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!  

Why learn both bows?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by emilio g, Mar 13, 2010.

  1. emilio g

    emilio g

    Jul 16, 2008
    Jersey City, NJ
    Does playing the "other" bow help your playing overall. How so?
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I did my bachelors degree on German and Masters on French. I'm very clear on which one I like better. It's also handy to be able to competently teach both.
  3. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
  4. + 1 for teaching too. Also, if you think you will be a teacher some day then learn to play piano as second instrument so that you can accompany your students. That is my main regret after many years of teaching bass - I preferred sport to piano lessons when I had the chance!!


  5. This sums it up. I studied both bows and use both grips. It can also be nice when you get a one off with a great player, you can just bring the bow they play. I favor the German but when I took lessons with Joëlle Léandre I brought the French bow, for example.
  6. you tease!

  7. El Chupacabra

    El Chupacabra

    Apr 7, 2010
    As a very new bassist (less than a year), I don't have a favorite yet. I've been learning easy film scores and such on my own with both bows. I think its good to just have an idea of how to play with either bow. I like the power and projection from the German bow but I like the control I have with the French. And yes I'm gripping them correctly, I checked.
  8. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Also, learning both will keep you from being sucked into stupid opinions about the "other kind of bow."

    Having gone to university in Toronto, there was, and sometimes still is, a definite hate-on against German bows there (it depends on the age of the person you're talking to). It was a carry over from the opinions in Philadelphia where my teacher went to school.

    I got a bachelors and a "private masters" on French. I now play German as I find it is more comfortable for my thumb. But I don't find they feel or sound any different.
  9. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I'm going to post a slightly dissenting opinion.

    I started playing one bow (we'll call it 'A'), then switched to the other ('B') in high school, to match my teacher. In college, my teacher played 'A', and I eventually switched. I now am a fairly dedicated 'A' bow player.

    Looking back, I learned virtually nothing during the time I played the 'B' bow that I couldn't have learned had I continued to play the 'A' bow (apart from the techniques needed to play the 'B' bow itself).

    I did, however, expend a considerable amount of energy learning the 'B' bowing technique (remember how hard it is to get your bow grip and strokes right?). When I switched back, I expended another, similar amount of energy re-learning the 'A' bow (I had not been an accomplished 'A' bow player when I began learning 'B').

    That energy would probably have been more profitably directed into other aspects of my playing, or a greater mastery of 'A' bow from the beginning.

    The only exception I see to this was that I did benefit from playing the same bow as my teacher, but since I was not a music student (for long), I did not choose a university based on the bow played by the instructor there.
  10. Mixmasta J

    Mixmasta J

    Dec 4, 2004
    I see where you are coming from, but at the same time, I have played a different grip from my teacher and learned just as well. All of the concepts of sound production are essentially the same.

    Also, I think that if a student has huge problems with one type of grip, it might just be easier to start them on the other bow with proper technique than take the time and strain to fix the original technique. I think this is a good priority for teachers.
  11. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I agree that one can learn many things without playing the same bow grip as one's teacher, but I've learned over years of playing that fine details in one's bow grip can have big influences one one's technique. Working out problems like that can be hard, if your mentor doesn't use the same grip.

    I definitely, definitely agree that one should try both bows before settling on one, given the chance! But that's different from devoting time and energy to mastering both before choosing.

    The main point I'm making is that I think I'd probably be a stronger bassist if I had not spent time switching back and forth and instead focused on fixing the problems I had with the bow grip I had.

    To help clarify my perspective, I'm a purely classical player and I spend the vast majority of my playing time using the bow.
  12. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    There is certainly value in learning both, but there is a practical element to consider. Bows are expensive, and finding the right bow for you is a challenge even aside from cost issues. If you have say $1500 available, you'd do much better to put it all into one bow you really like than to buy two marginal $750 bows. As a student I badly underestimated the importance of having top quality gear. When I finally did go out and drop $2k on a really good bow, I think using it for three months did more for my playing than some whole years of lessons.
  13. JC Mags

    JC Mags

    Jan 2, 2002
    I was playing on a german since i started out. Just last year, I studied bass under David Potts for a couple of sessions. When I got back in Manila, i started getting really comfortable with the French. Getting to know the pros and cons of both bows helped me choose which one to use on specific pieces. plus i have 2 students, one on german bow and one on french bow :D really helps in teaching when you know both :)

