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Why does everybody want to skimp on a bow?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by toman, Dec 13, 2004.

  1. A bow is not an accessory! The bow is every bit as important to your tone and playing as the bass you use it on. It boggles my mind when I see all these people who are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a bass, and then have a problem spending $500 to get a playable bow. If you gave me the option of playing a pile of crap bass with a great bow or a great bass with a lame bow, I'd take the crap bass any day! Playing a good instrument with a bad bow is a complete waste, and playing an allready questionable instrument (like a lot of us do) with a bad bow just plain sucks! And thats my rant for the day... :eyebrow:
  2. mcbosler


    May 12, 2000
    Plano, TX
    ...sounds to me like there was a specific bit of drama that prodded your post. There are more details to the story than the resulting rant, yes? Let's hear 'em.

    As far as the opinion thing goes, I feel that it's more a question of a person finding the right bow (i.e. most comfortable) for them, same as basses. So....I guess I'm agreeing with you.

    Wouldn't go so far as wishing a "pile of crap bass" on anyone, though.
  3. Nah, nothing in particular to provoke it, it's just that I see lot of people here discussing buying dirt cheap bows, and bows they've never even seen, let alone played. And in real life I see a lot of guys without a much experience having problems with their bowing and tone production because of a bow that just doesn't work. They're switching strings, getting soundpost adjustments, getting different rosin and practicing their technique six hours a day and still frustrated. And I'm not one of these guys who always looks to his gear first whenever there's a problem with my playing, but I do give the bass and bow the credit they deserve for producing my music and I realize that if they aren't working the best they can, the music I'm putting into them isn't going to sound right no matter how good (or bad) I may be.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I used a Glasser bow for years for one reason: I only used it at home for practice. I don't play classical music and no bandleader has ever asked me to play arco passages.

    This year I finally dropped 5 bills on a bow and it sounds great to me (anything would after a Glasser), even so it's definitely a luxury not a necessity for me.
  5. kontri

    kontri Guest

    Oct 5, 2002
    I totally agree on this bow matter. The bow is (for me) more important than the bass since not only is it 50% of the sound but also playes a big role when it comes to technique. F.x. spiccato!! I´m not saying that the bass isn't important, just that I feel like the bow is more a part of my body than the bass when I'm playing.

    I paid 4000 euro's for my bow (J. Poullot - www.poullot.com) and I love it. My bass cost's around 6000 euro's. At least I can now try out some basses with a real master bow and hear for real how good the instrument can sound like, if it doesn't sound good with my bow it will never.
  6. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I don't know how it works for your "average" bassist, but in my world few people have any knowledge whatsoever about the bow or how to use it. I had to drive to another city to find a guy willing to show me the ropes. To me, it still looks like a bent stick with hair hanging off of it. If I didn't know any better, I'd laugh my ass off at anyone who bragged about spending $3000 on a stick with hair hanging off it (and with what I know now, I still have reservations). Worse, you've got someone like Edgar Meyer calling his bow "$10 crap" and saying he likes the sound anyway (I sure do!).

    But yes, doing spiccato on a good bow is heaven, and having a good bow to begin with is a wonderful way to start. But you still gotta learn how to use it to make a pleasing sound and the strokes...those principles are all the same.
  7. Ben Joella

    Ben Joella Supporting Member

    May 31, 2004
    Boca Raton, FL
    In defense of the cheaper bows... They have gotten light years better over the past ten years or so. If you could take a pile of cheap bows and play them all, you could possibly walk away with a pretty decent bow now. That being said, I see an equal number of expensive bows that don't really merit the price tag. So all I can add is what others have already said.

    A bow must agree with you and your bass, $500 or $5000 that's all it has to do.
  8. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have often suggested that if money is an issue, that a student buy a good bow first. A decent bow on an average instrument is better than the reverse.
  9. Points all taken and wisdom from the experienced is appreciated. Some of us cannot afford expensive bows or expensive basses. Some of us are just testing the waters and would like to try bowing. Some may only need arco a tiny little fraction of their total playing time. Some are just learning and doing the best they can. Without an appreciation of the diversity of talkbass membership, some of the content could be insulting or offensive.
  10. kontri

    kontri Guest

    Oct 5, 2002
    Edgar Meyer has a bow that broke in two places, it's therefor worthless. It doesn't mean it can't sound good.

    Many bows are expensive because they're antique and look very good (craftmanship) that has "nothing" to do with sound. I never said that the bow had to cost alot, only that I feel it's more important than the instrument (if you play classical).

    It seems that always when I put in a comment here I get some **** thrown at me.
  11. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    No offense truly meant on my end. Besides, karma will probably sabotage me into spending $$$$$ on a bass and bow for my crimes one of these days anyway...
  12. I own a $65 dollar Glaser fiberglass, a $300 Brazilwood Ary (my daughters) and a $600 Pernambucco Siefert, and I have played all of them on the same bass with the same set up and strings.

    I can honestly say that there is a difference in sound and playability between them, yet none of them could be considered really good (professional level) bows.

    My teacher put it quite simply: a cheap bows hinders you, while a good bow helps you.

    It was just easier to get a realiable good sound, when I got my Siefert bow, and the sound that came out was smoother and more penetrating. The Brazilwood Ary just doesn't produce as smooth or strong a sound on my bass, but it was good enough that I used it in a concert when the Siefert was rehaired.

    All that said, my teacher can still make any of my bows sound much better than I can.
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I have listened to my teacher play my $300 Brazilwood bow on his bass and then switch to his $4K master pernambuco bow. Honestly, I can't tell the difference. Either is amazing.

    Granted he is quite smitten with my cheap bow. He actually chose it from a group that I was trying. But, just as you stated with your teacher, he can make about anything sound good.

