Best Violin Bow Review – Top Rated Models in 2018 with Buying Guide
If you’re looking for a good violin bow but don’t have the time to do any extensive research on the matter, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gone through scores of violin bow reviews and customer reports and made a list of the products that are most likely to make a good purchase based on the feedback they received. Right now, the Fiddlerman Fid-8826 seems to be the most popular violin bow, as many players find that the sound quality it offers is very close to what that of a more expensive top-end model. It seems that carbon fiber technology came a long way, and you can now buy a bow made of this material with the full confidence that it will be able to cover a full range of tone — including strong sounds that require some weight behind them — just as well as a Pernambuco piece. Another viable pick in this category will be the Glasser X-Series.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
Nowadays, it’s not obligatory to look towards the most expensive pieces bearing the signature of famous violin bow makers in order to find the best violin bow for your purpose. While browsing through reviews of violin bows, we’ve noticed that a lot of affordable products were met with a high degree of enthusiasm, even from expert players who are used to top of the range models. The more acclaimed of these are highlighted below.
Fiddlerman Fid-8826 (B00K0NZQHY)
One of the best selling violin bows out there, the Fid-8826 is the perfect marriage between quality and affordability. While it might not outperform the finest Pernambuco models, it is widely considered to be the next best thing, especially if you don’t want to up your expenses factorially for a quality increase that might only get noticed by discerning ears.
The rod is, of course, carbon fiber, which is considered to be the best alternative to what the legendary French makers were using back when they had tropical trees to spare. People who’ve used it were particularly impressed with the agility and speed of play it allows for, as well as the bright tone, which can be considered a trademark of flexible carbon fiber bows.
Its range isn’t restricted to that, however, since with enough skill this can deliver the smooth, full sound you would expect from a wooden model, which certainly makes it a piece that can keep up to the skills of experienced violinists.
Glasser X-Series (B002Q0WSRA)
Like most other carbon composite bows out there, the Glasser X-Series will deliver a bright and snappy sound, perfect for playing fast-paced pieces. This quality is especially welcomed by students, who often need to exercise their agility and dexterity, but also more experienced violin players that would require something to balance their lazier Pernambuco with when practicing.
This doesn’t mean that the X-Series won’t hold its own in a string quartet, as within its favored ranges it sounds just as good as a $500 piece, at least according to the customers who have compared it with other items they own. People also liked the way it is balanced, with the only recurring complaints were made in reference to trivialities such as scratches on the non-vital parts.
If you’re willing to overlook these small flaws, the X-Series design is elegant enough for an orchestra, with a sleek black body and an ebony frog surrounding an “ivory” insert for which no elephants were harmed.
Crescent VL-4/4-CF (B00EBPY2HW)
If you’re looking for a carbon fiber bow to trust your little kid with or something expendable to play in bars without bothering the more discerning clientele, then this Crescent model could be your best pick for the price range.
Apparently, this plays just as well as a mid-ranged brazilwood bow with none of the impediments that come with it. Meaning it won’t change its shape when exposed to varying temperatures and it won’t start rotting if played in a humid environment for too long.
At 68 grams, it’s somewhat on the heavy side, which should complement the natural flexibility of carbon fiber when attempting to achieve “bigger,” fuller sounds by adding a little “depth” when the violinist would have otherwise been forced to apply pressure from the hand.
It’s suspected that the very low price (in the fiberglass ranges) might be due to the fact that this series consists of factory rejects. Provided that the various kinks an item might have won’t affect its functionality, this should give you good performance for a fraction of the regular cost.
Ace Music AM-LO1208 (B01NBWV385)
At around 2.2 ounces, this Ace Music bow is very close to the average weight required by most violinists to play a wide range of sounds, at varying speeds and intensities. Customers also find it well balanced, for a good intermediary between big and small sounds.
It seems that most manufacturers can get the carbon fiber rod “just right,” and this, of course, includes Ace Music. What was found to be less than ideal about this product is the rosin it comes with (basically the resin used to keep the horsehair in shape, probably misspelled some hundreds of years ago).
This doesn’t seem to stick on properly and it will only work well only in especially dry environments, so you might want to stock up on your own if you intend on purchasing this bow. The reasons for doing that are many: it can act as a good backup, practice piece or as a main bow for an intermediate or advanced student.
D Z Strad 301 (B00AUJGRP8)
If you want a Pernambuco bow that won’t break the bank, then this should definitely be your pick. Although the level of overall craftsmanship might not be top notch, the sound quality delivered rises up to par, with full and warm low tunes truly worthy of the material is made of.
It will be easy enough to hit all the right chords since this model is reported to be well balanced, which is especially welcome, since it’s significantly heavier than all the carbon fiber bows we’ve looked at.
The 3.2 ounces of weight will make it easier to render bigger sounds for slower, more melancholic pieces, and due to the wooden construction, this will come off noticeably lower than with a synthetic piece.
This makes it particularly good as a for those that aim to improve their lower range play, but it will also work well as something to accompany higher pitched violins with.
