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The Inexpensive Bow Experiment

Posted by Cyndy on Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The $23 bow (see https://www.fiddlehangout.com/topic/52915) arrived yesterday -- quicker than I expected, packed in a nice piece of PVC. I'd love to compare it to other bows in the $100 and under range (which would be in the spirit of my initial comment) but I don't have a way to do that. So, I'll compare it to my bow (a Coda Luma).

The executive summary is this:

I wouldn’t say "go out and buy one," but considering price with performance, I feel like I got something useful for my money. The question, which I don’t have a way to answer, is whether or not a little bit more money (I’m thinking under $100) would buy a lot nicer bow?

The details:

Weight: The test bow felt light in my hand, but it weighs 61 or 62 grams on my kitchen scale and my bow weighs 60 grams (and I have a little weight attached to the tip).

Balance Points: The balance points are slightly different. It’s a little bit closer to the frog on the test bow. 

Hair: Tightening the hair on the test bow feels a bit clunky, bit it works. I had to add rosin -- of course -- and perhaps this would change with use but the hair on the test bow feels slicker than the hair on my bow. However, it is much better quality than the hair on a $10 fractional bow that I’ve tried. I tightened both bows about 5 twists and the hair tension / resulting shape seemed to be about the same. (I play with fairly loose hair.)

Feel: I'm an unpolished fiddler so I can't comment in the way that a classical player would but, to me, it feels like the test bow sits high and slides across the strings without really digging in. I have a sense that weight doesn't transfer as easily to the hair with this bow as it does with my bow. But, it's nowhere near as bouncy as the Glasser that I started with.

Tone: My husband says he can't tell the difference between the two bows. I can, but it's subtle. I think the test bow is more forgiving and creates a more even, less interesting, sound. I think my bow is more responsive, pulls a more ringing tone, and offers the potential for subtleties (not that I have the skill to be subtle).

Other: When I play with the test bow, I feel like it takes energy to make it work. When I play with my bow, the idea of equipment slips into the background and I feel like it's just an extension of my arm, wrist, and hand.

So--the upshot of this?

When I heard $20 bow, I expected it would play like the $10 fractional bow I tried or like the Glasser that came with my first fiddle. Neither was adequate. 

I'd say this test bow is a step above those. It falls a bit short, but it tries hard, and it can be made to work. It will certainly serve my needs at the petting zoo.

But, for a beginning player who is going to use a bow for hours every week for months and maybe years, I'm wondering if there isn't something better out there for not a whole lot more?



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