron come from? The visitors left crestfallen to say the least. John very amused.

In his opinion Strad was an artist who produced instruments of incredible quality using the same materials and methods as everyone else, as far as we know. No finite reasons for his success have ever been found despite research in to timber, glues, sizes, timber thicknesses etc.

I could still make one sound like a 70 squids japanese mass produced model! I think this bow thing is very similar.

Post script(s)

I wonder if Stradavarious did produce any dodgey ones that have not survived? I like Amati's anyway - not that I will ever own one.... I have held one ....nearly as good as sex....OK I need to get out more.

Andy


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 05:49 AM

Bert -

I don't think that the curve matters too much

The specific curve probably doesn't matter too much. The point of the curves is that without destructive tests, that's likely to be the only way to record enough information to be able to analytically determine the separate longitudinal, lateral, and torsional stiffnesses and strengths you need to reproduce to get a bow that feels like a bow.

It is not sufficient to provide for just a "stiffness" at each of the several details. You must also provide a proper rate at which the stiffness changes when each detail part is deflected in use of the bow.

Respected and well known bows that are individually named and that demand astronomical prices vary in overall weight by at least a factor of 3, probably more. Center of gravity positions vary roughly over a third of the length of the bow for these same ones. There are apparently some general trends that say the cg is in one direction for heavier bows and elsewhere for lighter ones, indicating that there is nothing unique about any specific value of either; but that the two must be balanced to work together. If you change one, you have to make a compensating change in the other; but there are no established formulas to tell you what the compensating change should be. It's a matter of "feeling," and we have not yet found a musician who can feel it who can also write the equations.

If it looks simple to you, then find a good bow and make your "alternate technology" copy.

1. Get it made.
2. Sell it to someone, preferably to a well known performer.
3. Contribute a learned paper to a reputable publication describing how good it is. (perhaps an optional step)
4. Wait for someone else to appear to ask you to make another.

John


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 09:09 AM

50 !!!

in some fancy font and colour if I was as clever as Flamingo Ted


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Sorcha
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 10:34 AM

OK, guys, now that Ossonflags knows all our secrets, we have to kill him! :)


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Scoville
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 10:52 AM

Wow--this is a cool thread. I don't have a clue what's going on but I'm reading it anyway in the hopes that I may someday know enough about fiddles for this to make sense.

Don't worry--I do know enough about musical instruments to believe that bows make a difference. My fiddling sounds a bit like a recently-castrated donkey but I'm sure that's 90% me and only about 7% my carbon-fiber bow (the fiddle is no work of art, either). I've only ever used the one bow but I do think it's heavy. Oddly, I reached this conclusion not because I know what I'm talking about but because, around here, heavy hammers are considered the mark of an amateur hammered dulcimer player. It made sense at the time. Ha ha.


The bow is a Coda Aspire (US $230). The fiddle came with two bows--one was too cheap to bother rehairing and the other was good but warped. Warpage is an issue around here so I went with carbon fiber since I won't be playing concerts any time in the next two decades, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST,catsPHiddle@work
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 11:01 AM

I have a number of bows including a carbon fibre bow and I love it. It wasn't a cheap bow by any means. I have a cheap wooden bow but I haven't used it for a long time as the balance point wasn't right for me. I use a good viola bow when I am playing my octave violin. I feel the instrument requires a heavier bow to do it justice. I have a beautiful wooden bow and it plays beautifully. I bought it in Holland and the assistant in the shop let me try many bows and fiddles before I bought the ones I felt worked for me.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 12:24 PM

..but there are no established formulas... Hmmmm, so it appears, a lot of talk, but no information, perhaps this thread belongs in the BS section;-)

I would suspect that with heavier bow, one would put the cg closer to the frog otherwise the bow would be unwieldy.

I don't think that making only ONE bow would be much good. I would want the details of several good bows and chart the differences and see if I could spot any trends. I would expect to have to make an adjustable prototype and get a few good fiddlers to try it out before settling on a particular design.

If I found that specific users liked different things then I would have to come up with a way of defining what a particular user likes and making just that.

So folks, just for fun, post the details of your best & worst bow here and say which is which of course and we'll see what we can do.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Pauline L
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 12:42 PM

Slightly off topic: Does anyone know why the bottom part of the bow is called the "frog"?


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Grab
Date: 15 Mar 06 - 03:32 PM

My singing teacher started life as a violinist. She's just recently been out to get a new violin, at a slightly snobby music shop in Cambridge. They started taking her seriously when she said "Whichever violin I get, I'm having this bow too". Said bow was carbon fibre and cost £1k...

So she was showing it off, and let me have a go on it. Now I'm not a very good violinist (or fiddler either), but that bow was amazing. For all the talk of "character" above, I'm not totally convinced. As far as I'm concerned, the key quality of a bow (or any part of a musical instrument) is that it does what you want with minimum effort. If it feels like there's no interposing hardware between you and the music, it's a good bit of kit. And that's how that bow was. It was so light that most of your energy was used in moving your hand, and perfectly balanced.

