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Bow for Irish fiddling
Best upgrade from FM CF for non-classical style
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zpilot
Kansas City, Mo.
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October 21, 2017 - 12:55 am
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I have a FM CF bow that both my teacher and I are happy with for the time being.  I am learning the basics now but will eventually be concentrating on Irish/Celtic styles.  As such I believe I won't need to learn some of the bowing techniques used for Classical pieces.  I need some opinions - and the reasoning behind them, please - on what would be a good choice of bow for me as an upgrade.  Tone is a priority!  I know it is hard to predict how a bow and violin will work together.  My budget is $800 if need be.  I am a few months  away from this but it is never too early to start gathering info.  Thanks for any help. 

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Charles
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October 21, 2017 - 8:43 am
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This ( http://stringsmagazine.com/a-g.....ing-a-bow/ ) is a pretty good article on the subject.

Since most Irish/Celtic music is fairly fast, I suspect you'd want a stiffer one.

Something I've heard from multiple sources (and is also mentioned in the article, obliquely) is that you should not consider buying a new bow until you start getting frustrated with your current one.  When your current bow is limiting you, you'll be in a much better position to evaluate new ones - try as many as you practically can, and there will one (or a few) that stand out as working much better for you. That's the one you'll want to get.

A trick I came up with some years ago for a number of things - I put $X per period (per week/paycheck/month, whatever) aside for certain things. My hobbies come out of a "Toy" budget, for example. I've set up automatic stuff to put money in it each week, and when I'm doing things like considering getting a new bow (or any one of my other hobbies), I look at the balance and see what I can afford.

The reason I mention that is that you said you were some time away from buying a new one. Combined with the advice to wait until you know you need a new one, it could be many months (even a few years) before you buy one. If you're socking away a small amount regularly, your budget for one might be substantially higher by the time you're ready to buy.  Up to you, of course, but it's a method that has worked well for me.

A personal opinion - go with carbon fiber until you get to the point where they don't make ones as good as you want (which won't be at this level). Pernambuco is on the ragged edge of being an endangered species, and if it gets declared one, there will be nasty things like tons of paperwork to carry it out of the country. (The bow, I mean. The wood will have even more paperwork to deal with.) You might even have to file paperwork to move it between states.

In the middle range ($200-$3000) for bows, from what I've seen, the CF bows are as good (possibly even better) than comparably priced wood bows.  I'd save the pernambuco for the people who can get the good out of it. If a lot of people did that, the population would have time to recover, and things would get better over time, rather than worse.   Ok, off my soapbox now. 🙂

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damfino
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October 21, 2017 - 10:51 am
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I think across the board you'll find different fiddlers prefer all different kinds of bows. My teacher prefers octagonal bows, they tend to be a little stiffer I think, and she uses all different kinds, carbon fiber, hybrid, bargain clearance bows, cheap wood, expensive wood, expensive antique... I've used hers and I really liked her hybrid and antique bows, and rather like the octagonal bows, too.

At a Celtic festival I saw fiddlers using Baroque bows.

How it feels and sounds to you is the most important, which makes testing it out for a while important. What one person loves might sound harsh to you, or feel weird in your hand.

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zpilot
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October 21, 2017 - 5:35 pm
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Charles said
This ( http://stringsmagazine.com/a-g.....ing-a-bow/ ) is a pretty good article on the subject.

Since most Irish/Celtic music is fairly fast, I suspect you'd want a stiffer one.

Something I've heard from multiple sources (and is also mentioned in the article, obliquely) is that you should not consider buying a new bow until you start getting frustrated with your current one.  When your current bow is limiting you, you'll be in a much better position to evaluate new ones - try as many as you practically can, and there will one (or a few) that stand out as working much better for you. That's the one you'll want to get.

A trick I came up with some years ago for a number of things - I put $X per period (per week/paycheck/month, whatever) aside for certain things. My hobbies come out of a "Toy" budget, for example. I've set up automatic stuff to put money in it each week, and when I'm doing things like considering getting a new bow (or any one of my other hobbies), I look at the balance and see what I can afford.

