A Violin Bow Buying Guide
So you bought your violin outfit. You’ve been playing for a while now and you notice that your bow just isn’t producing the sound you want. You notice that the bow is on the heavy side, that you’re not moving as nimbly as you see other violinists. Perhaps you are making sounds that are consistently on the scratchy side.
What are we going to do about it? Well, lucky for us, we live in a time where we can quickly, easily, and cost effectively acquire a new quality bow for a decent price.
To recap, we are ideally looking for a bow that is light, with good bounce and control, usable bow hair, a good Camber, and a straight bow stick. If you want to get in-depth into bow characteristics and qualities, check out this article. In my opinion, the most cost effective type of bow stick material that achieves this is carbon fiber, or carbon graphite.
You’ll notice the suggestions I propose are primarily that. Yes, there are cons to carbon fiber bows, but I personally feel that their qualities are superior to Brazilwood in almost every circumstance. Since we can find a quality carbon fiber or carbon graphite bow for a price only marginally more than a Brazilwood, it’s the choice to make when you’re on a budget but also want to produce a good sound.
A few things to think about
Now, can you get a dud? Absolutely. Which is why I suggest that no one should ever be afraid to return a bow if it is unsatisfactory. Likewise, we can find some real gems, so try out as many bows as you can and choose the one you like best. I’ve also included a very competitively priced Pernambuco bow(generally the best bow stick material for bows) that nicely balances price and quality. Admittedly, it is on the higher end for price in this list, but it is worth the look if you can afford it.
Before we get into the suggestions, I want to add that you don’t want to be too unbalanced when it comes to the quality of your bow and the quality of your violin. You don’t want to have a phenomenal violin and a bad bow or vice versa. Take this into account when you choose your upgrades. Generally speaking, spend more on the violin than the bow, but it’s ok to upgrade to a nicer bow while playing the same violin as long as you are happy with the instrument, it’s playability, and the sound it produces.
Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow
The Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow has gotten nearly perfect reviews online. It’s a carbon fiber bow with good horsehair and made of quality materials. Be sure to use a quality rosin(as with any bow really) when you play this bow.
One suggestion is to use Pirastro Gold Rosin. This bow ships without rosin which is nice for individuals who aren’t keen on mixing them. This bow has great strength while remaining relatively very light.
Coming from playing a different bow, it might take you a little extra time to get used to the bounce, but once you do, you’ll find that the lighter weight allows you to play and practice for even longer periods of time than you otherwise normally would.
Unless you receive a defective version of this bow, a beginner and even an intermediate player won’t go wrong with this choice. However, Fiddlerman is applauded regularly for his and his company’s customer service, so if a return must be made, this is the right company to work with.
This bow weighs in as a very cost effective use of your money. Additionally, this will provide you with some extra budget cushion to make some adjustments, buy new rosin, or even re-hair the bow should you desire.
There’s a few detractors to note here, but they’re mostly cosmetic. The grip material is on the inexpensive side. The “wire” could be of better quality, but considering the action of the bow, this is a fair tradeoff.
Presto Carbon Fiber Violin Bow
The Presto Carbon Fiber Violin Bow is a particularly interesting bow. At one point, the manufacturer used synthetic horsehair that was simply not of good quality, BUT the weight and action of the bow helped to make up for the lack of quality in the horsehair. As a caveat, if you’re a beginner who’s ear and abilities are growing, you likely wont notice this in the bow.
However, if you are able after purchasing this bow, have it re-haired by a luthier with some quality bow hair(which isn’t expensive) and you’ll see this bow really shine. At it’s very modest price point, it’s easily re-haired and you can end up with a wonderful bow for a beginner to intermediate player.
This bow is constructed well and also benefits from it’s carbon fiber construction in being relatively very light. This is another responsive bow that can help you grow in your skill set. You will be able to perform spiccato and ricochet easily, so if you are working on these techniques or will be, this is a bow to consider.
A nice benefit to this bow is the cosmetic factor. This is plain and simply, a nice looking bow. It’s ebony frog is garnished with what is called a “Parisian Eye”. It’s purely aesthetic, but along with your playing ability improving, the look of your performance can also improve. This is a great option for beginners and intermediates or anyone who needs a quality second bow without breaking the bank.
