Folk & Acoustic Musical Instrument Specialists













Bow For Stringed Instruments Information and FAQs



INTRODUCTION


Bows for stringed instruments are generally made from hardwood sticks with a wooden 'frog' at one end where the player holds it. A small hank of horse hair is stretched from the frog to the tip. A sticky substance called rosin is used to make the hair grip the strings of the instrument and force the vibrations from it.

The Bow plays a vital part in the sound produced by a violin, viola, cello or bass. So it is important to select a bow compatible with the payer's style and with the instrument being used.

The weight of the stick affects the feel of the bow in the player's hand as well as the tone of the instrument. 60g is a common weight for a good full size violin bow.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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The stick is commonly made of a hardwood known as brazilwood or pernambuco. The cross-section can be octagonal or round, both work just the same. When the screw is tightened the bow should remain straight from a top view and maintain its curve from a side view. It is important that the frog and screw adjustment are working well, and the bow must be slackened when not in use to avoid stretching the hair.

Bows come in various forms,qualities and materials. Traditional bows are made from various types of wood, brazil wood, pernambuco, snake wood, iron wood etc. Brazil wood and pernambuco are from the same tree, pernambuco being the better more expensive inner parts of the tree.

Modern bows are sometimes made from more modern materials such as carbon fibre, this has the advantage of not losing its shape or warping over time. It is probably worth noting that a modern carbon fibre bow may not increase in value like a antique or vintage bow. Most good bows are haired with a top quality horse hair such as Siberian or Mongolian horse hair.

The mounts for the bows are an important aspect of the value. Most brazil wood bows would be mounted with nickel, silver mounts are often used for pernambuco and gold mounts for the most expensive sticks. Generally frogs are usually made from ebony, some rosewood and again for the most expensive tortoiseshell.

CHOOSING

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Choosing the right bow for you
By Stephen Silcock

Price, weight, balance and elasticity of stick all play important roles in your choice. As a violinist myself I can pick up a bow and within a couple of minutes decide if the bow is going to work for me or not, it's a matter of personal preference.

People often underestimate the importance of having a good bow and will spend more money on an instrument and far less on a comparable bow. As a rule of thumb you should spend around a third of the price of an instrument to get a comparable and matching quality bow.

Weight and balance are very important factors in order to achieve a smooth legato sound or a light spiccato where the music demands and a good choice of bow should enable you to do this. It is probably a good idea to choose two or three bows you like, are in good condition without any breaks, cracks or repairs and then test them to your requirements before making your choice.

Try the instruments for yourself! We keep a huge and varied stock of new and secondhand instruments.

MANDOLA

   
Definition: Italian lute, now popular with celtic musicians. Originally bowl backed, now often has a flat back like a cittern and 8 strings.
Read the full Mandolas FAQ Page.