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A Little Help Please

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Gard, Jan 7, 2001.

  1. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL
    Greetings from the northern wastelands (A.K.A. the Bass Guitar Forums)!

    As a life-long bass guitarist, I've never really had the pleasure of playing an upright bass. But a recent windfall has changed that - somewhat.

    I've recently placed a deposit on an electric upright bass (please don't hate me), an NS Design NSDB-CR5M to be precise. I'm getting an electric upright as opposed to a double bass for several reasons: space/traveling concerns, the fact that I'm going to be gigging in high volume situations, and the fact that I don't really intend to play classical or trad jazz anytime in the near future - if ever (no slight against these forms, I appreciate them greatly, but they're just not in my personal future). As my present gig is playing latin and latin-influenced rock, this also is a good fit (the Ampeg Baby Bass connection).

    So far, you may think it odd that I've posted here in the Bows forum, but that is exactly what my question is going to be about, as my questions about the actual instrument itself have already been settled.

    I fully intend to learn to play this instrument (or abomination if you prefer ;) ) properly, including bowing. That said, I'm completely clueless as to bows, the types, and the techniques. As to the techniques, I do intend to find a teacher eventually, and from some of the threads I've read here some or most of you believe that it is best to use the bow the teacher does. That may not be the best choice for me personally though, as I may not be able to spend much time in study in the near future (too many gigs, a lot of traveling), and I don't know of any teachers in my area (Orlando, FL, in case anyone happens to know of one... :D).

    What I would greatly appreciate from the collective wisdom of the TB Double Bassists are some simple (or as simple as possible) answers to these questions:

    1) What are the relative merits/pros vs. cons of the two primary bow types, and which would fit my needs as an EUB player best, in your opinions?

    2) Do you think that bow construction and materiels used in that construction will have as strong an impact on my situaion as an EUB player vs. those who play the acoustic upright? (I have my suspicions that it will, and I fully understand that a good bow is as much an instrument in its own right as most other instruments).

    3) How much should I expect to spend to get a GOOD student-to-entry-level pro bow?

    4) Should I invest in a good wood bow, get a good fiberglass one, or one of the composites?

    Any other comments, suggestions, or insights would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time! :)
  2. Gard, welcome to the DB side. :)

    You have a lot of questions, but I'll try to answer some of them for you.

    Reagarding the two "types" of bows, I'm guessing you are refering to french vs. german. I have played both, but personally favour french bow. That's not to say there is anything wrong with german - I just didn't seem to have as much of an aptitude for it. Ultimately the choice is up to you but you may not be able to know for sure which suits you better until you've spent quite a bit of time on both (which you may not need to if you start with one and it winds up working for you). One thing I will say in favour of the french bow - since it is the same grip used by all the other instruments of the violin family, you have more opportunity to learn a great deal from great violinsts, violists and cellists through either a few lessons or just by working with and watching them. With german bow, you can still learn from the other instruments, but the info won't be quite as direct and relevant.

    Regarding what bow you should get for a given amount of money, I have two suggestions. If you can swing it, a very good bow maker who isn't terribly expensive is Z. Prochownik, who is a bass player in the Winnipeg Symphony. I have 2 of his bows and they are excellent. I believe his price is $1200 US for german bow and $1300 US for french. He has a website here:


    There are certainly more expensive makers out there but they aren't always any better. I also have a beautiful Reid Hudson bow that is worth twice the price, and although the workmanship is a little nicer on it, my Prochownik sounds better.

    If that's too expensive, you might consider a carbon fibre bow. There are a few decent enough makers that make synthetic bows for under $500. Some actually sound quite good and perform well. If you can't afford the Prochownik (or similar bow) I probably wouldn't waste my time with a mass produced wooden bow, pernambuco or not. They don't hold their value as well, and probably won't perform any better than a good carbon fibre bow.

    If you can swing it, I'd definitely look into the Prochownik. If you e-mail him nicely, he'll probably mail you 2 or 3 to check out before buying. Regarding the investment side of it - if you buy a good hand crafted bow like the Prochownik, they will generally appreciate in value. Buy a cheaper factory made bow, and you'll most likely lose money when you sell it.

    [Edited by Rob W on 01-08-2001 at 12:03 AM]
  3. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    I would tend to side with Rob's second suggestion. Although, I am not a proponent of carbon-fiber bows, based on your situation, it might be a very suitable choice.

    Some carbon-fiber bows sound very good right from the start. That's good, because you know exactly what you've got soundwise. The only drawback is that unlike quality wood bows (i.e.,Prowchownik), carbon fiber bows do not really improve with age.

