Has anyone altered the balance of their bow?
I've worked very hard this past few months to improve several aspects of my playing. One of them is my bow grip.
Well, I did what I set out to but, now with my newest FM CF bow, it's led to another issue.
No matter what music I choose to play, my wonderfully relaxed bow hand (I've worked so hard on) migrates 4.5cm up the stick! I can stop, correct it and I just end up back in the same spot.
I've seen many people play folk music this way, higher on the stick, but I thought that was always by their choice. I don't feel I have that choice right now.
Let me say I would normally try to let something like this slide (forgive the pun), but this has been going on since I first got this bow and it's consistent. I think at this point I should just listen to what my body is telling me, which I believe is my bow is too tip heavy.
I don't want to damage the integrity of the bow, because I really like this bow! I just don't see anything wrong with trying to find the best area on the frog end to add a little weight.
I'll start with something temporary, then I have a few ideas about adding weight permanently, but I need to find the location first.
I'd really appreciate suggestions.
My experience in correcting the balance of anything has been limited to helicopter rotor blades and my home ceiling fans, but we're not talking rocket science here - so I'm really curious why I haven't seen any threads or posts related to this here?
Did I miss anything on this subject somewhere here on the forum?
...seems this guy has the same issue (lol).
Hi @ELCBK . I have done it. It helps if you already have a “satisfactory” bow for comparison. The assumption here is that you do.
Take the satisfactory bow and balance on a knife edge (or similar), find the balance point and mark. Take unsatisfactory bow and do similar.
You want adjust the balance point of the unsatisfactory bow to equal that of the satisfactory bow.
I typically need to add weight to the frog end to achieve proper balance. The trick is that less weight in needed in the frog area to achieve same balance point as more weight in the grip or wrap areas.
If the balance is way off, I bore a hole in the underside of the frog and add a piece of tig welding tungsten electrode (which sounds expensive but is cheaply obtained).
If only a little weight is needed, I replace the wrap with gold plated tungsten wire, since the gold plating is easily soldered in place.
If the bow needs to be lightened in the frog area, remove some metal wrap, replace the metal wrap with silk thread, and lighten frog. I have also added tungsten electrode to the tip but that requires skills beyond the typical diy individual.
Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal. —Earl Nightingale.
@Irv - THANK YOU!
So nice to hear from you!
I really think I need to lighten the tip a couple grams otherwise I need to add close to 6 grams to the frog end! That puts my bow weight at 66 grams & I really didn't want that.
Don't really see any best spot to drill into the frog to add that much weight. I only found a poor illustration of a disassembled frog & I really don't want to take mine apart (lol).
Is there a specific depth for the tip mortise I need to stay clear of? Since this bow is CF, seems I might have 2 options for lightening the tip.
I better stop here... can't anything be simple (lol)?
Since I don't want to open a can of worms, I think it's back to the original plan of a trial period with temporary weight on the frog end.
Guess I'll try to get away with wrapping wire around the stick between the frog and the screw end. I've only got approx 1/2" to work with & probably don't have any metal wire much more than half the weight of tungsten. So, I better check into tungsten because I'm sure not going to use my gold wire for this!
WAIT! I think I can just hot-glue a Fishing weight to the end of the screw! ... oh no, then my bow won't fit in my case! Maybe I can just tape the weight to under that area behind the frog. I know fishing weights used to be lead, but they're tungsten now (just ck'd)!
Thanks again, Irv!
...yeah, I talk to myself.
@ELCBK . In a pinch, you can use lead core trolling line. The weight of it is the same regardless of pound test, by the way. The lead would then be protected by woven fabric so that you would not get any on your fingers. Drop me a personal message here and I would be happy to send you some (and/or some gold plated tungsten wire). The lead core wire would be much easier to wrap and finish the ends.
Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal. —Earl Nightingale.
@ELCBK Are you trying to avoid a 66g bow because you personally prefer something lighter, or just out of some impression that it's too heavy for a violin bow? I would guess that a heavier bow might be good for 5-string violin, because the C string needs more weight. 66g is still lighter than most viola bows.