    On the other hand, I can get a little better sound out of my bass with his bow. It is noticeably heavier than mine for one thing. And it's haired with dark hair.
  14. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I'll add another for myself:
    3) I don't care about arco enough to invest more money than something that would satisfy me for the time being. Some of us don't bow enough (or not at all) to warrant a $700+ bow. Bob G's specials satisfy my desire to warm up with a bow for 30 minutes-1 hour before I get down to the nitty gritty with my pizz. It already takes alot of effort to build a good physical approach towards playing pizz. Finger speed, rakes, feel, tone, efficiency, etc... that's more than enough to work beyond arco practice. Arco helps my intonation & vibrato, and that's all I want from it right now.
  15. kontri

    kontri Guest

    Oct 5, 2002
    Somone's first bow should NOT be expensive. I also understand completely that jazz players or those who are pizz players have no need for a great bow.

    For classical arco playing people I'd say:
    One really needs to learn alot about the basic bow technique and learn to play with a good sound before he/she knows what to look for in a bow...this is always a very personal matter and no one can tell you what to look for. Some players like heavy bows and others light, some play with aggressive sound and others with a smooth sound...all a matter of taste.

    I also wan't to say one thing about Edgar Meyer (since he was brought up earlier) which is one of my favourite players. His sound is optimal for him and his style, even his classical playing is effected by blue grass style. His sound would probably not get him an orchestra job even though his intonation and technique are so perfect but then again there are diffrent orchestras, some sections play with gut strings to get a very warm sound and others like the precicion with a clear and bright tone. There are so many worlds of sounds out there and there is no wrong or right but there are definitely some categories.

    I think as an jazz player one want's to have a very personal sound but for me as a classcal player going for orchestra auditions I want a sound that blends with others.

    I hope I managed to explain myself with out offending anyone.
    My opinions:
    Jazz = COOL
    Classical = COOL
    Edgar = FANTASTIC
  16. I don't know, I am quite skeptical of the idea that a bow is AS important as the bass. Very important, yes, but I can't imagine that a "stick with hair growing out of it" as someone said, can be as important as a big carved wooden chamber and the way the wood and sound interacts inside it, the bridge, soundpost, etc etc. combined. For me I can get a solid sound out of my $150 brazilwood bow. Granted I haven't played with a real nice bow, but for me I find the idea that the bow is more important, or even close is silly.
  17. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    A quick update on my bow search. I previously wrote:

    I went bow hunting for real today: after much discussion on previous visits with Gary at Stein-on-Vine here in LA I dropped in with my own bass, time to try them and money in my pocket. Gary laid out a selection around my price range and with no specific details on them I tried them for almost an hour.

    I was very surprised at how much difference there was between bows - even with my limited experience. I even found quite a difference between otherwise very similar cheaper bows: on one I preferred the feel and the other the sound.

    I had Gary play them for me too (he made them all sound great, but it reinforced my preference order).

    There was a customer in the shop that let Gary demonstrate his $3000 bow as a comparison, which gave me one more data point (phew!).

    The one I chose stood out from the others immediately (for both feel and sound) and was, of course, the most expensive, but Gary did a deal to bring it down into my price range. It's haired with a mixture of black and white hair - I'm not sure how much difference this makes, but it sounded good and played well, so no complaints.

    So I'm a happy camper - I have something that suits both me and my bass. I now highly recommend trying before buying, even if you're spending a fairly modest amount, as I was.
  18. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    Thanks for the follow up message. What is the bow you ended up with? - make, model and style (French or German)

    Cheers . . .
  19. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    It's a German style bow, and actually made in Germany - there's even a little stamp underneath, just behind the frog that says "Germany." The maker's name was not familiar, so of course I've already forgotten what it was :meh: , but I'll find out next time I'm in Stein's.

    It is a very dark Brazilwood round-stick bow, well balanced, but not overly heavy. At least I presume it's Brazilwood, at that price, but I'll check that too. The width of the hair is much wider that my cheapo stick - giving more hair 'area' on the string (the $3000 bow was slightly wider still). As mentioned above, the hair is mixed black/white, which looks kinda funky but works very well.

    Sorry to be so vague - I was so impressed with it, compared directly with the others, that there was no question but that this was 'the' bow to go with.

    A few days later and I am still as impressed, maybe more so. It's been a quiet time for work this week, so I've had plenty of time to practice with it. Two things I'm particularly struck by:

    1) I'm able to use *way* less rosin - which make the bow less grabby, while still producing a loud, even tone.

    2) It's much more responsive, so I get more feedback about what I'm doing right and wrong. This has allowed me to develop/fine-tune my technique (such that it is) more effectively.

    I'll shut up now :D
    I'll try to get more details/pictures this weekend.
  20. Why does everybody want to skimp on a bow? Probably because they wanted to skimp on the bass and everything else that expensive and are finally brought in kicking and screaming.

    Also I think identifying bow quality is trickier than the quality of the bass. Disregarding the cheapest fiberglass bows, judging bow quality gets very mirky, especially for players who are not that developed. And the ability to try a large selection of bows is very dependent on your locaton.

    I recently demo'd 8-10 bows of varying cost a the string shop and found none I liked better than my old snakewood.

    Finding the right bow has been tough for me at least. I'm hoping to get to the ISB next year and finally gain access to a large selection to try out.

    Then consider the fact that good basses have gotten relatively cheaper. I was told you can't find a "good" bass for less than 5K., Then I found my Shen. Isn't it reasonable that I might find such a deal on a bow?

    So don't take it to seriously, we cheapskates will get there. You're just noticing the "kicking and screaming" :)