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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. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Personally, I wouldn't suggest a Snakewood bow as a "first" bow. Once you have developed bow technique and figured out what works for you, and your instrument and what short comings you are looking to overcome with the tools you are using, that is when I would look at different woods.

    At this point, find a wood stick that feels good to you and your teacher, and get playing. When you have developed a taste for what you are looking for and the technique to get you there, then you can start to venture into more unknown territory.
     
  2. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I was going to ask you if _you_ were a bow maker, Mike - you certainly know _way_ more than I do. That was very helpful and I thank you for taking the time to post it.

    And, of course, I wholeheartedly second your idea that others with additional information and insights could add to the thread.

    I'll also raise one specific point - you mention that some bows have more high overtone in their sound than others. That's an interesting point; more, I know, isn't necessarily better, although all other things being equal, you'd think it would be. The "more or less high overtones" subject would be interesting in terms of basses as well as bows, and the pairings therein, e.g., would you want a bow that brought out more high overtones with a bass that did the same?

    I know I'm rambling but, hey, that won't stop me. :)

    I recently switched from my carved Eberle to a plywood bass, and the difference in sound, in a nutshell, is that the plywood bass does a significantly better job supplying the fundamental and low partials, especially on the lowest strings, while the carved bass brings out higher partials but lacks bottom. Such is life in the world of inexpensive basses - you can't get everything, or even both those two qualities, without paying more money than I have.

    The idea of matching bows to the limitations of the bass is interesting - I suspect that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and probably one needs to go with a bow that doesn't bring out a lot of high overtones for a bass that doesn't have them to begin with, and vice versa - you have to match what you have, and not try to compensate for what you don't have, in your instrument when choosing a bow.

    Again, forgive the ramble. I'm sure my logic is full of flaws but I'm interested in your comments or anyone else's on the subject of matching bow and bass.

    Thanks again.

    -S-
     
  3. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Maybe Steve will send one on trial. I think it will be difficult to find a wood bow at that price point that balances/plays like the good carbon bows. The sound is another matter, but I would get one in your hands before you dismiss it.

    Also, if you can hear a many $1000s difference between the Finale and Bryant bow in the string emporium video, you've got better ears than I!
     
  4. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I have had the opportunity to play some pretty great bows. I spend a few weeks with Joel Quarrington at Orford. He was playing an Ironwood Max Kasper at the time, there was a Snakewood Bernard Walke (previously Joel's) and a couple of other "alternative" woods present. I wasn't really aware of anything other than Pernambuco, and I knew very little about bows. I learned a lot at Orford, I ended up purchasing an early Max Kasper Snakewood bow that became available, and that really cemented my interest in bows. Max works exclusively in woods other than Pernambuco, and has a pretty large following here in Canada.

    I have studied bow making and repair with Lynn Armour Hannings for several years through the University of New Hampshire Violin Craftsmanship Institute. I have made bows and would like to continue to study them. I feel like I have started the lifelong journey towards being a bow maker. Much like bass playing, it is a big part of my life, but doesn't pay the bills. I have personally worked in Ipe and Pernambuco, and have a couple of other woods that I haven't completed bows from at this point.

    I would compare changing bows to changing strings, which is something a lot of bassists are much more familiar with. Just like a different set of strings, bows can feel, respond and sound significantly different on your bass. For example: Obligatos on my bass cut the volume in half, where Permanents make it sound like a cannon. Bows can have a similar effect. I have played really fantastic bows that do not work with my instrument, and owned a cheap Pernambuco French bow that I wish I had never parted with.

    When bow shopping most of us have a couple of requirements in mind largely because of the shortcomings of our current equipment. Although upgrading is often the reason, the requirements tend to be things like better response, dynamic contrast, different acoustic colours, more focus, better weight/balance etc. The maker, the individual piece of wood, (regardless to species) your instrument, preferences, and budget, along with a couple other factors all come in to play. You can usually find a bow that meets most of your requirements. Sometimes different woods can be a part of that journey. If you are really lucky, you might find the one that has everything you are looking for. If you can afford it, buy it and don't look back.

    I think one of the big problems is that a lot of players know very little about the tools they use. I will likely never play D'Addario double bass strings again, because I have had a couple of bad personal experiences. I know people that love them. Few players know much about bow woods, but they have likely heard a story about how Snakewood is too heavy, Brazil wood is cheap, Carbon Fibre sounds sterile and lifeless, and if it isn't Pernambuco it's crap. Like strings, a lot of decisions are made before people really give the bow a chance. I have shown an Ipe bow to players who will give an honest opinion of the bow before they find out it is Ipe. If I tell them it's Ipe before they play it, they usually ask me if that's the same wood their deck is made out of, and have decided it's a horrible bow before it even hits the string.

