Buy a cheap bow or wait?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by hunta, Mar 3, 2005.

  1. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I'm a college music major/electric "convert" (only been playing DB since september) currently using a glasser piece of junk fiberglass bow on a Shen hybrid. I am feeling somewhat desperately that I need to upgrade to a more usable bow.

    I can tolerate the glasser for learning on to some extent. My main problem is that when I practice for an hour or two I am getting pain in my right hand and forearm which from past experience with electric I know can lead to tendonitis. I'm fairly certain that this is because the bow is so light that I'm having to overexert myself to produce a good sound (well.. good for a glasser I guess). I don't know how much the glasser weighs, but I played a friends bow (which I believe was brazilwood, they said they paid about 700 for it but didn't know what it was made of.. go figure) and it felt like it was at least twice the weight. Pretty easy to play with and produce a good tone. My teachers pernambucco bow is sort of in between but the bow hair is like 50% wider than on the glasser and is so much easier to play with.

    Being a college student I don't have a lot of money to throw around on a bow. I have been eyeing the Bob G brazilwood bows for a while, as they're very reasonable pricewise and would be an obvious improvement over fiberglass.

    I'm a little concerned about ordering a mail-order bow, even if it is from Bob, because from what I understand the quality of these cheap bows is extremely variable from stick to stick. Is it a better idea to find a store that carries similar bows and try some of them out before deciding? Should I look into a cheaper carbon fiber bow? From what I've seen "good" CF bows tend to run around $700 which is out of my price range. I'm kind of hoping to spend less than $300 on a bow.

    I'm worried about ending up regretting my bow purchase, but I am somewhat desperate to get something soon because fairly soon I'm going to have to up my practice time (which is already at 2+ hours a day) to prepare for end of semester juries and concerts, and since I'm already experiencing some pain during my practice sessions it's only going to get worse.

    Any advice?
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I doubt that the pain problems that you are having can be solely attributed to the glasser. That being said, I would make every effort to get rid of it as soon as possible.

    I have never played one of BG's bows, but they have been bragged on quite a bit here.

    I know that Don Z has (or had) a Seifert french bow for sale in the TBDB classifieds that is in the price range you are looking for. I have played a Seifert. I'm guessing it would make for a much better bowing experience for sure.

    I wouldn't worry too much about buying a modestly-priced bow, especially if you run across a used one, or buy cheap like the BG bow. Those sorts of bows are always easy to get rid of. For example, if you bought Don's bow or the like, played it for a year or two and took decent care of it, it's safe to say you could turn it for pretty close to what you paid once you want to spend more on something else.
  3. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    I got my Bob bow just this week, and like everyone else so far, am quite happy with it and feel I got a good deal. I haven't heard of any issues with quality on teh Bob bows either. Paul W is pretty respected, and although he plays mostly pizz, he owns a Bob bow and recommended it to me. It doesn't seem like it would be terribly hard to sell it for close to full value if you decided against it after trying it, as Chas mentioned. I've got Helicore pizz strigns and a plywood engalhardt, and combined with my inexperience, I don't do the bow justice at all however...
  4. Hunta,

    Just curious whether you use a French or German type bow? I found that my right hand is more relaxed with a German bow. I have had a little soreness in my right forearm from bowing, but it seems to be muscle, not tendons and goes away if I rest and massage it. The German bow to me is easier on the hand and the arm can take the work load more away from the wrist. If you are having tendonitis, make sure you take frequent breaks and if it keeps up, get it treated because it can be serious.

    I've been bowing now not quite 2 years so I am still a novice and I totally wore out a fiberglass bow before I got a nice wooden one from BG. It is both heavier and a little longer. The feel is so superior to the fiberglass that I think it is more comparable to much pricier bows. Also it is holding up well after 7 months of daily use (just getting the hair broken in real good.) :)
  5. I did a whole thread on Gollihur's Brazil wood bow. For $ less than $150, you can't do any better. Mine is German. But i've heard the same story from French players on the Board.
    I bought mine because I had two hot-shot bows that I sent out to a shop to be sold. I couldn't be happier. :hyper:
  6. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    One of my students has one each of Bob's German and French bows. You really cannot do any better for the price.
  7. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I play french bow. Honestly I would like to try german, but the teacher here is a very diehard french bow teacher. I'm sure that my arm pain is partially a technique/muscle building thing as I'm forced to progress very quickly. The life of a DB convert in college is not easy :)

    Maybe I will just order one of Bob's bows. I'm sure it would be a huge improvement and if I really could just sell it later for close to full price, it really isn't a risk. Thanks guys!
  8. prelims222


    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Building muscles is for the weightroom. I know some phenomenal bassists whose hands are downright petite - because its not about strength, its about coordination and effective transferrence of energy. You can't compensate with more muscle - for a really good explanation of this, look at the book 'Cello Technique' by Gerhard Mantel - it's a much better explanation of what goes on when you play.

    When you feel pain or tightness in your bow arm it is telling you a couple things:

    1- You are probably hurting yourself. There is a good chance you are creating microtrauma to the tissues in your arm, and these will only make things harder in the long run. They will not make you a better player.

    2- You are doing something incorrectly - you need to stop when it hurts and look at your bow hand, examine your bow arm, the path your bow is following, etc. Then go back at it slowly - coordination equals progress - pain doesn't equal gain.