The reason I mention that is that you said you were some time away from buying a new one. Combined with the advice to wait until you know you need a new one, it could be many months (even a few years) before you buy one. If you're socking away a small amount regularly, your budget for one might be substantially higher by the time you're ready to buy.  Up to you, of course, but it's a method that has worked well for me.

A personal opinion - go with carbon fiber until you get to the point where they don't make ones as good as you want (which won't be at this level). Pernambuco is on the ragged edge of being an endangered species, and if it gets declared one, there will be nasty things like tons of paperwork to carry it out of the country. (The bow, I mean. The wood will have even more paperwork to deal with.) You might even have to file paperwork to move it between states.

In the middle range ($200-$3000) for bows, from what I've seen, the CF bows are as good (possibly even better) than comparably priced wood bows.  I'd save the pernambuco for the people who can get the good out of it. If a lot of people did that, the population would have time to recover, and things would get better over time, rather than worse.   Ok, off my soapbox now. 🙂  

I get a lot of what you are saying.  In my career as a guitarist I set aside 10% of what I earned to reinvest in music equipment.  I acquired quite a lot of that over 40+ years.  I am mostly retired from that now so I am liquidating a lot of that gear and some of that will go into violin stuff, so the money is already available.  I am forcing myself to wait on buying a new bow until, like you say, I need an upgrade.  But I know from learning guitar that you will make the best progress if you play a somewhat better instrument than your skills currently require.  

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
October 23, 2017 - 10:22 am
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damfino said .....My teacher prefers octagonal bows, they tend to be a little stiffer I think, and .........

With high quality Pernambuco bows, great makers make a decision at one point that if the wood is too soft and not stiff enough, they will often finish the bow octagonal instead of round. This is not a rule, but it's very often the case.

Some of the best sticks are the ones that the makers choose to make round. Your teacher is right that octagonal is stiffer but never over look a potentially great round bow when it concerns old and or bench made bows.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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damfino
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October 23, 2017 - 10:43 am
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Typed out a reply and it logged me out, and I lost it, haha.

The shape of the stick isn't important to me, just makes me curious, haha. My favorite bow I ever used of hers was an antique round stick bow, the weight balance and feel just all felt perfect in my hand. She was testing it out from Rodney Mohr, a local bow-maker, so I didn't even ask what the price range was since I get the impression whatever he carries isn't in my price range, haha. 

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Cearbhael
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October 23, 2017 - 1:59 pm
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What I find remarkable about my grandfather's old bow, which is probably pernambuco since it was the wood of choice back then and it wasn't endangered, is that the original stick was octagonal but was reworked to round. It is still an octagon at the base where the frog is and I believe at the tip as well. It is very lightweight and, to the naked eye, it is absolutely straight. It also had a wonderful arch. I read up on it and to my understanding, pernambuco is hard, flexible, and resists warping. Considering mine is over 100 years old, I am inclined to agree. I have another one but the arch is not as good and it needs more work since it is missing the wood that holds the hair in the bow. It obviously is the least expensive. I believe the one I mentioned first is an upgrade. I plan to take a better look at the other bow someday. It may make a better backup bow than my Brazilwood bow which I use but am not crazy about due to weight and the space between the frog and the bow is too narrow for my thumb and I am a small woman. Makes holding the bow correctly very difficult! It also has a less than desirable arch.

"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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Fiddlerman
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October 23, 2017 - 3:40 pm
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Exactly. Local bow makers usually want a minimum of $2,000 per bow. My friend, Ulf Johansson in Sweden charges more towards $4000 per bow. The price of high quality bench made bows differs tremendously depending on the maker, their origin, and quality/selection of the materials.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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damfino
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October 24, 2017 - 9:47 am
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I think Rodney's bows start at over $5,000, I don't know about the antique bows he carries, but I don't want to know, lol.

