I couldn't tell a $30 bow from a $3000 bow

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by skychief, Jun 7, 2012.

  1. skychief

    skychief Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay
    ...if I were blindfolded. Could you?

    I rarely play arco; when I do, its usually to sustain the last note of a jazz ballad or whatever. So I'm not very knowledgeable about the virtues of a fine bow. A bass buddy of mine just dropped $2k on a bow. :eek: I question his judgement, but dont dare to mention it (It may reveal some ignorance on my part).
  2. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Do you need more than a $30 bow? Would $3000 make sense for the last note of a jazz ballad?

    I can't tell the difference between a $30 bottle of scotch and a $300 bottle of scotch. So, considering I rarely drink it, I don't see the need to buy any of it.

    There are a lot of very subtle things that a player who spends a lot of time with a bow will notice if they are shopping for a quality bow, but a lot of that comes down to personal preference. I guess my two cents is pretty much the same as my approach to scotch.
  3. I would say there is more to a $3,000 bow than just the differences that may be heard.

    Those who spend most of your their time playing with a bow, and who are at a level of experience where they are demanding of more of their own performances, might appreciate the way a really good bow feels in the hand, the way it balances, and the way it reacts to their input and to the strings themselves.

    I have been playing almost exclusively with the bow for about nine years and have a bow that in todays market would cost about $1,200, and though I wouldn't say I could fully appreciate the qualities of a $3,000 bow, I don't for a moment doubt that there are those who do.
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I completely agree that there are a lot of qualities that make a good bow. I know that wood selection, weight, balance, camber, hair, rosin, what is used for a winding, or if it is wound, and a lot of other factors are involved in a good bow. And a lot of those decisions are made by the bow maker, and that is why these bows are expensive investments.

    Knowing what qualities you like in a bow and why you like those qualities can greatly impact your decision on whether or not you like a bow. That is where preference comes into play. Someone who hates ironwood, or really likes black hair is more likely to gravitate towards a bow that is made from something different, and has white hair in it, but knowing that you like the overtones that comes from pernambuco instead of ironwood, or that differences in hair in the same bow can make for an extremely varied playing experience is just the tip of the iceberg.

    The differences between $30 and $3000 are vast, but the differences between 10 bows in the exact same price range by the exact same maker can be almost as large.
  5. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I could definitely tell a difference between my Marchand French bow (paid $1k for it about four years back) and the superb Fetique bow my teacher let me play on for my recital.
  6. Huge difference!
    What is a difference between a Ford F*ckus and an Aston Martin Vanquish?
    Can you tell?
    Same thing. Expensive bow drives better, offers incentives on colour, use of dynamics etc etc.. however, if you don't play bow much, you can probably only tell the most extreme differences between it and the $30 one, like weight and balance, not much more. Do you need it? I'd say mostly not, unless you are in that sphere where your tastes are really fine-grained in that respect.
  7. I play mostly classical music. So when I'm looking for a bow, I'm looking for something that makes playing effortless. The easier the bow grips the string and the less I have to work to pull a fatter sound out of the instrument, the happier I am. The factors that decide this can include weight distribution, type of wood, the maker, etc. But overall, when I'm bow-shopping, I'm looking for something that makes my bass playing as transparent as possible.
  8. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    Being that this type of question have been asked over and over, and I have asked this question in the past as well I'll tell you about my personal impressions. My comparisons are based on a price difference ranging from about $50 to $1200. But most importantly these are comparisons between bows that I like and the ones that i wasn't so crazy about. The ones I have liked the most were between the $200 to $600 price range. (BTW I play both french and german)

    1- balance. to me this is how the bow feels in my hand. I tend to prefer bows that are light at the tip. it has been harder for me to find one that sounds great though. In general I have found that the ones that are heavy at the tip tend to sound better on my bass, but they feel unfriendly to me.

    2- evenness. I play open strings very slowly and try to notice how the bow behaves on the upstroke and downstroke. This tells me how much effort it takes to control the bow in order to obtain an even sound.

    3- dynamics. when I play a bow that I really like I feel like i can create dynamics that go form ppp to FFF and back very evenly on notes as short as a quarter note!

