More than just a bow

10 WAYS TO JUDGE THE QUALITY OF A BOW – or How do I know if my bow is any good?

Let me just start by stating the obvious. It is the bow which produces the sound on the violin. Obviously, not all bows are created equal. I continue to be surprised how using a different bow can make the same violin sound either incredibly better or much worse. You can get your perfect sounding violin without upgrading your violin by just upgrading your bow.


SOUND: strong core, a lot of high overtones, a strong middle range

VOLUME: loud, low, focused, good carrying power

WEIGHT: light (ideally around 60 grams)

BALANCE: good balance not heavy at the tip or the frog

STRING CONTACT: even over the whole bow, including the tip, in the middle and the frog

BOUNCE: good over the whole bow, with good control

STABILITY: is stable along the whole stick, not breaking out to the side in the middle

STIFFNESS of wood: good, stiff at the frog, middle and tip

AESTHETICS: nice tip, frog, beautiful wood, mother of pearl, gold , silver, nickel mounted

FEEL: is comfortable in your hands.

Most professional violinists will have more than one bow in their case. One bow will be for medium tempo and the other lighter bow for faster tempo. It is important to mention that professional bows are made of pernambuco wood.

In the bow-making business it is usual to refer to some species other than Paubrasilia echinata as “Brazilwood”; examples include Pink Ipê (Handroanthus impetiginosus), Massaranduba (Manilkara bidentata) and Palo Brasil (Haematoxylum brasiletto). The highly prized Paubrasilia echinata is usually called “Pernambuco wood” in this particular context.

Reference: These tips come Chapter 11 of “A Bow on the Couch” found at

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