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Fighting Acquisition Syndrome

Posted by bj on Sunday, December 6, 2009

No, I don't want another fiddle (yet) but some threads on the forum have got me playing with all four of my bows and trying to analyse the differences . . . which made me realize that I'm not 100% happy with any of 'em.

I'm about 90% happy with my main bow, which comes in at 62 grams. It's a fairly fast bow, the tone it pulls is good, it's agile, it feels good in my hands, and is VERY easy to play . . . but compared to my other three bows, the sweet spot is so much smaller! We're talking half the size of any of my other bows. Which, though I know it, I don't really notice it as a negative when I'm not playing around with my other bows. It's the comparison that makes me wish this one was better that way. Also, I have to really choke up on the stick to get a good bowrocking action, but when I do that, the tone suffers noticeably.

I have another bow that I'm now trying to use more. I'm thinking if I get used to it, it might be the better bow for me. But it's heavier (64 grams) and a bit slower and less agile (or is it me who is less agile?) On the plus side, it's got a huge sweet spot, pulls absolutely bodacious tone on every fiddle it touches (especially on Dee's new fiddle!) and I don't have to choke up at all to get a good bowrock out of it, it just likes that action a lot, which leads me to think the balance on this one might be somewhat better than on my main bow. This bow is also much more sensitive to pressure, which gives me more dynamic range. The weight seems to work in my favor also, since I tend towards a lighter touch, and this one pulls good tone without me having to bear down at all, the bow weight does it for me. Which is why it's surprising that it seems to be a slower bow. Maybe I have to "grow into" this one, maybe there's stuff it has to teach me. It's not an expensive bow, it's a plainjane brazilwood that came with a fiddle I've since sold. It's a bit stiffer than my main bow. I call it the "baseball bat bow" since this one feels a bit more cumbersome. But the results are better sounding. More interesting. Hmm . . .

My third bow is the Tabary Prism, a Carbon fiber bow, which comes in at 58 grams. This was my first "step up" bow, and it's actually the fastest and most agile of the bunch, but it also tends to be a bit more skittish and jumpy, harder to keep on the strings than the other bows. I don't play this one as much anymore, but I'm glad I have it, since it's the ONLY  bow I have that's playable in summertime 90% humidity. It's a decent enough bow, with good dynamics, and made me a better player in the time I used it, since it taught me control, but I do find the sound just a bit thin since I got a couple better sounding wood bows. I do have to choke this one a bit to bowrock, but not nearly as much as my main bow. I don't notice any difference in the tone when I do choke.

My fourth bow probably has the best balance of all. And considering it weighs in at 56 grams it stays on the strings surprisingly well, and pulls decent tone. Easy to bowrock and it's a very fast bow. But it's mushy. It's hard to get the variances out of this one, hard to tell much difference when you dig into it, hard to get fun dynamics out of it. This one will probably go away if I sell a fiddle at some point, and need to include a bow to make the sale. This is a great beginners bow. It's actually the EASIEST to play if you ignore the limited range of sound possible from it, it feels great in my hand. But the range on it is just not there. I'm not a beginner anymore.

So, up until I started playing all four bows again, to see what differences weight made (not all that much, just a bit) I was happy enough with my main bow. Now, I'm less so.

I'm questioning if a rehair and rebalance might be all that's needed on my main bow. I don't know enough about that stuff to know if this is a fixable thing. When I got it the leather grip was loose, and I ended up pulling it off since it was actually sliding all over the place at one point. Would it be possible to make it a better bow, with a bigger sweet spot? I dunno. In a lot of ways this bow is great. But when I choke up the good tone just  . . . goes away. And I have to choke up to get any good bowrocking action out of it.

I get tired quicker playing with the baseball bat bow. It's not a really comfortable bow in most ways. But damn, is bowrocking fun with that one! It's nice to be able to have my hand in the "normal" place and be able to rock so easily. It's funny though, my loud fiddle is even LOUDER with this bow! Almost too much so for parlor playing, but I think I might try it at the next jam.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is it's got me wondering if I should be bow shopping again . . . when the budget permits. And I'm wishing those threads about bow weight hadn't kicked off this latest round of critique. I was reasonably happy with my main bow before all this . . .

