What makes a violin bow well balanced?

This is very personal, and depends a lot on the style of playing. If the balance point is very much towards the heel you get a sense of effortlessness in off-the-string playing, but if the stick isn’t fantastic you sacrifice a lot of sound and power. If the balance point is towards the tip the bow will sit “in the strings” well but can be uncontrollable. The balance point also works holistically with the camber, the taper, the density of the wood and the stiffness of the wood, so in itself it’s a bit irrelevant. When I describe a bow as “balanced” I generally mean that all these things are in balance and work well within a sort of norm – very different concept from balance point, and I can see that there’s a lot of room for confusion! 

Can you tell a French violin bow by its sound and is there anything distinctive about the sound of a French violin bow?

No and no – the price of fine French bows is linked to its historical sources with Tourte, Peccatte etc in the way that the price of Italian violins, however humpty, is linked to the price of an Amati or a Strad.

How much does a carbon fibre violin bow cost to make?

I don’t know about the economics, but carbon fibre is clearly a lot cheaper than pernambuco. It’s a totally different type of economics – the cost of carbon fibre bows is to do with big machinery and R&D. Some new Brazilian pernambuco bows are phenomenal, but it’s very expensive to buy good pernambuco exported from Brazil. From the little research I’ve done, a top quality blank might cost under £50 if you are Brazilian and buy in bulk – the same stick would cost 5 times as much in the UK.

What are the advantages of carbon fibre violin bows?

Carbon fibre violin bows don’t break, don’t need re-straightening, respond well to changes in humidity … damn, I should get one

These thoughts were originally published in response to questions on a Maestronet forum.

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