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Professional quality carbon bows
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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Gordon Shumway
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December 10, 2018 - 5:04 am
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If I had stayed with the oboe, I'd have bought an entry-level professional oboe, even though I'd have stayed an amateur on the instrument. Good student instruments are so expensive that I think it makes sense to go up that one level.

So, I'm guessing in a year or two I'll want an entry-level professional violin, although I will only ever be an amateur. These start at around $2,000 if we look at what Fiddlershop has to offer. And that is cheap compared with oboes, which is why I am so ambitious.

But I don't want to look at fiddles yet, I want to look at bows. Let's assume I will only ever buy carbon. What does an entry level professional carbon bow cost? @Fiddlerman?

I assume the answer is something like a Codabow GX, purely because it's about a third of the price of fiddlershop's entry level pro fiddles, but I don't really know anything yet. I'm feeling my way. What other brands are there?

Andrew

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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I play an entry-level professional viola with an entry-level professional hybrid bow (carbon fiber core, wood sheath), and most of the musicians I play with are either early-career pros or high-level amateurs (some of them semi-pro) so mostly play entry-level professional instruments.

First of all: $2,000 is a decent violin, and good enough for conservatory auditions, but not entry-level professional unless you consider a conservatory student to be professional. The general opinion around me seems to be that $10,000 is a minimum to be competitive in professional auditions, but if you look hard enough you may be able to find bargains for as low as half of that. So my assessment is that entry-level professional means between $5,000 and $15,000. The $2,000 to $10,000 range (note the significant overlap) is common for serious amateurs and for conservatory students.

What I would say, though, is that the 3:1 ratio of instrument to bow price applies only to wood bows, and not necessarily above a certain price. To me, an entry-level professional wood bow is $1,500 to $5,000. Carbon fiber bows tend to significantly outperform wood bows at the same price, up to the $800-1,000 range, and based on the bows I've tested and what I've heard from my pro and semi-pro colleagues, I'd rate those bows as comparable to $3,000 wood bows. The reason wood bows are preferred at higher levels is that carbon fiber bows hit a ceiling around that $800-$1,000 range, and then the next upgrade has to be a wood bow over $3,000.

Anyway: my own bow is a C.F. Iesta hybrid that cost $520. I went to the shop expecting to spend up to $2,000 for a bow, and tried bows up to $2,500 -- essentially entry-level professional bows. The hybrid I bought was better than anything I tried that was under $2,000 and was comparable to bows in the $2,000-2,500 range. (I use the $520 bow with a $15,000 viola.) I believe Iesta bows are now sold under the JonPaul label in the United States; the C.F. Iesta is the same as the JonPaul Fusion Silver (not the basic JonPaul Fusion available at Fiddlershop).

In my last concert with my semi-pro orchestra, I was filling in as assistant principal violist, so was seated next to the early-career pro who is our principal violist. She was using a Codabow Diamond SX (which Fiddlershop lists at $590) with a $10,000 viola.

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Gordon Shumway
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AndrewH said
my assessment is that entry-level professional means between $5,000 and...

That would be about the same as an entry-level pro oboe, then. Although it would be nice if the cost of violin plus bow were the same as the cost of an oboe.

But too much talk of violins will obscure discussion of bows, I fear, although I'm starting to get the message that going with my gut and my budget (which seems to agree with your hybrid), was about right. I suspected carbon bows had a ceiling, and that suits me perfectly, and this ceiling seems to be at the right level for my budget.

Andrew

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bocaholly
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December 10, 2018 - 7:38 am
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@AndrewH, My understanding is that the difference between the JonPaul Fusion and JonPaul Fusion Silver is, in principle, just in the silver appointments:
http://www.jonpaulbows.com/fusion.aspx
However, if JonPaul operates anything like Arcus-Müsing, they would be testing the veneer-wrapped sticks after production for vibration transmission and would be choosing the best for the Silver series.