14 comments on “Fighting Acquisition Syndrome”

janepaints Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @8:04:36 AM

Luckily, i've lost Fiddle Gear Acquisition Syndrome....dunno why, but it went away...ditto for banjo...makes things easier, less areas-of-interest to worry about....HOWEVER that don't mean I don't understand the lure, pleasures & wonders of Gear Curiosity. Endless parade of crappy electric geetars pass through this joint, tho usually i only much-play (or love) one or two at a time...happily, they never cost much and can always be sold-off for the same $$, sometimes even make a bit of profit. Basically, it's the Tinkering Impulse, but IMO that's a good impulse to have. Healthier than drinking, dope, playing the stock market or obsessing over Cultivating The Perfect Lawn.

Swing Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @9:13:35 AM

bj.. you have a lot of catching up to do, I have 6 fiddles and a handful of bows.... go get another bow.

Play Happy

bj Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @9:17:17 AM

I have five fiddles and four bows! And I haven't been playing as long as you have!

It would be one thing if I could afford this gear obsession . . .

OTJunky Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @9:23:06 AM

You might want to talk to your fiddle teacher about it.

Dave Reiner's written pretty eloquently about the next to progress to the "next level" of bow to support your progress to the "next level" of playing.

Seems these things are kind of like cars. When you start out driving a used Chevy's fine. But as you get more into driving - and better at it - you want something with better "handling". And eventually when you get to Dave's level where you can try to play anything, you want some that you can throw into the "curves" and accelerate out of it in a "controlled slide"... ;-)

You're probably not in need of a Ferrari yet. But it might be time to trade in the Chevy(s)...


KCFiddles Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @9:26:53 AM

I'm surrounded by instruments, and I still try out everything that comes down the pike. It's natural to want to explore, and your taste and needs will probably change a lot with time.

I've pretty much stuck with the same gear the last few years, though. "One who knows that enough is enough will always have enough."

bj Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @9:47:35 AM

Correction . . . six fiddles. I forgot the 3/4 I still have . . .

mudbug Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @12:29:31 PM

'Fiddle simply, that others may simply fiddle"...............or something like that.

bj Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @5:13:39 PM

OTJ, my fiddle teacher is actually my ex fiddle teacher. I do see him once in awhile, and he rehaired the baseball bat bow for me, back in September. Did a good job with it, only lost two hairs, and it's a nice tight ribbon.

Michael, I'm fine with the fiddles I've got. And up until a couple days ago, I was okay with my bows. :-p

Andah1andah2 Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @5:17:24 PM

Sure Muddy, how about "Live to fiddle. fiddle to live"

BJ, Fiddling is your enjoyment. Do what makes you happy. You can hit, stay or double down.

bj Says:
Sunday, December 6, 2009 @5:25:44 PM

This time last year I would have just gone out and bought a dang bow. This time this year? Ugh. No discretionary funds.

autumnstrings Says:
Monday, December 7, 2009 @12:17:13 AM

Don't fight it darlin'. If it's gonna happen there's no stopping it. I found giving in to myself once in a while keeps me from going all out crazy shopping.

Mandogryl Says:
Monday, December 7, 2009 @3:41:26 AM

I don't think anyone can give you the right advice. You are an experienced fiddle player, and know what you're doing and what you're after. Are you looking for one bow that will suit the entire fiddle fleet, or a bow for each and every?
If it were inexperienced me, I would be tempted to go to a good violin shop and find a bow that would please you in all ways. Even at the expense of downsizing the stable. But that is just me. When I get to your level I will probably own several good bows as well.
Good luck hunting!

bj Says:
Monday, December 7, 2009 @3:42:42 AM

I'm An Old Fashioned Girl In A Plastic World. The great bow hunt will wait for spring.

FiddleJammer Says:
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 @3:12:43 PM

Give your bows a play backwards. ie, hold the tip with the frog farthest away from your bow hand. Do that a little bit and get to know your bows even better. Really.

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