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Bow weight
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Gordon Shumway
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I'd be interested to hear people's views on this (especially Pierre's obviously).

Imagine a beginner on the violin, and imagine a bow that's a little bit light, and imagine a bow that's a little bit heavy (but less heavy than a viola bow).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each for the beginner?

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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Gordon Shumway
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I think the question is perhaps too vague.

I'll rephrase it. I've got a 61g carbon bow and a 67g wooden bow.

After the carbon bow, the wooden bow initially felt too heavy, but after getting used to it, it does seem to dig into the strings better and be "self-guiding" to a certain extent, whereas the carbon bow needs more controlling and manual pressure. Unfortunately the wood doesn't seem that stiff - it's quite easy to tighten it up until there's nearly an inch of clearance. I'm not sure that's such a good thing. But also the wooden bow gives a richer tone. The bows cost $18 each.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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pchoppin
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I have a few thoughts...

First, $18 seems quite inexpensive for a violin bow.  I would be concerned why these are priced so low.  

The bow is the second most important investment for your instrument, the violin itself being the first.  Even a beginner bow, or those sold with kits, are normally in the neighborhood of $50.  A bow will have a significant effect on playing, sound, learning control, and developing good playing habits.  Consider carefully the quality of bow you will use.  

Overall bow weight is only one piece of this puzzle, and only one consideration when placing a value on a bow.  Weight is generally a player’s preference.  Your bow should not be too heavy or too light.  You are right when you describe how difficult it is to control a bow that is too light for a player.  But I want to emphasize that it is the individual player.  A weight that feels right to you may not feel right to me. 

And there are other factors.  An important characteristic is bow balance.  Where is the weight distributed?  We talk about a bow being “tip heavy”, which is weighted more on the tip end of the bow.  This will have a dramatically different playing effect, verses a bow which is more evenly balanced.  

However, a perfectly balanced, perfectly weighted bow is no guarantee that it will play exactly the way an individual player wants, or even will match a specific instrument well.  It is best to take your own instrument with you to a string instrument shop or to a luthier and try several bows yourself with your instrument.  This will allow you to feel how each bow plays and feels. 

I have been working with my luthier where I purchased my violin and we both have discussed several bows.  He showed me the aspects of each and why one differs from another.  I finally chose the best one for me and my violin.  It is a $200 bow, made of wood.  Its balance and weight is ideal for how I play.  

So the question of bow weight is only part of how to select a bow.  There is much more that goes into this very important decision.  

- Pete -

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AndrewH
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Similarly, I've never even heard of a $18 full-size bow. I've heard of full-size carbon fiber bows as low as $30, but $18 is far below that. A decent beginner's bow costs around $100.

Balance is much more important than weight, as long as the weight is within a reasonable range.

One other thought about balance and weight: you may find that you prefer different bows for different styles of music. I have two viola bows: a professional-level bow that I use most of the time, and a $150 lower-intermediate level student bow that mostly serves as a backup when my primary bow is in the shop for rehairing. When playing Baroque music, I actually prefer to use the backup bow! The backup bow is slightly heavier and is a bit more tip-heavy, which makes it great for holding a few inches above the frog and using it like a Baroque bow.

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Gordon Shumway
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You can get bows from China for less than $5 including postage on Amazon, not that I'd recommend one.

The Kmise carbon bows are looking odd, though. They have gone up slightly, and the coloured ones are about $25 incl postage from China, but the black ones are only available from a dealer in Texas who is new to Amazon and who wants a reassuring $50 apiece!

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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AndrewH
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Andrew Fryer said
You can get bows from China for less than $5 including postage on Amazon, not that I'd recommend one.

The Kmise carbon bows are looking odd, though. They have gone up slightly, and the coloured ones are about $25 incl postage from China, but the black ones are only available from a dealer in Texas who is new to Amazon and who wants a reassuring $50 apiece!  

The $5 bows may be fraudulent.

Refer to Irv's observation here:
https://fiddlerman.com/forum/the-violin/will-chinese-tariffs-raise-violin-prices/#p93176

It seems there's been a spate of suspiciously low-priced postings for string instruments on eBay recently, supposedly including shipping, with "buy it now" prices that are below the cost of shipping alone.

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Irv
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To add my two cents, I have purchased several carbon bows having a weave pattern to them because the eBay merchant (from China) was good enough to substitute black bow hair at no additional cost for me.  The cost was about $25 for each with included shipping and I have been very happy with them.

The recent auctions I mentioned as a scam were from a US address (Massachusetts) and would have only affected eBay, since the ultimate customer is protected (although you would be subjected to a time delay and a little bit of hassle).  The ads are easy to spot if you search by “newest.”

If you want to see what I am talking about (if they are still up), look for a new Cecilio CCO-100 cello for about $25 with free shipping.  The listings are from a single date and there are a lot of them.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

I consider any plane that I design a success if it rises high enough to crash.  —RA Heinlein

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Gordon Shumway
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It has taken me more than a day to work out what "a $5 bow may be fraudulent" might mean.

I take it to mean AndrewH thinks they are good bows that don't exist being advertised at low prices?

No!

