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The Practical Guide to Buying a Bow for String Instruments

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.

Bring music
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'.

Some of our favourites...

Intermediate Bows

Paul Brazilwood Bows for Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass – These bows are handcrafted in Germany, using intermediate quality brazilwood. All Paul bows are constructed using traditional materials, ensuring reliability and consistency in performance. Ideal for beginner to intermediate players looking to upgrade from their student bows, Paul bows offer a significant step up in quality without breaking the bank.

Schumann Carbon Fibre Bow with Pernambuco Finish for Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass – This is a fantastic choice for intermediate students looking to upgrade their bow. These bows offer musicians a clear, responsive sound and are suitable for most bow techniques. All Schumann bows are an excellent choice for beginner to intermediate players looking to upgrade from their student bows. Although they’re relatively inexpensive, these bows are of a fantastically high quality. A considerable step above our student range without being a considerable step up in price.

Advancing Bows

Dorfler Brazilwood Bows for Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass – 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 players a clear, responsive sound, and is suitable for most bow techniques.

W.E Dorfler Pernambuco Bows for Violin, Viola and Cello – This Dorfler line is handcrafted in Germany, using fine quality, matured pernambuco. This bow offers the intermediate to advancing player 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.

Gottfired Sturm Brazilwood and Pernambuco Cello Bows – Sturm handcraft a number of bows each year in Germany. High quality pernambuco and brazilwood are sourced from Brazil, and are dried for a number of years in their workshops. Sturm use high quality materials that have stood the test of time in order to ensure the highest quality playing experience for professional musicians.

Advanced/Professional Bows

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 of musicians prior to taking pride of place in our store. No two bows are the same - each bow is genuinely one of a kind.


Have some more questions about bows? Get in touch with the Simply for Strings team today.

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