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French vs German

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by apfroggy0408, Jun 18, 2005.

  1. apfroggy0408


    Jan 21, 2004
    Ok, well I've been wondering for a while, if there was a major difference between these two different kind of bows. Like does one play harder because of how you hold it? Or is it all just personal preference?
  2. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Personal preference. I just chose french because that's what my teacher uses.
  3. StevieW


    May 15, 2005
    Westfield, MA
    From what I've seen in watching people begin playing bass, the German bow is ideal for beginners. However, after some time, lighter types of bow strokes and coloristic shadings (especially near the tip of the bow) becomes easier with the French bow.

    On the other hand, I play in an orchestra with a woman who uses both bows, and she says that they're exactly the same. If that's the case, it makes me wonder why she bothers with two different bow grips, but regardless, she she insists that they're the same.
  4. StevieW


    May 15, 2005
    Westfield, MA
    I forgot.

    Conversely to the finesse of the French bow in advanced playing, the German is supposedly more prone to powerful bow strokes. Not that one bow is louder than the other. It is simply the nature of the grip, and the shortcomings become clear.

    But once again, this is all hearsay and speculation.

    Good story: one of my friends was dating a girl who's father was a trombonist in on of the NYC area ballet companies (forgot which), and my friend got to turn pages for the principal bassist. My friend noticed that all of the bass players played German, and mentioed it. To this, the principal replied "Yeah, there's no sissies here." To me, that story kind of embodies the difference I've come up with between French and German.
  5. B. Johnson

    B. Johnson

    Apr 28, 2005
    You know, if a player has a good idea of the sound they are trying to acheive and what they want their playing (ie stroke, color, volume) to sound like, it really doesn't matter what bow they play, because they will reach that sound eventually. There are things that are easier with both bows, but nothing is impossible with either.
  6. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    If you heard Hal Robinson or Ed Barker (both French bow players) you would quickly see that the statement above is not true. Finesse and power are not mutually exclusive and are attainable with either bow style.
  7. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York

  8. Okay, now here's something y'all might not have thought of...


    When I'm leading a bass section, I generally have certain tone colours I'm looking for, even in the pizzicato sections. Invariably, I seem to have much more trouble getting my german bow colleagues to match my pizz tone than my french bow players. So I ask myself, "why is this"? I went home, took out my german bow (which I almost never use on the job) , and tried to get the pizz sounds myself that I hear in my head. I honestly had major trouble getting the same variety of colours while holding the german bow. I just can't seem to get at the strings at the same angles I do while holding the french bow. So I figure if I can't make the pizz coulours I hear in my head, what chance do my german bow section mates have of matching me?

    I suppose, like anything, it may be more possible with practice. It just seems like the range of finger angles, etc. seemed more limited, therefore, so was my range of pizz tone colours.

    Anyone else have any thoughts on this?
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I think that there are more, but maybe different, pizz possibilities wihile holding the German. Are you hooking the frog on your little finger and letting the bow hang from that 'hook' when playing pizz? I can get the real thumpy vertical classical pizz as well as a good jazz stroke (although not at faster tempos without stabbing everybody with a few feet of me) this way.
  10. Yes, I hook the german bow on my little finger for pizz.

    I'd say that, yes, alternating finger pizz sections are sometimes easier with the german bow. I don't know - in general, I just find the german bow much more in the way when I'm trying to pizz. I find the variety of finger angles and range of firmness of string release much more limited.

    I'm pretty open minded though. Maybe I need to try a little more to find what I'm looking for. I did (years ago) play german bow for about two years exclusively - I gave it up largely because I simply couldn't get the tone I was hearing in my head. When I would grab my french bow, the tone colours I wanted were so easy for me to find so I figured 'why fight it'?

    I guess maybe each bow style has certain tendencies. Maybe we each gravitate toward the one that is immediately closer to the sound we want.
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    IMO, I think it's very valuable to be proficient with both. From my experience (which is dreadfully limited) and from what I've read/heard discussed, German is easier to get a big, ballsier sound out of than a French and French is easier to do more finessed things on. These are, of course, massive generalizations and a competent French user should have no problem getting a big sound out of their bass, and a German user shouldn't have more trouble playing complex passages if they've been doing their practices.

    Personally, I've been playing German because the only bow I've had regular access to is a German (the school's.) I tried French but decided it wasn't for me -- it just felt wrong and painful after a few minutes, but now I think that may have just been the bow I was using -- a very short, VERY heavy custom pernambuco number that sounds great in the hands of my teacher, but like catbutt in mine. I played his much lighter, much longer el-cheapo brazilwood bow at my last lesson for a good half an hour or so and it just felt...right. I loved it! I got a French bow that was in need of serious work that I left with a repair guy to take care of next week (needs a rehair, refinish, and a few parts) and now I'm very excited to try it out. I'll still keep my German chops up, but I definitely want to focus on French from now on. It just...feels better.

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