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French ? German ? Both ?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by godoze, Jan 20, 2003.

  1. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Hi everybody !

    I grew up playing French (was a cellist for many years) and when I switched to the bass my first teacher played French.
    Many years later I started studying German bow.
    Now I use both.

    I wonder what the rest of you do ? I'm guessing most people play German. Please let me know, just because I'm interested in these arcane things.
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    French, like my kisses.
  3. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    German bow is the ONLY way to play the bass! If you're a REAL bass player, that's the bow you'll use! The other bow sucks so bad I don't even wanna talk about it! German rules!
    . . . or is that French?

    Well now I'm all confused!
  4. SleeperMan2000


    Jul 31, 2002
    Cary NC
    I play German. Will play French eventually.

    The NC Symphony here in Raleigh bass section all use French.

    Not sure why, but when they have a German bow in there it doesn't look as symmetrical from the balcony.
  5. Gabe


    Jan 21, 2003
    I favor the French bow. I'm a cellist and my bass teacher plays French so I sort of automtically became a French Bow man. I have tried the German and though it was good power wise but difficult to control and get good tone. Possibly because of my cello experiance.

    In my experiance most classical bassists use French and everyone else uses German.

  6. SleeperMan2000


    Jul 31, 2002
    Cary NC
    Any advice on when to switch styles?

    To be more clear: I am a student using German Bow. My teacher (on the local symphony) sent me home with both bows and said "see which one you like better". He does both but on the symphony he's always using French.

    So I am getting some facility on the German Bow 10 months later, and so far my teacher says don't try French. Not sure why, not for me to question the master.

    But for you all, what do you think, do German another year or so then try French?

    I want to be able to do French Bow, so sooner or later I'm going to try it.

  7. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I'll tell you, I tend to use German more for symphonic work, and French more for solo stuff. This is just my preference, obviously there are many fine bassists that do the opposite, or niether.
  8. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    In my experiance most classical bassists use French and everyone else uses German.

    Now them's fightin' words!
  9. Gabe


    Jan 21, 2003
    Of course, living in deepest Northern Maine, my experiance is quite limited. Im sure many great bassists do it the other way around.

  10. dblbassmike


    Apr 14, 2002
    Detroit, MI
    Yes, I prefer the french bow. Its what I started to use first, when i started playing. But my opinion is that I also think that its more proper to play french bow, also playing pizz. is easier i think, i have tried before on a german, so i have tried both, but I prefer french better. :)
  11. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I've noticed very few bass sections that are not uniform in their bow choice. I 've seen maybe 3 or 4 symphonies where one of the bassists played with a different bow from the majority of the section.
  12. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    its more proper to play french bow

    or German. . .
  13. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    "It is not very easy to express exactly the manner of holding the bow; I shall, therefore, confine myself to the following directions: the hand not too near the nut, nor too far from it; the middle finger, the third finger, and the little finger firmly placed against the nut in such a way that the middle finger adapts itself to the place where the hair commences; the forefinger must hook upon the stick and press it strongly; the thumb on the other side of the nut and always opposite the middle finger, pressing, from the right side and a little obliquely, the edge of the groove in the nut. The fingers thus placed ought to hold the bow so as to use it with power, whilst allowing the forearm and the wrist great flexibility and full liberty of action."

    -G. Bottesini, "Metodo Completo"

    Ah, the Victorian era, with those lovely sentences that can take over a page each... yet, even for the long-windedness and the awkward translation, I can't think of better description of French bow grip.

    What is interesting is that throughout the introduction he'll debate the virtues and pitfalls of three vs. four strings, white hair vs. black (he preferred black, as do I), and even acknowledges tuning in fifths (though only to call it "absurd"), but he doesn't even take the time to *mention* the German bow. Sometimes the greatest statement is to say nothing at all.:cool:

    Oh... I use French.
  14. It is not more proper to play either type unless you're somewhere that (senselessly) dictates you must play a certain type to get in.

    I think pizz is much easier on German - you easily can get two fingers pizzing while holding German, not so with French.

    I think more people play French just because when they start that's the only kind their high school or junior high knew existed.

    French bow is better at legato stuff, German is better for power and articulation stuff.

    I started on French ('cause that's all my school had), then switched when I started lessons in college. I now play and teach both, but prefer German for auditions and recitals.

    It is invaluable to play BOTH bows, especially for teaching, so you can show students how to operate whichever bow they're using - but also, to play in the style of the music for concerts.

    French bow= Legato, sustained
    Debussy, Stokowski orchestrations, Tchaikowski, Berlioz, Schumann

    German bow=Marcato, crisp
    Bach, Mahler, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven

    It is certainly possible to do it all on either bow, but the bow types lends themselves more easily to one style or the other.
  15. jousi


    Jan 4, 2003
    I must agree with former!

    Where I live "all" are using German and "the rest"
    French... :D I use German but trying to bow with
    "the fiddlers knive" too.
    My secret :eek: is: The best bow is what
    fits in your hand the most!
    Both bows has their strong and week points
    (all listed above).

  16. ibanezman80


    May 7, 2003
    -LM Bass

    I concur.
  17. As a patriotic A-merr-cunn, I demand a boycott of French bows. We should all switch to GERMAN bows!

    Uh, wait a minute....Make that BUTLER bows.

    Or just keep on playin' French and call 'em FREEDOM bows!
  18. Pretty militant!
    I am a french player but started dabbling with german recently.....
  19. Or just keep on playin' French and call 'em FREEDOM bows![/QUOTE]


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