On the Bow Hunt

When it comes to bows, I’ve never been that interested in makers, maintenance, or rosin. When my cello colleagues at Oberlin were trying bows between $900 and $3000, I thought they were insane. Then, about a month ago, when I accompanied my violinist friend to David Stone’s shop, my eyes opened for the first time to the huge difference a bow can make in the sounds you can draw from your cello.

I played with a handful of bows he had in stock and took one home to try for the week. At quartet rehearsal, my violist immediately noticed that my sound had a clarity and quickness that my old bow never had. Practicing became a lot more rewarding because I didn’t have to work so hard to get my lower strings to sound. The response was so much quicker with this new bow that it became clear that I needed to graduate. I’m still in the trial process with a couple of different bows – making a brash decision on an investment like this isn’t a great choice – but I’m excited to move on from my old crooked bow.

Once I find a bow, however, I will take much better care of it than I did my current bow. They ought to get rehaired at least twice a year and protected from serious climate changes. I’ve also started playing with much looser bow hair rather than cranking it to the point that the hair is rigid and straight. This gives me a much richer sound and preserves the bow’s structural integrity. I’m writing all of this so that a) you don’t make the same mistakes I made with my old bow and b) I’m accountable to all of you for taking my bow care seriously.

To read more about bows (from people who know a ton more than I do) read this article about Selecting a Bow or peruse the articles on David Stone’s website.