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Bow Sound, Weight & Tone Color

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by KSB - Ken Smith, Jun 29, 2005.


  1. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I recently got a New Bow from a UK Violin Dealer. It looked like a nice practice Bow weighing only 126 grams and is at least 75 years old. The Frog is Very low. The Bow has been appraised 2x as German and not French which was odd especially with all French Specs, Length and the Low French Frog.

    Well, anyway.. This Bow pulls more sound, Volume and Color of tone than my two heavier Bows of 146 and 152 Grams. I love those two Bows but this one even plays stronger and fuller sounding up at the tip (4th quarter or the stick).

    Is this unusual for a lighter Bow to sound thicker, fuller and more colorful than a heavier Bow also of quality Pernambuco from a good maker.

    It has Black hair but I am told this has a more Course pulling sound than white or off-white which I have both on my other Bows. Can the hair make that much of a difference in the tone?
     
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I have two bows. Both French in design. One is about 50-70 years old. It is a nice pernambuco stick from the the original Roth shop marked as "Oskar E. Meinel." I had it restored and rehaired locally with red hair, and it weighed in at around 131 after the rehair. The hair is naturally red, likened to a roan horse, and plays like white.

    I also have a newer bow from Tom Owen that weighs in at 148. It's the heaviest French bow I have ever played. It is haired with what he called "salt and pepper." It is really more brown and black hair. There is very little light hair on it.

    Each were appraised for insurance around $1K, so they are of similar quality.

    After all that pretext, the Meinel, while lighter, has a darker, richer tone than does the Owen. There is a sweetness that I simply can't get out of the Owen Bow. However, unlike your experience, the heavier Owen bow is noticeably louder than the other bow. It is also a little quicker.

    My teacher is convinced that that differences are more a result of the hair than the bow itself as his bow is also very heavy (French) but is haired in white and is the best of both worlds. Although his is obviously a master-quality bow for professional use, he maintains that both my bows would be fine in all but the most discerning orchestras and better white hair on the Owen would provide a sweeter tone on my bass. The Owen is obviously less harsh on his late 18th century IOUO (Italian of Unknown origin) as it is a generally darker bass anyway.

    It is his position that the type and quality of the hair has a huge impact on the way a bow sounds. While unconvinced, I bow to his 50 years of experience. It seems to me that fact that one bow is a minimum of 50 years old while the other is only a couple of years old might play into it as well.

    When I have worked the bows to the point of having both ready for a rehair, it is my intent to have both done with hair from the same hank in hopes of gaining a truer sense of the difference between the bows.

    For now, when I play with the Orch, I use the Owen. I like the extra power and the harsher overtones are buried in the timbre of the other strings. In other situations, where I am the only bowed instrument, I use the Meinel.

    I also wonder if it is simply a matter of what your ears and hand is accustomed to. I used to practice much, much more with the lighter bow, as I preferred the sound, but I found myself tiring too quickly when using the Owen, so I have been playing it more regularly. It seems that it's starting to sound better. :)
     
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I just tested my 3 bows mentioned again. Depending on what you try doing, the results vary and vary between colse to the Bass and 20 feet away as I had someone else listed as well.

    The Lighter old Bow has a more even sound from tip to frog and fuller sounding with light playing. The heaviest bow, 152g is the more powerful bow when playing Hard. The 146 is sweeter and smoother than the 152 and all 3 are close with some techniques. The 2 heavier are close all around and weaker at the tip than the 126..

    Go Figure... Also, each bow has a different type or hair. I tested them on the Martini and Gilkes. Maybe if I test them on my 7/8 or 3/4 Shen it will be easier to tell the Bows apart as these Basses have much less tone color than my Classic Basses have.
     
  4. a. meyer

    a. meyer

    Dec 10, 2004
    portland, oregon
    I don't think that the hair has much of anything to do with the sound. I've switched both of my bows from white to black with no discernible change in sound.
     
  5. Ken,

    My heavy bow, 146g, pulls a louder, deeper, richer, more colorful, complex sound than any lighter bow I've ever played except my former teacher's Fetique. Maybe it's because it's a Bazin, but maybe the weight has something to do with it too. I don't think the hair has much to do with it. I've heard little difference in sound between hair colors. The difference in color seems to be more in the way it plays.
     