    Experiment, learn, and be open minded. Give a bow a chance before you make a decision based entirely on the wood it is made out of. Emile Auguste Ouchard used Bloodwood, Amourette and Pernambuco to the best of my knowledge, and could have also used others. Several other master bow makers have used "alternative woods" (a term I despise) as well. Just like there are different flavours of ice cream beyond vanilla, there are different bow woods out there. Quit being so vanilla and explore! :bassist:
     
  5. stringmom

    stringmom

    Nov 18, 2013
    I'm in a somewhat similar position to OP, but a step removed, as my kids play music, and I'm just the driver. My daughter is moving up to a 3/4 size instrument, so also needs a new bow. Her teacher recommended carbon fiber in general and the Metropolitan ($800) or Arcus Concerto ($3000) specifically. She loves the bass like crazy, and she's very good, but she's also only 12, and she's not amazing-prodigy-very-good, just regular-very-good (principal in youth orchestra, but it's a small pond). So...do I trust her teacher and go for an $800 bow for a 12-yr-old? Or are there more reasonable options? I get the sense from online research that anything under $1000 is considered "cheap" and I do want her to have a good bow, but...hesitating. Advice?
     
  6. GrowlerBox

    GrowlerBox

    Feb 10, 2010
    Nude Zealand
    FWIW I think you're right to hesitate -- at 12, whatever she starts using now, she's going to want to move on from in a few years ... kids, right? I've been considering CF bows myself, have read all I can here on the subject, and think that a Finale is probably a lot of bow for the money (~$350 -- the String Emporium does them with a case and rosin for around that). Eric Hochberg (posted earlier) often recommends them, and he's always worth listening to.

    The video cited earlier is worth watching -- with good studio headphones, there is clearly a difference between the Finale and the bow worth 10-15 times as much, but for all that, the Finale seems to draw a nice clear tone with enough going on to keep it interesting, and is reputedly a well-balanced and easy playing bow with consistent quality of manufacture.

    I think I've almost talked myself into it!
     
  7. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    "Online research" can be very misleading.

    Where are you located? Knowing if you are in Southern Ontario, New York City, Rural Scotland, etc. helps us direct you towards shops and options.
    What is your budget? Regardless to what your teacher suggests, this has to be taken into consideration.
    What are your daughters goals and where do you see her bass playing career leading?

    Going into this almost blind, I will do a little bit of myth busting. You can get plenty of bow for $800. There are people going through college/university on bows cheaper than that. You can purchase professional bows for $3 000. There are plenty of professional players playing on bows they paid less than that for.

    Carbon Fibre can be great, and takes the guess work out of bow shopping. Metropolitan's are pretty well regarded around here, and one could take her through high school. Depending on what she plans on doing with bass, she could use it for the rest of her career. I would not suggest the Arcus Concerto. I haven't played one, but that is professional bow money. Unless your daughter is amazing-prodigy-very-good and going to Curtis in a year or two, she doesn't need a professional bow.

    To give you a bit of a more realistic frame of reference:
    Cheap bows: the Fibreglass Glassers, and most wood bows under $150.
    $200-500 gets you a factory bow that is "worth" rehairing. This is a good range for students starting to get serious about bass playing, and players who don't do a lot of bow work but want something that will do the job. Depending on your goals and style of music, you might never need anything more.
    $500-1 000 Gets you a factory bow that is usually a better piece of wood. It should also be better balanced/cambered, mounted in Silver instead of Nickel-Silver, and play better than a $200 bow. There are a lot of people that stop in this price range who are playing in community orchestras, going through college/university etc.
    $1 000-1 500 This is typically high end factory bows, with a lot of attention to detail. They are well made, play great, sound great, and you can do a lot with them.
    $1 500-8 000 This is pretty much the range of contemporary professional bow makers. Serious amateurs, university/conservatory performance students, and professional players alike can all be found in here. You can spend your entire career on a bow at the low end of this spectrum, and be very happy.
    $8 000+ You can find some in the $1 500-8 000 range for sure, but pretty much anything in this range is going to be by an older (dead) French, English, or German master. You are paying for the name on the stick, amazing craftsmanship, and the fact that there are only a finite number of them in existence.

