Higher quality bows always start with pernambuco wood. There are some other materials that have become popular more recently for medium quality bows, such as carbon fiber, but fine bow makers usually always start with pernambuco. Brazilwood bows are lesser quality but good for beginners.
If you have the bow in your hand, examine the stick carefully to determine if it is warped. Hold the bow in your fist and point the tip toward the floor with the bow hair facing down. The hair may be wider than the stick, but it should show equally and evenly on both sides of the stick. If the stick curves to the left or right even slightly, put the bow back on the shelf.
If the bow passes this test, turn the bow over and look at the ferrule:
The bow hair should be as wide as the ferrule, no broken hairs sticking out, not a lot of variation in the thickness of the hair, but full and even. Scan the bow hair with your eyes running all the way to the tip for flaws, such as clumps, twists, spaces or dirt.
Examine the tip very closely for cracks in the wood or ivory (it’s probably not real ivory). Any cracks is a stress point and in the tip, this is permanent damage that will eventually break. Also make sure the wedge that holds the bow hair in at the tip is flush with the ivory and the hair rolls evenly, thickly from this point.
Look at the ornamentation added on the bow. Is it real silver or gold on the winding? Is there a double ring on the frog eye? Is there especially detailed abalone on the screw end and frog eye? This is a higher quality violin bow. Makers don’t waste good ornamentation on a poor quality bow stick.
At the frog, there is often a name imprinted into the wood. This is the maker of the bow. Research the maker. Some makers mark good bows they’ve made with a *** rating. One asterisk is good, two is better, three is best quality.
Bows come in different weights too and this can make a big difference in how much you like any given bow. Hold the bow with your bow grip and move your hand around loosely holding it. Hold the bow with the hair facing you and the tip out away from you. Bounce your hand slowly up and down to get a feel for the weight at the tip. You’ll immediately get an idea about whether this bow will be too much for your thumb, or just the added weight that makes playing easier when applied to the string.
Find the bows balance point. With the index finger pointing forward, slide the stick of the bow (hair facing up) along your finger from the upper half of the bow toward the frog about 2/3rds of the way down. See if you can balance the bow by letting go and just let the bow sit on your finger. You may need to slide it an inch up or down to find its balance point, but it should be about 1/4 the length of the entire bow from the frog end. All these ways of testing a bow give you an idea of how the bow feels, balances and its craftsmanship.
Finally, trust your seller. At Superior Violins, Michael Sanchez is present for one on one questions at almost anytime. He has a team of professionals working with him and people like me, with years of experience in professional playing and teaching, who are evaluating and recommending the products on the Superior Violins website. I actually have a sampling of the violins and bows and cases in my personal studio and have been using them so I can give you an honest rating based on my expertise.
There are probably other ways to be sure you’re getting a good bow that I haven’t mentioned. The most important thing is how it feels when you play it with your violin, because this is literally a match up between bow and violin. Some really great bows might not work with your playing on a really great violin. That’s why you should always insist on a try before you buy program. Try the bow, check the basics, its craftsmanship, see if you love it, see if your violin loves it, then decide.
The Otis Leandro Pernambuco Violin Bow is currently ON SALE!
The Hermann Lugar Pernambuco Violin Bow is currently ON SALE!
Check out the gorgeous silver mounted ornamentation on this violin bow >^..^<