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What characteristics make for a good bow?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by grackle, Oct 28, 2002.

  1. grackle


    Sep 27, 2002
    Washington, D.C.
    What characteristics make for a good bow? In other words, what makes a bow particularly 'playable'?

    For example, it seems to me that a number of factors that add to the price of a bow, such as precious metals and ornamental detail on the frog, would mostly affect appearance and not playability.
  2. Buying a good bow is a very personal thing. It has to feel good in your hand, pull the sound your looking for and play the way you like, or rather do what you want it to do as easily as possible. The things are generally affected by the wood (buy a pernambuco bow if you can), it's density, flexibility, the balance, and the artfulness of the bow maker.

    Some people want a light bow, some heavy, bright/dark, some like a heavy tip, others light, etc.

    You should have an idea of what it is you don't like about your current bow before buying a new one, if this is your first ask your teacher for help. Define a price range you'll stick to and try as many bows as possible in that price range.
  3. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    You'll want something with a relatively straight stick (ie. one that doesn't bend right or left), something that isn't too heavy (around 140 grams) and has quality hair (Russian/Siberian, or at least something that doesn't break constantly). As for material, you won't find a new pernambuco that's less than $300 unless you're lucky; most of these are going to be brazilwood or composite (a mix of graphite and fiberglass). The ornamental details (silver and pearl/abalone lapping, leather/snakeskin grip, parisian eye etc.) don't have any effect on playability other than to perhaps balance a heavy tip, and for the bowmaker to show off his/her skill.

    Wood bows exhibit noticeable variability in terms of tension and balance, and you may need to try several to get one that's right for you and your bass. If you want something that's more consistent than wood, there's no harm in going with a composite bow. In addition to their consistency, they're more durable than wooden bows.

    I'd second David's recommendation to go bow shopping with an instructor.

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