Ask any violinist in the world and the chances are they will telly ou how important the right bow is. This is not like the plectrum of a guitar, which is fairly insignificant in a lot of cases, the bow is a vital component and gives so much expressiveness and control to a good violin player. This means that you need to find the right bow for violin playing whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional.
Like most decisions you need to make as a beginner, it can be a little bit intimidating. There are loads of bow makers, a massive variation in price and lots of terms to get to grips with when you are looking for the best violin bow, which is why we’ve created this guide for you, as we explore the very best violin bows on the market no matter what level of playing you have reached.
First, we’ve created a violin bow buying guide to help you to understand the terminology and work out exactly what you are looking for. We’ve also provided violin bow reviews and nominations for bows which may be the best in certain situations.
Sometimes, whether or not a bow is the best choice for you depends on whether something just “clicks” when you are playing. It could be necessary to experiment a bit when finding the right bow for you. However, it certainly helps to know the difference between the different features.
In a hurry? Here are our top picks..
In this section, we’ve answered some of the FAQs and created a full guide to choosing the right violin bow for you. From price to materials, we go through all of the considerations before providing you with reviews of five of the top models.
What Difference Does a Good Bow Make?
Bows have an incredible impact on the sound of your instrument. A bow can’t always make you sound like a world-class violinist, but it can certainly make you sound like an amateur if you get things wrong. You wouldn’t play a high-class instrument with a terrible bow, so you need to match up the bow quality with the instrument itself. Choosing a cheap and unplayable bow would be like getting a Fender guitar and playing it with cheap and nasty strings. It’s just not an option.
A bow has an impact on the tone, but also on the rhythmic feel of the instrument and the timbre. They’re much more than an accessory so shouldn’t be an afterthought when buying your violin equipment.
The wood used is absolutely vital. In fact, pretty much all of the materials in the construction of the bow are very important, you’re effectively paying for something that can give you a little bit of flexibility and a lot of reliability. Different bows can have a huge impact on the sound, as established above.
The wood that most people choose for top-end instruments is called Pernambuco. This wood is grown in Brazil and there isn’t a huge amount of it on the global market, so the best bows are quite pricey. It’s so caught after because in spite of being lightweight, it is very strong. This is true with a lot of Brazilian woods and they are commonly used within bows.
Carbon fiber is used sometimes because it can mimic these qualities. It’s strong and flexible and can do a fantastic job. Pernambuco is great, but you may not want to spend this much cash. Carbon fiber bows can sometimes make people a little bit judgemental – well, the violin traditionalists, anyway. But the fact is that they do a great job for those who don’t want to spend the huge amounts for an equally flexible wood.
A carbon fiber bow is a great way to get the benefits without all of the expense. On top of this, it is far less susceptible to the elements! Wood might warp at certain temperatures, or with extreme rises or drops in temperature or humidity. This is not likely to happen with carbon fiber violin bow options.
In terms of horsehair, white hair is best for violin bows, and there are some different types that are known for their quality such as Mongolian horsehair.
Price of a Violin Bow
What will it cost you to get your hands on a decent bow? The level of variation on violin bow costs is incredible. You can get a certain type of bow for around $20 that might do an okay job for beginners, but if you want to get the best materials then you are likely to have to pay for it. A model made from Brazilwood could be between $40 and $250, Pernambuco models tend to be between $250 and upwards of $1,000. You can see just how much variation there is here, and how vital it is to get the right bow. The fact that some professionals pay thousands for a bow speaks volumes.
There is a simple rule that people use to work out how much they should spend on their bow, and that is buying something that is 1/3rd of the value of the instrument itself. Whether that means a carbon fiber bow or a high quality Brazilwood, the key is to match up the quality of the bow with the quality of the violin itself.
Another huge consideration when choosing your violin bow is the weight. This may not seem like the most vital thing, but it does have a huge influence on the sound of your violin. It also impacts on the responsiveness and how well you can play your bow. This is why lightweight but sturdy bows are so sought-after.
