Which violin bows are best?
Whether you’re new to playing violin or an experienced master, using the appropriate bow can make or break your performance. While the factors that go into the sound and feel of an instrument are myriad, the bow you choose is a basic consideration when it comes to your comfort while playing.
The Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow provides musicians with the perfect balance of cost-effectiveness and workmanship. Its carbon-fiber construction makes it easy to care for and its bold aesthetics put a sharp, modern spin on traditional looks.
What to consider before you buy a violin bow
Violin bows are available in five material configurations. Each has unique characteristics regarding tone, sound and feel.
- Pernambuco. This material is generally viewed as superior for wooden violin bows, but it is becoming expensive and unpopular because Pernambuco trees are endangered and now illegal to process. In spite of their classic sound and feel, many violinists opt not to purchase Pernambuco bows for both ethical and financial reasons.
- Brazilwood. Violin bows made from legally sourced and harvested brazilwood are common because they retain many of the characteristics found in Pernambuco bows without the high cost and moral objections. They can be purchased economically, but especially cheap models are prone to breaking due to low-quality brazilwood’s brittle nature.
- Snakewood. Snakewood bows are stiffer than other wood alternatives. While this may be detrimental to many musicians’ playing styles, some prefer this material’s rigid feel. As with brazilwood models, cheap snakewood bows can be easily broken.
- Carbon fiber. Many modern violin bows are made from carbon fiber. This light, durable material is sometimes even preferred over traditional Pernambuco thanks to its resilience. You can find high-quality carbon-fiber bows at lower prices than similar models made from natural wood. Carbon fiber is also easier to travel with than wood, as it will not expand or contract due to changes in temperature and humidity.
- Hybrid. Hybrid bows feature a carbon-fiber core wrapped in a wooden exterior. Some users feel that these bows provide the reliance of carbon fiber with the tonality of wood.
Violin bows are available in both round and octagonal shapes. Rounded bows allow for a more nuanced and fuller tone. Octagonal bows result in a louder sound but can be challenging for those looking for subtlety.
Bows made from different materials will yield different sonic characteristics. While wooden bows are said to produce warmer tones, bow material is just one of countless factors that determine an instrument’s sound. If possible, experiment with different bow materials to decide which produces the sound and tonality you’re looking for.
Often compromised in favor of perceived improvements in sound and tone, your comfort while playing your violin is paramount. Comfort makes playing fun and encourages longer practice and deeper expression. When selecting a bow, choose a model that lets you play and practice effortlessly.
What to look for in a quality violin bow
Because the bow is the means by which you express emotion through your playing, much of what determines the right one for you will be based on your individual feel and comfort. However, the following universal factors will have an effect on your experience, regardless of your style.
Balance and weight
Your bow should be comfortably balanced while playing. Too much weight on either side will make it challenging to produce delicate, nuanced sounds and can result in hand and wrist cramping.
Some violinists, especially baroque players, prefer stiff, rigid bows. However, most violin players find that a bow that keeps its shape but still allows for some flex allows a more comfortable, intimate feel.
Select a violin bow that will match your personal taste and, if you prefer, your instrument. While most bows look the same from a distance, subtle design differences will let you express your style in your own unique way.
Wooden bows, especially those sold at low prices, are often brittle and prone to breaking. If the strength of your bow is a priority, consider a carbon=fiber model that won’t succumb to environmental changes and potentially become fragile.
How much you can expect to spend on a violin bow
Violin-bow prices cover a wide range, with budget models costing as little as $20 and some premium models costing thousands of dollars. Most violinists will find bows of excellent quality in the $100-$400 range.
Violin bow FAQ
How do I store my violin bow?
A. Store your wooden violin bow in a cool area with consistent humidity close to 50%. Carbon-fiber bows don’t require as much consideration when it comes to the climate in which they’re stored. Even the toughest bows are still fragile, so store your bow safely in a hard case while not in use.
What is rosin?
A. Rosin is a material made from hardened tree resin. Rosin is applied to bows to create more friction when dragged across an instrument’s strings, producing a louder sound.
What are the hairs on a violin bow made from?
A. Traditionally, violin bows are strung with horsehair. That is often still the case today, although synthetic bow hairs are gaining in popularity due to their resilience and consistency when compared to natural materials.
Violin bow tips
- Comfort is subjective. Every person has their own posture, style and preferences. As a result, the bow you find most comfortable may be someone else’s last choice. Try different models with an open mind, and avoid being lured in by advertising.
- Prioritize joy. The most important part of developing and maintaining proficiency in any skill is practice. Purchasing the most expensive professional-quality gear may not compel you to actually use it. Select the equipment and accessories that help you find joy in playing, not the ones manufacturers say you need. Keep in mind that many of the most legendary musicians of all time forged their own path by using what felt right to them, not what was marketed to them.
- Safekeeping is key. Wooden instruments and accessories of all kinds are subject to environmental conditions and require regular tuning and maintenance. Failure to store your bow properly can shorten its life and make it challenging to play with. No matter what material your bow is made from, follow the manufacturer’s instructions with regard to keeping it safe, secure and free from damage.
What are the best violin bows to buy?
Top violin bow
What you need to know: This carbon-fiber violin bow features Siberian horsehair and a leather wrap.
What you’ll love: Affordable and high-quality, this bow is an excellent choice for beginners or for pros looking for an additional backup bow. It features a classy, black finish.
What you should consider: Some quality-control issues have resulted in some dissatisfied users.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top violin bow for the money
What you need to know: Made from resilient carbon fiber, this inexpensive bow is great for beginners.
What you’ll love: It features natural Mongolian horsehair and a carbon-fiber stick, and even professional musicians are surprised at the quality of this budget violin bow.
What you should consider: These bows are cheaply made and inconsistencies in manufacturing have been reported.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This premium model is handmade in the United States with professional craftsmanship and high-quality violin bow parts.
What you’ll love: With its high-grade materials and exacting specifications, this carbon fiber bow is ideal for professional musicians. It includes a 5-year warranty when registered with the manufacturer.
What you should consider: The bow’s quality and performance come at a high price.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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