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Bass bow advice

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Hi. Started teaching myself to bow two years ago...well with the help YouTube etc. I am mature player....whatever that means. Anyway thinking of upgrading my bow and wondering how on earth I go about that. Strings were bad enough...still on that carousel.
So is there a good site to visit...don’t suppose there is a ...shop!? Or a book or a human that I can communicate with?

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A bow can be difficult to recommend, rather like a bicycle saddle - what suits one may not suit another. However, a good second-hand Pernambuco bow can sometimes be bought from eBay for a reasonable price. I got lucky, paying about £300 for a bow that may have cost the original owner £1k 20 years ago and it suits me well enough to stop saving for that £2k - £3k (second hand) bow!

If you can attend a workshop or mass event with other DB players (a bass bash?) that may be a good place to start trying others' bows.

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Depending on your budget, really. If you have, say, £1000 to spend you can probably call someone like Thwaites and get a few bows sent on approval, although that might be a bit low for them to have much choice.

To be honest, I think below £1000 you might be best off looking at carbon fibre bows. My second bow is a CF from The Contrabass Shoppe, cost me about £400 and it's great. You need to try some, as already said. Ideally try bows that are actually for sale!

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Can you identify a reason why your current bow isn't up to the task or do you just have GAS?

There are three things that will make learning to play with the bow easier IMHO

- Face to face lessons with a good teacher (youtube videos can't give you feedback on what you are not doing right or direct you towards practicing what you need to work on to address areas you are struggling with)

- Fresh rosin (I'd recommend Nymans, because it's good and very popular, so you are unlikely to end up buying a stale cake thats been sat around on a shelf for months/years)

- Good bow hair (a rehair will breathe new life into any bow even an inexpensive one - depending on how technically demanding the material you are working on is, getting your current bow rehaired might be a better bet than buying another bow. I know a local bassist who is very active on the amateur orchestra scene, who buys a new cheap bow every six months from ebay because it is marginally cheaper than paying for a good rehair, these cheap wooden bows were suprisingly good when you consider what they cost in terms of how they handled and sounded, but let down by the hair quality, so I wouldn't assume that because a bow is cheap it automatically isn't worth using)

 

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I know several bassists who do the same thing. I don't recommend that course of action as cheap bows will hold you back considerably, and if you keep buying cheap bows you will lock yourself into a style and manner of playing that accepts a complete lack of help and response from the bow. Spend a few quid, get the bow you buy rehaired at least once a year (£65 is about the going rate} and enjoy the help and encouragement you'll get from using a good bow. Using a sub-par instrument makes it so much harder to make progress, and the bow is 50& AT LEAST of the playing experience

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I just got my old bow re haired..£50...now the tension adjuster has gone. But you are right ..ha..maybe it is just gas. It is a cheap bow I think and probably needs replaced. I am enjoying learning to bow so thought about upgrading. No teachers in this area.

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Yes German grip - I can't really help you out with specific advice on what might be worth getting as I only play French grip, so my recent experience auditioning bows might not translate.

It is possible to replace the adjuster on bows

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/VIOLIN-BOW-SCREW-FINE-QUALITY-MATERIALS-PEARL-EYE-CHROME-MOUNTED-UK-SELLER/221832921733

Both my bows have a similar arrangement of steel screw going into this little brass eyelet, which I'm guessing is the part that has stripped - maybe ask the person who did your rehair if they have access to spare parts, it might be a simple quick fix to get your existing bow back in service.

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There is a HUGE variety in the quality of fiber bows - and bows make a surprisingly big difference to your sound:

.... from cheap chinese ones (which may not even be actual carbon, more "composite" and sometimes with a metal core) up to the Arcus S8 which is nearly £6000 of hand made, hollow carbon tube, with gold trimmings.

I used a cheapish but OK ish (I thought) "brazil wood" bow for years then ( hovering around classical grade 7/8 standard ) decided I needed a better one and bought an Arcus S3 (£800 from Bassbags), which is fantastic and was a revelation.  It is so nice (well made, comfortable to hold and a clear bright tone that's perfect in an orchestra), my teacher went out and  bought one himself!  To be fair the old wood bow was much improved by better rosin (Nyman) and would be improved more again by new hair (which it's not had in 20 years!), but it's too soft and it dampens the sound too much.  Now, I'll admit, I've never played an £800 wooden bow so can't really say if my carbon bow was good value.   Some people swear that a £500 carbon bow is the equal of a £2000 pernambuco one; others say carbon will never be as good as a good piece of wood.

There is really no substitute for going to a bass shopp(e) and trying a load .. but even in Middle England, it's hard to find anywhere with a decent range, and the people who stock antique wooden bows (eg Turners, Tim Toft) don't stock carbon bows (I wonder why!!).  So in Stirling you may be faced with buying a few on trial and sending most of them back ...  I really should have done that, but the Arcus was just .. perfect for me, really; so I stopped looking.