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Fiddlerman
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October 24, 2017 - 12:10 pm
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Yes, I'm sure they are great too. They do spend way more time than we imagine. We now have a Brazilian bow maker, Helisson Cyrillo, making beautiful bench bows for us. The fact that he lives in Brazil makes it way easier to get great wood.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Cearbhael
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October 24, 2017 - 2:24 pm
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@Fiddlerman @damfino ok, so why would Celtic Fiddlers use baroque bows vs a regular bow? Is there something in the shape that makes it more suitable or is it just an affectation because the bow is "different", and just looks cool?

Also, why would a bow maker modify an octagonal stick to a round stick? Is it to reduce the weight? My Brazilwood is octagonal and much bigger around than my grandfather's old bow. Much heavier too. I am not familiar with the weight of most pernambuco bows, but I am thinking that since the wood is stronger, the diameter of the stick can be way less so that the average pernambuco bow would be lighter than most weaker woods. I am not by any sense educated on bows, simply going by the diameter of my grandfather's old bow vs the new Brazilwood bow.

"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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Fiddlerman
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October 24, 2017 - 2:32 pm
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It most often has to do with how they were taught rather than which style. The modern bow allows you to play any style and volume. Baroque bows tend to be much lighter, 35-55 grams depending also on the length, short or long. Some may feel that the lighter weight promotes lighter playing but having a great technique can allow you to play so lightly with a normal bow that you barely get any sound out of it if so desired.
Most of the Celtic fiddlers that I have seen use modern bows. I would guess that the ones that use baroque bows were taught by Celtic fiddlers that use baroque bows. Not speaking against it in any way.

As far as I know, a maker doesn't modify the stick. They make a decision before the final reduction of wood as to whether the stick will be stiff enough to be round or would work better in the octagonal shape. Some makers only make one or the other as well.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Cearbhael
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October 24, 2017 - 4:38 pm
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IMG_2575.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_2568.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_2565.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_2554.JPGImage Enlarger

@Fiddlerman @damfino @zpilot @Charles I "tried" to edit my last post and uploaded 4 pics, which took "forever" only to have it get lost in the ether! So I am just posting the edit and attempting to redo the picture uploads (hoping they are still here somewhere)

First thanks Pierre for answering my questions, and your right, they were not modified. They were made octagonal (both old bows!) just from the frog down. Also, the other bow actually is arched exactly like the bow I like. I am going to refer to the bow I like that still has hair as bow 1 and the one missing parts as bow 2.  I am going to "try" to post those 4 pics again to help you see my points.

Bow 1, is longer than bow 2 by about 1/2 inch or a quarter inch on both ends. Bow 1 has a longer tip than bow 2. Bow 1's frog is set higher up on the stick than bow 2. The pin that holds the frog on and tightens the hair is slightly longer on Bow 1 and is crooked on bow 2. Not sure if it is the pin or the angle of the hole or the angle it has to go to enter the frog to secure it but it is crooked and rusty! Bow 2 is not missing the wood that holds the hair in the frog though it is missing the wood in the tip. It is also missing the mother of pearl slide in the frog. Not sure if these issues can be resolved inexpensively or if it is a pricey fix. I would like to fix bow 2 as a backup bow for bow 1 after bow 1 gets rehaired. Both bows are straight and both have the same arch. I believe both are pernambuco. Neither has the leather just after the frog. Bow 2 had silver winding where the leather is on most modern bows but it was broken and corroded, so I removed it. It was wound much tighter than most modern bows. I had to really work to get it unwound. It was very fine wire. I know how to wind wire! I make chain jewellery, and I need to wind wire on a mandrel to make links. Most wire tightly wound stays together like a spring and is very difficult to remove from the mandrel. Sliding it on a wood mandrel is impossible! I know, because I tried a wood mandrel once! I am not sure how the wire is wrapped onto bows but it is loose on most then taped to keep it from moving. My new bow actually has holes drilled to hold the end of the wire (not the right way to do it, I assure you.) I am confident that I can wrap the silver tight  I know how to secure the ends in a wire wrap without drilling holes. Finding extremely thin wire, probably available from my silver supply house. Would have to buy a whole spool but I can use for wire weaving in jewellery. I am less sure about the leather wraps, but have ideas. The pin is definitely something that a luthier needs to look at.