Thanx, I was wondering about that!
This FM CF bow is 60 grams & I'm really happy with it - even on my C string. I don't feel like I need to man-handle it for sound on the lower strings.
If possible, I just want the natural-feeling position of my bowing hand to be "on the frog".
Think this would be a different story if I "chose" to place my hand higher up the stick for extra control, ie: while playing faster music, or with quite a lot of lifting and double stops, but this is still happening even when I play slower or simple tunes, also.
This doesn't occur with my 2 FM CF "Weave" bows (really noticeably different).
This led me to think I might be able to alter the balance slightly so I'd have the best control ON the frog.
If I can't easily alter this in a simple manner or if adding that much extra weight makes too much of a difference, I'll just accept/learn to be happy playing everything 4.5cm up from the frog with this bow.
As a side note, it's kind of funny that my other 2 FM CF "Weave" bows feel more unwieldy, maybe stiffer?
...I haven't looked in the mirror lately.
Is your pinky on the bow when you play? I ask this only because I had a problem I needed to fix with my bow hold. I focused on the pinky, but the real problem was my 2nd & 3rd finger positioning.
My hand was relaxed, but most of the time, my pinky was not on the bow. Not saying it has to be on the bow all the time (and I’ve seen a lot of fiddlers that have it off, mostly), but I was not getting solid control of the bow that I wanted.
I started focusing on keeping my pinky on the bow. Once I focused on keeping my pinky on the bow, it re-positioned my hand slightly. Before this, my 2nd and 3rd fingers would rest above the middle of the frog. Once I focused on my pinky, my 2nd & 3rd fingers moved lower on the frog to the bottom part of the frog. I felt a different balance, & I had better control of the bow after a while (it took a little while to get used to the different feeling of it).
There is a device to help bow grip called Bow Hold Buddies, Fiddlerman has it here:
I did not find the “toad” useful, but I used the little fish part only for a while to help remind me to engage my pinky more.
I guess although I’m talking about engaging my pinky more, it was really a re-positioning of my hand that I needed to do—it was just the act of focusing on my pinky that got me there. I got the balance/control I was looking for. So, please don’t come after me about using the pinky—not arguing about people that play mostly without it.
Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.
Thanx for addressing that!
Yes, my pinky is relaxed and mostly on... but it wasn't always.
I was pretty mortified watching my recording for the GOT GP - stiff pinky, pointing somewhere off in the distance! I realized my whole grip had changed to where I was mostly leaning on my index finger - obviously focusing too much on everything else while I was playing.
All this happened using my 1st FM CF "Weave" bow.
So, I had to go back to "square 1" (thumb, 2nd/3rd fingers & pinky) - it's one of the things I have changed this past few months.
Really appreciate the info & would consider that aid to reinforce proper grip, except I'm pretty sure mine's okay, now. We'll see - when I added a makeshift weight behind my frog yesterday (1 of my rings worked, secured w/Grandkid's hair tie, lol) - my hand didn't migrate!
Anyway, that's why I figure I'm on the right track.
Never worry about me coming after you about anything!
Btw, can't thank you enough for your vibrato tips! Between those and my "Knocking on My Head" motion/imagery, I GOT IT! More practice, more progress (lol).
EUREKA! It works!
I wrapped one (3/pkg), 1/4oz tungsten fishing weight with a strip of duct tape (unicorn pink...🤢), then I continued the wrap around both the weight and stick.
Weight is attached just a sliver past the frog position where I would use my tightest hair.
Huge difference! LOVE IT!
Now, I'll just have to see if I still feel the same about this in a few days or a week... hope the extra weight doesn't end up being too much of a distraction.
Here's a photo (gif) - you can see the shape and relative size of one of the tungsten weights and where I attached it.
...still experimenting with ways to import photos from my phone here. 😁
My hand slides up the bow, but I blame me, not the bow (that's not meant to be a dig at you).
