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Let’s Compare a Cheap Chinese Bow to a Fine European Bow

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by CaseyVancouver, Jan 1, 2019.


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  1. CaseyVancouver

    CaseyVancouver

    Nov 4, 2012
    6B6DC4A5-F18F-4A1F-9DED-D3C91127E5AC. ABAED5B1-3E8C-472B-8992-2884DC4AB375. E6F68496-8C3E-474A-8F63-ACA05003723C. 5799723F-ED24-4D3A-B82C-957A965CEEDC. 4554EAC2-A176-48E4-B48B-D626D826CCD0. CD494D69-EEA6-4827-A56A-A5C44A9576E0. AB65C058-717A-4B92-BFD1-6FF66CA7BDE4. E153A291-C3CD-4F88-9A31-3B35063F213D. It’s been a few days now and lot’s of time playing my Chinese bow. Why would I buy a cheap Chinese bow when I have a Horst Schicker in perfect condition? Curiosity mostly.

    While on vacation in Vegas last Oct I had a few minutes to spare and was surfing bows available on eBay. I found a nice old pernambuco German bow going for cheap. It needed a rehair and was rather worn. I sniped at the last 20 seconds but someone else was willing to pay more. So I searched ‘pernambuco hand made German bass bow’. The cheapest one that came up was $65.67us with free shipping from ‘szmusic’ out of China. I actually bought the cheapest bow on eBay that met my criteria. Just another Vegas gamble.

    To put this in context $65 is less than the last single bass string I bought, and even less than half what my wife and I paid for lunch at the Wynn hotel...

    So 6 weeks later it arrives in a card board tube covered in plastic tape, perfect condition. No import duties to be paid. I open it up and it looks really nice, has a good feel and the wood is beautiful. Is it real Brazilian pernambuco? I do not know. Maybe it is a Chinese version of pernambuco, as a Brazilian wood blank alone is $250. And the finished bow from that wood blank will probably be not as good as a Hudson or Schicker.

    In the mid ‘70 s I bought a fine new German made Horst Schicker bow from Murray Grodner. It is a beautiful bow. Re haired last year by Reid Hudson, who thought it was nice. Reid does not hand out compliments easy.

    Let’s compare the two bows. Same lengths, weight, feel. The balance point is the same. Both bows bounce nicely and are stiff. They both feel ‘good’. I play 1-3 hours a day, not including gigs or rehearsals. While practicing I often mix up the bows and forget which one I am playing, the new one is that good. The Chinese bow is octagonal the whole length while the Schicker is octagonal only at the frog. The pictures show both bows are carved nicely, with the German one marginally better. The Chinese bow is a tiny bit thicker.

    The sound produced from both bows is good.

    Some have warned that Chinese bows have poor hair and are hard to rehair. The white hair on this bow seems fine to me. Also heard the ebony frogs can be poor, even plastic. This one is ebony and just fine.

    Of course I love my Schicker bow. It’s handmade by a European craftsman, with his name on it, which I value. Unfortunately the Chinese bow loses identity and status without a craftsman’s name. The eBay ad did say the brand is Joymusic and 100% handmade by our bow master teather. The Chinese just have not figured out western marketing yet.

    The bow is very likeable though, and no regrets buying it. Kinda won this gamble.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
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  2. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Toronto
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Hey Casey,

    As someone who has only recently started trying to bow seriously, your review has me scratching my head. You've re-asked the "What's the difference between a $2,000 and a $200 bow?" question, substituted a $65 bow, and say "I often mix up the bows".

    Thanks? I think??
     
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  3. CaseyVancouver

    CaseyVancouver

    Nov 4, 2012
    I play both bows and while practicing forget which bow I’m using. (That’s a good thing, meaning both bows play well) If this did not happen the Chinese bow would not be played. That make sense?

    I also have two other bows, they do not get played.
     
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  4. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    As an owner of one of them, I guess one of the problems with an inexpensive Chinese (or wherever) bow is that there is no documentation about who really made it, who has owned and/or used it, what the real source of wood or other materials was or what techniques were used to make it. Aside from any obvious quality differences, with an expensive (and/or valuable) bow that documentation is available, there is a name behind it, and that is part of the price paid.

    All that said, the proof is in the pudding... If an inexpensive bow works for a person at their current level of technique and doesn't hold back improvement of technique, that bow is successful. The same can be said for a bass, or any instrument, or any tool for that matter.

    As someone who probably will never own, or possibly never even hold, a high quality expensive double bass bow, I thank you for your comparison work here. Given that now in retirement, I am not in training for the New York Symphony, I expect that my inexpensive Chinese bow is going to serve me well, until it doesn't, at which point I should be able to afford to replace it with another.

    I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons to purchase, own and use a fine expensive bow. Maybe the best reason to own an inexpensive Chinese bow is as a more or less replaceable (I'm avoiding the word disposable) backup for the good bow.
     
  5. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Toronto
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    It makes sense in terms of your using them both, sure. Not knowing the value of your expensive bow (but assuming it's at least 10x that of the Ebay bow - or 20x?), it's more difficult to understand why there is so little difference.

    Just saw Dhergert's post and yes pedigree / age / provenance makes a difference. But practically? If they're hard to distinguish?
     
    dhergert likes this.
  6. CaseyVancouver

    CaseyVancouver

    Nov 4, 2012
    Thanks, I edited my first post to make it a bit clearer.

