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The Ups and Downs of a New Bow- getting PICKY!!!!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Well, I bought a new bow the night before last, a LaSalle carbon-fiber.

It felt and sounded REALLY good on my fiddle in the shop, and felt and sounded really good on my fiddle at home, including the practice session this morning.  Sweet sound, precise control- what more could I want???

But I had a gig with some fiddling today, and started out with the new bow... and it just didn't seem to cut it. It seemed to sound thin and scratchy.  I switched back to the louder brazilwood bow after a couple of tunes.

Part of the problem may be the acoustics where I played... I noticed before that they are a little odd- it seems to absorb sound, and reflect very little back, and what I'm left with is scratchy bow sounds.

And faced with an apparent lack of volume, or maybe just due to nervousness, I maybe press harder on the bow, when what I should be doing is lightening up.

If I'd had a monitor of some sort, it might have helped.

Anyway, it's not the first time I've noticed that integrating a new bow into my playing style isn't all fun and games... I've got to make it a part of me, or it won't work when performing.

Edit Dec. 31st:

Practicing with it in light of yesterday's gig, I decided to experiment a bit.

1. I used a single hole punch to punch out a small circle of masking tape, and stuck it on the underside of the tip.  It seems to give me a bit clearer tone.  It's amazing how little weight at the tip makes a difference, but then, it's at the end of a long stick, so every little bit exerts a LOT of leverage.  I think it also makes a difference when I get close to the tip, like the bow was losing a bit of traction at that point.

2. The adjustment screw didn't turn easily, so I removed it to rub it against a beeswax candle (at least I think it's beeswax).  But when I removed it, it had some black gunky lubricant on it, so I cleaned it up before applying a little candle wax by pressing the threads against the underside of the candle and turning it against the candle.  When reassembled, I could now feel that point where it gets harder to turn as the bow gets much tighter, and tried it there.  Better tone- but was it from being able to find my reference point for bow tightness, or from cleaning the gunk off, or both??? Dunno. Doesn't matter, I guess.

3. It occurred to me to tweak the amount of rosin- the heavy brazilwood bow needs only one stroke of Kaplan Premium Light, and one stroke of Becker Dark, and it's good to go.

(The Becker gives the grabbiness, the Becker the extra smoothness.)

I had been trying 3 strokes of straight Kaplan Premium Light, or 2 strokes of each, but when I tried 3 strokes of Kaplan Premium Light, and one stroke of Becker Dark, the new bow felt right.

And this is the bow that felt so perfect in the store-

You don't think I'm PICKY, do you??? ;^D


8 comments on “The Ups and Downs of a New Bow- getting PICKY!!!!”

autumnstrings Says:
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @7:31:27 AM

You must become one with the bow. I'm going through the same thing with my bow, I do love it, but depending on which room I'm in, I'm not sure how much. :) It's probably my playing though and not the bow. This one is a bit lighter than my others and I just need to adjust my index finger to it.

mudbug Says:
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @9:49:15 AM

Hey, Michael! I've experienced rooms on electric guitar where a Strat sounded thin and a Gibson sounded full, and other rooms where the Gibson sounded muddy and the Strat very clear and chimey. Single coil/humbucker. One size don't fit all rooms. Maybe it's the same with fiddles and bows.

fiddlepogo Says:
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @10:50:52 AM

Autumn, Yup, I agree, gotta become one with the bow!
This one is also a bit lighter than my previous main bow, and I do have to adjust my "touch".

Mudbug, yeah, I've noticed that too, except it was always in favor of the Strats- I used to have a humbucker equipped lespauloid (DeArmond) that I liked pretty well at home, but I never got it to sound good through my amps at my rather humble gigs, so I sold it. The Strats have always won out (one hardtail for a more aggressive sound, a thoroughly tweaked MIM Standard for a more or less "vintage" sound) because they always maintain clarity and don't go muddy.
But then, I don't gig in a wide variety of places with the electrics. And I always tweak the Strats so the neck pickup is a bit hotter and fatter sounding than standard, and has a high quality capacitor on the tone control. That allows me to actually use the tone control on the guitar in a useful way to compensate for the room. Or I can use a different pickup or pickup combination.

But with the fiddle, in some gig venues it sounds great, and at others it was tonally challenged...
and when I did two gigs in a day, and the second one was the bad one, it was obvious that it was the room, not me or the fiddle "closing up".

bj Says:
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @10:02:53 PM

Picky? That isn't the word I'd use, but the A word I'd choose would get me booted off this joint, or at least censored. :-D

frogeyes Says:
Thursday, December 31, 2009 @10:54:50 PM

i had the same problem with a carbon fibire bow 6 months later i still hate it feels heavy no bounce hard to tighten to never again what more can i say i hope you have more luck than me

fiddlepogo Says:
Friday, January 1, 2010 @3:24:50 AM

I think I've just got sensitive ears. Went through the same thing with electric guitar.
Tweak, tweak, tweak. Bridge screws, capacitors, neck pockets, internal wiring, guitar cords!
Some guitarists on-line think I'm crazy. (one guy calls me a mad scientist!)
I've basically swapped nearly everything that's swappable.
But when I take my Strat somewhere to try an amp, invariably I get complements on the sound,
and it started out as a run of the mill MIM Standard, plus my tweaks.
And I get complements on my amp tone too- tweaked the tube choices and the speaker.
Paul Reed Smith said in an article that good luthiery is just the cumulative effect of taking care of a number of small details that tend not to be noticeable individually.
Then there is Eric Johnson. He's notorious among guitarists for being picky, and some probably use your A-word about him too, BUT his signature model Strat with his favorite tweaks is one of the best selling models Fender has, and I played one- it sounds FANTASTIC!

Fiddle, same thing- locally, I do get complements on my tone... but it's NOT because I have an expensive fiddle. So I must be doing something right.
(My recordings may not be representative of my best tone, because I FORCE myself to be non-picky about recording- otherwise I'd never record!!!)
I think the obsession with guitar tone got me hyper-aware of tonal issues and it's now carried over to fiddle- I know I wasn't this picky before my 15-year hiatus!!!
But the fiddle is right under my ears, and I can hear lots of subtle changes in tone when I change small things.

Some of the obsessive instrument tweaking is heightened by the fact that I don't have whole bunches of money, so I have to maximize my investments my tweaking them to squeeze every last bit of tone out of them.
If money were no object, yeah, I'd just go buy an expensive fiddle and bow,
and just leave them alone.
Or would I??? ;^D

bj Says:
Friday, January 1, 2010 @7:21:17 AM

No, you wouldn't leave them alone.

fiddlepogo Says:
Saturday, January 2, 2010 @4:42:50 PM

You're probably right.
Inquiring minds want to know...
if any more performance can be squeezed out of whatever the musical doohicky is!
Well now, I probably wouldn't do anything that would affect the resale value--
maybe just the masking tape dots. Reversible mods, I love 'em!

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