Kennedy Violins Giuliani (B006AZRMLY)
Special attention has been given to craftsmanship for the Antonio Giuliani series with a series of details bound to catch the eye. Genuine abalone has been used for decorating the frog, on a hard ebony support that should keep it lasting for decades on end.
Like with most other models, the mounting elements of the frog are made of copper for good corrosion resistance and nice looks. This bottom part is reported to offer a good counterweight to the rest of the rod, which handles well for both fast and slow pieces.
Woven carbon fiber was used in this item’s construction, which gives it superior tensile strength at no expense in weight. The lower section of the rod is covered in a silver winding, which besides looking good provides for a stronger “base” to absorb the tension of the string. This means you can tighten the screws quite a bit without worries of the bow snapping.
Kmise A1316 (B00PXYDAJG)
Affordable and unpretentious, this brazilwood model promises to work well as a beginner’s fiddle and might make a good gift for the young violin players in your family. The low cost might recommend it as a “baby’s first bow” for which it should perform acceptably well, as brazilwood models are capable of delivering a somewhat richer sound than fiberglass alternatives.
However, it should bear in mind that it won’t hold quite the same way to environmental factors, such as moisture or heat, and it might chip or rot away over time. This shouldn’t really be an issue, however, as the violin players this is intended to serve will probably switch to more advanced models after a couple of years of use.
A fickle child might often abandon violin altogether, which would make this a particularly attractive option since it doesn’t constitute a big monetary investment. Otherwise, it has all the functionality you’d expect from a bow, with the addition of being octogonal in section, which makes it less flexible than other units.
Fiddlerman Wood and Carbon Hybrid (B06XS334QL)
As the name suggests, the American manufacturer chose to experiment a little with this model, which contains both wood and carbon fiber in its structure. The most noticeable thing this unusual solution resulted in is a reduction in weight, at least compared to 100% wooden rods.
At only 2.08 ounces (or 58 grams) this bow should effectively dance upon the strings, with great speed and agility, allowing you to approach the fastest music pieces without feeling dragged down by the equipment.
Another noticeable thing would be its remarkably narrow girth, which combined with the pleasant color and texture of the wood gives it an elegant look, although the octogonal section will make it less flexible than you would expect judging by the diameter alone.
The overall level of craftsmanship employed seems to be high, with a natural abalone inlay used for the ebony frog and solid-looking steel screw and winding. While it can provide a fuller sound than a 100% carbon piece it doesn’t borrow any of the downsides associated with wood and can safely be used in demanding environments.
Presto Pre-8881 (B0046D5TSU)
This Presto is said to compare well with finer models in the $1000 range and isn’t prone to any of the usual misgivings that might be associated with affordable fiber carbon violin bows. It doesn’t “scratch” or “crunch,” while also softening up the sound to make it more comparable to what a wooden bow might deliver.
This makes it a reliable piece to use for chamber music, even for the more demanding baroque variety, especially since it is slightly stiffer than what you would expect from carbon fiber, which should give a greater degree of control over the tone.
It will be easy to take advantage of this thanks to the remarkably good balance this product is said to have. Combined with the lightweight, this should allow you to draw both long and short strokes with the same level of comfort and precision.
While you might want something more prestigious if you get invited to play with the Paris Philharmonic, the Presto should deliver well for an itinerant musician, since its tough enough to handle the rigors of bad weather and the road.
Glasser 201H (B001J1LZF8)
This ¾ sized model from Glasser aims towards the upper ranges of quality for fiberglass violin bows. That won’t be much, some purists might comment, but let’s not forget that every violin player must start somewhere, and fiberglass bows make great pieces for early training.
It’s not just that they will hold up much better when the kids decide to play swords with them, but it is far easier to get the balance right with one of these things than with a wooden model in the same price range.
This is important because a beginner will have trouble enough applying the right amount of pressure on the right chords without an improperly balanced violin bow making the job more difficult.
As it seems to be the rule with newer composite models, this sounds a lot better than what you would expect, effectively covering the full range of sounds and tones that a beginner will be able to produce.
Yearly Guide & Report
Often times, looking for a good violin bow for sale may prove to be a more challenging task than buying the violin, as it is widely considered that the bow plays the greatest part in how well the instrument will perform. The right hand, manipulating the bow, will be the one determining articulation, rhythm, timbre, dynamics, and tempo, with the violin hand only in service of hitting the right notes. The factors to have in mind when deciding upon a bow are to a large extent dependent upon your level of play, but there are a few hard rules to follow as well.
Pernambuco wood has been established to be the best material for violin bows and it was preferred by the great French makers of the 19th century like Tourte, Peccatte or Simon. The sound it produces has been described to be “as smooth as butter”.
Due to environmental constraints, Pernambuco has become substantially rarer, and most bows today are manufactured from generic brazilwood, which can refer to any of the essences harvested from the forests of South America.
