I currently have four Arcus bows on trial from JS Fisher violins. I'm interested in the Arcus bows because of their light weight (48 to 53 grams roughly). I'm not going to write much now, but I made quick recordings of my two best bows and the four Arcus bows. All of the recordings are once through Woodchopper's Reel. That is on the limit of my ability, especially the B part because of the arpeggios. Some other tunes I'm using for test are Constitution Hornpipe and Ross's Reel #4 for similar reasons.
These are all on a modern instrument with heavy tension Helicores. I have other instruments with Prim and Kaplan Amo synthetic strings that I'll try later.
The recordings are of
Of the Arcus bows, the S6 is the lightest. The P6 is the heaviest.
Arcus bows are among the most polarizing bows on the market—players tend to either love them or detest them. The weight is generally about 10 grams less and the sticks are hollow. The production values are slightly higher than those of the average carbon fiber bow and the price is much higher as a result. They are definitely not investment bows—resale would be near impossible. They perform very differently from all other bows, but that is why some like them so much.
One of my customers has two or three of the top-of-the-line Arcus bows and loves them. On the other hand, a cello player asked for one at the shop a year ago. We did a special order, then he changed his mind at the last minute. We’ve been stuck with it ever since. I’ve shown it several times, and it always gets rejected.
Of the CF bows, which ones do you like the best? I own a Marquis GS bow, so I am biased towards it.
I remember Bosco having one of those Arcus bows up for resale years back. That was the first that I had heard of them and have contemplated getting one ever since reading up about them. I can't speak for the playability from listening to your audio clips, but tonally, the Marquise sounds better than all of them to my ears.
For a little more background, I really wanted a lightweight (~50 gr) bow to improve handling / playability and reduce string noise. The options for that are something like
I own a fractional wood bow for travel. I like it but the quality of the fractional bows in general is mediocre as they're made for children.
I looked a little for vintage, lightweight bows but what I found were unstrung mystery sticks. Buying one of those would be a total crapshoot.
A custom wood bow would be a possibility, but an expensive experiment as there would be no trial.
I thought about baroque bows, but I believe the more affordable, new bows are on the heavier side. So a light one would have to be custom and thus another expensive experiment.
I considered an Incredibow, but I want a normal horsehair ribbon.
So that led me to the Arcus bows. The grade 6 bows are expensive, but I decided I was willing to do it.
I consider all the bows I recorded to be great bows with good tone. Definitely there are tonal differences. Some of the tonal variation is due to my playing as most were recorded in one pass, with some being better than others.
There is absolutely a difference in handling with the weight reduction and that's what I was hoping for. Tone is a consideration for me. I don't want something that makes my fiddle sound like a Stroh violin. I want good tone with acceptable timbre. But mainly I'm concerned about handling.
So LukeF, when you ask which CF bow is best, the Marquise is the best 61 gram bow. The S6 is the best 48 gram bow. Again, every one of these bows is great. So it's a matter of personal preference.
Listening to the recordings, I thought the playing sounded best with the Marquise. The Dodd wasn’t bad, but the tone wasn’t as strong. All the Arcus bows made the playing sound unfocused and there was a noticeable drop in projection, almost as if a mute had been put on.
Those are my thoughts, but the decision is ultimately up to the player.
Shar offers cheap baroque bows that are typically between 42 and 47 grams, according to their site. You could pay a little more and get an even better one from Andrew Dipper's shop, but the Shar bow is good enough to consider if you're looking to get your feet wet.
Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 05/08/2021 09:26:44
Thank you, Rich, for the suggestions about baroque bows. I have a collection of baroque tunes I like to play, so I would be guaranteed to use it. Based on an earlier post of yours, I did consider buying the imported Dipper bow. I'll probably do that in the next 6 to 12 months.
Regarding the Arcus bows, I'm most drawn to the P6 and S6 octagonal at the moment. The P6 has the best tone, but it is noticeably heavier. Arcus describes the octagonal bows "agile and lively". I'm not sure about the "agile" part, but it is more "lively". It vibrates more and feels a little more like a wood bow. More significantly, I think it adds some complexity to the tone. So I think that one sounds a little better and more appropriate for fiddling. That could also be simple variation between the bows, rather than octagonal versus round. (So maybe that is just a better sounding stick.)
Regarding tone in general, I'm learning I do need to use significantly longer bow strokes. I get a much better tone if I do that. Habitually my bow strokes are too short.
I'm having a hard time forming an opinion about the T6.
I ended up buying the P6 bow because of the handling. It turns out that the instrument I thought had Kaplan Amos on it had Helicore mediums. So I only tested on a modern instrument with Helicore heavy tension strings, a modern instrument with Helicore medium tension strings, and a vintage (circa 1880) instrument with Prim medium tension strings. I feel like an idiot because I really wanted to test with synthetic strings as well. I knew the sound wasn't right, but it was only when I glanced at the windings that I understood what had happened. Oh well, I have a set of Amos in my string stash that I'll try with the P6 at some point.
Per Fisher Violins, the bow weights were S6 round 47.8 g, S6 octagonal 48.8 g, T6 50.3 g, and P6 52.5 g. All of those bows sounded better on the vintage instrument with Prims. The heaviest P6 sounded best across my instruments, so I opted for that. The lower weight relative to my other bows is noticeable. It does make a noticeable difference playing fast and/or complicated tunes. By noticeable I simple mean that there are subtle differences like a cleaner sound at bow reversals or string transitions, or that a little less effort is required. I don't mean it magically transforms me into a better player than I am.
By no means is this going to replace my other bows. But I wanted a lightweight bow and now I have one.
'Hand Carved Fiddle' 2 days