As we all know, bow plays an important role in the sound that a string instrument will produce – whether it is a violin, viola or cello. A high-quality bow will definitely make the sound smoother and will help improve its projection. Whether you believe it or not, choosing the bow for your cello makes a lot of difference in your overall performance.
The characteristics of a cello bow
Weight – Ranging from 65 to 80 grams, the heaviest bows can be hard to carry around and can be tiring to play with. However, even if they are heavy, these are the kind of bows that produce super sound than light bows. There are instances that an extra effort is needed for lighter bows to sustain its quality and forte.
Balance – A musician can have wrist problems if the cello’s bow balance point is near the tip for it may feel heavy and hard to sustain. While a bow that has a balance near the frog may feel lighter, it maybe hard for the musician to produce quality tone or volume.
Strength and flexibility – These two are always intertwined in a cello bow. A stiff cello bow can have a fast response but only seem to produce thin and narrow sound. On the other hand, the softer and flexible bows have the ability to produce superb tones.
The materials of a cello bow
Stick – The longest part of the cello bow, often called stick, can be made of three (3) different materials: Pernambuco considered as a high-grade wood from Brazil; Carbon Fiber; and Brazilwood which is a typical type of hardwood from Brazil as well. Of the three, it’s the Pernambuco that is considered to be the finest type of cello bow and the most expensive as well. However, over time the carbon fiber type of cello bow has become popular due to the improvement of its manufacturing and the scarcity of Pernambuco wood. Aside from carbon fiber, fiberglass has also made scene in the world of cello. This kind of cello bow if often used by beginners as it is durable, and the sound is inferior to wood and carbon fiber.
Frogs – The part of the cello bow that holds the horsehair and adjust the tensions is often made from ebony, ivory or tortoiseshell. Its grip is usually wire, silk or whalebone and its thumb cushion is generally made from leather or snakeskin.
Tip of the bow – Usually made from ivory, bone or metals such as nickel, silver, or gold, the tip or mounting of the bow can be in round or octagonal shape. The difference between the two is that round is considered traditional while the octagonal is stiffer and valued by most cellists.
Choosing the right cello bows for you
In choosing the right bow for you, always remember that it’s a personal choice. It should fit your preferred playing style and there’s no need to go for a high-class cello bow right away especially if you’re still in the beginner phase.
However, advancement in skills or purchasing a higher quality cello also requires a better bow. Make it a habit to feel as if your cello bow is an extension of your right hand. Thus, in choosing a bow, you should be able to feel comfortable at ease when playing it.
Tips for testing cello bows
Don’t be fascinated by adorned cello bows as the quality may differ from its physical appearance.
Identify what are you looking for in a cello bow – is it comfort, sound, or agility? This is to make your test more accurate.
Does the bow feel comfortable in terms of weight, balance and fit?