Glasser X-Series Carbon Graphite Violin Bow
There’s some confusion when one looks up the Glasser X-Series Carbon Graphite bow as most websites label it as carbon fiber, but it’s actually carbon graphite. To make things even MORE confusing, there is a bow very similar to this one but in brown that does not seem to be as high quality as this particular Glasser bow. Both are X-series carbon graphite, but I would shy away from the brown version until the company sorts things out.
That said, this bow is of very good quality as well. This is another bow where horse hair quality is sometimes questioned, but again, it has the ability to be re-haired and is therefore only a minor point. This bow is very responsive and may be right up your alley if you like a light bow.
It’s made with a real ebony frog and is made right here in the USA. Some individuals find that this bow can be a bit too long for their cases. This would be the main detractor for this bow, but it is not reported by all who use it. On the positive side, the bow is well-balanced and again, lighter than average.
Here we see a slight step up in cosmetics as well. There’s a faux pearl eye on the ebony frog that is visually appealing, but the grip, in my opinion, still looks like a rubber block. So for myself personally, the looks are a trade off. That aside, this bow brings us in at a very budget friendly price point. This bow sees the same benefits as the previous three in that we have room in our budget to re-hair the bow should we choose.
4: Karl Wilhelm Advanced Carbon Fiber Bow
Now we’re stepping higher up in our price point and the Karl Wilhelm Advanced Carbon Fiber Bow is a great stop for us. This bow sports a carbon fiber bow stick that is light and responsive. It also has genuine horsehair, which means you’re unlikely to need a re-hair right out of the gate.
This model also looks nice. It comes with a wire grip and ebony frog. The ebony frog is the standard for quality bows in general and additionally, you get the cosmetic benefits of the dark wood frog. That said, the cushion part of the grip is the only flaw here. It’s not quite as comfortable as I care for, but with all the amenities offered by this bow, it’s not even remotely a deal breaker.
The quality of this bow is on par with a budget pernambuco bow, which means for the money, it’s a great bow. It is well balanced and well suited for the intermediate player and great for a back up bow for the performing musician. If you’re looking to step up from your stock violin outfit bow and your budget allows, give this option a look.
- Budget friendly
- Lighter-then-average weight
- High quality-to-price ratio
- Good for beginners/intermediates/performing musicians
- Well balanced
- Upgraded cosmetic look
- Cushion is not as comfortable as expected
5: Holstein Pernambuco Violin Bow(from Fiddlerman)
Admittedly, this is the most expensive bow on the list, and it’s absolutely worth it. This violin bow is every bit the tool to be used by an intermediate or advanced player but compared to other bows in the spectrum of bow prices, this is still toward the student price range.
There’s so much to say about the quality of this bow. The quality-to-price ratio here is much higher than the norm. First, this is a chocolate pernambuco bow which means it’s a slightly darker hue than your average color. Personally, It suits my tastes very well.
A real, quality, ebony frog seats the bow. The camber(the curve of the bow), is well curved and lends itself to the easy acquisition of pleasant tones. The grip begins with sterling silver winding(particularly nice) and genuine lizard leather(VERY comfortable).
Additionally, the leather extends a bit further up on the bow than you’ll find normally, about an eighth of an inch of an extension. Speaking for myself, that allows for a much more comfortable hold on the bow. There is no need for re-hairing this bow as it comes standard with high quality genuine Mongolian horse hair.
The balance of this bow is fantastic. Obviously, everyone’s opinions differ slightly on what is optimal, but the manufacturer has gone to great lengths to ensure maximum balance, response, playability, and light weight while retaining great bow stick elasticity(meaning you’ll be able to acquire an easy bounce while maintaining control over the bow). It really is the shining star on this list.
If you are an established beginner with a more flexible budget, an aspiring intermediate, or even an advanced player/performer looking for a relatively inexpensive second bow, check this out. You may be thrilled you did.
- Comparatively inexpensive
- Lighter-than-average weight
- Very high quality-to-price ratio
- Good for discerning beginners/intermediates and advanced performers
- Very well balanced
- Very responsive
- Quality construction
- Professional cosmetic look
- Not a budget bow
- True beginners may not experience the full benefits of the bow
Im the type of guy who likes to tweak things. I like to work with gear and find the best possible setup. Don’t let a sub par bow hold you back. If that has been the case for you, I know this list will give you some options that will make that a thing of the past. When it comes to playing violin, a good bow goes a very, very long way.