Make Your Violin Sing: Bow

The first mentions of using the bow as a means of sound production on string instruments date back to the Arab Renaissance. The bow used to play the Arabic-Persian rebab is not much different in shape from the bow used for archery. Since then, bowed instruments have become widespread, modified and improved. There is practically no corner on the planet where people would not play a bowed instrument. With all the diversity, they are all united by the principle of sound production: a bow that makes the string vibrate at a certain frequency. At the same time, the bow itself is essentially no different from the bow for an old rebab, be it a Chinese erhu, a Turkish kemancha, an Uzbek gidjak or a violin. It is the same bunch of horsehair stretched between the two ends of a curved stick.

The modern bow was designed by the French craftsman François Tourte at the end of the 18th century. Bending the stick to the other side - towards the string - was a revolutionary change, which considerably increased the tension and dramatically raised  the maneuverability. Tourte defined the ideal  parameters for the weight and length of the bow. The material he chose after years of experimenting was Pernambuco.


Primo 5105 Fine Pernambuco Violin Bow


Since then in the development of violin playing, everything that could happen has happened. Great works for violin have been written in all possible genres. The world has seen and heard Paganini, Spohr, Vieuxtemps, Sarasate, Oystrakh, Heifetz and many other virtuoso violinists. And all of them played with the bow designed by Tourte. Nothing had been changed until, by the end of the last century, uncontrolled deforestation led to the threat of extinction of Pernambuco. In 2009, the Brazilian government imposed a ban on the export of this valuable wood from the country, while not banning the export of bows, made of Pernambuco. There was a need for a new material that is not inferior in its qualities to pernambuco.

Ipe wood (pronounced ee-pay) turned out to be a very good alternative. It is a tree from Brazil that has been widely used for furniture and decking due to its dense structure, durability and insect resistance. It is cheaper in price, because it is sourced from a much larger geographic area than Brazilwood.

A mid-level bow made of ipe is in no way inferior to an average bow made of pernambuco in terms of its playing qualities. The thing is that bow makers don't use this wood to make a fine bow that they can sell for a high price, they use Pernambuco. It is similar to jewelry. Fine jewelry is made from a diamond set in gold or platinum, not zirconium in steel. Swarovski is, probably, the only exception. But, if you are not professional violinist yet, a good Ipe bow would be a good choice. 

MELLOR A10 Ipe Violin Bow 


To some extent, this also applies to Brazilwood. And here, to avoid confusion, the difference between Brasilwood and Pernambuco should be explained. From a botanical point of view, there is no difference because it is one plant called Brazilwood. Pernambuco wood is taken from the denser central part of the trunk, while so-called "Brazilwood" is the less dense part of the trunk, farther from the center. Despite the ban on the export of Brazilwood from Brazil, bows made from this wood are significantly cheaper than Pernambuco bows. If we again draw a parallel with jewelry, Brazilwood can be compared with low-grade gold, while Pernambuco with high-grade gold.

For beginners Brazilwood bow is, probably, the best choice, especially when you are looking for a smaller size bow, because you will not want to spend much for a bow that will be used no longer than two years.

STENTOR Brazilwood Violin Bow 


In the early 90s, bow manufacturers started using carbon fiber. By now, bows made from this artificial material have gained immense popularity due to their practicality. Carbon fiber is much stronger than the densest wood. In terms of quality, the carbon bow is no worse than Pernambuco, but is cheaper due to easier mass production. A wooden bow is almost impossible to copy because no pieces of wood are exactly the same. On the contrary, carbon fiber allows for an infinite number of copies.


Primo 5124 Carbon Fibre Violin Bow


Which bow to choose, wooden or carbon - it is more a matter of preference. 

If you choose from wooden bows, the three types of wood can be arranged in the following order:

The simplest bows suitable for beginners are made from Brazilwood. 

Ipe wood bows are good for intermediate students.

If you are an advanced player, choose Pernambuco.

Carbon bows should be considered separately as it is an artificial material with very wide possibilities. These bows can be of any level. As a rule of thumb, the price serves as a good guide.

 Choosing a bow pay attention to the following:

1. The bow should not be too light. A certain weight is necessary for correct sound production, for playing chords and performing jumping strokes. In addition, the light weight indicates the low density of the wood.

2. The stick should only bend down towards the string, not sideways. A slight curvature towards your nose is ok, but never in the opposite direction. Otherwise, the stick will be touching the string when pressed.

3. It is impossible to assess the quality of the hair without playing with the bow for some time. But you need to make sure that the hair is not tangled. Otherwise, the hairs will cut each other and your bow will go bald very soon.

4. The bow's appearance speaks volumes. If the work is done carefully, most likely the master has taken care of the playing qualities of the bow. If there are chips on the wood, the head is not cut symmetrically, the frog does not fit snugly against the stick, the hair is tangled - this is not your bow.

All our bows are made of high quality materials and meet the highest standards.

Choose the bow that suits you best and make your Violin sing!


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