A FEW WORDS ABOUT BOWS

The priority for a string player, being a student or a professional, is to use a well sounding instrument, according to his personal standards. There has always been a question whether the violin – or the viola, violoncello, and double bass, whenever the case – or the bow comes first when choosing a musical tool. The vast majority of players look for a violin, and then for a bow. In a way, they are right. As a player, it makes you more confident when you have an instrument that sounds the way you like. Tone quality and volume are inherent to the “accoustic box” of a violin. Therefore, a well suited bow to the performer’s way of playing and to the violin he uses is of crucial importance.

The tone is produced by the right arm through the bow which, depending on its character, is responsible for the articulation and the timbre. A given violin may sound dark or somber, have a clear or sluggish articulation, depending on the bow it is paired with. The preference for a heavy or a light bow is personal, and it depends on the way you play. If you produce sound through bow speed, or through bow pressure, you will choose a bow accordinly.

Balance is an important feature. A well balanced bow certainly saves you energy and effort, after long hours of playing. If you take as an example a heavy violin bow, weighing between 62.5 and 64.0 grams, it may give you the feeling of comfort if the stick is not tip heavy; whereas, a light bow (58.0 grams or under) may feel pleasant in the hand if the stick is strong and well balanced.

Balance point is measured starting from the lower end toward the middle. Some bow makers prefer to measure it starting from the lower end, without counting the button. Others measure from the thumb position. I personally measure balance point starting from the extreme lower end, counting with the button. These are nothing but personal ways of measuring balance point.

Nervousness is one of the features mostly appreciated by string players. A nervous stick is what brings clarity to the articulation. Therefore, when the stick is excessively nervous, the bow control becomes difficult, and the tone can get hysterical.

Summarizing, a bow may be heavy, average weight, or light; more importantly, a good bow gathers strength and maleability, enough to embrace the strings and to project the sound with clarity and warmth.

BOWS AND MATERIALS

I make violin, viola, cello, and double-bass bows. Due to the fact that there are more violinists than violists, cellists, and double-bassists, I have been producing more violin bows than the others. Double-bass bows are made under special order, according to the players specifications. Although I use only first choice “big leaf” Pernambuco wood, over 20 years old, each stick reacts differently in relation to camber, resistance, and flexibility, reason why weight range varies substantially. Other materials used are: African ebony, Sterling silver, abalone and baby shells from the Gulf of Mexico.