With so many brands of viola bows available, it can be difficult to find one that matches your needs. It’s not necessary to sell your first born to get a good viola bow, but you do need to have an understanding of what to look for so that you don’t get an inferior quality bow. Learning about the characteristics of a good bow can help you make a more informed decision when you start shopping for your next bow.
The viola bow only comes in one size. If you need a smaller bow, you’ll have to buy a violin bow. While this does work, buying a smaller bow will affect the overall sound. Whenever possible, stick to established viola bows that are known to work well and reliably.
Learn about the technical parts of the viola bow before you start looking for one online or at your local store. Knowing the names of the components will make it possible for you to make a more informed decision. There are a few main parts to be aware of when looking for a bow. The hair, stick, pad, frog and screw are all essential components to any bow.
Hair is typically made out of horse hair, but there are some synthetic hairs out there. If you buy a bow with synthetic hair, it can always be replaced later with horse hair. The stick serves as the main part of the bow, and the best bows are made out of Pernambuco, but high-quality bows can also be made of carbon-fiber. The cheapest bows are made out of fiberglass, and you should avoid these bows unless you have an absolute beginner. The pad, or bow grip, is typically made of a soft rubber. It’s used to help balance the bow. The frog is located near the end of the bow and it serves to hold the hair in place and lay them flat. Finally, a good quality screw is important to accurately tighten the hairs to the appropriate tension.
The right viola bow can dramatically change the tone production of your instrument. A low-quality bow won’t properly grip the strings and may need excessive rosin to make it suitable for playing. The bow can also help make a lower-quality viola sound better. When a bow is properly balanced, it’s easier to play and you’ll be able to enjoy a more fluid technique. The beginner may not notice that a bow is unbalanced, but the difference will become apparent after using a higher-quality bow.
A quality bow will feel like an extension of your hand. It should feel natural and well-balanced, and it will make you feel more connected to your viola. If you’re thinking about your bow while performing, then the bow is not serving its role well. It should feel like it flows across your strings in an effortless manner and enhances your playing technique. The best bows are designed to give you more confidence and help enhance your overall performance.
When looking for a viola bow, there are four basic materials to keep your eye out for. In general look for higher-quality materials like Pernambuco and carbon fiber. Pernambuco is a rare wood that is hard to find, which has made it rather expensive. Some of the best bows are made of this wood, but other materials have been used in recent years due to its scarcity. When possible, you should try to get at least one bow made out of this quality wood. Carbon fiber is the next best option and many bow makers are able to get close to the sound of Pernambuco.
On the low end of the spectrum, you have Brazilwood and fiberglass. Brazilwood is made from any number of hardwoods that originate from tropical countries, including but not limited to Brazil. It produces an acceptable sound, and a beginner’s bow made from Brazilwood should serve you well. The lowest-quality material that bow makers use is fiberglass. This should generally be avoided since it doesn’t have the density and resonance of wood or carbon fiber.
The weight of the bow is also an important consideration. A bow should weigh around 60 grams. The shape of the bow affects the stiffness of the bow. Round bows will be more flexible while octagonal bows will be stiffer. A stiff bow can create a one-dimensional tone that is considered undesirable, so keep this in mind when looking at an expensive octagon viola bow.
Once you have your viola bow, use this video to make sure you’ve got some solid technique to play beautiful music:
Five Best Viola Bow
DZ Strad Carbon
One of the most important features of a quality bow is its quick response. This bow offers a quick response and good balance to perform some of the most demanding works in the literature. It’s the appropriate size for a viola bow, and you’ll enjoy the attractive design with a traditional frog that is made from polished ebony. The instrument uses Mongolian horsehair to effectively grab the strings and help you perform more effortlessly. The quality is exceptional, and you won’t have to worry about a bow that is going to break down or compromise your performance in any way.
This is one of those bows that is light enough for quick and light playing, but heavy enough for an effective sound. The bow is suitable for a standard viola that ranges in length from 15 to 17 inches. You’ll find this easy to adjust, and it uses a regular rounded edge to help you play with a flexible technique. While this bow doesn’t use Pernambuco, the carbon fiber design will provide better durability and the feel is very similar. For an affordable bow that won’t break the bank and will provide you with years of reliable service, this bow offers an excellent option for the intermediate to advanced player.