    Bows are a very personal thing. A top professional orchestral bassist will have a very good idea which bow works for him, and explain why. He has to be able to bounce the bow, spiccatto and sautille accurately. Just check out David Allen Moore talk about bowing, his playing is at a level non professionals do not need to get to. Moore commissions his bows. A great player will sound good on any bow, but will definitely have his preferences.

    Perhaps part of the reason I like this Chinese bow is it is very much like my Schicker bow in weight, length and feel.

    Horst Schicker has retired from bow making but his daughter Michaela has carried on the skill. Her bass bows are priced at 3-5k. When I bought mine (Horst was a young man) there was a one year wait.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
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  7. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I have been getting these $50 Chinese carbon fiber bows from Ebay for $50. They are balanced, ebony frog, nice black hair, they have a clean but not warm sound. I ordered a new braided carbon fiber bow that should arrive today and snakewood bow that should be here soon. I am in the market for a nice bow now, but, the Chinese bows have been getting better and better.
     
  8. CaseyVancouver

    CaseyVancouver

    Nov 4, 2012
    I should also add that when I first got the bow the white hair had zero rosin on it. Bow makers often use powdered rosin to help start the hair, this one had none.

    I needed to put on sticky pops instead of my usual rosin to get much of a response. The first session or two the bow did not play great because of the new hair. This is normal for new bow hair.

    Even now I find I need to use rosin every session with this white hair, whereas the black hair can go multiple sessions without rosin. The white hair is breaking in, and getting receptive to less rosin. I have Belcanto strings on the bass.
     
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  9. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I've been using mine for almost a year now. Not that I'm any expert now, but when I first got it I knew nearly nothing about double bass bows, except that I wanted a French style bow. I guess I was lucky, I've had experienced arco players comment that they like my bow's balance and weight. I also had to use generous Pop's applications for the first week or so to start the bow.
     
  10. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    s-l400. I got this bow today. It was $110 with shipping, came in less than a week. It is balanced and responsive, lots of grip and bounce, not a bad tone, either. It is incredible for the price.
     
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  11. Anne Millington

    Anne Millington

    Dec 16, 2017
    I have a fancy "maker" bow worth a couple of thousand, and a cheaper bow worth maybe $500. The main difference between the two, other than a few cosmetic refinements, is that the maker bow stick is dead straight, while the cheaper one is warped a bit in the wrong orientation. A warped stick is considered a major flaw, by bow aficionados. That said, I much prefer the cheaper bow, at least on my present instrument. It just sounds better, and is easier to play with. I always go back to it, even though I would love to love my fancy bow in all circumstances. Performance does not lie!
     
    John Chambliss likes this.
  12. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    $500 seems to be the least amount you can spend and can get a bow that functions, and most importantly sounds, like a more expensive bow if you get lucky. I am hoping to find something over the next year like that or a bit more. I am curious to see what is up with these Chinese snakewood bows, though.

     
  13. When I got back into orchestral playing, I needed a German bow and decided to roll the dice on a no-name $100 Chinese stick on eBay. After that, I went off the deep end collecting Chinese bows, because they were so affordable: French, German, Snakewood, Pernambuco, CF, ebony frogs, horn frogs... you name it.

    The worst of the lot was a French CF stick that had awful hair and a poorly cut wedge. Others were generally quite good for the money. The hair seemed to be the most significant variable. Having only two hands, I decided to get rid of most of them a while back. Kept an Alsatian model by Vingo and the original no-name, which I probably wouldn't part with for less than $1k; it plays that well. That and a Steffan Kuhnla are the primary bows I now use.

    The best CF stick I encountered was the Ophelia braided, by Shen, which, it seems, are no longer available (or at least no longer marketed and distributed under that brand). That bow reminded me a lot of a Lothar Seifert I played back in college and (regrettably in hindsight) sold years ago.
     
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  14. what the pluck

    what the pluck Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Australia
    I blind tested a bunch of bows back to back, knowing absolutly nothing about any of them. The one that instantly felt and sounded the best was the cheapest of them all ($100) From memory there was one worth a couple of grand. The violinist at the time that I was playing with made a point of commenting the next day at a show how she could hear how much more comfortable I was with that bow. I still love it, I still knownothing about it...
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
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  15. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    What company? I'm in the market for a cheap bow...
     
  16. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Vingo bow. Put that in search. This bow performs very well. It is nice and loud, projects very well, the tone is clean and smooth, brighter than I'd like for my living room practice, for free jazz and improv concerts with a drummer it is stellar. Amazing for the price. The bounce and grip are both outstanding.
    The Snakewood bow I ordered is still hung in NY somewhere, very irritating!
     
  17. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Thanks - I'll check that out.
     
  18. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I just got this snakewood bow from Ebay, it is no name Chinese bow. It is balanced, has a beautiful tone and grip, it will be even better when I get black hair on it. They have really upped their game over there! This is a bit heavier than the braided carbon bow, but, has a warmer tone. The bounce and spiccato are great with both bows. I can't believe it. It was $129!
    s-l1600.
     
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  19. I wanna know how those sticks hold up over time.

    The humidity difference between China and North America is significant.
     
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  20. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    So do I. I was using a nice but not special old bow for years, it was light, had a big warm sound, but, the tip is now too worn out to hold a plug. It could probably be fixed. I used it for over 25 years, with the idea that I am rough on bows, so I shouldn't get a nice bow. Since I got that long out of a bow, I decided I'd just go for a nice bow. These were meant as a short term solution, while I make a decision about a nicer bow. If they hold up they may actually just be fine. both are very impressive.
     

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