    If you are located within driving distance of a good shop, I would suggest going there and spending some time looking at bows. Talk to your teacher, mention your budget and that you are open to upgrading in the future, and see what they say. If they are available, most teachers would come along to help if you buy them lunch that day.

    My price ranges are pretty broad. There can be a noticeable difference between a $500, $750 and $1 000 bow, but I feel like the broad generalizations I am dangerously making apply. I know some people would disagree with my price ranges, and I know some people who are playing on bows significantly more/less expensive than the above who are very happy with them. My guess is your daughter would benefit from a bow in the $200-500, range. Regardless, her needs and preferences will change as she develops as a player (has nothing to do with being a kid Growler) and you can always upgrade.
     
  8. stringmom

    stringmom

    Nov 18, 2013
    Thanks, Mike, you are one thorough question answerer! Yes, online research is trouble, agreed. The other dumb thing I'm doing is trying to make the bow a Christmas gift, so there's no trying it out. On the other hand, there are no bass shops for hours from here, so there's normally no trying it out. (She could try lots of cello bows....). I think that's one reason the teacher recommended CF, because it lowers the probability of surprise. As to what she'll do w/bass...she's 12, so, hard to know. Her teacher says she'll be playing regional festivals in a couple years, and will be a good candidate for college scholarships. I expect she'll play through college, and beyond, although I don't expect her to go to a conservatory and make her living from it. But, who knows? Not I. We try to buy stuff that will last a while, and several people on this (or another?) forum noted they keep a Metropolitan as their back-up, so I thought that one could last her forever, in that if she wants/needs something that she picks out in college, then the Metropolitan would continue as backup. But as you can plainly see, I have no idea how to even imagine this, being a policy wonk myself.
     
  9. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Not everyone likes carbon fiber. As I've mentioned before, I had the Finale and just found it cold somehow. I know the Finale is better than a $200 wooden bow but I'll take the $200 wooden bow any time.

    You have lots of choices, and I can tell you as both a professional musician and the parent of a college music student that there's no way I'd spend $3k on a bow for a 12-year-old unless, well, you know.

    I'll tell you my own bottom line - can you or your child hear the difference? There's not a lot of point in spending $3k if it sounds the same as $800, and not a lot of point in spending $800 if a $250 wooden bow sounds and feels just as good.

    A story from youth as a college classical guitar major - I went to a store that sold only high-end classical guitars, and spent a couple of _days_ going through the store, playing everything that was under the top $$$ figure my Dad had given the owner. This was 1972, mind you. I knew nothing of prices. And it's funny you mention $800 and $3k, because the two guitars I ended up deciding between were priced at exactly those two figures. I ended up picking the $800 guitar.

    Best of luck to you.

    -S-
     
  10. stringmom

    stringmom

    Nov 18, 2013
    I should say that the 3k is not at all being considered. I'm not sure it was a real recommendation -- might have been meant to give context? The 800 is possible, especially if seen as lasting forever, but would be a very big present, and there's still the new instrument to find and acquire.... So 300 would be good -- I'll check out this Finale. Thank you!
     
  11. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Go to a store, or order online somewhere with return privileges, and also try a $300 wooden bow. Gollihur sells a $150 and a $250 wooden bow that are both on my list to try sometime.

    -S-
     
  12. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Carbon fibre bows can be "forever" bows. A $300 wooden bow that is properly cared for can be too. Many of the most sought after bows are old French, German and English bows from around 100 years ago that have been played everyday since then, and are still going strong. A lot of players like to have a cheaper bow that they aren't overly attached to for things like bar gigs, outdoor festivals, and other situations where they wouldn't want to risk damage to their better bow.

    Carbon fibre bows are "perfect" in that the weight/balance/camber are identical on each bow. It does take the guess work away, but the most common critique is that they don't have the "soul" and "depth" of wooden bows. You have a bunch of options here too, as the Metropolitan and Finale that have been mentioned are pretty good, but Codabows and Glasser also make some decent models as well. With a wood bow, you do run the chance of getting a lemon. If you are purchasing from a respected shop, you greatly decrease that chance in any price range. They are also much more personal, in that they can have characteristics that I would love, and your daughter would hate.

    It is pretty common for bows in this price range to be purchased unseen. If you haven't already, I would strongly recommend establishing a relationship with a local luthier and/or bow maker for the sake of repairs and rehairs. Bows and instruments can be shipped, but having someone local really cuts down on the time and expense of shipping.

    As you have chosen not to disclose a location, I'm going to take a stab and assume that you are in North America... somewhere.

