1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Switch from French to German Bow

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by bdengler, Apr 22, 2001.

  1. bdengler


    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    I don't want to get into the debate of which bow is better, but has anyone switched from German Bow to French, and, if so, why?
  2. Brian,

    When I started playing again two years ago, I used a German bow. After about a year, I started feeling the beginnings of shoulder pain. I immediately changed to a French bow. I have not had the pain since. My teacher had had to change from French to German for the same reason only it was elbow pain.

    Wheather it is French or German, I have found that proper bowing technique is difficult. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.

  3. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I switched from french to german due to chronic hand pain. My teachers said my hold was proper, but it still hurt. There is no better bow than the one that allows you to reach your full potential, whichever it is.
  4. I don't know if anyone's still reading this one, but I thought I'd add to it, since I've switched from French to German to back again and have thoughts about both and the switch both ways.

    When I first started playing French was pretty much the generic option - I don't think the store I rented from even had a German bow. So I stuck with it, but after years of trying to get sound from crappy plywood basses I ran into hand/wrist problems. Around the same time was when Cleveland (*finally*) got Maximillian Dimoff for their principal, who is of course a German bow player. I was inspired. So since I was in college with a menagerie of instrument bows to borrow, I decided to switch to German and really liked it, I think because of how it allowed me to lay into the string and immediately resolved my pain issues. I even got a $1200 Seifert bow. Despite excellent tone and less tension, I was having a dickens of a time with articulation, and I don't think I ever learned how to spiccato with the German.

    Then, when I was hurrying to get out of a bus because I was late for class, the clasp on the strap for my bow case broke and I was too busy to even notice it. By the time I realized I was bowless, the bus was long gone and I never got the bow back. This was one of many ingredients for a long hiatus, which ended about a year ago.

    I found a French bow on an online auction, lucked out and got a good one, and specifically concentrated on the Bottesini method of bow handling with my teacher. It basically involves making sure that there is *zero* bow hand tension. I mean none, no matter the stroke - if you relaxed any more, you'd drop it. I've had much more success this way than with either bow previously. In all fairness I'll say that I've never had a teacher with much experience on German, and so I just may have never learned it properly. Having a bass with a solid top and good projection helps too. I think a lot of people try to switch bows when the issue is actually fighting a tonally dead bass. Or else just not dealing with hand tension until it's too late.
  5. i never swiched but ive played french before and if you are going to be playing more jazz i would play french but i prefer german for clasical
  6. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Schlomo, is there a book that discusses the Bottesini technique you mentioned? Or is this all from your teacher?

    If the latter, may I ask who your teacher is?

    One of my biggest technique problems is too much tension in my right hand (I also play French bow). My other biggest problem is too much tension in my left hand. Oddly enough, they're related. Certainly not my teacher's fault - he just didn't get to me in time, so he's been trying to help me reverse decades of ingrained bad habits...
  7. alavakian


    Mar 12, 2002
    SF Bay area
    When I was in school it was required that we learn both German (Fred Zimmerman) and French (Anselme Fortier) bows. I started with German and
    somewhat rebelled against the French, but now due to acute arthritis condition I play the French bow German style and it works out okay. If I can only find a German bow with a narrow frog I'd be happy. LowJoe.
  8. Huh?!?!?
    Isn't Mr Dimof playing on French bow?

    I find that being able to play both helps you solve problems. Can't do something in your bow technique? Try the other bow type for a few minutes. The way you use the arm and hand is SOOO different for each that your problem will either be exaggerated of fixed when you switch bows for a moment, so the problem will be highlighted when you pick up your preferred bow.

    I find that the bows lend themselves to two very different styles, too.
    French bow is good for sustaining sounds and legato, lyrical playing (Vanillacreme; Stokowski, Debussy; Cleveland).
    German is good for articulate and strong playing (Chocolate; Brahms, Beethoven; L.A. or Chicago).
    Both bow can cross over to a point, and a "professional" can do it all with either, but the above is what the bows are best at.
  9. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    It may be very different today, but not too many years ago, there weren't more than one or two German bow players in the Chicago Symphony. Growing up and watching Guastafeste, Benfield, and others, I always thought of the CSO bassists as a French bow section, with the exception of Jim Vrhel.

