You don’t want to just pull a violin bow off the first music store wall you look at and buy it. Choosing a new bow is an investment that requires time and money, so don’t rush the process. Knowing how to tell if a violin bow is a good value is challenging, especially when there’s so many options and price ranges to choose from. But if done right, and with some discernment, you can get a bow that suits your playstyle needs for many years while feeling like you got good value from your purchase.
Finding the best option that fits your musical ambition should be based on a mixture of your playing experience, playstyle preferences, long-term goals and, of course, budget.
How Bowstick Material Affects Price
What the bowstick is made of has a major impact on quality and price. For developing performers, or those on a tight budget, the preferred value option for generations was brazilwood. Popular for its strength and versatility, brazilwood was the go-to choice for many string musicians until recently. This is because sourcing the wood has become a growing problem that has led to higher prices and diminished quality. In fact, the International Union for Conservation of Nature now lists brazilwood as endangered.
Fiberglass is another value option, and is sometimes appealing to developing violinists because the bows are cheap and durable. However, they are generally unpopular and considered inferior, because they lack quality and produce an uneven tone. Additionally, they are incapable of performing advanced bow techniques.
For high-quality bow sticks, the choice for many violinists is between pernambuco and carbon fiber. Pernambuco is a denser, higher quality type of brazilwood which comes from the heartwood of the same trees. For generations, pernambuco was the top choice for violinists, providing superb vibrancy and control. But due to overharvesting and its endangered status, pernambuco popularity is waning. Carbon fiber bows, meanwhile, can rival pernambuco in quality without the environmental footprint, plus they are very durable and are typically more affordable.
CodaBow is the innovator of the carbon fiber bow, and remains an industry leader to this day. With decades of bow-making expertise, we use a proprietary blend of organic and composite material infused under high-pressure to achieve unrivaled timbre, overtones, and range. With award-winning designs and features that rival the performance pernambuco bows, our collection carries the GlobalBow® designation, meaning our bows contain no endangered, monitored or regulated species.
The Details Add Up — Starting with String Connection
The essence of player sound, string connection is a combination of a violinist’s style, approach, and even genre of music they perform. Taking these factors into consideration, much of how to tell if a violin bow is good comes down to whether a chosen bow allows you to give your best performance. Inexperienced players don’t often have the ear to hear nuance and make this determination.
What a developing violinist can do is use feeling to help inform their decision-making when choosing a bow. How does the bow flex, is it too stiff? How about weight and balance, does the bow feel comfortable and are you able to use the full length of the bow comfortably to play? Play a passage near the frog, in the middle, and close to the tip. You should be able to play comfortably with all parts of the bow.
A great way to see how a new bow performs is to play part of a song using your old bow, then immediately play the same section of music with a bow you’re trying for the first time. Make sure to play near the bow’s tip, in the middle, and down by the frog to see how it feels using each part of the bow. If you prefer to go to a local music store, bring your current bow with you to test it against any new bows you are trying out.
Visit a CodaBow Dealer or Get a Seven-Day Trial
When making a final decision, your objective should be to choose a violin bow that is good in quality, meets your playstyle preferences, and allows you to reach future playing goals without breaking your budget. Just because an option is expensive or popular, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically the right choice for you. Visit your local CodaBow dealer to try our award-winning bows in person. If that option isn’t convenient to you, we offer a seven-day trial. With this risk-free option, we’ll ship the bow of your choice to your home. Whether shopping in person or online, each bow comes with a generous warranty to protect your investment.