Choosing a good violin or cello bow can be a confusing task, given the wide choice available. A good one chosen carefully, will complement your violin or cello beautifully. What are the points to note when selecting a bow?
Sound and tonal quality
Different bows do create different sound, or tonal quality on the same instrument. This surprises many new, inexperienced players but it is true. The difference may be subtle, but any player (even novice ones) will be able to detect the difference, not to mention the audience.
Typically, a supple bow will produce a smoother and fuller sound. If it is too soft, the sound produced may not be clear and defined. A stiffer bow will then produce a brighter, and hence more focused tone.
2. Weight of the bow and its balance
On average, a violin bow weighs about 60 grams, while a viola bow weights 70 rams and a professional cello bow, 80 grams. This is just indicative. Some may weight as little as 54 grams, yet play beautifully.
A bow which is properly balanced, is more important than ensuring that the weight matches the average. One way of selecting your bow is to hold it at a 45 degree angle to have a feel on whether it is well balanced and natural in the hand
3. Octagonal shaped or round bows
If comparing two bows which are made from the same wood, the octagonal shaped one will be stiffer. The stiffer one will create a hard tone that is one dimensional. However, there are some players who only collect and play on octagonal bows. It is hard to say that one is better than other as picking one that is round or octagonal shaped is your personal preference.
4. Structure of the bow
When selecting your bow, ensure that the stick is straight and not curved. You can do an eyeball test by looking down the barrel of the bow. Reject any that is curved as this will not deliver the tone and quality of sound you demand.