Next to a new set of strings, or increased practice time, the biggest improvement a string player can make to his or her musical performance is upgrading the bow. A good string instrument bow should not be too heavy and be able to sustain decent tension on the horse hair without overtightening the adjusting screw.
Rosin is a substance you rub on the bow to help produce the right amount of friction between the bow's horse hair and the violin's strings to create the vibration of the strings. Without rosin, there will be little, if any, sound.
CodaBow Diamond Series Violin Bow
Available for all orchestral string instrument sizes, fiberglass bows are best for younger students and other performers where durability and costs are a priority. These bows frequently feature a plastic frog (the part you hold in your right hand) and rubber grips to keep costs low. Most fiberglass instrument bows cannot be re-haired, and after a year or two of use need to be replaced. However, bows made by P&H can be easily re-haired by the consumer which cuts down on maintenance cost.
Many beginner and intermediate bows are made from brazilwood and often ebony is used for the frog. The bow's grip is generally leather or imitation leather, and wire or simulated whalebone is used for the winding. Brazilwood tends to be lighter and more responsive than fiberglass, and makes a very good bow. One should be aware that due to the fragile nature of the wooden shaft, brazilwood bows can break easily if mishandled.
This wood has the sound and physical qualities that make it ideal for high-quality bows; combining rigidity, flexibility, density, beauty, and ability to hold a fixed curve. Pernambuco bows are suitable for advanced students and professionals. Bows made of pernambuco typically feature ebony frogs, leather grips, and wire winding made of precious metals or faux whalebone.
Graphite-fiber (or carbon-fiber):
Generally, these bows offer performance comparable to wooden bows made of high quality brazilwood or pernambuco. Borrowing from the world of high-tech tennis racquets and golf clubs, a carbon fiber bow combines craftsmanship and modern science. They are made from a combination of reinforcement fiber and a matrix of resin. This mixture has mechanical properties that far exceed the capabilities of the separate ingredients. The result is a highly durable, stable, and very flexible carbon-based material that is perfect for orchestral string bows.
Before a bow is ready to be played the horse hair must be made taught and rosin needs to be applied.
Tightening the horsehair
The horsehair of the bow must be made taught before rosin can be applied and the string instrument can be played. Conversely, after each use the horsehair must be loosened before being put away. The adjusting screw (also called the button) on the end of the bow is used to change the tension of the horse hair. Turning the screw clockwise tightens the horsehair and a counter-clockwise turn loosens the horsehair. A good tension for playing should be just tight enough to apply rosin and cause vibration when pulled across the string. Do not overtighten the bow. The stick of the bow is supposed to be curved toward the hair at all times. Under no circumstances should the bow be tightened so much that the curve of the bow stick disappears, or curves away from the hair. This can cause permanent, irreparable damage. Before putting the bow away, make sure to relax the tension of the horsehair with a few counter-clockwise twists of the adjusting screw. It should not be loosened so much that the horsehair hangs loose and floppy.
Rosining a bow
Rosin is applied to the bow's horsehair. It helps create the right amount of friction between the bow and the instrument's strings to make them vibrate. Without rosin there will be little, if any, sound produced by the instrument. For a new bow or newly re-haired bow, a lot of rosin is needed. One should apply rosin to the bow until they think there is enough rosin on the bow's hair, then rosin some more. Once this first coat of rosin is added to the horsehair only 3-4 passes of the entire length of the bow's hair is needed to sustain enough rosin for playing. As a string player progresses, they will be able to feel the rosin on the bow and have a better idea how much rosin to add.
In choosing a bow for a string instrument, you need to consider your musician's age and skill level, and the kind of use (school band, orchestral, etc.) to which they will put their instrument. If for school, consulting with the band teacher is a good idea.
Whatever bow you select, The Woodwind & Brasswind's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee means you have 45 days to be sure it's right for you. If it's not, just return it for a full refund.* And neither do you need to worry about paying too much. Our 45-Day Lowest Price Guarantee means that if you find the same bow advertised for less elsewhere, we'll make up the difference. When you buy a bow from The Woodwind & Brasswind, you can buy with complete confidence.
*All returned instruments priced over $3,000.00 are assessed a $20.00 fee. All bows are assessed a $4.00 return fee.
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