    *side note*
    Thanks David for the lessons and the experience you shared with me in my stay in Sydney :D hope to visit you again soon :D

    JC Magsalin
    Manila, Philippines :D
  14. Elrend


    Feb 24, 2008
    Why not?
  15. St-Teddy-Hall


    Dec 30, 2008
    Is it hard to learn the other once you've started? I can't imagine really playing proficiently utilizing German bow. Can't even figure out the bow-hold, but maybe it's just cos I'm a snugglemuffin...
  16. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    They're different enough that knowing one won't confuse you with the other, so the answer to your question is basically, "How hard was it to learn German bow?" It will be the same difficulty (roughly) to learn French bow. A few basic bowing principles translate, but the bow hold, which is very important to getting the right sound and articulation, is totally different.

    The point I'm trying to make is that to learn either bow - I mean really, really learn it, so you've got great technique on either one, takes a lot of effort. I'm not against fooling around with both, as I've obviously switched back and forth and occasionally pick up the other bow for a minute or two here and there.

    Perhaps the confusion is in the degree of commitment that people imply when they say "learn both bows". For me, to learn a bow is a big commitment, that might fall short of mastery, but it takes months of practice, at least.

    Other people may be happy simply being shown the grip and playing for an hour or so, and in that case, I encourage people to play around with both.
  17. Blakewdm


    Jun 17, 2008
    I don't think that being a skilled individual at any specific type of bow would effect you. There are successful players on both bows obviously, but, I believed that is a direct result of skilled players passing on their experienced knowledge. Learn the other bow type for fun, but when it comes down to getting a gig it would be wise to focus on one type,until one has a little more financial stability.
  18. mdwallace


    Apr 1, 2010
    New York City
    I don't think we should worry so much about identifying ourselves in one category or the other. Rather, listen to which bow suits us best at specific points in our lives. This can and will change as our bodies, minds, and pool-of-experience develop and grow.

    I started with the French-bow as I'd been a cellist before I started bass. When I got to conservatory I had difficulty getting rid of the tension in my body which stemmed from my tense use of the French-bow, after a few months of struggle, I tried holding the bow underhand, and all of that tension immediately disappeared. My decision was made for me, I found I could get twice the sound with a tenth the effort.

    After ten years of playing German bow, I have spent the last two months playing only French-bow. I was having a problem with the rhomboid muscle in my back, probably from extra reaching with the German bow for many hours of practicing and working, plus I have mild scoliosis. After a month of intense pain, spasms, etc, I came across my old French-bow and decided to give it a try. Not only was the rhomboid muscle relieved of its' stress, but playing with the French-bow felt natural and easy.

    Having played French-bow again for 6-8 hours a day for 2 months, still no tension problems that plagued my teen years. I am getting more power and tone than I ever did with the German bow. Things I couldn't do with the French-bow 10 years ago, regardless of how hard I tried, I can now do with no effort. I think this is because of the experience of playing with great French-bow players, plus hearing, watching, and playing with some of the best violinists, violists, and cellists alive today. There is a certain amount of learning by osmosis of just being around great players. Also, when something is new you generally focus better and experiment more.

    If you're struggling with a passage with the French-bow, it might be worth it to try working on it with German-bow, and vice-versa. Although you may not be aware of exactly what the problem is, switching will eliminate the problem you had with the first bow, showing you, even if subconsciously, how to get rid of it when you do go back.
  19. mdwallace


    Apr 1, 2010
    New York City
    I should also mention that playing piano will help develop your right hand dexterity. If you're a French-bow player and can't control the German-bow to save your life, playing piano helps so much to develop your right hand dexterity. Likewise, if you're a German-bow player and feel like you can't get power with the French-bow, doing athletics/yoga/pilates/etc will help you develop the way you use your body and transfer weight into the string. This is what I mean by how we develop mentally and physically will change what bow will work best for us at a given time.
  20. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I am a frenchie but I would like to try a German bow just to know how it feels. Will holding my french bow with a German grip give me a good impression of the feel and capabilities of a German bow? Not that I ever want to play like this but to buy a German bow just to try it out is a waste of money. And I don't have one to borrow either.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Nov 30, 2020

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.