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Bow: what do I have?
Question on bow manufacturer, style, and general opinions...
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 22, 2020 - 2:41 pm
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Still learning (We are said to never stop).

  1. Can anyone identify where this bow came from; the manufacturer, the country?
  2. Is this just a 'regular' bow, or is there anything irregular about it?

It was with my jumble-sale violin, and so the provenance is completely absent. I have no idea, no clue.

IMG_20200222_191413317.jpgImage EnlargerIMG_20200222_191218106.jpgImage Enlarger

The faint marking by the frog is poor; I thought it said, "INCA", but I'm probably wrong. Searching the name was fruitless.

The leather is plain in design, and has some wear at the index finger area (I suppose that's its purpose, to save the stick).

The ferrule has the appearance of silver-plate, and the screw head is plated brass, and quite worn; the brass is showing through in places.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Irv
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February 22, 2020 - 4:12 pm
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@Peter and others.  There is no metal wrapping, so the “maker” must have been satisfied with the balance.

It is customary to obtain a sliver of wood from the mortise area (of the bow stick) between the stick and frog and submerse it in a few drops of distilled water.  The water will turn a reddish color if the wood is pernambuco.  That wood is the holy grail of bow material.  

A good test for me is the bounce characteristic of the stick.  Many bows lack the ability to achieve a bounce at the middle point of the hair.  Really good bows can achieve bounce in the middle third of the hair.  I have two bows that can bounce anywhere on the hair (amazing but leads to many hours of practice to control a bow like that).   

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 22, 2020 - 4:52 pm
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Can you be more precise about the bounce, Irv?

This bow oscillates on the string (if I let it), over most of its length during a full, light down-bow, but more pronounced toward the tip. It's like vibrato in period, and I thought it was a bowing fault (perhaps it is).

We have no DI water on-hand at home, but I can do the pernambuco test on Monday at the salt-mine.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Irv
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February 22, 2020 - 7:45 pm
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@Peter and others.  Look up the terms spiccato, sautille, and (to the extreme) jete.  A YouTube video of same may also be beneficial.

If you have a bow with this characteristic (and if so, in my opinion, lucky you), switching direction may cause the bow to start oscillating.  This can be annoying.  Someone on the forum suggested to me that it can be minimised by altering the hair angle to the string.  I use more force on the bow on the “away” stroke, so I angle the hair in that direction.  I lay the hair more flat on the string during the toward stroke.  This solved the problem for me.  

I had the rare opportunity to try hundreds of old violin bows at a lutherier one afternoon and only found a handful that had this property to the extent that mine exhibit.  Surprisingly, several of those had minute knots in the stick.  No idea if that correlates to anything.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 23, 2020 - 3:22 am
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These photos may explain the oscillation (it's a pleasant tremolo):

IMG_20200223_080528311.jpgImage EnlargerIMG_20200223_080509147.jpgImage Enlarger

The strange device just short of the tip is probably a repair, but I'm not ruling out the notion that a previous custodian added this brass sheet as a weight. It's rolled brass shim, held on station with what appears to be epoxy. If it were a repair to a broken stick, a piece of tubing would be more likely. The service-brown acrylic paint has been added by me to tidy it up.

This is my favourite bow; I keep it with the antique Dutch violin. I have a cheap Chinese bow which I had to rebuild when I re-haired it, and I keep that for use with the second fiddle, the home-brew solid.

The extra weight at the tip may have an effect on the dynamics of the bow. It surely adds to the cantilever moment when played at the frog, but it will take an experienced violinist to say what effect it has elsewhere. Perhaps when I finally engage a teacher, I'll find out.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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February 23, 2020 - 6:11 am
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Irv said
@Peter and others.  Look up the terms spiccato, sautille, and (to the extreme) jete.  A YouTube video of same may also be beneficial.

If you have a bow with this characteristic (and if so, in my opinion, lucky you), switching direction may cause the bow to start oscillating.  This can be annoying.  Someone on the forum suggested to me that it can be minimised by altering the hair angle to the string.  I use more force on the bow on the “away” stroke, so I angle the hair in that direction.  I lay the hair more flat on the string during the toward stroke.  This solved the problem for me.  

