The Practical Guide to Buying a Bow for String Instruments
Is it time to upgrade your bow? Upgrading your violin, viola, cello or double bass bow can be a little overwhelming, so we have put together some tips and tricks to finding the perfect compliment to your instrument.
A new bow can be an affordable way to upgrade your sound, before upgrading your instrument. The bow can make a dramatic difference to your volume, tone production, and playing experience. There is no exact science on matching your instrument and bow, some bows will sound better on various instruments. Simply for Strings offers a large range of bows in every price bracket so that you can find the perfect bow for you.
What to look for…and listen for
There are some important things to consider when looking to purchase a new bow. Firstly, bows are made from a variety of different materials, including brazilwood, pernambuco, carbon fibre and composite materials. Brazilwood and pernambuco wood is very dense and strong, making it a popular choice for string musicians. Pernambuco wood is becoming harder to source, which is why bow-makers are seeking alternatives. Carbon fibre and composite bows are made to mimic the sound and feel of a regular wooden bow, so they are definitely worth a try. All of these materials will offer a different sound, feel and experience to each individual player, so it is important to bring your own instrument in-store with you in order to try out each bow.
Learn more about how bows are made.
Have a budget
Secondly, it is important to keep your budget in mind – you can invest in a great bow for $400, but you can also spend thousands on bows. Be sure to try more expensive bows than your budget to understand which qualities you are seeking.
Finally, we recommend bringing in some familiar repertoire that offers an opportunity to try every bow technique out there! Starting off with slow, controlled scales before moving into some repertoire is a great way to try out new bows. Bringing in your teacher if they are available is also a fantastic idea.
What to look for in a bow:
Half or Full Mounting
What is a half-mounted or fully-mounted bow? On a fully-mounted bow you can see the thin stripe of a smooth metal plate between where the frog is connected (or mounted) to the bow, allowing a smooth fit and protection for the wood as it slides back and forth when the bow is tightened and loosened. A half-mounted bow lacks the metal plating, resulting in raw wood on wood between the frog and stick that may wear over time. Half-mounted bows do not have a ring around the pearl eye of the frog, while fully-mounted bows will have a ring around the pearl eye.
Weight and Balance
Average bow weights: violin, 60 grams; viola, 70 grams; cello, 80 grams. Look for a bow that feels right in your hand. To test the weight, pick up a bow and hold it at a 45-degree angle. It should feel natural in the hand–well balanced from tip to frog with equal weight throughout.
Make sure you are keeping an ear out for a bow that offers a clear, focused sound, and that doesn’t feel too heavy or too light for you. All of our bows are thoroughly checked over and tested before being made available for sale.
If you have been working your way through scales and repertoire for a couple of years, and you are ready to take your sound to the next level, a new intermediate bow is a perfect place to start. Our intermediate bows (available for violin, viola, cello and double bass here) are constructed using higher quality brazilwood and are fully mounted for a smooth playing experience. Below are some of our favourite picks to fit any budget. Make sure you visit us in-store to try out these bows and more or view the entire range online. All of these bow ranges, Paesold, Paul, Coda, Seifert and more are available for every instrument, in a number of different price ranges.
Want to see how bows are made? Watch the short film 'A Violin Bow - The Process of Creation' here.
Some of our favourites...
Paesold Violin Bow 58 – This bow is handcrafted in Germany, using better quality Brazilwood. Round stick. A nickel silver mounting with a fully lined ebony frog complete the bow along with a Parisian eye and a 3 part button. This bow offers the intermediate violinist a clear, responsive sound, and is suitable for most bow techniques.
Schumann Carbon Fibre Cello Bow – This bow features a woven carbon fibre sheath and a nickel mounted ebony frog, decorated with a Parisian eye. As with all carbon fibre bows, it is practically unbreakable. This bow offers the intermediate cellist a clear, responsive sound, and is suitable for most bow techniques.
W.E Dorfler Violin Bow – This Dorfler line is handcrafted in Germany, using fine quality pernambuco. A full German silver mounted ebony frog, pearl slide, Parisian eye, three-part screw with pearl eye, nickel-silver wire winding and leather grip. This bow offers the intermediate to advancing violinist a clear, responsive sound, and is suitable for all bow techniques. These bows can be used for years and years to come with proper care and maintenance.
Paesold Viola Bow 192 – This bow is handcrafted in Germany, using fine quality pernambuco. A nickel silver mounting with a fully lined ebony frog, Parisian eye and leather grip complete this bow. This bow offers the intermediate to advancing violist a clear, responsive sound, and is suitable for all bow techniques. These bows can be used for years and years to come with proper care and maintenance.
Coda Diamond SX – While preserving the appeal of classic design, the Diamond SX offers a more focused, brighter tone. A subtle frog-ward shift of the balance point and engineered facility delivers a livelier bow often desired by professionals. Its modern, sleek black finish hints at its underlying control, and its focused timbre is perfect for cutting through the soundwall at outdoor or acoustically challenged venues. This bow is built for the travelling or gigging musician wanting durability without compromising professional performance. These bows can be used for years and years to come with proper care and maintenance.
Dorfler Double Bass Bow – This bow is handcrafted in Germany, using fine quality brazilwood. A full nickel silver mounted ebony frog, Parisian eye, three-part screw with eight pearl eye inlays, silver wire and leather grip. This bow offers the intermediate bassists a clear, responsive sound, and is suitable for most bow techniques.
L'archet Brasil - Discover your instrument's true voice with our new range of exquisitely handcrafted bows from L'archet Brasil. L’archet Brasil’s handcrafted Pernambuco bows are created by some of the most prominent bow makers in Brazil. L'archet artisans use only the highest quality Pernambuco wood, ebony and mother of pearl. Meticulous attention to detail is shown in every aspect of these bows. Each bow is extensively tested by L'archet's expert makers before being made available for purchase. These bows need to be played to be believed - each bow is truly a delight to play and will elevate your performance to the next level. Find your forever performance partner by arranging an in-store trial with your instrument today. Each L'archet Brasil bow is specially examined and selected by Simply for Strings' team professional musicians prior to taking pride of place in our store. No two bows are the same - each bow is genuinely one of a kind.
Paesold Violin Bow 366 – This master bow is handcrafted in Germany, using master quality pernambuco. A sterling silver mounted ebony frog, Parisian eye, three-part screw and chevreaux leather wrap. This bow offers the advanced violinist a clear, responsive sound, and allows the player strength and flexibility for all situations. This bow is suitable for all bow techniques. These bows can be used for years and years to come with proper care and maintenance.
Coda Diamond Viola Bow GX – The Marquis of the Coda Diamond Collection, the Diamond GX embodies the unrivalled marriage of timeless craftsmanship and industry-first technology. Designed for professionals, the GX offers performance once reserved for only the finest pernambuco bows. This bow offers the advanced violist a clear, responsive sound, and allows the player strength and flexibility for all situations. This bow is suitable for all bow techniques. These bows can be used for years and years to come with proper care and maintenance.
Coda Infinity Double Bass Bow (German or French style) – The clear favourite of soloists, the Infinity design provides virtually limitless performance possibility. The strong, well-balanced shaft is capable of unlocking and projecting the core sound of your instrument. The innovative frog design plays “into the string” and offers greater control and quicker initiation. This bow offers the advanced bassist a clear, responsive sound, and allows the player strength and flexibility for all situations. This bow is suitable for all bow techniques. These bows can be used for years and years to come with proper care and maintenance.
Have some more questions about bows? Get in touch with the Simply for Strings team today.