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"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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Fiddlerman
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October 25, 2017 - 11:19 am
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Nothing difficult there. Do me a favor and unscrew the tension screw from the frog on that bow in which the screw is crocked, and take a picture of it afterwards.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Cearbhael
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October 25, 2017 - 3:54 pm
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@Fiddlerman ok, lost another post to the ether! The chat gods are not happy with me I guess! I took 4 pics but am only posting 2. I have tried a few things, so here goes my take on this. To the naked eye, the screw is rusty any slightly warped, not a lot but slightly there. It could be rust build up. The drill hole into the stick seems fine and straight. Actually quite roomy. The pin goes into it straight without the frog. The frog and the female end attachment seem straight though the female end is rusty. If you bring the frog into the picture and place it in the centre of the carved portion of the stick, the pin hits a wall and won't go in unless you tip it up (making the pin lean south) If you slide the frog as far up the stick as possible, you can get the tip of the screw into the female end, secure the frog and get the tip all the way into the stick straight but the pin's screws are not engaged and it spins and no tension would happen. If you move the frog slowly down the stick you can feel the screws engage and the tip suddenly insists on going south. So that is where the problem lies, where the screws engage the female end. Somehow they are aligned crooked. Hope this and the pictures help.IMG_2576-1.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_2583-1.JPGImage Enlarger

PS: ignore the quantity of attachments. I attempted to use the "view existing uploads" function and it behaves very squirrelly. I ended up with pics posted that I didn't want so I cut them out! I had to re-upload my pics to get them back. That other function doesn't work well on a phone!!

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Fiddlerman
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October 26, 2017 - 12:23 pm
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How about the back end of the stick when the screw is off?

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Cearbhael
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October 26, 2017 - 1:17 pm
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That is one of the two other pics I took LOL adding it nowIMG_2582-1.JPGImage Enlarger

hmmm, pretty blurry when you make it big! Let me try another picIMG_2592.JPGImage Enlarger

or two lol! Seems to be oval on the outside at least.

PS: there are 3 pics! Not sure why the last one didn't post! Hit the attachments link to open it!

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"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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zpilot
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October 27, 2017 - 11:22 am
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Back to my OP, I have looked around to see what Irish fiddlers seem to be using and as Charles has noted most are stiffer bows, such as the CodaBow Diamond NX.  However, I see that Katy Adelson - who is one of my favorite players - is using a CodaBow Luma.  Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that bow is entirely the opposite.  It tends to be lighter than average and it has been described as "livelier".

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Cearbhael
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October 27, 2017 - 2:40 pm
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@zpilot Sorry, didn't intend to high jack your topic! Actually I am a MAJOR fan of Celtic music! One of the reasons I am following it is that I am definitely interested in the topic. That Fiddlerman is interested in addressing that crooked pin is hopefully not keeping the discussion from progressing. I love classical violin but I love Irish fiddle, jigs, etc! I know I will be trying to master the easier pieces down the road! I love listening to BillyG play Some of the highland folk songs! I remember going to listen to a Scottish band who played Celtic folk music! I was amazed at the similarity to bluegrass jigs and reels. You can hear the Celtic roots in the mountain music! Of course checking into it, there was no surprise to discover the Scottish and Irish were the settlers in the mountains that bluegrass came from. Can I ask why a lighter bow is good in the performance of Celtic folk music? Is there a specific advantage?

"Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one".- Albert Einstein 

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zpilot
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October 27, 2017 - 3:00 pm
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I don't know that.  I was hoping someone could clear that up for me too.  I can see that with the typical fast phrases a lighter bow might have advantages.  I have to wonder about how a bow like that tracks.  My current skill set isn't up to making that choice.

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