I had the rare opportunity to try hundreds of old violin bows at a lutherier one afternoon and only found a handful that had this property to the extent that mine exhibit.  Surprisingly, several of those had minute knots in the stick.  No idea if that correlates to anything.

  

There's a fairly wide range even among high-quality bows. Personal preference plays a role in selecting a bow, and even the type of music being played can make a difference. Some violinists have two primary bows, a more flexible bow for Baroque and Classical music where a light touch is necessary, and a stiffer bow for Romantic and modern music which often requires more forceful playing.

Still, any decent bow is designed to bounce quite a bit more than beginner-level student bows, which are intended to be easy to handle when learning the basics.

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Gordon Shumway
London, England
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February 23, 2020 - 7:14 am
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Context - Peter is possibly a beginner. (I don't know for sure, since he is attempting Kreutzer 2, and I don't want to insult him).

On a light downbow he gets a hesitant sound which gets more hesitant towards the tip.

He wonders if it's bad bowing technique. I suspect it is. He's attempting son filé.

I suspect advising him on sautillé and expensive bows is not what he needs. When is your first lesson, Peter? These are the things you must clear up with a teacher.

Beginners get inadvertent bounce. Bounce needs to be eliminated before, at a more advanced level, it is reintroduced.

A common error is to bring a confident downbow into contact with a string too far from the frog. This results in bow bounce until the beginner learns to start the stroke closer to the frog.

Andrew

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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 23, 2020 - 8:06 am
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Gordon Shumway said
Context - Peter is possibly a beginner. (I don't know for sure, since he is attempting Kreutzer 2, and I don't want to insult him).

On a light downbow he gets a hesitant sound which gets more hesitant towards the tip.

He wonders if it's bad bowing technique. I suspect it is. He's attempting son filé.

I suspect advising him on sautillé and expensive bows is not what he needs. When is your first lesson, Peter? These are the things you must clear up with a teacher.

Beginners get inadvertent bounce. Bounce needs to be eliminated before, at a more advanced level, it is reintroduced.

A common error is to bring a confident downbow into contact with a string too far from the frog. This results in bow bounce until the beginner learns to start the stroke closer to the frog.

  

 I am a beginner with five months self-training, and the Kreutzer 2 etude is a struggle (but sounding cleaner by the day). I certainly feel no insult from your response, Andrew, it is full of insight and your sense of urgency about my (much needed) first violin lesson is timely: I really must make that 'phone call.

I had no idea whether my bow often wavered when approaching the tip because it was supposed to (and I hadn't the technique for smooth bowing), or if there was some characteristic fault with the bow. The foregoing responses have all but cleared that up: the bow is probably a sensitive one with a high-modulus stick and I'm in need of a teacher with a critical eye and ear, one-to-one.

The teacher can most likely tell me if the bow (and indeed the violin) are suitable for a beginner, or if I need to purchase another. I have in any case decided to save for a student violin to take the pressure off of the one I have; it may yet prove to be the 1788 Johannes Cuypers the label claims it to be.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Gordon Shumway
London, England
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February 23, 2020 - 8:34 am
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Peter said

The foregoing responses have all but cleared that up: the bow is probably a sensitive one with a high-modulus stick

  

My point was, they may have cleared it up, or they may have failed to take context properly into account.

Make sure your teacher covers basic parallel bowing technique from the off.

Andrew

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Irv
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February 23, 2020 - 8:55 am
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@Peter and others.  Tube at tip end likely hides a repair.  Extra weight at that area offers no player advantage.  However, a tidy repair like that costs money, so the stick had value to the previous owner.  

I must disagree with the point made by Gordon regarding a lively bow.  To a technical person like Peter, there is no need of learning spiccato to achieve a kick upon playing a bow capable of it.    

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.         —Frank Zappa

It is unpleasant to be thought so uncleverly unclean and capable of poisoning a whole city.—Sir Walter Scott

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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 23, 2020 - 9:29 am
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Irv said
@Peter and others.  ...  However, a tidy repair like that costs money, so the stick had value to the previous owner.  

  

That's pretty much as I read the evidence (such as it is).

