Basic Bow How-To

Choosing a bow can be a baffling process if you’re not armed with a little knowledge before entering a music shop. Below you’ll find a basic ‘how-to’ for the different bow materials and a checklist of a few basic things to look at when buying a bow.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia – Wiki has labelled what we call a thumb leather a pad. There are many more parts to the violin bow, but these are the basics relevant to this post.


Bow Stick-

Fiberglass – Sort of the bottom of the food chain when it comes to bow materials. Usually these are the stock bows that come with the cheaper violin outfits. While they are quite durable, they can feel quite unwieldy and don’t give a great sound. An option if just starting out, and are not willing to output more money yet. They can stand up to a lot of beginner abuse and are very affordable.

Carbon Fibre – These synthetic bows vary greatly in quality. Some are very basic bows and then there are some that surpass the lower end wooden bows, so it’s important to try many different types. These bows have picked up in popularity in recent years due to the increasing scarcity of pernambuco wood. Usually a beginner student will upgrade from their fibreglass bow to a carbon fibre bow or brazilwood bow.

Brazilwood – Brazilwood bows are not quite as strong as pernambuco wood, and the sound tends to be less strong and sweet, but it is a good option if you want a wooden bow and the pernambuco bows are out of your price range.

Pernambuco Wood – The top of the line material for wooden bows, pernambuco wood was the chosen material of the finest 19th century French bowmakers. This wood actually comes from the same trees as other brazilwood bows, but is cut from the centre of the tree. These bows are strong and springy, durable, have a lovely sound and the handling tends to be superior. Unfortunately this wood is becoming scarcer.

No matter which material you decide on, it’s important to try many different bows, and not just many different models. Different bows of the same model by the same maker can vary (due to differences in wood density) in their balance, handling and sound, so try several of your chosen bow model before settling on one.

Frog- The frog will either be synthetic or made from ebony wood. It’s best to steer clear of bows with a fibreglass frog, as they can negatively affect your handling, and can signify an inferior bow.

Bow Hair- Bow hair quality is very important to the sound that you produce. Bow hair will either be synthetic or made from horse hair. It’s preferable to have horse hair, as it creates a superior sound.


Checklist when buying –

  • Sight down the length of the bow to make sure there is no warping or twisting.
  • Tighten and loosen the screw/button to make sure it turns smoothly and check the bow hairs evenly tighten.
  • Ensure the frog is securely attached along its length.
  • Play, play, play. Don’t be afraid to try out as many bows as you need to, as many times as you need to. A good music shop won’t rush you, as they know how important it is to choose the bow that sounds and feels the best to you. Personal bow preferences vary greatly, so try as many as you can get your hands on!

Animato Strings offers a wide variety of bows for any budget. Our cheapest bow is this Single Mounted Violin Bow for only $47.00 – great for beginners.  At the other end of the spectrum we have this beautiful professional level Paesold bow made from pernambuco wood for $2969.00 (see picture below). A wide range of bows in between these price points can be found in store or on the website.


Paesold Bow – $2969.00


If you’re unsure of which bow would best suit your needs don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop on down to the store and have a chat with the staff.


Do you have any bow buying experiences to share? Have a favourite type of bow? Let us know in the comments box.

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