I'm with Bert on this. This carbon fibre bow was made by some bloke in Europe who makes them individually by hand, hence the vast prices. But carbon fibre is actually the perfect material for mass-producing - if he's cracked the structure of the "perfect bow" and got a set of moulds, then the only thing stopping him mass-producing thousands of these bows a year is (a) artificial scarcity maintaining his income, and (b) the stuck-in-the-mud conservatism which infests the instrument business. If he did sell his bow for $200 by mass-producing, you can guarantee no "serious" player would buy it - it's obviously too cheap to be good quality, right...? IMO, I reckon the early starters in mass-production carbon-fibre bows are going to have the last laugh, by repeated fine-tuning until you really won't be able to tell the difference.

Andy, as far as I've heard, Stradivarius *did* turn out some right dogs. But he was an experimental instrument maker, working with what was cutting-edge technology at the time, so it's only to be expected - experiments usually do fail. I'd bet that if he were alive today, he'd be mad as hell with all those people who are still just blindly copying a centuries-old design with centuries-old tools.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Jun 11 - 02:39 PM

Bow Makers Unite Behind a Precious Tree
By Leslie Kaufman
The New York Times

As the earth's forests and other natural resources face growing peril, humans are affected in many unexpected ways. In recent years, musicians have found themselves organizing to save the pernambuco, a medium-size tropical tree native to Brazil and known for its unique red wood. Discovered by French bow makers 250 years ago, it provides the primary — indeed only — wood for making high-end bows for professional musicians. (The tree is also known as the pau-brasil.)

"No comparable substitute is known to bow makers or musicians," the International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative, a charity created by bow makers around the world to finance replanting initiatives in Brazil, says at its Web site. "The rigidity, flexibility, density, and beauty of this wood, combined with its ability to hold a fixed curve, makes pernambuco a unique material that is essential to the craft of bow making and to the musicians who use these bows."

But the tree, which grows primarily in Brazil's Atlantic forest, has been so depleted by logging and agricultural and urban development that it is listed there as endangered. So to aid the institute's replanting efforts, bow and violin makers have crossed a once-inviolate line and are giving up some closely held secrets of their specialized artisanry.

Tom Wilder, a violin maker, restorer and historian of stringed instruments from Montreal, has put together a three-volume, 1,600-page set of books called The Conservation, Restoration, and Repair of Stringed Instruments and Their Bows, that reveals the best techniques.

Profits from the book, available at a list price of $1,395, will go to the I.P.C.I.
---
Presmably, if you don't need the books, you can donate to the International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative directly in any amount you choose. ;-) (See their links page for other regions.)

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 05:26 AM

I use a plastic bow with my plastic fiddle - the harder strings lend themselves to the bow. It also matches the colour.
I use a more flexible wooden bow with the wooden fiddles - I want a softer sound.
FloraG


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Tootler
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 06:39 PM

If he did sell his bow for $200 by mass-producing, you can guarantee no "serious" player would buy it - it's obviously too cheap to be good quality, right...?

To true, Grab. You got just that with plastic recorders although it is true that the early ones were not all that good. However the plastic recorders from the reputable makers these days are, in fact, excellent instruments having both good intonation across the range and good tone. You can get a good plastic descant for less than £10 (GB) and a plastic alto for around £20 GB and the attitude of some is "They can't be a proper instrument, they're too cheap". That said, that attitude is changing and I have seen plastic Yamaha altos used on stage by professional musicians.

Another interesting story. I was in a flute/whistle workshop and the tutor was talking about the problems of intonation in the second octave, especially above top g. She got each of us to play a top b and to try and bring it into tune. I was playing recorder at the time and my recorder played top b clean and true, no problem. The instrument - a bright blue transparent plastic Yamaha descant cost at the time about 6 pounds.

The point of this digression: I am sure in time, mass produced fiddle bows of synthetic materials will become increasingly accepted and the stick in the mud snobbery will be overcome. Often what it takes is a prominent musician to use one and extol its virtues.

As to the discussion between Bert and J-i-K it seems to me that the adverse comments made by some along the lines of "I just know" are because they do not understand what is being discussed so they try to dismiss it as not relevant. However if a good quality bow is to be made from synthetic materials and be mass produced, the kind of analysis they are discussing is necessary. Plastic recorders are injection moulded and to make the instruments reliably, in large quantities and with good intonation; the shape of the bore, the location and dimensions of the holes have to be calculated very precisely and the moulds have to be accurate to a few hundredths of a millimeter.


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Subject: RE: Difference in fiddle bows?
From: Bert
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 06:48 PM

As I said in '06

...just for fun, post the details of your best & worst bow here and say which is which of course and we'll see what we can do...


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