The only history I have of the instrument and bow is that it was presented as part of a house clearance to our local Sea Cadet unit for their regular jumble sale some six years ago. I was at the time a Petty Officer at the unit and on noticing the tatty old violin in a fresh jumble pile, I asked the old chap who organised the jumble sales what he'd take for it. He told me, 'Just take it'. I couldn't simply walk away with it without donating something, so I gave him a 50 pence piece. As to the previous owner, who knows? At a guess, the owner had died, and his / her family had cleared out the house to the benefit of the Sea Cadets, once the heirlooms and keepsakes had been secured. The violin had dried out and there were cracks in the table (I've repaired them), and the bow needed some hair (thanks once again...).

I could ask the Worthing Symphony Orchestra or one of the local amateur orchestras (we have a couple) if they remember a violinist passing over the bar in the early years of this century, and if they recall a repaired bow, but it seems a bit of an ask.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Gordon Shumway
London, England
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February 23, 2020 - 10:03 am
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Are we contemplating spiccato with the tip of the bow?

My guess is that Peter is not applying enough pressure at the tip, and the previous owner didn't either and thought the solution might be a brass weight.

I will be happy for peter's teacher to prove me wrong.

But this depends on peter's description.

Is the tip so heavy it's simply bouncing? With correct bowing technique, that shouldn't be the case. What on earth would such a brass weight be for?

Andrew

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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 23, 2020 - 10:38 am
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I will leave the matter of my bowing technique to my teacher; I made a short video in an attempt to demonstrate the effect and it just shows how desperately I need that tuition. Thank you all for your help in that respect.

Does anyone have any observations on the bow itself (the original question), or is that also best left to a physical, one-to-one consultation?

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Gordon Shumway
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February 23, 2020 - 10:47 am
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The names on bows I have seen tend to be on the left-hand side just above the frog, but presumably you'd have photographed that if it had been visible. Otoh, they are not indelible, and maybe if you look closely you'll see some kind of residual marking?

(your Youtube channel doesn't appear to exist, Peter)

Andrew

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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 23, 2020 - 10:52 am
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If you examine the first photo in the original post, you can see the faint marking which I am personally failing to decipher. It looks like "INCA", but that character string gives no returns with "bow" when searched. I think it's either a random group of scratches and dents, or degraded too far to read. I lit the photo to give the best relief of the characters.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Gordon Shumway
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February 23, 2020 - 10:59 am
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Peter said
If you examine the first photo in the original post, you can see the faint marking which I am personally failing to decipher. It looks like "INCA", but that character string gives no returns with "bow" when searched. I think it's either a random group of scratches and dents, or degraded too far to read. I lit the photo to give the best relief of the characters.  

Yes, that looks like a previous owner may have tried to scratch their name into it. I was hoping for a faded version of this kind of thing (btw, your Youtube channel doesn't appear to exist, Peter): -

https://d2ram95tajq20c.cloudfr.....ffd2aa.jpg

Andrew

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Peter
West Sussex, England UK
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February 23, 2020 - 11:22 am
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I hadn't considered the 'personal' identification of the bow; it may even help trace the previous owner, and perhaps some provenance.

I'm a little surprised at myself for that, having inscribed my name on the solid fiddle.

I've removed the link to my YT channel; there's nothing of interest on it.

Peter

"It is vain to do with more that which can be done with less"  - William of Ockham

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in" - Frederick the Great

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Jim Dunleavy
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February 24, 2020 - 6:39 am
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Nobody seems to have mentioned this yet, but do you really want to learn on a bow that might be far from the normal weight and feel of a typical bow (I'm thinking of the way the repair might affect the balance)? That might come back to bite you if you want to upgrade to a quality bow in the future.

You can get a half-decent brazilwood bow online that will do to learn on for less than 40 quid. 

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Gordon Shumway
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I've PM'd Peter and Jim, but your forum ID is uncertain, Peter, so I'm not sure if you'll receive the PM or not.

Andrew

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Fiddlerman
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February 24, 2020 - 9:44 am
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I don't even think the best bow expert in the world would be able to tell you who made that bow. To me it looks German and it looks like the Pernambuco was a good quality but has been through a lot of abuse.

I'm quite certain that it was repaired. No one in their right mind, especially looking at the work, would add weight to the top.

You should remove the leather and make a strong wood graft instead. Your skills are obviously at play in this case. If you are talanted it could be fun for you to do.

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

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