    Even before that (pre WWII), the CSO was once supposedly all German bow players, not because the section members wanted to play German, but because of the principal's feelings on that score. But that was way before you were born, Karl...

    Vrhel retired some years ago, but I think Steve Lester now plays German. Very possibly others do too, but Joe G. still plays French, as do Mark Kramer, Joe DiBello, and others.
  10. i think that for some the urge to play a german comes from feelings of inadiquicies about either themseles or playing styles and technique. the german bow is bigger and is also not usualy introduced to a new player first like the french bow(most people learn french first and a german bow is intriguing to a new bassist). I think in some casses this can subconsiously distract some players to the simple fact that both bows can most deffinatley create the sound that the player is looking for. not to say they don't have any differences, but hey if you go by bigger bow meaner sound, little(french) bow little wimpy slow boring sound. then you have never seen or heard someone play a french bow correctly.;)

    french rules german droooles
  11. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    What are you, 15 years old? At least learn how to begin sentences (hint: they usually start with capital letters, contrary to what the fIeLdY fans think), and if you are going to make fun of people, spell your insults right. What is that e in droooles for? I understand the extra o for emphasis....

  12. you sure seem like a real unhappy person

    im sorry you seem to be upset about other things im sorry my post made you so upset

    lets all be friends here
  13. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    It's humor. Hang out here and you will start to understand. I answered your PM thusly.

  14. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    It's "whoa", not woah. Being married to a 9th grade English teacher will make pointing these things out so much fun.:D
  15. I think that most people start with French just because schools and "Music Stores" only know about French model 'cuase it looks like what all the other fiddles play.' And because Stodgey People say "To Play In My Section You Must Play French."

    I prefer to start beginners with German. It's much easier on the right hand, it's easier to teach the use of arm weight, instead of a "grip", and the exaggerated arm motion of German bow requires students to learn much more about the use of the arm and string contact points.

    Transfer to French is much easier than starting on French and trying German.
    French bow requires so much "getting out of the way" and trying to relax the hand at the same time you want the hand and fingers to perform all these tiny little mechanical intricasies...
    It's a better process to get the French bow intricasies *after* learning German.

    With French bow you have to fight the tendency to "Grip" and you actually fight gravity by "holding" with the hand and fingers, while trying to harness gravity with the arm and back.

    For German, all the fingers, arm and back simply harness gravity and let the bow do the work. That's why I think it's better to start with German, then decide later what style you want to play and what bow you want to play.

    Back At You LemonFluff-the-pillow, German players "drool" over their own powerful bow choice, French players "rule" thier little pinky-raising, fuzzy-bowing kingdom... they can have it! :rolleyes:
  16. I am confident in my French technique mainly because i am at a point in which a full concert , even with...Brahms , persay , Does not cause any pain in my right hand....(left hand is another story...
  17. Yeah, just wanted to confirm Max plays french...real goofy, sloppy looking grip, but he does wonders with it.
  18. Dimoff

    Dimoff Guest

    Mar 21, 2004
    I'll keep working on it!!
  19. Mr. Dimoff,
    I hear you mentioned my previous post in class this week. I really hope I didn't offend you. Kevin had to illuminate me concerning the fact that your grip is actually part of a whole school of french grip that I had never seen before. (At least that's how I understood it...please tell me if I'm wong).

    Thanks for understanding and I look forward to meeting with you my first chance to visit the campus during the academic year.

    And to clarify...I studied with Kevin several summers ago and am the one who asked about the Ulysses S. Grant Head on your bass at Blossom.
  20. Did you join TB just to reply to my post? I feel honored!

Share This Page