Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

French/German Bow Differences?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by band-aid goop, Aug 10, 2005.


  1. band-aid goop

    band-aid goop

    Aug 10, 2005
    I was just wondering what differences there are between a french and a german bow, besides how the bow is held and all the other obvious. Are some types of music generally played eaiser on one type of bow than the other...etc.? Anyone have any interesting experiences using both bows? Any Opinions as to which Bow is better for orchestral music, solo, or time period?
    THanks :)
     
  2. I learned on French and played it exclusively for about 20 years. A couple of years ago I got curious and bought an inexpensive German bow (thanks Don Z.-- it's still going strong!).

    It was slow going without a teacher, but I'm just now starting to approach being able to do with the German what I can do with the French, articulation-wise (spiccato, tremolo, etc). I did used the German to play a show recently (Sweeney Todd) that required a lot of low-end power, and I found that I was able to pull a somewhat bigger sound for those E and A string fortissimi (?) and had better endurance than I would've with the French.

    Also, I've been using the German to play arco solos on jazz gigs, and for some reason, I feel more comfortable with the German in that situation. Probably just psychological -- the PC mojo or something.
     
  3. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    The only difference, besides how they are held, is each individual's personal preference. There are great players who play French and there are great players who play German. This also applies to not-so-great players as well.
     
  4. And I saw this past weekend a bassist who used french bow through a whole opera but at the end was holding it as a german bow. When queried about it he responded, "It's easier to do the long, loud notes that way."
     
  5. I've played both and think both are perfectly fine, but I play only german now becaue it just seems the most natural and versatile for me. I'd recomend learning both and even owning both, just so you can choose.
     
  6. Though I used German for the Sweeney Todd show, I played the tremolos with the French-bow hold. Still can't get a good trem with the German. Might have to break down and find a teacher!

    BTW: Apparently, Ray Brown always played arco with German bow held like a French. Hey, it worked for Ray...
     
  7. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Not on the video I have of him.
     
  8. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I have heard it said 'round these parts that PC also played German the French way...
     
  9. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    My hand and arm feel to be in a more relaxed, natural positon with the German bow. The hand barely needs to hold the bow, it serves almost more as a cradle, and the forearm isn't required to turn inward as much. The downside is that it's easy to pull the bow too fast or play too hard, particularly down bow and so it requires some restraint. (But that also makes it good for getting "oomph" into the low notes.) Really though, I've heard both played excellently, so it it's mostly a matter of preference.
     
  10. band-aid goop

    band-aid goop

    Aug 10, 2005
    i never knew that you could play a german bow like a french bow...(even though when i was in my middle shcool orchestra i occasionally played german bow french style. I only did that because i have no clue of What a german bow was or how it was held, i just thought it was a french bow with a Big frog! :) ) WHen one playes a german bow french style, could tension problems occur and other difficulties even though you are holding it correctly for a french bow? (and also when you are playing a French bow like a German)
     
  11. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    "Mike" Prochownik in Canada designed what he called an "Alsatian" bow (part German, part French) that could be used with either grip. The last I looked it was at Laughing Bear Basses in Colorado. If it's anything like his other bows, it'll be very well crafted (but a little light for some people). I have one of his german bows.

    Louis
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I am curious to see one of these 'Alsatian' Bows. I have seen many Basses made in Germany that look slightly French but never a Bow but with one possible exception. I Bought a Bow about a year ago that had a large French Frog. The Stick was about 1" longer than my other French Bows and the Tip looked like that of a German Bow. It is Stamped H.R.Pfretchner with the Emblem on the Frog but may be a Copy. The Tip is Rosewood and not Bone and the Stick is not Pernambucco. Actually it looks like Cherry but being that I got it from Europe, it must be a local wood at the least.

    I can play it French or 'modified' German Style due to the smaller type Frog. I will have pics of my Bows some day soon on my website but untill then, could someone show me one of these Dual handling Bows.
     
  13. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Ken, You could contact Ted or Elliot at
    LAUGHING BEAR INSTRUMENTS
    207 RIO GRANDE PAONIA, CO 81428
    970-527-4516
    info@laughingbearinstruments.com

    They had the prototype. Or Zdzislaw Prochownik directly at <prochown@mts.net>

    Good luck

    Louis
     
  14. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    Generally speaking, people who have played both sytles find that french bow is easier to play at a PP and softer dynamic whereas German is much easier to get a fast off the string stroke (i.e. Mozart). again this is only generally speaking, because a great player plays like a beast on french, german, or a peice of cardboard. Also its easier to play fast easy stuff with german, fast hard stuff with french.

    However, the main diffrence is style. Try both over a few months time (only studying ONE) and after your trial periods you'll know which one if for you.
     
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
  16. Steve Bassman

    Steve Bassman Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Ken, the bow in that pic still looks like a French bow to me as far as the shape of the frog. Maybe the difference is more noticable in person. I've tried playing German-style with a French bow and it doesn't work too well for me (nowhere to put the ring finger and pinky). I noticed that your description mentions a "modified German style grip with one finger instead of two inside the Frog". I've always played German bow with one finger in the frog which to me is the standard German hold. The index and middle fingers are on the stick, the ring finger inside the frog and the pinky under the frog with the tip touching the ferrule. I realize their is more than one correct way to hold a German bow but this is how I've seen most players hold it and it is depicted this way in the Simandl method (with pics of either Gary Karr or Fred Zimmerman depending on the publisher).

    - Steve

    http://kaybass.home.att.net
     
  17. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Ken,

    Fascinating bow. Prochownik's bow, if I am remembering correctly, had more of a rounded (german-style) frog, but not much wider than the one you've got here. I'll see if I can't rack down a photo.

    Louis
     
  18. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
  19. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    You know Ken from my POV you've got a French bow in your hand...even if you're holding it in a perverted german style and it's slightly wider than your typical french frog.

    I'd expect your grip to be much wider and your pinky able to rest on that silvery gizmo without anywhere near the kind of cupping your hand would have to do there.

    But sure you can hold it that way or any other way and kick ass all day long with it from my POV. I've seen some pretty funky German bow holding manners by others that I wouldn't want to do myself (Badila, for example, who could do some incredible things his way) but do fine so more power to you.

    I myself would expect even a French/German hybrid to have a much wider frog than what I see on yours.

    You know I think Paul Ellison, for one, has a bow with this sort of advantage but I haven't seen it myself. He might have used it during a masterclass I attended as he was showing us his spiccato with what looked like a German bow but held with a French grip (as the students being grilled were all French players). Later he played a Proto piece holding a bow German style but I don't know if it was the same bow (I think it was...).

    I never forgot how beautiful his spiccato sounded and have been chasing it ever since... :bassist:
     
  20. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    This is why I asked. When I heard this thing about an 'Alsation' Bow that is inbetween the two, I thought that's what I might have. I have never seen a French Frog so tall before. So, if what I have is just a tall Frogged French Bow, then that's what it is. Until I see this Alsatian bow, I will leave my webpage as-is because it fits the discription I had originally heard.