    Gollihur Music is a great place, and they also have a directory on their webpage http://www.gollihurmusic.com/luthiers.cfm where you can take a look and see if there is a shop or a luthier close to you. They also ship anywhere. Upton, David Gage, Kolstein, Lemur, the Bass Cellar, Heinl's or The Sound Post here in Canada all ship just about anywhere too.

    Don't be afraid of wood. "Worst case scenario" if you purchase a bow from a reputable shop, you will get something that doesn't sound/play quite as well as something else in that price range. As previously mentioned, she will likely want/need to upgrade eventually. That would be a great time to get a few shipped to you on trial, and demo them.

    Or, one of those Christmas presents where you wrap up her old bass/bow and put a card with it saying "We're going on a road trip to ___ to try some basses/bows" would be a great idea. It could lead to some quality bonding time, and you could make a girl's weekend out of it and do some other exciting things as well. Go see a Symphony performance, (most have cheap tickets for young people) or go to a spa, or see some monster trucks because %(#& "girl's weekend" stereotypes.
     
  13. fatgoogle

    fatgoogle

    Jun 15, 2008
    I wouldn't really go by price. It can be a rough way to estimate how good a bow will be but you never know. Travel to a shop, ask to try all the bows in your price range but dont ask how much, for some people it's too much of a factor i've found. Your favourite bow that works best might cost €50 or it might cost €4000. You don't know yet.

    I tried about 30 bows over the summer, some very expensive, some very cheap. I picked the one that i liked best. Some of the more expensive bows i found absolutely horrible and some of them were really good. I spent €1800 on a very old french bow that is quite short and ugly and not at all what i imagines myself coming home with, after trying everything from 800-4500. Even some byrants didnt float my boat.

    Also everything mike is saying seems spot on.
     
  14. GrowlerBox

    GrowlerBox

    Feb 10, 2010
    Nude Zealand
    This is, of course, true. Nevertheless, your bow-related posts here and in other threads have been very useful/helpful. I'm not sure where stringmom resides, but here in NZ, there are very few opportunities to try bows -- I purchased the only German bow in the capital city a couple years back (maybe another has turned up in the meantime!). Online research is close to the only option, and the apparent consistency of synthetic bows makes them a reasonably safe option for online purchase.

    Musical and technical development aside, the drive to abandon the symbols and accoutrements of the past has very much to do with being a kid -- I was a resident in child psychiatry for some years, and in sharp distinction with my capacities as a bassist, I'm not an amateur in that field ;).
     
  15. fatgoogle

    fatgoogle

    Jun 15, 2008
    If you want to try out a lot of bows you'll need to spend something on travel. I payed for a couple of flights to find my bow. It was worth it.
     
  16. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    In a different situation, I would completely agree with not looking at prices. When your budget is higher than $500, it definitely makes sense to look at stuff below your price range. You can find some pretty great gems that are priced significantly lower than expected. Below $500, 9 times out of 10, you are getting "what you pay for". At the upper end of the market, you are almost exclusively paying for the name on the stick. Quite often that name absolutely corresponds with a fantastic bow. Whether or not that bow is something you personally like is another matter all together. Personal preferences become a huge factor at this point, although there definitely are some lemons.

    I also agree that when you reach a certain point in your bass playing career, you will need a selection of bows to make an informed choice. It completely makes sense to travel when bass shopping, but I would argue that it isn't completely necessary for bows. On one of my last bow hunts I made a couple of phone calls and coordinated trial dates so I had 9 bows by four makers who's work I was interested in shipped to me. I played them side by side for a week in lessons, rehearsals and private practice, and made an informed decision with a pretty wide selection available to me. The insurance and return costs for the bows I did not purchase was significantly cheaper than flying to a large shop, and I got to use my own bass on my own terms to demo them.

    Growler, I absolutely agree with your statement that "the drive to abandon the symbols and accoutrements of the past has very much to do with being a kid" and would not question your qualifications to make such a statement at all. If I was purchasing a bass in the same price range now instead of when I was a teenager, I would make different choices. I was merely stating that as you develop as a bassist, your needs and preferences change. If you start playing bass at 40, you can still "outgrow" a bow. In the case of a 12 year old who is still developing as a person and a bassist, upgrading down the road could both let her get rid of a symbol of her youth, and allow her to find a bow that better suits her current needs. That sounds like an all around win-win situation to me.
     
  17. GrowlerBox

    GrowlerBox

    Feb 10, 2010
    Nude Zealand
    No argument here, Mike -- thanks again for an informed and informative post. :)
     

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