PS:  Why German?  I've always played French as I'm also a 'cellist and German bows seem just ... weird to me. 

Edited by NickA
extra text, typos

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I really don’t know why I use German grip. I looked at YouTube stuff, tried both methods and preferred this one. Think it is cos a clumsy Neanderthal. There are two shops that I will try. The Violin Shop in Glasgow and Stringers in Edinburgh. Before I go there I wanted to do some research. Very grateful to all of you. Carbon fibre bows looking attractive at the moment. I see some pernambuco bows on eBay. I assume that just because it is pernambuco doesn’t mean it is a ‘good’ bow. I guess that you really need to try before buying...which obviously you can’t do with evilbay 

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There's quite a few of us here with the Yita carbon bows off eBay, I've heard much better players than myself use them including mine and they made them sound great!

 

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eBay pernambuco is likely not pernambuco but some generic tropical hardwood aka "brazilwood" that's less dense and less springy.  I have two cello bows and a bass bow that all claimed to be pernambuco and I think one of them really is; none of them that special and I prefer the carbon one.. but I do like a bright, clear tone. Go try.

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"Pernambuco" and brazilwood are actually exactly the same species of tree. Pernambuco is a region of brazil where the best bow wood traditionally came from, and these days tends to be used as a label for the best quality wood, and is covered by CITES, so REAL Pernambuco is pretty hard to get and very expensive, so be wary of cheap bows claiming to be pernambuco.....

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Learn something new every day! 

bit of a description here:

http://www.masterhandviolin.com/Blog5.html

" Deciding between brazilwood and pernambuco is not as cut and dry as it may seem. Both should come from the same brazilwood tree in South America (although sometimes wiley companies try to use an alternative brazilwood tree for brazilwood bows). The difference between the two bows comes from what part of the tree the wood is taken. Pernambuco comes from the denser, slow growing heartwood of the tree, and brazilwood comes from the less dense portion. Thus, the quality of either stick is still on a scale with not much difference between a high end brazilwood stick and a low end pernambuco stick"

I guess my wooden bows are on that boundary.

It also says

" The major drawback to carbon fiber is that it tops out earlier than pernambuco, so bows in the $1000+ price range only rarely include carbon fiber as an option."

Which is not totally true any more and also reflects the fact that carbon isn't a near extinct, and collectable, material.

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Carbon bows, even the very best, can't yet compete with the best wooden bows. In every way, my Andrew McGill bow is streets ahead of anything else I've ever played, and certainly no carbon bow I've tried gets close to the depth and complexity of tone, or the reaction off the string. Having said that, a carbon bow in the lower (sub £1k) price range is a genuine contender, and they SHOULD be far more consistent in sound and feel than wooden bows. I'd say a carbon bow in this price range would be a good bet. Mine is great, I don't think you could beat it for the money.

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How much do you have to spend on a wooden bow to beat a good carbon one? 

Are we talking just loads more (ie more than the most expensive carbon) or is there a break point at which wood overtakes carbon again?  Andrew's bows look beautiful, but he's a bit coy about the price! £4000 or so? (over my budget for sure).  On the other hand the wooden ones will probably keep /gain value, especially as the wood gets rarer; whilst carbon bows loose value as the tech improves.

On consistency of carbon.. the arcus ones are all hand made (ie hand laid fibre) and do vary (they say).  The sticks are then graded and fitted out to suit their quality (they say) so that the expensive gold mounted bows have the best quality sticks.

I doubt I need or could justify another bass bow .. but a new cello bow is on the cards and whilst I'm tempted to just get another Arcus, I'd rather be sure .. and quite happy to buy a wooden one - especially if it's helping to keep a skilled bow maker in business.

NB: you can drop my carbon bow on its tip from a metre up without any damage (as I found when a passing violinist knocked mine off the music stand).. and its waterproof too.

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I think you'd struggle to justify a wooden bow over a carbon one up to about £1000, above that you'd have to choose carefully but could find a great wooden bow. Over about £2.5k wooden bows will be the way forward. Andrews bows were £3000 when I bought mine, nearly 2 years ago. Really beautifully made and worth every penny, IMHO

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Just choosing that new 'cello bow from several sent in the post from Caswell's (all around £1k and the carbon one is best . so far):

found this in the process though:

at Bowspeed.com

ANDREW McGILL England. Round pernambuco stick, silver-mounted ebony frog with fischbein eye and slide and triple adjuster.. 82.3gr.

£2,950

And a nice video of Tom Martin and Andrew too:

Tempting .. but £3k is a bit beyond my ability level ('cello or bass) I think.

 

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I don't think you need to be of a particular standard to appreciate a great bow. Andrew's bows are instruments in their own right, and things of rare beauty. Just take a look at the carving of the tip. Completely stunning. If you can afford one, I say try one!

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I've had my bows repaired and restrung by Andrew for many years now and I've promised myself a McGill bow at some stage. I may be made redundant in a couple of months time and if I get a payout, I might be placing an order!

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