Bows used to be fairly easy - the mail order house sent one out with your new fiddle, and that was that. Now bows are made in Europe, Asia, and the US in great numbers of various materials and with widely ranging price and performance. Our article on bows is here [link to .pdf] We will ship up to three bows on trial to help you decide what bow matches your instrument and your playing.
The largest distinctions among bows today are in the materials. Synthetic bows may be fiberglass, chopped carbon fiber in a matrix, or one of numerous variations on the braided theme. Traditional bows are pernambuco or brazilwood from Brazil. New woods from SE Asia now make up most of the very inexpensive wood bows.
Unlike most firms, we measure the better bows we carry individually, providing the weight, balance point, and stiffness. We use a Stroup gauge to measure stiffness in terms of the deflection of the bow in thousands with a 32 oz weight:
260 to 310: Stiff orchestral bows that handle hard playing without bottoming out. Suitable for
relatively flat-arch, dark sounding violins.
310 to 340: Soloist bows giving smooth sound with less percussive effect, usually giving crisp
spicatto. These bows tend to be highly versatile, handling hard playing and more nuanced soft work.
330-380: Forgiving bows generally liked by advanced students and amateur players, giving smooth and easy performance for relaxed players. Comfortable. Also used by some soloists, especially for earlier classical music. These bows are especially nice for responsive, high-arched, brilliant violins with a relatively thin tone.
380 to 420: Intermediate student bows, easy to play undemanding music, forgiving.
420 to 450: Playable by a beginner or very sensitive players.
Over 450: Often too soft, but some surprisingly good with a delicate touch.