    3- Learn to be comfortable. This means don't do crazy exercises until you've mastered just drawing the stick in a straight track. You have to learn to drive from point a to point b on the 'suzuki highway' before you try to drag race on it.
  9. I'm currently playing one of Bob's French bows.

    My teacher, who works at a local string shop, said he couldn't sell a bow of comparable quality for less than $350.

    He got an evaluation bow, the latest high-end Glasser fiberglass, retail $650 that I played on for my last lesson.

    It was lighter, but I didn't really like the feel for playing orchestra music, (Beethoven) Also the hair (natural) wouldn't grip, even with liberal amounts of Kolstiens soft.

    I'd give one of Bob's bows a try. It's much better that the Glasser student models, and even if it doesn't turn out to be your final bow, it's a very reasonable back up at $150.
  10. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    Argh.. Well after discussing it with my teacher, I guess there's no bob bow in my future. He thinks I should definitely get a pernambuco bow, even though I have a MAX of $600 I can spend...
    He may be right, I don't know. From everything I've read it seems very hard to get a decent pernambuco for less than $1000, and reading some peoples opinions that's still low end. I don't know.. I'm looking into it, but it's very frustrating.

    Does anyone know any mail-order places that offer lower end pernambuco bows on a trial basis? Like will send out a few (maybe for a holding fee or something) so they can be tested out?
  11. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA

    It is very possible to get a good quality pernambuco bow for less than $1,000. I have two (and have owned a third) all of which were VERY well respected by my teacher, a professional SO player. None of the three approached $1K.
  12. Ben Joella

    Ben Joella

    May 31, 2004
    Boca Raton, FL
    This is an excellent point. Price is only a minor indicator in this area. You can find a killer bow for under $1000! It just may take some searching.
  13. I am pretty much in the same position as you, hunta, and after a year of playing DB after being a straight-up electric player and passing music school auditions I'm finally getting rid of my POS glasser and upgrading to a good quality pernambuco and looking at carved basses. Up until now it's been frustrating knowing how low-grade my gear was but I've just waited it out, understanding that it's 'not the size, it's how you use it' or something like that :cool:
    So, I guess that I would suggest that you should make an investment that can grow with you over several years. As far as the injury happens, bass is a rough instrument.
    As far as the mail-order stuff, I know Lemur will send out bows to try out. is the website, they're always really helpful whenever I've called. I'm sure they'd be glad to help.
  14. ClassicalDB

    ClassicalDB Guest

    Apr 9, 2005
    Beverly Hills
    The good thing about anything musically related is that you can always sell it after. Depending on how advanced YOU feel your playing is, is the deciding factor on what bow to get. What I am getting at is that spending the extra $ to get a quality bow that you might not ever need to upgrade is much more convenient and much more of an investment then buying a few crappy-decent bows and constantly having to upgrade. I am a french bow player and I got a beginner bow when I first started. After getting my playing up to intermediate-advanced, I put up the $ to get a nice $2k bow and have never looked back. When you find the right bow you know and it'll make you feel like the player you never were. That's how my bow makes me feel and I love it.
  15. Hunta,

    I played a Shen Hybrid using a cheap Glaser fibergalss French bow (with real horse hair though) in my community orchestra for more than a year. I learned to handle the bow and to get a decently reliable sound from it, though as my teacher said, the bow wasn't helping me at all.

    I now own a Siefert octangonal pernambucco bow, bought for $630 from Lemur Music, and my teacher and I are very pleased with it. At the same time my teacher and I audtioned a Siefert round pernambucco. Shortly thereafter we auditioned a couple of brazilwood bows for my daughter (we settled on the Ary french brazilwood for about $300. They shipped the bows ready to audtion and were easy to deal with. I highly recomend them if you are in the market for an inexpensive pernambucco bow.

    Anyone starting with the bow, needs to learn proper technique and to stay relaxed. Learning to use the bow properly and to get a consistently good sound is a long process. The bow hold, felt odd when I first started too, and there was too much tension in my hand, but then again the first time I tried to finger a simple chord on a guitar it seemed to me that human beings were not meant to bend their fingers in that manner.

    I seriously doubt your discomfort has anything to do with the cheap Glaser bow, or with the French style bow either. It is just part of the learning process, and a sign that you may be doing something wrong. You need to indentify the problem and correct it.
  16. I second that one. Lemur will let you try two or three bows at once. They'll also advise you on which ones you should try, given your price range. You can try them for a week or so, send back the ones you don't want and buy the one you do (or you can send 'em all back if you don't like any othem).

    I bought a pernambucco bow from Lemur this way for about $700 as I recall (the brand is Ary, it's a French style bow). I'm very happy with it.

    Good luck.
  17. I just placed an order with Southwest Strings for a "student" wooden bow. I've been playing jazz for 10 years, with the occasional arco. I've never been satisfied with the scratchy sound of my Glasser fiberglass (German) and Thomastik Weichs. So, after researching a number of threads here, because I need a new set of strings, I ordered a set of Corelli 380TX ($59) and the made-in-China brazilwood bow ($89). I did call and talk to a sales rep to ensure that the bow had horsehair at least.

    Anyway, I figure that $89 is cheap enough to give it a shot. I did think hard about buying BG's $149 Brazilwood.

    We'll see - I may have been penny wise and pound foolish. BUt I'll try to report back about my experience with the $89 bow.
  18. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Go for Bob's bows. For $150 there's nothing better. I've been playing his French since the beginning sans a quick stint with a Glasser, and it's unbelievably night and day for a few bucks more.
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