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10 Tips about Fiddle Bows and Violin Bows


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1. Bows that are less expensive are usually made from Maple, Cherrywood and "Chinese Mystery Wood. Better bows are made from "Pernambuco,"a dense and hard wood from the heart of a mature tree. Permanbuco is a generic name for woods from Central and South America. Bows can also be made from Brazilwood, they can be good quality bows, but not have the same value as Permanbuco. To make things more confusing, there is also a wood called, Brasilwood (s), which refers to wood that is not used from the "heart" of the tree and a tree that has not fully matured.

2. Like the intrument, there is no difference between a violin bow and a fiddle bow, it is how it is played.

Here are some rantings about the wood:

3. The grip is used to weight the bow. It serves to balance the bow. Cheaper grips are wrapped with plastic strips. Better materials are silver and stainless steel. The majority of grip wrapping is made with silver coated copper.

Here are some rantings about the wrapping:

4. Synthetic bows can be as good as a Brazilwood bow if the the horse hair is good quality. The most common is the The Glasser Fiberglass bow. $150 can get you one.

More tips can be found

5. Horse Hair. Fiddler's need more hair than violinists, because they are heavy handed. Good quality unbleached horse hair is recommended. Too much hair, although, can break the plug.  Cheaper bows can be haired with synthetic hair. Typically, 150 hairs from the horse tail are used. I never counted them myself though, I just trust I got my 150 or so.

The Rosin is made from tree sap.
More on bow hair and playing:

6. The Frog. Materials used on the frog don't really indicate it's quality. Most frogs are made from ebony. Fancier materials like, tortoise shell and Ivory are banned and not used as much. Other materials can include pearl shell, gold or silver.

7. Violin Bow Dealers.  Find a dealer you know that is honest and is trustworthy. Ask someone that you know who is an experienced player.

Here are a list of New York dealers.

8. Prices. Fiddler's aren't known to have refined bowing technique. They typically don't hold it or use it like a trained violinist, so buying an expensive bow, will not really make a difference. Below $200 will not buy you a high-grade and over $600 just isn't worth for the fiddlers. Investing in a bow is also a bad investment if you are using it, because most likely it will break, fall or need repairs.

9. Test bows without looking at the prices. Hear and see which one's enhance your playing. Test the long bow notes and the short choppy ones. Listen to see if you get an even sound. See how the tip is weighted, balanced and the condition it is in. Is it repaired or new? Over weighted tips will tend to move your bow towards the floor and under-weighted won't bring you the sound you want without pressing down.

10. Bends or Warps. Check the bow to see if it is bent to the left or right. Since most players tend to veer off the right when bowing, a bow bent to the right is not a good choice. A warp to the left can be ok and even helpful. Straightening doesn't always hold, so stick to the left or straight.

More about bow making:





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