    Unless you are planning on professional orchestral playing, carbon-fiber might be your best choice, based on price, quality and your stated goals.

    Good luck!!!
  4. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Tim snuck in while I was posting to the Rosin thread.
    GARD, one of my all-time favorite bassists (Victor Venegas, formerly with Mongo Santamaria; one of the funkiest bassists ever)still uses an EUB, even while owning an 18th century Italian treasure.
    Your paragraph on intended use gives 4 good reasons to buy the least expensive bow available. The extra cost of a better bow will not give you a fair, or even discernable, return in the described playing situations.
    I have 2 bows. The cost difference is $2,700. Guess which one I use on jazz gigs, at a lower volume than you'll be playing?
    It is best to know both bow grips. The less money invested now, the lower the "loss" if you decide on the other grip in the future.
    The analogy I would make is a system of stereo components. The system won't perform better than the weakest component.
    An EUB, amplified, (and we haven't even mentioned jazz strings, which totally suck when bowed) does not merit more than an inexpensive bow. I'm talking $100+ -
  5. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL
    Gentlemen, thanks for your answers so far, they're greatly appreciated!

    RobW - I'm afraid that the Prochownik, while I'm certain an excellent bow, is a bit out of my budget at this point. Thanks for the suggestion and the link though, they're beautiful works in any event.

    Tim - Thank you for taking the time to answer. I was thinking along the lines of a composite (carbon fiber/fibre) bow to start with.

    Don - Thanks for the understanding about the EUB (I half expected to get grilled here :eek: ;) ). I'm glad to hear you believe that I can get a useful bow for my purposes for the price you're stating. I was afraid I was going to have to drop half of the price of my new toy ($2500+tax) to get a decent bow. That's just not something I can afford to do right now. But $100(+/-) is within my reach for sure.

    Of course answers to questions eventually lead to more questions, right? (42!?!?) So, here's the next question(s):

    Where are a few good places (online preferably) for me to "shop around" for bows, both carbon fiber and otherwise, that are in the $100-250 USD range? I know of Lemur Music (but haven't checked them yet...anyone have a link or address they can spare?), any others will be greatly appreciated. Oh yeah, what about rosin? Or should I take that one to the Rosin forum??? :) Thanks again to you all for your time!
  6. Gard, I bought a Glasser composite bow from Shar recently (there's a link from Bob Gollihur's web page). I'm a newbie at bowing and not able to give an extensive evaluation of it playing-wise but it does seem to be well-constructed and sounds nicer than the fiberglass one I started with. It was around $200 and there have been good reviews of it around the web.
    Shar was good to deal with--I ordered online, the bow came on time and was very well packaged.
    And listen to Don about the different grips. I started with French because that's what came with my bass. Just for fun I switched to a German grip on my French bow, and was amazed at how much more control I seemed to have. I ended up getting the German bow from Shar.
    You'll find that the DB'ers are extremely helpful and patient with newcomers to the instrument!

    I forgot to add that Shar also offers a trial period during which you can try a number of bows and ship back the ones you decide not to purchase.

    [Edited by double dad on 01-08-2001 at 10:17 AM]
  7. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    I've heard good things about the Glasser composites (not the $50 fiberglass). Check Hammond Ashley's site as well. Your best bet would be to go to (All Hail) Bob Gollihur's site http://www.gollihur.com and follow his links to various stores. I'm no expert on bows but from the types of gigs it sounds like you'll be playing I wouldn't want a $1500 bow in peril of getting snapped by an over-enthusiastic guitarist careening about the stage. The composites are apparently quite tough.
  8. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Gard: It would be a new experience to discuss rosin in the rosin forum.
    RULE # 1: Don't leave it in the car on a hot day. (We all have done that one :)) Or anyplace where it can melt.
    With your rate of use, one cake will last a year or 2. Buy good stuff, we're only talking 10 bucks. I use only the Swedish (either Carlsson or Nyman- they're interchangeable). They're all-weather, all climate, and you mentioned traveling. I have never heard one negative comment on the Swedish rosins. Pop's has its boosters, big name players, but I've heard complaints about it flaking and showering the bass with flecks as you play. I don't know this from personal experience. Kolstein has some high ranking users. He has it in all-weather and in grades of hardness.
    If you're always going to be in the FL-LA area, you might want to go with a harder-graded rosin. In that case, call up one of the state symphony orchestras, ask if they can connect you with a bassist that could help you. I've done this many times on the road. It works like a charm.
  9. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL
    Ed -

    I'm not getting one of those lame Ibanez bows, I'm holding out for a Jay Turser, all the cool kids are using them this year ;) (inside joke, if you're a frequent user of the BG boards, you'll get it, if not, just ignore my inane chatter). Thanks for the tip on Mark Ross, I'll look him up when the time comes, see if he can help me out with a few lessons. I'm hoping to find someone reasonably good a bit closer, but if I don't have any luck, Tampa isn't too bad of a drive for me, I'm fairly west of Orlando actually. And thanks for the offer of the article from Double Bassist, I may take you up on it if all else fails.