@AndrewFryer, If you're going out to have some fun testing upscale carbon fiber,   consider trying the Arcus-Müsing bows. They are really different. Michael O'Gieblyn does a great job of explaining why here:

https://fiddlershop.com/produc.....violin-bow
and here:

https://fiddlershop.com/produc.....violin-bow

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Gordon Shumway
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December 10, 2018 - 7:51 am
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Ha ha, yes, I'm supposed to test. In reality I'm too lazy - I like to read, buy and then see what I can do with what I've got! (semi-seriously). I'll probably take my teacher with me to test some fiddles though and buy her lunch in return.

I changed my forum name, btw - I think these forums are 100% public aren't they, so I decided I should gradually remove my real name from them.

There's another forum, isn't there, @AndrewH , where there seems to me to be just too much snobbishness ("$6,000 fiddles all sound like cigar boxes"), but maybe it's not good etiquette to criticise other forums here.

Andrew

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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December 10, 2018 - 8:01 am
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bocaholly said
@AndrewH, My understanding is that the difference between the JonPaul Fusion and JonPaul Fusion Silver is, in principle, just in the silver appointments:
http://www.jonpaulbows.com/fusion.aspx
However, if JonPaul operates anything like Arcus-Müsing, they would be testing the veneer-wrapped sticks after production for vibration transmission and would be choosing the best for the Silver series.

@AndrewFryer, If you're going out to have some fun testing upscale carbon fiber,   consider trying the Arcus-Müsing bows. They are really different. Michael O'Gieblyn does a great job of explaining why here:

https://fiddlershop.com/produc.....violin-bow
and here:

https://fiddlershop.com/produc.....violin-bow  

 

I've seen conflicting information on the Iesta bows. (I understand that JonPaul Fusion is Iesta Carbon and JonPaul Fusion Silver is C.F. Iesta.) Some of what I've read is consistent with your understanding, saying that both have pernambuco veneers. But I've also read descriptions that say the Iesta Carbon has a brazilwood veneer while the C.F. Iesta has a denser pernambuco veneers.

At the time, Iesta was marketing the C.F. Iesta as a conservatory or entry level professional bow, and the Iesta Carbon as an intermediate to advanced student bow. This would not, of course, exclude the possibility that the composition was identical and the best were being selected for the silver fittings.

I haven't tried the Iesta Carbon (JonPaul Fusion) so can't say anything about its playing characteristics.

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bocaholly
Boca Raton, Florida
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December 10, 2018 - 8:04 am
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@AndrewFryer,

Test... most definitely! ... and test on YOUR violin. Which brings me to the thought that, if you're going to seriously upgrade your violin soon-ish, you might want to do that first. I can't imagine that a $500 bow could play to its full advantage on a new instrument half that cost... unless it's a crazy outlier. 

Maybe you have some local sellers that allow in-home trials as Fiddlershop does in the USA?

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AndrewH
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Andrew Shumway said
Ha ha, yes, I'm supposed to test. In reality I'm too lazy - I like to read, buy and then see what I can do with what I've got! (semi-seriously). I'll probably take my teacher with me to test some fiddles though and buy her lunch in return.

I changed my forum name, btw - I think these forums are 100% public aren't they, so I decided I should gradually remove my real name from them.

There's another forum, isn't there, @AndrewH , where there seems to me to be just too much snobbishness ("$6,000 fiddles all sound like cigar boxes"), but maybe it's not good etiquette to criticise other forums here.  

You may have noticed I'm on that other forum too. Most of the people there seem to be either wealthy people or highly accomplished musicians (or both) whereas this forum caters more to adult beginners. My viola is most likely at the low end of the price range compared to people who post regularly over there, and the high end of the price range on this forum.

I don't want to be a price-snob; I think advanced student instruments ($1200-3,000) sound good enough for most purposes, and the majority of the string players in a mid-level amateur orchestra play instruments in that price range. But I also want to give a realistic picture of what entry-level professional players are actually using, and that's definitely not $2,000 instruments.

My sense of price ranges for various levels of instruments (all approximate, and note that they overlap significantly):

Beginning student $250-1,000
Intermediate student $700-2,000 (typical in lower-level amateur orchestras)
Advanced student $1,200-3,000 (typical in mid-level amateur orchestras)
Pre-professional $2,000-10,000 (suitable for conservatory students and serious amateurs)
Entry-level pro $5,000-15,000

And now I'm happy to not talk further about instrument prices, because the main topic is bows. Based on what I've tried and what people around me are using, I'd estimate that the minimum price for an entry-level professional carbon fiber bow is probably somewhere around $400.