Look at the reviews - the bows are real and the reviews are all bad. If the reviews were good, they might be fraudulent. No, that is what the cheapest bows cost in China for beginners.

Is AndrewH aware that Fiddlershop more or less began with a $99 violin kit from California?

I have begun with a $50 violin kit from China.

A year after I bought it, I was given a violin that a friend bought for $120 in a shop for her daughter. Both came with bows that looked the part, but had a huge amount of lateral skew when you tightened them. I assume this is what you get for $5 from China - no-one is going to put an $18 bow in a $50 fiddle kit.

£18 gets you a 61g CF bow that not only costs about a third of what your starter fiddle is worth, but it also gets you a playable bow.

FWIW, my 67g wooden bow was happier on the cheap strings that came with the fiddle, but now I find that perhaps the 61g CF bow is happier on the Pirastros, which I put on yesterday.

Are you aware that, to boost Chinese exports, postage on them is free from China?

Here are some links for the doubtful.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Violin-Mongolian-Winding-Beginner-Practice/dp/B00EI8PTM4?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_dp

When I bought mine, the black ones were the same price as the coloured ones. Now it seems that a Texan has spotted them, bought them and has put a more than 100% mark-up on them.

$5 bows: -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/SODIAL-Violin-Fiddle-Horsehair-Exquisite/dp/B01BXWUAM6?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_dp

https://www.amazon.co.uk/TOOGOO-Violin-Fiddle-Horsehair-Exquisite/dp/B01BV0NMAW?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_dp

(I am Fuficius Fango in the Amazon reviews, btw - I don't have any secret internet aliases)

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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AndrewH
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What I meant by "fraudulent" is that I assumed the seller would ship nothing, and simply take the money and run.

BTW, I think an $18 bow in a $50 kit is not that unlikely. The general guideline I've seen in various places is that a bow costs about a third as much as a violin of similar quality.

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Gordon Shumway
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AndrewH said
What I meant by "fraudulent" is that I assumed the seller would ship nothing, and simply take the money and run.
BTW, I think an $18 bow in a $50 kit is not that unlikely. The general guideline I've seen in various places is that a bow costs about a third as much as a violin of similar quality.  

You are assuming these kits are put together rationally, but I think, given the price constraints, they are more likely to contain the cheapest example of each component. And indeed the two kit bows I have seen both had an identical defect, although they were clearly different bows from different manufacturers.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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AndrewH
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That said, I have to admit I have zero experience with bows under $100, or student instruments of any kind, because I started out inheriting an old German workshop violin (probably $1500 or so), went to the nearest shop for a bow (there wasn't one with the violin when I got it), and the cheapest bow they had was $100. That was the late 90s... so of course carbon fiber has been a game-changer for bow prices since then.

But without getting too far into the weeds on bow pricing... my primary viola bow is a CF/pernambuco hybrid, 70 grams, and my backup bow is all-wood and about 73 grams. As much as the viola requires digging into the strings, I like the lighter weight better. But again, the weight distribution is much more important than the number of grams. Most of the time I tend to prefer a center of mass toward the frog for agility, but like to use something a little more tip-heavy when playing in Baroque style because it seems to facilitate the slight lift at the beginning and end of long notes.

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Irv
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Hi Andrew Fryer and others.  Since you are from England, I would look for a split bamboo violin bow.  They were once popular there, and are very good.  I was hoping that they could be manufactured again in China, but with the advent of carbon fiber that is now unlikely.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

I consider any plane that I design a success if it rises high enough to crash.  —RA Heinlein

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Irv
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I spent some time reading about split bamboo bows.  One of the leading makers was Laurence Cocker, who grafted Cocobolo tip and frog ends to them.  Unlike wooden bows that are flamed to set the bow, a split bamboo bow is set during the glue curing process.  Bamboo does not accept stain, so players with them stood out “for shame” in an orchestra.  I have roasted reed material and know that bamboo flooring is sold in a dark state, so I am sure that bamboo could be roasted as well.

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.  —Werner von Braun

I consider any plane that I design a success if it rises high enough to crash.  —RA Heinlein

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gwalmer
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Well, my Glasser fiberglass bow is made in the USA, and cost less than $50.

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Fiddlerman
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September 28, 2018 - 10:38 am
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Andrew Fryer said
I'd be interested to hear people's views on this (especially Pierre's obviously).

Imagine a beginner on the violin, and imagine a bow that's a little bit light, and imagine a bow that's a little bit heavy (but less heavy than a viola bow).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each for the beginner?  

Considering that the bows are of equal quality.

Heavier bows are better for producing more sound with less effort. It's best if they are well balanced and not just top or bottom heavy.

Lighter bows are better for playing fast and certain types of spiccato.

That being said, you can play fast with a heavy bow and you can play with a lot of power using a light bow, just more effort with both. A happy medium is the best for me.

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

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Gordon Shumway
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I've done a little bit of experimenting since asking the question - the cheaper steel strings seem to need the heavier bow (and the dark rosin is probably advantageous too), whereas the nylon-cored Pirastros are happy with the lighter bow.

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but my parents wouldn't let me.

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Fiddlerman
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Cheaper steel strings don't vibrate as freely.

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

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