I was recently asked to weigh on a debate that has been ongoing in the strings world: do I prefer a wood bow or a carbon fiber bow?
The answer is more than a simple yes or no. Each has a purpose, so I do have and use both.
When I was a young violin student, carbon fiber bows were not the bow of choice. For anyone. They were poor quality. But they have come a long way in 20 years. High quality carbon fiber bows on the market now have the same weight, bounce, and flexibility as a traditional wood bow.
As I discussed in an earlier post, bow selection is and should be tailored to your instrument. So it follows that some instruments may prefer a carbon fiber bow over a wood bow.
I have a Coda Bow Diamond GX carbon fiber violin bow, and a Fiddler Man carbon fiber violin bow. I use the Fiddler Man carbon fiber bow as a teaching tool, particularly for young violinists. I can show them proper bow technique, demonstrate what not to do, and allow them to work with the bow without fear of damage. I use the Coda Bow for playing outdoors or less-than-ideal temperature conditions where my wood bow will have a poor response. The Coda Bow gives me a similar expressive response as my wood bow. I also like to play “rougher” pieces (more contemporary, double-stop filled) where I would otherwise worry about damaging my wood bow. The Coda Bow also handles particularly well on my electric instruments.
For more classical playing, I prefer my pernambuco bow. I prefer the balance, weight, and the feel in my hand. With the pernambuco bow, I feel that I have more of an expressive range. The bow truly feels like an extension of my hand. But it can be a bit temperamental.
If you’re searching for a bow, try and selection of both pernambuco and carbon fiber. See how your instrument responds and what feels best for you.