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German or French bow?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Cromwell008, Oct 19, 2010.

  1. Cromwell008


    Oct 17, 2010
    Hello fellow bassists, I am working on a musical investigation, and would really appreciate to hear all of your opinions or any commentaries.

    Which would you say, in your own experience, is the best bow position to play with, German or French?

    I have heard a few opinions from colleagues and my teacher but unfortunately I am not fully satisfied so I would really appreciate it if you would help me out by spending a little bit of your time sharing your thoughts on this with me.

    Thank you all very much.
  2. Federighi likes this.
  3. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Didn't you start a thread on this exact topic two days ago?
  4. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    DR Strings Dealer (local only)
    Manly Man - German
    Girly Man - French

    :D :bag:
  5. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    LOL Nice.

    There is no 'better' when it comes to the bow. You'll find, especially on this site, arguments for each. It really comes down to which one the player is most comfortable with.

    BTW I apparently use a 'girly man' French bow. ;)
  6. I learned the french way, but now I only play pizzicato.
    My teacheress learned both and acording to her it's like that:
    With the german you have more pressure on the string(s) and therefore she used it mainly in the symphonic orchestra. However, she preferes the french way for her soloprojects, because of the better control of dynamic and tone.
  7. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Just go with your teacher. You can always try the "other" bow later.
  8. shadow_FIX


    Feb 23, 2010
    I went with German when I started learning because you have more power with that bow grip. I'm the only German player in my university orchestra...here's to nonconformity!

    One con that I have found with this bow grip, however, is that string crossings require more effort to execute than with the French grip. It's not that they are much more difficult, there is just a little more motion involved.

    One is not necessarily "better" than the other...at the end of the day (or concert) it comes down to personal preference. Try both if you can!
  9. In the long run, both are equivalent, in that anything possible with one is possible with the other. Different things will be difficult, however. For players who are not going to be professional orchestra players or classical soloists and develop that level of bow technique, you probably will get better results more quickly with German. For the classical folks, it's about comfort and doing the work to get whichever bow you play with up to standard, which is about the same amount of effort for either.

    Remember too, that some people just can't use one or the other due to their hand structure (I am forced to use German). So you may not have an option.
  10. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I play with professionals that use both equally well. I agree that some techniques would are easier for each bow. On my 5 string it seems that a german player would have a hard time reaching the b string without their hand hitting the c bout due to the arch of the strings. Looking at the great soloist you have guys like Gary Karr and Burguslow Furtok with german and Edgar Meyer and Renaud Garcia Fons with french. I dont feel that any of these guys would better using the other grip.
    I do think that some people have physical attributes that strongly push them towards one bow or the other. One of the unexpected benefits of playing french grip is that it is easier to relate to the other string instruments. This has been noticable to me in two ways.

    #1: Matching the bowstroke of the concertmaster in an orchestral setting.

    #2: Taking part in lessons and master classes with other string instruments.

    That being said I dont think that either grip presents a clear advantage over the other unless you are auditioning for an orchestra where it matters..
  11. I play German bow and a 5-string. I show how I go about it here:


    On a well set-up 5-string, there is as much clearance or more between the B string and the C bout.

    Unless your conductor really doesn't know what he or she is doing, you don't want to match the concertmaster for the sake of matching the concertmaster. There are too many reasons unique to the double bass to determine bowings based on how the bass works rather than what the shoulder fiddles are doing.

    As to the original question, there are fantastic players using either bow. Find the best teacher you can afford, use whatever bow he or she recommends.
  12. THE SAW


    Sep 14, 2006
  13. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    try and hold either. whatever feels more natural. for me it was french.

    i see fantastic players using both styles. its unfair to call one better than the other.
  14. zscontra

    zscontra Guest

    Nov 28, 2010
    Miami, Fl
    For more flexibility, but depends on the bassist
  15. For 15 odd years I have always played French. I always thought the german bow looked, well, freakish. I still do really. I have three french bows of varying quality (one nice german made one and a couple of cheap chinese ones that aren't actually that bad), and just got (my xmas present to me!!) a carbon fibre german style bow. It feels very natural, and great for some pieces (low down grunt), but I am finding my control initially a little difficult with bouncing off the strings esp in the higher registers. I'm sure that is just technique, nothing a good tutur can't iron out. It certainly feels less cramped in my hand than the french bow. I'm really keen to get stuck in to this new challenge (if there weren't enough already - intonation, speed, endurance agility etc etc!)

    Anyway, does anyone swap bows for different pieces /ensembles? It does sound a little schizo, but is there any rule that you have to choose a bow and stick with it? I imagine I'll drop into one camp or another, but I think there will be a day where I can pick up either and have fun. Always nice to have a little variety in life!

  16. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    I learned pizzicato first (I'm self taught) then picked up a french bow and love it. I tried a German once and it just didn't feel right to me, whereas the bassist that just graduated preferred German. It mostly boils down to your personal comfort
  17. BioDriver

    BioDriver A Cinderella story

    Aug 29, 2008
    Austin, TX
    German for me. Although I injured my right thumb when I first started playing and learned to play German on account of it being wrapped in bandages and casts for 4 months.

    tl;dr: German players aren't stopped by injuries like sissy French players ;)
  18. Bluelephant4


    Jun 10, 2012
    The string crossing's the main reason I went to German... I can't cross with a French :D
  19. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    I also need to add:
    -playing a really good quality bow will sway you one way or the other. Make sure you are trying out equivalent quality bows.
    -give the "other" bow a really fair trial. Spend some time getting to know the sound and feel that each bow has before you decide.
  20. Anton Avis

    Anton Avis

    Dec 13, 2016
    I think it's down to personal preference. However, I'd recommend the German bow. It will help you to play louder. With a French bow, the power comes from your wrist. With it's German counterpart, it is the arm that generates power. Not only does this boost volume, but it means you can play for longer because your arm is stronger than your wrist. Tremolo is less exhausting. I started on a French bow but it kept leaving my thumb in pain. I'd certainly recommend a German bow, but it is a personal choice.

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