The right bow weight for you is a bit of an abstract concept. Similar to pick thicknesses for guitarists, people have their own preferences, but it is important to get a bow that feels right and lets you do everything you wish to with your violin. Weight distribution between the frog (the area you hold and tighten or loosen to change the hair tightness on your violin bow) and the tip.
If a violinist is going to try and get the full range of sounds out of their instrument then they might even own multiple bows with different characteristics.
Many beginners opt for bows anywhere between the 59-gram and the 64-gram range. This gives a well-balanced bow. Some people prefer lighter bows so you can go for something around 55-58 grams too if you wish.
Violin sizes are important for the weight, too. A full-sized bow is sometimes referred to as a 4/4, just like the sizes of violin. A 4/4 size is great for those with arms of 23 inches or longer. If you’re a smaller adult, you can find that a 7/8 design is better for you, and just gives you a bit more comfort. It is usually a case of matching up the bow you buy to the model of violin. A full size violin means full size bows, in most cases at least.
Violin Bow Shape
Bow shapes are usually pretty straightforward. There are only a couple of variations. Bow makers in France used to make round bows, and these are the most common to today. The alternative is octagonal bows. Round bows are a bit less stiff and therefore more flexible, but some people like the rigidity you get if you go for an octagonal bow.
This can feel like a really hard thing to get your head around, especially for beginners. What do we mean by the weight and balance of a bow?
Bows may be weighted more at the frog end than at the tip. Both should have some weight to them, as this helps to get a bigger sound out of the bow itself. The balance of the bow simply refers to the weight of each end and how this relates to playing. Once again, there’s a real element of personal preference here and it might help to try out a bow.
It is vital that when you buy a bow (or if you buy online, when it is delivered) you check the balance and that the bow isn’t warped. Hold the bow in front of one eye, and look from the frog end all the way to the tip, checking that it is not twisted. Twists can impact upon how the bow plays, and if you’ve spent a fair bit of cash on it then the chances are you will want something that is high-quality and goes some way to justify the price tag!
Best Violin Bow Reviews – Choosing Your Bow
Below, we’ve put together reviews of some of the best bows for different purposes. If you’ve read our buying guide you will know that there are some serious decisions to make. Do you want a carbon fiber violin bow or are you going for the traditional Brazilwoods? How important is the horse hair? All of this plays a part in the decision so we have included multiple quality violin bow options, for you to match with your playing style.
Best Violin Bows Reviewed
1. D Z Strad Violin Bow - Model 410 - Brazil Wood Bow – Best Overall
The 410 model of DZ Strad violin bows is available in either carbon fiber or quality brazilwood. We wanted to include a model a the top of our list that can be called an “all-rounder”. This might not be quite up there with some of the professional models out there, but it is certainly good enough for beginners and even some intermediate violinists.
DZ Strad is a big brand when it comes to making bows, and whether you want a carbon fiber violin bow or a traditional model with Brazilian wood, the 410 has you covered. The price range means it is fine paired with violins that cost around $600-1000.
It’s a very responsible bow as well a being hard-wearing, but it has quite a stiff design, which means that the playability might be perfect for you or you might find yourself wishing for a tiny bit more flexibility. It’s 4/4 size and has great Mongolian horsehair, which is AA in quality grade and comes unbleached.
A quality bow for beginners and intermediate players, that won’t set you back too much cash, it’s hard to argue with this violin bow as a top “all-round” solution for a lot of players, just be wary if you like a super light and flexible bow.
2. VINGOBOW Wood and Carbon Fiber Hybrid Violin Bow 4/4 Size – Best Hybrid Bow
This striking bow is fascinating for a few different reasons. Firstly, it is extremely well-reviewed almost across the board. Secondly, it is a hybrid bow. What does this even mean? Well, it isn’t a fully carbon fiber violin bow, as it includes a wooden skin. The manufacturers claim that this makes it stronger than Pernambuco, and you get the benefits of the flexibility of the carbon fiber design. These violin bows are smooth and easy to operate. They weigh around 60 grams, and are full-sized, making them great bows for a variety of players.
This is a handmade violin bow, which uses “premium horse hair”. It’s not clear if this is Mongolian horsehair. Either way, this bow is handmade, so it is great for those who are worried about high craftsmanship. It is a well-balanced bow which could easily be confused for being totally wood.
