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Do expensive bows really sound better?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by FidgetStone, Jan 18, 2004.

  1. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    I'm relatively new to DB and have invested the vast majority of my bass time in playing pizz and learning enough about basses to make an educated buying decision. (Just ordered a Christopher hybrid)

    I have experimented with both French and German style bows with my rental bass and prefer the German. My question is do expensive bows really sound better than entry-level bows and why?

    Thanks for your input . . . Jim W.
  2. Welcome to TalkBass.com. It's not so much that the expensive bows sound better per se, but that they are easier to play with and enable the skilled performer to play with greater facility thus getting a better sound than they would with a lesser bow. A beginner might not even notice the difference in terms of how it might affect their own playing, but I'm certain they would hear a difference between a bad versus a good bow in the hands of an accomplished player.

    Hope this helps -

    - Wil
  3. Thats kind of an interesting question, because in the hands of a monkey, it's going to make no difference. In the hands of a good bass player, it can make a ton of difference. A good bow can also make playing a lot easier for a not so great player. So, I guess the answer is technically yes...
  4. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    You know you're good when you're able to judge a good bow from not so good a one.

    You know you're REALLY good when dumping 2.5 k on this MF turns from nightmare to sweet dream !!!
  5. Yes...products vary in quality from price to price range , and quality. pick up a 5 , 600 dollar bow and then go grab a 4,000$ horsht shicker...seriously.
  6. Good bows can make a huge difference, but as others have said, the degree to which you can perceive the difference depends somewhat on your skill level.

    For me its rather like wine appreciation. I enjoy the stuff and understand its charms enough to really perceive a big difference and get a genuine added delight when I make the occasional splurge on a (USD) 25-40 dollar wine compared to my ordinary everyday 10 dollar dinner plonk. But I'm no wine expert, and my tastes are not polished enough so that I see much more in the really pricey wines (when I've had a chance to drink some at someone else's table!), so for me, to buy such a wine would be a waste.

    On the bass, I can produce a half decent sound (and enjoy myself alot more) when playing my treasured Michael Dolling, compared with using my Carbow (although to be sure, I think the latter is a useful, respectable stick). But my bowing skills are hopelessly rudimentary compared with, say, a Marrilier or a Quarrington, and I doubt I'd perceive any difference at all with a bow twice or three times again as expensive as my honey, whereas a player of their calibur almost certainly would.

    Anyway, instead of WHETHER, I find WHY to be the more interesting question. WHY do good bows sound so much better? I have a semi-serious amateur interest in bass physics and research and read alot (really most work is on the violin). It's strange, but you can read dozens of serious studies on how various aspects of the violin's (or bass's) design, construction and finish affect the tone, but it seems that relatively little is ever done in understanding how the bow figures into this. It's a real mystery to me how sometimes just rubbing a given bass with a better stick can make sound and feel like a completely different instrument. Anyone (BB?) care to offer a view on this one?
  7. a related point: the bow should match the bass. I recall hearing that a good rule of thumb is that your bow ought to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/4 of the price of your bass, and my experience suggests this is (roughly) true.

    A bow costing any more than that is probably capable of subtlety and command that your bass isn't really up to, and is thus a bit of a waste; any less, and you may well get more response and more colour out of your bass with a bow upgrade.

    again, as always YMMV
  8. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    Good point on post #6 as to "why" better bows sound better. I have seen people comment on balance and weight but I would think that an engineer could take a modern synthetic material of some kind and make it weigh and balance like the best expensive bow available. Comments?

    Also, regarding horse hair, are there differrent characteristics that would make hair from one breed better for violin, another for cello and yet another for bass?
  9. I just got done auditioning an Ary 400 Brazilwood, a German Brazilwood, an Ary 500 Pernambuco and my crap brazilwood. The Ary Pernambuco blew the others away! Twice the volume, 5 times the grabbing power, and 10 times the tone. It was a night and day difference- It really brings my bass to life. To me, I am glad I went the extra mile (and $$) to get a really good bow.
    Just my .02
  10. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Man, I like figures. And you set the benchmarks pretty high !
  11. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth

  12. It's not just that , the stick resonates causing projection differences , and tonal differences. A cheaper grade wood or material will resonate less.
  13. THE single most important thing to consider is how well a material resonates. Pernambuco has the best resonance qualities for bows.
  14. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    But what, exactly, does that mean? What are "resonance qualities"? Can we measure them, and if so, do we know, a priori, what specifically are we looking for?

    Does pernambuco have the best qualities by definition- because the best bows we know of are makde of pernambuco? Or is there something specific about pernambuco we can quantify?

    Difficult questions.
  15. On What do evidence do you base this statement? Please be specific.
  16. I base this on talking to different people whom I know have discussed these things with luthiers and other musicians. This is what I have come to understand. (this also makes sense)
  17. Resonance qualities are basically how the wood vibrates. And from what I have heard (indirectly from luthiers) the tighter the resonance , (to an extent) the better the sound , projection etc.,.

    And yes , from talking again indirectly to a bowmaker , they have said that pernambuco is not just the best wood , but the best material
  18. ...And no you can not exactly measure resonance. You can tell generall , (very generally) , how well bow-wood resonates by flicking it and seeing whether it vibrates. If it doesnt its pernambuco ; if it does , its very cheap pernambuco , or brazilwood.
  19. Nice try, but no cigar. Most bow makers would tell you that it is elasticity that is the most important thing to consider. There are lots of wood species that are more resonant or less resonant than Pernambuco, but most of them would not make very usable bows. It has to be the right combination of density, stiffness, elasticity and the ability to be bent by dry heat (and stay that way) that goes into making a good bow. Many modern bow makers today use the Lucchi Elasticity Tester (Lucchi Meter) to check the wood before even starting to cut the wood for a bow.
  20. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    Bob does it again.... ;)

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