  6. B. Johnson

    B. Johnson

    Apr 28, 2005
    I play a german bow made by HR Pfretchzner. It is a very heavy bow and it draws a great thick, warm, and full sound. I have played a few other Pfretchner's that are about as old but weigh much less and they just don't sound as full. In my personal opinion, I think weight of the stick plays a huge factor in the sound quality. But hey, if someone can make a light bow that sounds just as good as my 5k Pfretchzner, show me, cause mozart is hard enough when you aren't using a heavy stick! :eyebrow:
     
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I tested the 3 bows today again with Don Z. We both agreed that the Lighter Bow was more even from tip to Frog and more comfortable to play. However, the heavier Bow (152gr) that I have been using for Orchestra is Best for digging in and playing the 'loud' stuff. Faster passages are cleaner with the Light Bow, 126gr. My custom made bow falls in between and is the smoothest of the lot as I love how it works on my smoother sounding English Bass. The Italian needs a heavier bow as I have Orig Flex on there as well.

    The 2 heavier Bows are both made by Peter Eibert, NY. he was formerly asst. to Guild Master Heinrich Lang in Nurenburg, Germany.

    The heavier Bow (about 10 years old) was re-bent and re-balanced by Paul Biase 3 years ago by using thicker Silver wrap on the Grip. It is now 152gr. The middle Bow was also balanced by Biase by simply changing the rear Screw. The original Screw is 14gr lighter so the Bow WAS 132gr when made and 146gr now. It is a Sartory model copy made for me about 4 years ago. The 152gr is a Picatte model and had a taller Frog when I first saw it at Eiberts' Shop. I asked him to give me a lower Frog like my old Sartory and that may be why it needed to be re-balanced.
     
  8. I believe that the more important factor than either the hair color or the weight of the bow is the quality of the stick and the skill of the bow maker to make the bow work well.

    I recently bought a pre-WW2 LaPierre French bow that weighs 121 grams. I have found that this bow produces a beautiful sound and I can get a lot of volume out of it for the symphony parts that require it. Additionally, being a light bow, it is very responsive for staccato and fast passages. I looked at quite a few contemporary and older bows ranging from the LaPierre at 121g up to a 141g Reid Hudson and nothing came close to the sound and responsiveness of the LaPierre. I think that when you find a good bow, the biggest factor is the stick and how it was made.
    Tom
     
  9. a. meyer

    a. meyer

    Dec 10, 2004
    portland, oregon
    I don't think it's that simple, B. I'm currently bow-shopping, and I'm trying a snakewood bow that is much heavier than my 1920's Pfretzschner (c. 135 g.) or my Hannings & Rubino (125 g.). It just doesn't pull nearly the tone that my old bows do, despite weighing a ton.
     
  10. B. Johnson

    B. Johnson

    Apr 28, 2005
    You're probably right. I didn't include quality of bow in there. Not all Pfretchzner's are the same. All things aside though, two bows that are the same quality with one being heavier than the other would probobly result in a better sound with the heavier bow. who know's though, I guess just finding a bow that works for the player is the most important.
     
  11. Ken, didn't I try this question a few months back? You didn't seem to convinced before, but I'm glad to see you've seen some evidence a lighter bow can also make a big sound. :)

    As I said before, my 127g Prochownik (Sartory model) has a wonderfully big even sound and speaks magnificantly. It is the lightest french bow I've ever had and I feel I have the easiest time playing loudly with it. My heavier Prochownik (133g standard model) has a wonderful dark tone but doesn't speak as quickly and doesn't have quite the clarity of the other.

    Anyway, for me, I find the added relaxation I can achieve with the lighter bow makes it easier to get the volume and clarity I'm looking for. When I can releax my arm weight and use the bow in the easiest possible manner, I can get tons of sound out of the bass. I don't feel a few extra grams of wood are really going to make that much difference. After all, how heavy is your arm itself once you relax it?

    Having said all of this, if the bow (of any weight) isn't well balanced and comfortable for you to play (according to your tastes), you're going to have trouble getting the sound you want anyway. I'm sure I could play on a heavier bow if it was well balanced and comfortable, I just don't feel I need to. I can't say I've played a bow I like better than my #1 Prochownik, so I'm very happy (and I've played a lot of really 'great' expensive bows). The other advantage is the Prochownik was among the cheapest handmade bows available.

    Regarding the black/white hair issue... Prochownik puts white hair on his bows when he makes them so all of my bows have started with white. I usually use black but every once in a while I try white again. I don't find a very significant tone change at all between the two, but with white, I feel like I need to reach for the rosin way more often. Also, I notice a big difference in how long the hair lasts.

