French or German?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by jpatt2, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. jpatt2


    Jul 27, 2009
    Rochester, NY
    Hello all! I recently decided to purchase a Christopher 300 hybrid 5 string and will need a good bow to go with it...Any advice? The David Gage Metropolitan looks nice. What's the difference between a French and German bow? And which is more widely used or better suited for beginners? Thank you so much for any input, and I'm sorry if this has been asked 1000 times.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  2. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    First, congrats on your new bass. Not one style of bow is better than the other, and one is not necessarily "easier" than the other, although some players might prefer one style over the other. It's all a matter of what your teacher has you start with. I noticed that in another thread of yours, you mention that you will be studying with the principal bassist of the Louiseville Symphony. Great! Contact him and ask which style he uses and what he will be teaching you. If he plays German, then get a German. If he plays French, get a French. He can also give you good advice on finding a good bow.

    But to answer your question:
    The main difference between the French and German bows are the size and shape of the frogs, and how you grip them. The French bow has a smaller frog, and is held with the "overhand" grip, that I am sure you can find pictures on the internet of. It resembles more how a cellist would grip a bow. The German bow, with a larger frog, is held with the "underhand" grip, which you can also find pictures of. Both bows and the technique with which you play them are completely different. It can also vary from person to person.

    So before deciding if you want a David Gage Metropolitan or not, I would talk to your teacher right away. Good luck!
  3. If you are pursuing classical music it is good to learn the French grip and get it out of the way.
    I think German is better for jazz players and non classical players. I agree that in the end one is niether better or easier but for sure German is easier, and therefore less discouraging, in the beginning.
    If you are serious and curious about the instrument, you will want to own both and be able to use either.
    It seems like German fits my music best, but I wouldn't be without both bows around.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  4. mwiles30


    Dec 31, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    I'd go with German. It fits into the hand in a very natural position.

    And get a teacher. Trying to teach yourself to play arco usually isn't the most productive thing to do.
  5. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    I disagree. In no way does the French grip better suit classical, or does the German better suit jazz. Or vice versa. In fact, I see the majority of jazz players who play arco play French. And, have you ever seen an orchestra oustide the US? In some parts of Europe, you will find German being played exclusively in orchestras. Not one style of bow beter suits another style of music.

    Well, it may better fit your hand, but what about jpatt's? Just because you prefer one style of bow doesnt mean its the best for another. If you read another one of jpatt's threads, he mentions he will be studying bass in college next year. He will need to use the style of bow that his teacher uses and teaches, not what you prefer to use.

    Personally, I play and prefer the German bow and grip. This is how i started with my teacher, and is what my teacher uses and teaches. Had my teacher started me on French, I would be playing French. I have tried and spent time learning French, but I am much better at German. --This is my personal preference. I am not reccomending one bow or grip over the other, just because I prefer one over the other.
  6. For classical many teachers and and orchestras seem to prefer French, since it is tougher in the beginning, I feel like it is the best reccomendation. For jazz, either is fine, but unless you get some fairly advanced French technique VERY early, German is easier on the hand, and as I said less discouraging.

    The style of music doesn't really come into question as really anything can be played with either bow.
  7. *Obvioulsy, if you have a history with one the instruments in the violin family, French may be easier than German, even in the beginning.
  8. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    I will agree with you there. This is true with one of my friends who switched to bass from cello.

    But, my main point I want to make is, this is not our or even his decision to make, but his teacher's. If his teacher plays and teaches German, it would be totally pointless to play French, since his teacher wouldn't be able to help his right hand as much if he played German. Or vice versa.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  9. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    Also, that isn't true. I've seen some of your other posts from other threads, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you don't play much classical. There is no problem with this, but please don't say these things as if they are fact if you you don't have as much experience in it. I don't know how much classical or orchestral experience you have, but this is just what I could tell from reading your other posts, so please correct me if I'm wrong, and I apoligize if I am.

    I play primarily classical and in orchestral settings, and in America, there seems to be an even mix of German and French players. In professional orchestras, there's a pretty even mix as well. I've never heard of an American orchestra that prefers one bow over the other. In many European orchestras, however, the style of bow does make a difference. Most of the players in the London Symphony play French, and in France, I assume the French bow is more popular, but as you get into Eastern Europe, the German bow is favored almost exclusively.
  10. True, it is not what I play, but it is mostly all I have studied. Since the French grip seems be more difficult at the beginning, that is why that advice is often given - if you learn French first (as I did) it is easier to make a choice rather than have it be default. I understand there are plenty of German bow players in many orchestras around the world.

    Playing the bow your teacher plays is good advice, but if all the players you admire play one or the other you may want to keep that in mind.
    Since I can play either, when I have studied with various teachers, I use the bow they play.

    On the other side of the coin, in my experience many of the Jazz players who get turned off by the bow have often started with French and put it away before even getting the grip down, so that is why I reccomend starting with German for anyone not primarily interested in arco.

    These still remain my reccomendations, for my reasons listed. All the reccomendations in the thread should be considered along with any real world experience the OP has.

    * Whichever bow you choose, for whatever reason, will not hold you back from any musical choices you make, provided that you practice and study with a good teacher.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  11. JtheJazzMan


    Apr 10, 2006
    Perhaps you could or should borrow one of each to try them out before buying one? Ask your teacher how soon you need one, maybe you can sort this out in the first lesson.

    See you want to buy a nice bow, which is going to be a little pricey and you want to get the choice right in the first place.

    If youre just starting on double bass your tastes in music will change, and the tone youre looking for will change.

    Do you see yourself as an orchestra workhorse? Do they want a big strong sound? German with black hair could be a good option.

    Or will your bass be a low action solo bass? French could be a good option.

    Those are large generalisations, though I do find having to use a lot of pressure with french gets tiring. Luckily thats not an issue with what I play.

    I have to say, from what Ive seen many players give up the bow because of the time commitment. It goes without saying that the bow isnt something you can dabble in and practice every so often.
  12. semajniwdoog


    May 3, 2009
    I think you've got it backwards - the NJ Symphony orchestra bass player almost exclusively play German - NY Symphony Orchestra exclusively plays German. French, in my opinion is easier and often taught to beginners because of that. German requires much more facility.
  13. Fact 1. There are two main bows: German And French.
    Fact 2. They are both different.
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I prefer "German Bows" and "Freedom Bows"

  15. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    Simply put. That answers the original question.

    Oh...and.....may I add....

    Fact 3. Consult your teacher with any further questions.

    HAHAHA! :D
  16. Obviously, there are tons of opinions and experiences. In my personal experience as a teacher, dabblers (including serious jazz players using the bow for intonation practice) do A LOT better with the German.
    While most of the evidence suggests those serious about the bow can take either to whatever end.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  17. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Cleveland and Philly are exclusively French...
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  18. jpatt2


    Jul 27, 2009
    Rochester, NY
    Thank you all for your responses! I think it would be best to contact my instructor, as helpfully suggested, to find out what he plays. After all, a bow is a pretty big investment!
  19. The only other thing to consider is if your 5 has a low B, as some one who plays both I can say I for one have an easier time on the low string with French grip, I often hold my German like a French bow for extended periods on my E string.
    Obviously, there are lots of great German bow players with low B strings so it isn't impossible to navigate it with either bow.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  20. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    Really?! Didn't know that....