Jump to content


Round vs. Octagonal bows

  • Please log in to reply
4 replies to this topic

#1 mrsdigger



  • Members
  • 54 posts

Posted 04 January 2001 - 07:37 PM

Anyone care to comment on this aspect of choosing a bow? I currently am torn between 2 of 4 that were sent to me on approval. Judging playability only, I like both of them equally so far, but will play them as much as possible in the next 2 days when I have to decide. I will play for another person and get their opinion on the sound of each. Under my beginner's ear, they both sound good. The price of each is exactly the same. Both are pernambuco, same weight, makers are different, although both from Germany. The octagonal stick is more orangey in color, and the round is a dark color, but I won't let that be the determining factor! Both bows are much easier to play than what I have been using! Unfortunately, it is not in the budget to keep both of them. HELP!

#2 Bernd Muesing

Bernd Muesing

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 271 posts
  • LocationW├╝rzburg

Posted 05 January 2001 - 08:00 AM

Octagonal or round is not of any importance.

When playability is good on both, I would make a decision based on a (true!) blind test. Maybe you can have a second or third violin for it also.

Play the violin when someone else listens and the other way round. Try different acoustic situations, especially a large room or hall to check for the projection as both bows might sound very similar under your ear but sound quite different from a distance.

#3 RenaissanceWoman



  • Members
  • 149 posts

Posted 05 January 2001 - 10:35 AM

Get someone experienced to listen. As a beginner, the sound I thought I liked turned out to be the sound that wouldn't have actually made a truly nice sound like the ones you hear on CDs.

Round vs. Octagonal - I believe it's really less of a deal than people make of it. Think about it, a hexagonal pencil isn't going to be tougher than a round one, is it? The wood is still the same density whatever shape it is, not like it has a "crust" or anything. My orchestra director, a cellist, really thinks octagonal bows are way better, but I think that all the other factors about a bow such as weight, balance point, etc. much outweigh this, if indeed it makes any difference at all.
Here's a web page where you'll find some interesting stuff about bows that I found when I was doing a project on violin physics/math - http://www.xs4all.nl/~bowmaker/

#4 Andrew Victor

Andrew Victor


  • Members
  • 3425 posts

Posted 06 January 2001 - 01:22 AM

I agree with Bernd. But, there is one more thing. Have an experienced player assess these bows "for the long term." Some bows are very good for certain beginner stages of playing and will help one improve faster and more easily than some other bow that might be better for the long run, but in the long term, one wants a bow that does more, even if it is harder to use. It is not unreasonable to use a "more beginner" bow in the early stages, if the price is low enough to warrant replacing it as you improve.

I have had students who could not do certain strokes with more advanced bows that they could with "beginner bows" (such as Glasser Composite). Once one gains the experience, one may learn to do the strokes (albiet with some difficulty) with other bows, but one might play with one of those other bows an entire lifetime without improving because of the initial difficulties.

Also, the violin one is using will have an influence on the choice of bow - and vise versa. For example, a very fine bow may be wasted on a run-of-the-mill violin, because the violin cannot respond to the subtle impulses the bow is capable of. As the other side of the same "coin," such a fine violin may be largely wasted with a lesser bow because the player cannot achieve the desired effects (although some players are so good they can use almost any bow).


#5 mrsdigger



  • Members
  • 54 posts

Posted 06 January 2001 - 01:54 AM

Thank you all for your comments! I am still deciding, although last night I "sound tested" them on 3 people. So far, the octagonal seems to be the unanimous choice, all 3 used the word 'richer sound' to compare it to the round one. I switched back and forth for about 2 hours of playing and really seem to gravitate toward the octagonal one for playing ease. My first gut reaction was to choose that one, but I thought it was too soon to make a judgement, especially being basically inexperienced in this area. I hope to be able to go and try both of them in an auditorium setting in which I can tape my playing on good equipment and hear the difference for myself. I can detect a difference in sound even under the ear, but it is not a huge difference by any means. Unfortunately, my teacher is unavailable right now, and I know no one else that plays violin. Andy, I understand that certain bows will not perform some of the advanced bowings well, but I see such a great difference between these and what I am currently using that I feel that even if I am making a "lateral move" in beginning bows, it is going to improve my playing. Maybe my old one will do OK on the advanced stuff, I don't know. Right now, I feel I am being held back by something out of my control, and I can't even explain what it is. The bow is a lot cheaper to replace than moving up in violin quality! When I do choose to upgrade my violin (maybe about a year from now), I will likely purchase another bow with it, and my soon-to-be new one will be a backup. I must say though, this is fun and a great learning experience, I can't wait to be able to choose a new violin, but will have to for awhile!

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users