    Anyway, I think there are so many variables that it may be hard to say certain things for sure. I think my main point would be to say that I feel it is possible to get a big sound from a lighter bow, maybe not in every case, but there are certainly light bows out there than can pack a punch.
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I wish I know what the weight of my old Sartory was. It's been 15 years since I sold it and it wasn't too light from what I remember. This new Bow I am talking about of mine IS the first light Bow that sounds good to me. I can play harder with my heavier Bow for Orchestra work but for softer playing, the lighter Bow as a better quality sound.

    I have 3 different types of hair no on Various Bows. Pure White, Yellowish White (slightly more course) and Black (more course). I think the courser hair holds rosin better and longer. I used to Rosin up several times in a 2-3 hr Reh. or Concert or Practice but now, and using Pops, I don't even Rosin every day. Even With Kolstein Rosin I use less with darker hair. Also, I wipe my stings down often and use Flexicor or Orig Flex. This all adds into the mix as well.

    Now.. Stick quality and Stiffness.. I have one bow, 146gr that is not as stiff as my 152, 126, 128 or 130gr Bows. My 128 and 130gr Bows were made by Sam Shen himself in 1997. I tried out about 4 that he had made and picked two of them to buy. They are a Vigneron model I think from the looks and not too long either. All these sticks are fairly stiff. They all sound different. The Two Shens sound fairly similar but a slightly thinner sound than the other Bows. The two Eiberts sound similar of different depending on what and how you play.

    If the 126gr Bow I just got was 140-152gr and the exact same quality and density stick in proportion, I think it would just Kill !!
     
  13. a. meyer

    a. meyer

    Dec 10, 2004
    portland, oregon
    I forget, Ken--are you a French or a German guy?
     
  14. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Sartory was French !! The French don't usually make German Bows!! I though all knew I was a Frencher.... I am pictured on my website with French as well.. Sorry for not making that more clear.

    http://www.kensmithbasses.com/ft/assemblysection/stress.html
    http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/BatchBass/Batch.jpg
    http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/BatchBass/Batch1.jpg
    http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/ShenBass/images/Shen.jpg
    http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/ShenBass/images/shenfront.jpg

    A picture's worth a thousand words....So they say...
     
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Watch your posture. The 'locking the knees / hunched back' thing with tighten you up, causing a whole host of problems including fatigue, injury and wasting energy for the same quality/quantity of sound.

    Just an observation. :)
     
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    When I'm at the office and my Endpins are low, I don't bother to raise them up to 'battle position' just to pose for a web pic.

    When I play Jazz or Classical Concerts and play for an Hour non-stop, I don't have any of the problems you mention. I play fairly relaxed and dig in when I need to. Ask DonZ out here. He has seen my practice and play. I never played the Bass high anyway. I played mainly high shouldered Basses from My Old Italian to my Bernadel b4 that and then recently my lil 3/4 Batchelder for a couple of years with broad shoulders and now my Gilkes with Celloish Shoulders. I like the upper mids with the Bow on the 'G' string notes better with the Basses that have bigger upper bouts. They seem sweeter and more balanced tonally that the Sloped shoulder Basses that sometimes seem thin and whiney on the top.. Just my preception I guess..
     
  17. Bow weight has little to do with *anything*!

    I guess French bow players seem to worry about it more, since they have to "hold up the bow" more when playing, but weight is really then a comfort issue and not an artistic attribute of the bow.

    All that matters in the quality of the bow is the Tone Quality of the wood and the quality of the craftsmanship with which the bow was shaped, balanced and added to with all the trimmings.

    Find the best sounding piece of wood you can, and get a bow that's well balanced so that it responds they way you want it to - that's all that really matters in "bow greatness".
     
  18. Wasn't the trend in bow weight generally up from the time of Tourte, Sartory, etc. up to more modern makers? What was the rationale or drive behind the trend?
     
  19. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I think the hair has a lot to do with the sound. I switched progressively from white to salt and pepper to black and the sound was coarser each time but the grip was better.
     
  20. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I think the Gripping by the Bow has to do with a few things, the Quality of the Bow, the Bowing quality of the Bass and the Bowing quality of the Strings.

    All my orchestra Basses Bow like a dream and I use mainly Flexocor or Orig Flex or similar Pirsatros. All my Bows grip the string well but this Bultitude with Black hair seems TOO Course to my ear.

    I think if you need more grip from your Bow, Black hair maybe the answer but if not, Black may be over doing it a bit. My newly aquired lighter stick came with Black hair and although it plays smoothly, I can hear a slight edge that I would attribute to the Hair.