In general, for those looking for a flexible bow, and something that will last a number of years, it’s hard to argue with the craftsmanship of the VINGOBOW Wood and Carbon Fiber Hybrid Violin Bow. It’s full-sized and though the carbon fiber violin hybrid design is a bit unusual, we expect to see more of them come out in the wake of the Vingobow. It’s that good.
3. Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow 3/4 – Best 3/4 Violin Bow
Another high-quality carbon fiber violin bow, 4/4 bows dominate the list but we wanted to include a 3/4 model which can be matched up with those playing a 3/4 size violin. Fiddlerman is a great brand, and they do also offer a 4/4 model that is almost exactly the same other than the size. It’s just as good, but their 3/4 is one of the very best bows for beginners using smaller instruments. If you buy a 3/4 violin with bow then this is similar to the sort of bow you might receive, but it is probably an upgrade…
This is a handmade bow which has really impressive arch and loads of flexibility. It might not have the most traditional look, but it still offers plenty of great features and build-quality. There is a brilliant copper mounted ebony frog, holding Mongolian horsehair for the actual bowing. This gives a well balanced bow with a good weight distribution and a bit of “bounce” in the action. It feels nice and flexible and it is still forgiving for beginners.
Though this has been named as one of the best violin bows for smaller models, you can find this in other sizes including 4/4. There are even 1/4 and 1/2 size violin bows for those looking for more specialist sizes.
4. ADM 4/4 Full Size Student Violin Bow – Best Wooden Budget Pick
Are you looking for the best violin bows under $50? Perhaps you want something that really won’t break the bank. There’s nothing wrong with starting to play the violin using a cheaper instrument and there is no point in buying a $500 bow to go with your $150 violin. The ADM still offers many of the qualities of great bows without costing a huge amount.
It’s fair to describe the bow as “no-frills” but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t worth buying. Though it perhaps doesn’t quite have the professional feel, the build quality and materials are more than acceptable. It has a brazilwood stick which is well balanced with a good response. It also offers an ebony frog and pearl slide, and silver winding. On top of this, the Mongolian horsehair we’ve come to expect from top models is in place, and though it isn’t top grade, it does a good job.
This is our budget pick for those who still want a wooden bow rather than looking for something that is carbon fiber in terms of design. It’s not the most elite bow, but considering the price tag it is very hard to beat, and still offers Brazilian wood with plenty of flex, along with quality horse hair to give it a strong overall feel and the capacity to create a great violin sound.
5. HAOYUE Violin Bow - 4/4 Full Size – Best Carbon Fiber Budget Pick
This is our budget pick model for those who want a carbon fiber violin bow. It’s proof that even to get a great bow you do not have to part with that much money. Again, the HAOYUE doesn’t quite stack up to the very best violin bow options on the market, but it is one of the best bows under $100, and can prove a good option for some intermediate players and high-level violins.
It is well-made with a full-size design and comes with a one year warranty which is not something you will often find with violin accessories. The carbon fiber has been handmade by luthiers, and the bow is great for dealing with all sorts of environmental factors. There is an ebony frog with nickel silver mounts, like a lot of the cheaper models. In terms of weight, this has a 59-62g weight which is good for a variety of violins and their players! The offering is topped off by natural, unbleached Mongolian horse hair.
For the money, this is a really impressive carbon fiber bow. In an ideal world, you might want to go for a bow with a little bit higher quality in the strings and design just to optimize the sound, but for the price point it is impossible to argue with this design. It will last you years, and the manufacturers even back this up by offering a warranty.
There aren’t many instruments where the accessories are just as important, if not more important, as the instrument itself, but even the best of all violins could suffer if you don’t play it with the right violin bow. As you can see from our list, there is a huge amount of choice, and models of violin bow suitable for professionals and for beginners. The most important thing is to take a little time to understand exactly what violin bows do, and how they impact upon your sound and the way you play your instrument. Whether you choose a lightweight carbon bow or a more rigid wooden bow, it needs to feel just right for you.