The Ultimate Guide to Testing Violin Bows: Tips and Tricks

Choosing the right violin bow is often a much more challenging task than choosing the right instrument. The bow should act as an almost subconscious extension of your arm and it can be close to impossible to put your thoughts and opinions into words.

That's why we've put together this guide on how to try violin bows. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned player, this guide will provide you with some useful tips and a step-by-step approach to trying out different bows. So, let's dive in and discover the key factors to consider, as well as some useful tips on how to find the perfect bow for you!

choosing violin bow

Different factors to consider when trying violin bows

Much like with musical instruments, the best way to feel confident about your choice of bow is by trying as many as possible, even if you are not looking to buy one any time soon.

It is very easy to get accustomed with the weight and response of your current bow, making it very difficult to impartially evaluate anything that feels very different from what you are used to.

It also helps to have a clear idea of the different aspects that contribute to the sound and response of a particular bow, so that you can better understand what it is that you like and dislike about your particular bow, as well as any others you might be considering for purchase.

  1. Balance: The balance of the bow is crucial as it affects your playing technique. A well-balanced bow will feel comfortable in your hand and allow you to produce a consistent sound across all strings.
  2. Weight: The weight of the bow can also affect your playing technique. A lighter bow may be easier to maneuver, but it may not produce the fullest sound out of your instrument. A heavier bow, on the other hand, may produce a richer sound, but it may be harder to control. The general trend has been towards heavier bows over the last few years, but don’t be afraid to go for a lighter bow if that is the weight that better complements your playing and instrument!
  3. Flexibility: The flexibility of the bow determines how easily it bounces off the strings. A more flexible bow may produce a more expressive and nuanced sound, but it may be harder to control. A less flexible bow may produce a more direct and focused sound, but it may not allow for as much expression.
  4. Material: The material the bow is made from can also affect its sound and feel. Most violin bows are made from either pernambuco, carbon fiber, or synthetic materials. Pernambuco bows are known for their rich sound and responsiveness, but are the most expensive. Carbon fiber bows are a more affordable option and can be durable, but they may not produce the same depth of sound as pernambuco. Synthetic bows can also be a good option for beginners, but they may not be as responsive or long-lasting.
  5. Sound production: Ultimately, the most important factor to consider is the sound that the bow produces. A good bow should allow you to produce a clear and resonant sound across all strings. It never ceases to amaze us the extent to which bows can affect the sound of an instrument. A truly great bow will bring out the best of you playing as well as realise your instruments full potential!

Step-by-step guide on how to try different violin bows

Important to have a structured approach to make the most of your time, especially if you don’t have a lot of experiencer. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you try out different bows effectively:

  1. Warm-up with your current bow: Start by playing a few scales and exercises with your current bow to get a sense of how it feels in your hand and how it produces sound.
  2. Test the new bow's balance and weight: Pick up the new bow and hold it in your hand to see how it feels. Check its balance by balancing it on your index finger and see if it feels comfortable in your hand. Try different hand positions and angles to see how it affects the bow's balance.
  3. Play some scales to check the bow's flexibility: Play some scales to test the bow's flexibility. Try different bowing techniques, such as legato, spiccato, and staccato, to see how the bow responds. Pay attention to how the bow bounces off the strings and the sound it produces.
  4. Play some arpeggios to test the bow's bounce: Play some arpeggios to test the bow's bounce. Listen to how the bow produces the sound and whether it allows you to produce a consistent and even sound across all strings.
  5. Play a few pieces to evaluate the sound production: Play a few pieces to see how the bow produces the sound you want. Try different styles of music and pay attention to how the bow responds to different techniques and dynamics.
  6. Repeat the process with different bows: Try out different bows and repeat the process to compare them. Take notes on how each bow feels and sounds to help you make a more informed decision.

MyLuthier Fine Contemporary Violin Bows

If you're in the market for a new violin bow, we highly recommend the selection from MyLuthier, featuring bows from two world-famous makers: Walter Barbiero and Emilio Slaviero.

Walter Barbiero is an accomplished violist and bow maker who has collaborated with numerous orchestras and musicians, including Mario Brunello, Isabelle Faust, and Uto Ughi. His bows stand out for their soft and elegant sound, and their technical precision.

best violin bows
Silver Mounted Violin Bow by Walter Barbiero

Emilio Slaviero's passion for violin making began at a young age, and he studied the secrets of ancient bows with J.F. Raffin. His bows are known for their design, sculpture, and stylistic freedom, and his family's Atelier has achieved great success and international recognition.

italian violin bow
Silver Mounted Violin Bow by Emilio Slaviero

Both makers' bows are regularly featured in major international exhibitions, and they have built bows for some of the world's most accomplished musicians.

So, whether you're a professional musician or a student, consider the selection of contemporary bows from MyLuthier, including those from Walter Barbiero and Emilio Slaviero, to find the perfect bow for you.

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About the Author

MyLuthier was started by two friends while they were studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The idea was to provide musicians with exceptional instruments at a price they can afford. We travelled Europe in search for the best contemporary makers and we’re proud of our selection and the partnerships we’ve developed.

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