    Don -

    I appreciate the rosin primer, Rule #1 sounds familiar...reminds me of a story about a friend leaving his deodorant on the dashboard of his car in the FL sun one afternoon - he opened it (dummy) and it exploded all over his car. Well, at least his car didn't get BO for a few weeks :D. As for the rosin stuff, I think I'll end up taking your advice on the Swedish rosin, as if things continue on their present course, I'll be working outside of the FL/LA area in the very near future (someone's making noise about Dubai right now :eek: ). If that changes, I'll ask about other, more locally appropriate rosins when the time comes. I won't be performing with the bow anytime soon, mainly just using it for practice (I've been told if you REALLY want to get your intonation spot-on on upright, bowing is essential), maybe a few "special effects" in time onstage.

    rablack & double dad -

    Thanks for the suggestions. It sounds like the Glasser composite may be for me, it's in the right price range, and now I've gotten 2 positive opinions of it. I'll be getting serious about a bow once the bass actually makes an appearance (2-3 weeks according to Bass Central).

    Thanks to all for the input, keep it coming, it's greatly appreciated.
  10. ***French bow features a hold (never a "grip", though that's more likely with French) that is meant more for violin and viola, as with those instruments, you hold the equipment in a way that lends weight to the arm/bow naturally - it's a little less natural on cello and bass.

    French bow in general leads to a thicker style on the bass. By thicker I mean that the bow is less bouncy, more prone to staying on the string.

    Because the hand is poised above the bow (which is a detractor for bounce strokes, but a bonus for Legato, etc.) String crossing is easier and Legato playing is easier.

    German bow is a more powerful bow for bouncing strokes, and is much easier on the right arm and hand, especially for "beginning bowers"

    Because the hand is poised "below" or at the same level as the bow, the hand/finger-flexibility is different, and string crossing requires more motion in the arm.

    Both bows can move equally as fast or slow, and and good player can mimick the qualities of the other bow type.

    I personally start my beginning students "standing up" and with German bow, since that combination teaches bass balance, teaches the right arm much more about what it has to do (since string crossing requires a bit more mobility), and allows a little more ease in learning bowing articulation - while putting less stress on the hand than French bow hold does.
    Students can then move to seated positions and/or French bow armed with the kinesthetic knowledge they'll need to play the bass well, no matter what equipment they choose.

    2) Do you think that bow construction and materiels used in that construction will have as strong an impact on my situaion as an EUB player vs. those who play the acoustic upright?.[/B][/QUOTE]

    ***Materials play a HUGE role in what sound you can get from the instrument. However, it's very common to find a bow that uses a very good piece of wood and has good hair on it, ut the craftsman just didn't balance it well, or something like that - and all the great tone will do you no good, since it's very hard to manipulate the bow!
    Those playing Electric upright still have to worry about tone too - as whatever tone, good or bad, you produce with the bow is what will be amplified...

    3) How much should I expect to spend to get a GOOD student-to-entry-level pro bow?[/B][/QUOTE]

    ***The bows by "ARY" in the Lemur Bass Catalogue (1.800.246.BASS) are a very good combination of reasonably good quality wood combined with very good craftmanship and playability. I know several students who use theirs to get better sounds and articulations that they can with their instructor's $3K-and-up bows. Seriously.
    The Ary bows made of Pernumbuco are somewhere around $500. - affordable and a very good value. Some are even a superb value, you just have to wait and see what they send you to try out.
    First you have to send in $$ for the amount of the bow(s), then they send them to you for a trial period. You can then send them back and get others if you want to try, or just buy it.

    Any other comments, suggestions, or insights would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time![/B][/QUOTE]

    FIND A TEACHER TO WORK WITH IMMEDIATELY, before you get a chance to develop any limiting habits. It takes much longer to unlearn bad habits than to work a few extra gigs to make money to pay a teacher to show you ways to do things well and efficiently!

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