    4- spicatto, (bounce), some bows feel real heavy on the string, and some feel really light. I have a bow that does this freaky thing, when i am going downbow and start to get near the tip the bow starts to bounce like crazy!. it takes a great deal of concentration to keep that from happening. Anyway, bow bounce differently and i suppose you will choose the one that makes you play better.

    5-sound, some bows tend to sound airy and hollow, other sound very heavy, muddy, quick, dull, sharp, sluggish, fast, uneven, etc. etc. and although the descriptions can be sort of abstract the feel on your hand and the sound in your ears are very real.

    6- string crossing, how easy is it to cross strings? does it take a lot of bow to get an even sound? is it smooth going from the low E to the g string? does it take a lot of concentration to control the bow? etc.

    Anyway guys, help me out with your descriptions. Tell me where I am missing something. these are just my impressions but I would like to hear your impressions so i can hopefully improve my awareness and improve my technique.
    Thank you.
  9. $3000 is a bit on the cheap side in this market.
  10. skychief

    skychief Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay
    Great answers! Especially #4 (spicatto) and #6 (string crossing). These are attributes I'd never considered before. But certainly worth consideration. Even for a hack like me. Sadly, my (French) bow scores poorly in these. But then, it only cost $85 ($95 if you include the petrol i used to get the thing),. I suppose if i were to get more into arco, I might be somewhat more selective when purchasing a suitable bow.
  11. stick your nose in a glass of johnnie walker red side by side with a laphroaig cask strength. im sure youll see something a bit different between the two :D:D

    seriously though, the OP answers your own question. you hardly ever play arco. if you were working on orchestral or solo stuff, and had a well developed technique, you'd get it- the nuances would make sense, and be obvious. since theyre not, dont stress out about a bow! you cant have refined taste without experience, just like the scotch analogy. if you get into arco more, then try out a bunch of bows. you might not like the $3k one the most, but you certainly wont love the $30 one... i think, atleast.

  12. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    ...you cant have refined taste without experience,

    And then there's Edgar :D
  13. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I'm no big arco player, I usually do a little for intonation practice, but even when I first started I could notice a lot of difference between bows. The tone it produces can be very different; the response and ease of starting varies; the feel, weight and balance, etc. (The type of hair and type of rosin you use also make a difference.) I'll bet when I got to comparing mid-level to expensive bows it would be harder to tell the differences, but a real cheapo feels and sounds like one.
  14. Ron Plichta

    Ron Plichta Supporting Member

    May 19, 2007
    Fairfax, VA
    My experience is similar, except I'm focusing on arco playing. I've come to learn the differences between the very inexpensive bows and those in the $500 - $1,000 range. I don't have enough experience with the higher-end bows since I'm still new at this, but I'm sure I'll recognize it with time and practice.
  15. Nobody's gonna say it? $2,970, skychief! Seriously, $3k for a barrette for horsehair?
  16. I think anyone could tell the difference between a $30 bow and a $3,000 bow. More realistic for most of us is the difference between a $150 bow and a $750 bow.

    I bought a cheap bow - but from a reputable maker - and I just couldn't get it to work for me. It just didn't hold the rosin right or engage the strings right. It was very frustrating. So I looked around on TalkBass and bought an old bow from a classical player here on TB for $700 or so. Seemed like a huge expense at the time - BUT - this bow is great, it really does the job.

    I'm sure a $3,000 bow would be even better, but I will probably never know. :cool:
  17. skychief

    skychief Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay

    Sounds like all the troubles with your 1st bow was the hair.(wouldnt hold rosin , engage strings right). Hell, it mighta been the hair tension was off. But lets assume the hair tension was right and it was the hair causing the discontent. Whats a re-hair going for these days?.... $100 or so?

    I woulda taken the cheap bow and had it re-haired.

    But if youre happy withe the "new" bow, then great! :D
  18. Not having heard this particular bow in the hands of your pal, we do not know if he made a $2970 mistake, he may have. A big question, that many in this post have stated in so many words, is not if the bow is worth $3000, but rather are my hands worth the $3000.
    -Joe Porter
  19. yes, I am learning. I may still do that so as to have two bows, since I play out of two different locations.
  20. If a barrette is all you want, $30 might be a little steep. I need my bows to be more than just a stick, and I'm willing to pay a lot of money for it.