Balance is subtler than you might think. When I first picked up a Coda Diamond GX, it felt amazingly different from a Col Legno Standard, but when I marked the balance points with a pencil, there was only an inch in it.
I suspect that when the balance point is nearer the frog, getting tip pressure is what makes our hands travel towards the tip, and we just need to put more work into getting that index finger to do its job properly.
@Gordon Shumway -
I don't see how I was looking at this wrong.
By my hand migrating to that point, it appeared (to me) I needed the balance point closer to the frog - or more weight in the frog to move that balance point.
If I am wrong, my hand would migrate even further up the stick... it's not doing that.
My hand is staying on the frog where it belongs - with no effort on my part.
AND, I'm not forcing any pressure to play on my G & C strings... so the bow tip is not too light, either.
I'm HAPPY! It WORKED!
I've never thought about adjust the weight or balance of the bow. I guess I've been fortunate enough to have great equipment my whole life. 😁
Or is it a result of buying in a different era when there weren't a lot of people selling student violin outfits online sight unseen? Both of my violin bows are inexpensive student bows, as is my backup viola bow, and they all have decent balance for me because I bought them all in person. Except when I bought my first bow and didn't know enough to evaluate it, any bow whose balance I didn't like would never have left the shop, so there would never have been any reason to adjust later.
(Which is why it's a good idea to take home trials when they're offered by online vendors like Fiddlershop!)
It's close to Halloween and it's "International Skeptics Day" - how befitting!
My "Mad Scientist" persona doesn't hide the fact I've been on my own, exploring what I really want/need from my violin and a bow. I'm pretty sure there will come a time I understand what all this encompasses, then I'll be in a better position to make equipment choices.
So far, so good with my temporary modification. But, being the "skeptic" that I am, I'll need to go back to playing without it, after a while - just to rule out the possibility I could've modified my grip because of adding the weight! I think I should also try my CF Weave bows again, after this & make mental notes.
I'm surprised Irv seems to be the only other person with a bowed string instrument that's thought about trying any modification.
Also surprising, no one stresses trying a "Viola" bow for a 5-string Violin! Thank you AndrewH for hinting at it.
I don't know if I've missed a previous discussion here on the forum but I have run across some food for thought elsewhere, online - enough to consider trying Viola and Violin bows, when it's time.
skepticism - "It is only with this attitude that human society and its understanding of the world around it has been able to evolve and develop."
The problem is that weight needs to come off the tip, not be added to the frog.
Today I realised for the first time that the lighter the tip, the easier it is to play with the bottom third of the bow. This is because it's much easier to control the frog if the tip isn't swaying around with huge momentum.
When I get a chance I must start to do some serious practice playing near the frog. It screws up my plan to stop at a Col Legno if I ever buy a viola - Ill probably have to get a GX as a minimum.
@Gordon Shumway -
I had felt all along that even if I added weight to the frog I'd probably need to remove some from the tip. Even more so after I added a 2nd weight to the frog.
I now know I don't want all that original weight on the tip for playing on any of my strings, but a little extra weight overall seems beneficial for the G & C strings.
Seriously wanted to strategically drill out a hole or carve out a couple shallow ribs on the sides a bit (from tip to stick) - just felt I should have an exact replacement bow first, if I tried this.🤣
I decided to go a different route and take a chance on a FM CF VIOLA bow.
Sale this weekend at Fiddlershop was too enticing... just not quite ready to shop for a $500+ bow, though. (lol)
Looking forward to reporting back with some great news about the FM viola bow!
Well, I received my FM CF Viola bow!
... and it looks like it won't work for me.
It's heavier than the Violin version, but too much for me. I'm surprised, it actually hurts my hand holding it. Too much pressure on my pinky!
Can't see any reason to apply any rosin to try playing with it. (sigh)
So, looks like I'll get by with my FM CF Violin bow (and tungsten fishing weights) until I'm ready to try the $500+ ones.
This little experiment has helped me learn more about what I want in a bow, but I'm just not sure if I should be thinking about trying more expensive bows this early into my playing.
Anyone else consider leaving your student-type bow behind early in your playing?