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Dark Bows

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by anonymous0726, Aug 2, 2005.

  1. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    What qualities might indicate a dark sounding bow?

    What I've decided that my ideal situation would be this. For jazz/pizz playing I'll likely be a Spirocore guy forever. It's just the way it's gonna be. But -- I'm really into the arco thing. I've had a chance to mess around with a few bows, and I find I can get the sound (or the beginnings of) with very dark sounding bows without having to make a lot of adjustment in touch to mask a bright sounding bow on notoriously bright strings. In other words, with my current bow which is on the heavier side (haven't weighed it) and very stiff, the bow is naturally pretty bright. In order to get a sound that I like, I have to really watch how I use it to get a sound that isn't obnoxious, which then feels like I'm using about 10% of what the bow can do. I have a borrowed bow right now, and German made French bow, which is also quite heavy but feels a little less stiff. It sounds considerably darker by its nature and I can use more of the range of the bow, tonewise. With my bow (German, BTW), I can recreate most of the timbre range that I can get with the French, but not with the same range of dynamic.

    I'm kind of in the market for a second (or first) bow, and I'd like to know if there are things that I can look for right off the bat that will help me find that dark-sounding bow.

    To add to that, I'd like a light 'n lively stick -- is this within reason?
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    It would be very interesting to discover specific properties associated with a darker bow verses a lighter one. I certainly understand where you are going with the whole "tame a bright sound with a dark bow" concept. I deal with that some with my Shen.

    I have one bow that I consider very dark. It is older (@1950 and possibly older), lighter (130ish) and has smooth hair. My brighter bow is newer (2004), heavier (148g) and and has coarse hair.

    The newer stick is also MUCH stiffer.

    The dark bow, a Roth shop bow labeled "Oskar E. Meinel," is fairly quick but offers nowhere near overall volume of the other bow, a bow made by Tom Owen.

    But, the absence of the harsher overtones with the Meinel is VERY noticeable. It is a much, much sweeter sounding tone at the price of volume.

    When shopping bows in early spring, I played at least 25-30 at the local shop owned by KC Strings. They had everything from a $500 to $2500 stick available for me to play. Certainly, some where dark and others where light, but there was never a single associated character trait that I could confirm. The only one I might attempt to throw out as related, and perhaps only because of the influence of the shop proprietor (and later my teacher) would be age.

    Both he and my teacher spoke of the "maturity" of a bow's sound and associate it with the age of the stick. It is partly what draws my teacher to the Meinel bow, and why he favors it over my Owen bow. I am unsure I appreciate his association of the tone with the age of the bow, but he does have about 45 years of experience on me, so I bow to it without pause.
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001

    Hmmm -- I don't mind volume loss so much as I don't plan on playing section. I'm using it as a solo/singular bass non-classical device. But -- I want THAT SOUND, of course.

    Since we both have had similar stiff/bright less-stiff/darker experiences, I wonder if that might have something to do with it?
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Maybe I should have said " I don't question him to his face" :)

    There may be some indirect link if you assume that over time, the stick may relax. No science, just a guess.

    There is some reason to think that the looser sticks may have a certain pleasant inefficiency that robs some of the harsher overtones,sort of a dampening effect.
  5. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    Have either of you readA Bow on the Couch, it might help, or it might not, I thought it was a good read none the less.
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Cool! I'll be reading that through.
  7. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I'm no expert, but my experience has also been that a more flexible stick produces a darker tone. I've had heavier weight bows that were still flexible and this was true of them also. By contrast, a lighter but stiffer bow was brighter. I went through a few that I wasn't happy with.

    I play German bow and searched around for one in the $500-$1000 range. The Cincinnati Bass Cellar shipped 6 bows for me to try and I found a used one stamped "J.G. Bottoni" that was light, flexible, and had a warm pleasant sound. I paid $600 for it and I've been using that one for a few years now.

    I also play electric bass and have found that heavier basses made of harder wood tend to sound brighter. Lighter is usually better for bass response, but a body that is too soft can sound muddy. Finding the balance is the ticket.