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purchasing bow on teacher recommendation or try out?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by hambone1, Oct 3, 2013.


  1. hambone1

    hambone1

    Sep 13, 2006
    I was presented a bow by my teacher from a fellow player. They are both accomplished i.e. orchestra players. The bow is a chinese made snake wood bow and the asking price is $350. My teacher said it is a good bow and I played it but am a beginner so my experience is limited. He offered to let me use it for a bit....

    Based on what I've read here on Talkbass... I am not sure if $350 is fair or if I should try out some more bows in this price range or try my luck on ebay/used for a better price. The bow draws good sound and felt balanced but a bit heavy. I was alos interested in CF and Gollihur pernam. bows for instance.

    Just looking for some advice... Thanks.
     
  2. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    I would suggest that you take the bow to a reputable authority and have it evaluated and appraised.

    Hopefully your teacher is looking out for you and is offering you a good opportunity to purchase a nice bow at a fair price but in never hurts to verify.

    Most shops will allow you to make arrangements to take bows out on trial. You might consider trying out more bows before settling on this one...just a thought.

    Ebay can be a tough place to acquire a bow since you can't play before you buy- you might get lucky and wind up with a great bow cheap, but you also might waste time and money on junk...ymmv.

    I've always been happy with my dealings with the Gollihurs- you can trust them to stand behind the products the sell.

    Joe
     
    andy1357 likes this.
  3. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    UK
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    It's a tough one, but if you can get it looked a then that seems to be a good move. I bought my bow via my old teacher and it worked out great, but it all depends how well you trust him/her I guess.
     
  4. hambone1

    hambone1

    Sep 13, 2006
    thanks for the replies. My main issue is the fact that I haven't tried other bows out and don't have a point of comparison tone/feel wise.
     
  5. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    UK
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    It is really tough when theres nowhere local to try stuff. With my bow there simply wasn't anywhere in the UK that had a good selection of German pattern bows, so I just had to trust my teacher. As I say it worked out, but of course it would have been better to be able to go to a shop and try a load out.
     
  6. hambone1

    hambone1

    Sep 13, 2006
    Definitely. Well thanks for the feedback..
     
  7. Pat Harris

    Pat Harris Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2006
    Austin, TX
    "but am a beginner so my experience is limited..."

    Even if you had a lot of options, are you in a position to truly know the difference? If you trust your teacher enough to study with him/her, I'd think their recommendation ought to carry some weight. It may turn out that you get this bow, get comfortable with it, and it's your life long bow. You may want to upgrade once you get some more experience and know exactly what it is you're after.
     
  8. hambone1

    hambone1

    Sep 13, 2006
    good point. I think ultimately thats what the situation calls for.
     
  9. See if you can get a few in the same price range or cheaper on trial and compare.
     
  10. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Could someone comment on where snakewood falls in the brazilwood to pernambuco continuum?

    Thanks.

    -S-
     
  11. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    DC Bass - some ebay sellers allow returns with no questions asked for a certain period of time. It's worth looking into that aspect of a bow auction, IMHO - if they accept returns and you're willing to pay the shipping, it effectively amounts to a trial period for the bow.

    +1 on the Gollihurs - couldn't ask for better customer service as theirs is A+, IMHO.

    -S-
     
  12. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    i would not bother with ebay. if there were particular bows you wanted to try, you can usually try them for just the cost of shipping, if you make the arrangements with the shop selling it / maker, ext.

    in the price range you're at, you wont find many bows that a successful orchestra musician would tell you "this is a good bow." i would just take it on his word.. if it were a $3,000 bow, then it would be a different story.. but for a few hundred bucks i really dont think theres much to worry about.
     
  13. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Steve, Pernambuco and Brazil wood are from the same family and species of wood. "Pernambuco" is a state in Brazil, Brazil wood is often defined as a rainforest hardwood that comes from Brazil, and "Pau Brazil" (another common name for the same species) literally translates as "Brazil Stick" from Portuguese. You can have Brazil wood cut from the same tree as Pernambuco. In the bow world it is often used to describe a lesser quality of wood, that isn't the density, weight, colour, grain pattern etc. that is desired in Pernambuco.

    Snakewood is a different species. The snake scales appearance of it is often a dead giveaway, but the wood can be unfigured as well. It was used a lot in Baroque bows, and is still used in modern bows as well. It can often be stiffer, heavier, have a faster attack, and be "darker" sounding than Pernambuco. It can be the opposite as well. That comes down to the bow maker's skill and experience.

    To the OP who is looking to buy a bow: your teacher probably has your colleague's and your best interests at heart. If you feel that the Snakewood bow is too heavy, it very well could be. mention this, and see if you have any other options. This could be a very valid concern, and is often a complaint against Snakewood bows. Most of the time especially given your experience and in that price range, it is best to try a couple of bows with the imput of your teacher. If you can't get to a shop locally, see if some will send you a couple bows on trial.

    You will need an ok bow to start to really sink your teeth into arco playing. If you are serious about it, as your technique improves you will also upgrade from this bow. You might keep it as an extra or you might sell it. If you keep it in good condition, you likely aren't going to take much of a hit on it if you do sell, you might even make some money on it down the road.

    Happy shopping!
     