A more modern alternative is carbon fiber, which can vary in quality to the same extent as brazilwood, with the added advantages of superior durability and a somewhat better value. Due to advances in technology, the best carbon fiber violin bows can sound pretty close to Pernambuco, and will make good choices for a money-strapped professional player.
Other composites, like fiberglass, don’t perform nearly as well but supplement this with a low price and good durability, which makes them ideal didactic tools. They won’t be the best violin bows for advanced students, but you can safely purchase these in bulk for a class of 9 year-olds.
Physical properties and sound quality
Weight is said to influence how well the bow can be used for either “bigger” sounds, where it is dragged across the strings for a continuous tune, and “smaller” sounds, which are produced by a series of fast strokes. Heavier bows work better for bigger sounds, while lighter ones make it easier to snap at the chords.
Balance is arguably a greater factor to consider, especially as most manufacturers tend to stick around the 60-gram value in regards to weight. Bows tend to be weighted more heavily towards the frog (the part it’s held by) to offer better balance, with the tip acting as a counterbalance when performing longer strokes.
A supple bow that can flex easily is considered to make the sound smoother and fuller, but it shouldn’t be too soft either. Otherwise, the tune might lack clarity and distinction. For sounds that are forceful and well focused, a stiff bow will be the tool to use. These also give a quicker response, which makes them better suited for approaching faster sections.
Most modern bows present a round section, but octogonal ones are starting to become more common. These are usually stiffer than their more traditional counterparts, but other than that, the differences are minimal.
Other factors to consider
When seen from above, the bow must be perfectly straight. Otherwise, you might run the risk of causing surplus vibrations on the strings. The stick can also lose shape due to factors like temperature and humidity, especially wooden ones, as synthetics are less prone to this problem.
Durability is something that the best cheap violin bow should excel at, as constraints regarding sound quality don’t factor as heavily in this case as they would with high-end models. The frog must be made out of a corrosion resistant material, usually ebony, and it shouldn’t allow for gaps with the other parts. It’s good for the rod to have a good memory, and promptly return to shape after being bent.
Another thing to check for is small bends and twists near the tip as this is a sure signal of inferior quality.
The strings themselves are almost universally made of horsehair and don’t represent an important point of distinction between different models. You should just check that they are tight enough and form a cohesive mass before deciding on the bow.
Finally, make sure that you buy a string that’s the appropriate size for your violin, measured in fractions of 4.
Deciding upon the price
The cost of violin bows can vary widely, depending on the materials used, overall quality, and not in the least, brand recognition. Among these, the material is the most obvious price driver, with pernambuco wood bows being generally more expensive than all other alternatives.
Although broadly speaking wood does offer some advantages over synthetics, the cost difference won’t always be justified in terms of quality, so if you are not particularly fond of the type of sound that a wooden bow can produce, then a carbon or glass fiber model might provide you with better value.
A second thing to consider is the player’s experience levels. There are two ways to look at this. First, someone who lacks experience won’t be able to use a high-quality bow to its full potential. Hence the added expense can be considered a monetary waste, especially if the student is not sure about pursuing this path.
On the other hand, a high level of trust in the equipment at hand might assure beginners that any mishap is on account of their own lack of skill, rather than the instrument, and convince them to make the necessary adjustments. All things considered, a mid-range, competent bow might mean the best of both worlds.
Frequently asked questions about violin bows
Can a violin bow be used on a cello?
The short answer is no, even for a particularly heavy violin bow. The strings on a cello are significantly thicker than what you will find on a violin, so they will need more pressure to vibrate and produce a tone. The violin bow is just too nimble for that and might even get damaged if a sufficiently eager player tries to force it to work.
Can you wash a violin bow?
All the solid parts of a violin bow can be cleaned using a whip soaked in a light solvent, such as denatured alcohol. If in a tight spot, you can use water provided you wipe it dry afterward. More corrosive materials should not be used. The hair is cleaned by gently rubbing across its length with a toothbrush dipped in denatured alcohol. (Note that it should be loosened from the stick beforehand.)
Who invented the violin bow?
While string instruments trace back to ancient Egypt, the first bows were most likely used by the Indo-Iranian civilizations of the Middle East during the 7th century. The technical improvements that brought the modern bow into existence are the work of French bow maker Francois Tourte and this only dates to the beginning of the 18th-19th century. His bows had the same parts and were balanced in the same way as what we have today.
What are violin bow strings made of?
Violin bow strings are most commonly made from the tail hair of horses that live in very cold climates, such as Mongolia, Siberia or Canada. This is because horses who grow in these regions tend to develop more ample tails with thicker strands. Between 150-200 of these are used by a bow maker and because the violin is a high pitched instrument, their color will be light.
What size violin bow do I need?
A size that will correspond to that of your violin, which should, in turn, correspond to the size of your arms. This is generally expressed in fractions, as parts of 4. A full violin will measure around 23” (4/4) in length and will require a 29.5” (4/4) bow. This is recommended for a person older than 11, with an arm length of at least 23”.