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Gordon Shumway
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December 11, 2018 - 4:13 am
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Au contraire, perhaps discussion of fiddle prices was just as much use as discussion of bow prices. Even if 2000 is only "pre-professional", if it is noticeably better made than lesser models, that may be good enough for me. So the idea is spend a third of that on a wooden bow, but less on a carbon bow? That too is not much of a problem. If the best carbon bow were 1,000 I could afford it (and more). If the best were 100,000, I couldn't afford it, and I'd have to choose a stopping-point somehow, and that "somehow" is the point of these posts, which I realise are quite silly otherwise.

Andrew

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AndrewH
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I think the important thing is shopping carefully, especially if your budget is at the bottom of one of those price ranges. At any price level, some violins will compete with violins selling for two or three times as much, while others may be noticeably inferior to what you'd typically expect for the price. That's why I'm putting so much overlap in my estimated ranges.

I'd say the level around $2,000 is an inflection point for another reason: below that, people tend to shop for a brand or model (though I'd advise trying an instrument before buying in all price ranges if possible), and above that, people are much more likely to look at the individual instrument's characteristics and how well it matches the player.

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Gordon Shumway
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December 11, 2018 - 4:55 am
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When I audition my next and last fiddle, I'll certainly be taking my teacher with me and buying her lunch, lol!

Andrew

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Shane "Chicken" Wang
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Andrew Shumway said

I changed my forum name, btw - I think these forums are 100% public aren't they, so I decided I should gradually remove my real name from them.

@Gordon Shumway I'm following your lead, just not so gradual. It has been said that I am as delicate as sledgehammer.

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Shane "Chicken" Wang
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I am glad I didn't go into orchestral music. Seems a bit to snobbish for my taste. I always enjoyed putting my cheap little Saxophones up against the top of the line instruments just to prove it's the musician, not the instrument.

Never mattered if I was using my Keilwerth, Selmer, Cannonball, or Conn, It always comes back to the musician. 

Pierre proves that every time he picks up a 150 dollar violin and plays it like it's a 25,000 dollar instrument.

I am positive that one of these days when I again have more money than sense I will go out and buy a carbon fiber bow that Pierre says, " This is a great bow." for an ungodly price.  Until then, I will use my Fiddlerman bow like it is made from unicorn horn and sprinkles my fiddle with fairy dust every time it vibrates my strings. And since I switched to Fiddlerman rosin, not so much fairy dust.

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AndrewH
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Except that, to my ear, Pierre doesn't do that, and can't. Nor does he claim to. It's still obvious the instrument is the limiting factor. He'll get the best out of any instrument, but there's only so much you can do.

It's also not snobbery on the part of orchestral musicians, it's the demands of the music. A good musician can make a $150 fiddle sound decent in in the lower part of the range, but not when playing an octave up the string. That's where no amount of technical ability is going to keep it from sounding choked. Orchestral violinists have to play up there in almost every piece.

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Shane "Chicken" Wang
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That's a load of bull. Michael O'Gieblyn always plays up to the end of the fingerboard. Maybe your Orchestra needs to practice more. Yes the better instrument will make it easier, but if you have to have the better instrument, then you are not the worth the instrument. Is there anything else you want to talk down to me about? 

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AndrewH
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December 11, 2018 - 5:41 pm
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And you think he sounds good up there on a $150 fiddle? As good as that instrument can possibly sound, perhaps. That isn't necessarily good, and definitely not compared to people going to a pro audition with professional-level instruments.

Occasionally professional orchestras offer a string player a seat only on condition of getting a better instrument. That means the audition panel can tell the player has sufficient technique and musicality to win the seat over the others auditioning, but consider the instrument to be unacceptable -- and mind you, they never see the price tag on the instrument because auditions are blind. Yes, they can tell.

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Fiddlerman
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December 11, 2018 - 5:51 pm
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Thanks everyone.
I don't know if I can make all instruments sound expensive but I can't do all that much about the actual tone of the violin. I might be able to tone down the harshness though.
Let me know if I can help you choose an instrument.

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

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