  14. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Mike, thank you very much.
     
  15. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    OP, I would try out a Finale carbon bow. Great reviews and at the $350 price point. www.stringemporium.com sells them.
     
  16. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Mike, could you speculate on why a bow maker, low- or high-end, might choose snakewood instead of pernambuco/brazilwood?

    Eric, I owned the $350 Finale bow for a year or two - just didn't float my boat, so I sold it, but I know some folks love them. I've never been a fan of CF bicycles, either - mine good road bike is old-fashioned steel, and I think my bows are going to be old-fashioned wood, geezer that I am. :)

    -S-
     
  17. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Understood, Steve. But, it may be a good option for the OP.
     
  18. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Eric, I agree.
     
  19. hambone1

    hambone1

    Sep 13, 2006
    Thanks for all the replies. Mike, I agree with your comments... today my teacher made sure to tell me he is not insisting on buying the snake wood bow. In fact it feels heavy to me and my hand felt fatiqued. In response I am getting some bows on trial from SW strings to try and compare. I think a medium weight bow even an entry level pernambuco may be better for me.

    Also Eric.. I know the Finale has some fans but I found the sound on the Jason Heath video to be off putting. Iknow he is comparing it with a really good bow but I am worried the Finale may sound sterile or too fundamental. But that is from my perception in that video...
     
  20. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    The short answer for why a low end bow maker would chose Snakewood is that it was used historically to great success, has many desirable qualities, looks different/flashy, is sometimes a cheaper wood, and a LOT easier to get your hands on.

    The short answer for why a high end bow maker would chose Snakewood is much the same, and the maker often decides to highlight the differences from Pernambuco.

    Pernambuco/Brazil wood has a CITES Appendix II listing, and cannot be moved across international borders as a raw material (logs, boards, bow blanks etc.) without a LOT of paperwork from the country it is leaving, and the country it is entering. There is a market for illegal wood. Pernambuco bow blanks can be legally sold for over $100 each, which is only the raw material for the stick, not the ebony for the frog, the silver and pearl etc. Keep that in mind when you see $75 bows for sale.

    Most bow makers making bows by hand are using wood they have legally obtained, and are actively involved in conservation and reforestation efforts. At the very least they are aware of how bad the situation is, and are trying to raise awareness. Like I said, this isn't cheap wood, and until reforestation efforts are proven successful and sustainable harvests can be established, Pernambuco is a finite resource.

    Many other woods have been used historically and are being used by modern makers. Each wood has slightly different characteristics. They all meet the requirement of a wood that is strong yet flexible, able to take and maintain a camber, of sufficient weight and density, and with favourable acoustic characteristics. Each individual stick is different, and the decisions makers make along the way have a hug impact on the end result, but some generalizations can be made:

    Pernambuco: Is the most well known bow wood. It has great sound, strength, flexibility, holds a curve really well, and can be made into fantastic bows.
    Brazil wood: Very similar to Pernambuco, as it comes from the same family (and often tree) In bows, it usually describes a lesser quality piece of wood and is marketed as a cheaper alternative to Pernambuco bows, but has very similar characteristics.
    Snakewood: The wood is often quite dark in colour, and looks like it has snake scales. The bows often have a quick attack to them, and a focused sound, without a lot of high overtones. Some people love this, some people don’t; it works really well with some basses, and doesn’t with others.
    Amourette: is also Snakewood, however it doesn’t have the scale-like appearance. It plays very similar to Snakewood. Both are often characterized as being heavier than Pernambuco, but that depends largely on the graduation process when making the bow.
    Ironwood: A dark wood that is a little less dense than Snakewood/Amourette. It can have more high overtones, and a bit brighter sound, and is really focused. Max Kasper is a Canadian maker that has had great success with Ironwood, and Joel Quarrington was/(probably still is) using his Ironwood bows exclusively
    Wamara: Lighter in colour and density than Ironwood. It plays pretty similar to Ironwood, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with it to comment.
    Bloodwood: Before nitric and French polish, (two finishing methods applied to bows when they are being made) Bloodwood is very RED in colour, but looks pretty similar to Pernambuco when finished. It plays quite similar to Pernambuco, is very lively, and a great wood. It isn't as nice of a wood to work with as Pernambuco when making, and is really tough on tools.
    Massaranduba: Is slightly heavier than Pernambuco, and has pretty similar playing characteristics. I have heard it referred to as "predictable" but not in a bad way.

    There are a TON of other species that have been used historically, and that modern makers are using now as well. Purpleheart, Ipe, Hakia, Bulletwood, Beefwood, etc. Several also suffer from inconsistent naming, as they are rain forest hardwoods that are being translated from many different languages, and bow makers/woodworkers often have conflicting names for the woods as well, just to keep you guessing.

    In a nutshell, just like there are tons of different models of basses made of different woods in different shapes and sizes, there are a lot of variables in bows. Personal preference plays a large role in bow selection but generally speaking it comes down to finding something that works for the individual player. If that is a different species of wood, that doesn't make it a better or worse bow.

    I know there are much more knowledgeable people with much more information than I have provided. I feel like this "tip of the iceberg" helps though, considering it wasn't until I really started getting interested in bows myself that I found out there were options.
     

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