- Durability: Carbon fiber stick features a long life, excellent balance and a good response.
- Size: The perfect size for a viola ranging from 15 to 17 inches in length.
- Materials: The bow offers unbleached Mongolian horsehair, polished premium ebony and a traditional frog.
- Materials: The bow is solid, but it lacks the much-coveted Pernambuco wood.
- Cost: For a little more money, you could get a better bow.
- Grade: The bow is only suitable for the beginner or intermediate, a professional will want something better.
It’s rare to find a bow with Pernambuco and especially at this price range. This bow offers a mix of carbon fiber and Pernambuco, so it’s not a pure Pernambuco bow. However, the addition of Pernambuco does lend an air of quality to the bow that other bows in this price range simply can’t compete with. The bow is suitable for a standard viola, and it uses Mongolian horsehair with nickel/silver mountings. For the beginning to intermediate player, you can’t really expect a better value bow. The bow is also light at less than 71 grams, and it’s a well-balanced and strong bow that will last you for years.
The beginning student may find the bow to be a bit heavy, but the heavier weight makes it suitable for strong attacks and a good quality sound. With enough playing, this bow will begin to feel like an extension of your hand. It’s perfect for ensemble and solo playing, and even an advanced player will find something to appreciate about this bow. For the cost, you get a premium bow made with rare and hard-to-find materials. This bow is an upgrade from the average beginner’s Brazilwood or fiberglass bows on the market.
- Materials: Made from a hyrbid of carbon fiber and Pernambuco for a consistent feel.
- Balanced: Exceptionally well-balanced bow, and it will make short work of complicated musical passages.
- Size: Perfect sizing for all but student model violas, and the Mongolian horsehair provides exceptional grab.
- Weight: This viola bow may feel a little heavier if you’re coming from a Brazilwood or fiberglass viola bow.
- Purity: It’s not a pure Pernambuco bow, which means you’re still getting carbon fiber.
- Shape: Uses a rounded design, which doesn’t offer a stiff feel. However, a stiff feel is not desired by most professional players.
DZ Strad Brazilwood
If you want an affordable viola bow that offers good balance, decent weight and accurate response, this bow may serve your needs. The bow is made from Brazilwood, but it still offers an accurate response that you’re likely to enjoy. The stick is ideal for the student who is an intermediate or beginning player, and it features quality materials like a nickel silver mounted ebony frog and unbleached horsehair. The bow offers a good amount of flexibility, but it does seem a bit stiffer than other bows in its class. However, it will feel like a great upgrade from fiberglass blows.
The negative aspect of this bow is that it uses Brazilwood, which is a hardwood that is at the lower end of the spectrum for a quality viola bow. For a little more money, you could get a low-end carbon fiber bow or the Vio Music Pernambuco bow. Still, the attention to detail and craftsmanship makes this a well-made bow despite the materials used in the construction. It’s great for a beginner who doesn’t need a more expensive now, and it’s lower cost will make it suitable for rough playing or extended techniques that an advanced player might need to perform that could damage a higher-quality bow.
- Size: The bow is suitable for a regular-sized viola and will work well for a beginning player.
- Craftsmanship: High-quality craftsmanship makes this a high-performing bow and suitable for playing any musical style.
- Response: Quick and easy response with exceptional resliency gives this bow an excellent action.
- Materials: While it uses Brazilwood, it’s still better than a fiberglass bow.
- Design: The bow is a bit heavy, which can create some difficulty when playing harder passages.
- Strings: While horsehair is used, the lack of Mongolian horsehair reduces the degree of grip.
VingoBow Carbon Fiber
This bow is a really great value for the budding violist, and it features many options that make it an attractive option for beginners through advanced violists. The bow is weighted at about 70 grams, and it is 74.5 centimeters in length. This makes it suitable for a range of viola sizes, and it will provide a good level of strength, moderate flexibility due to the rounded shape and good balance. This viola bow borders on professional, and any violist would be happy to use this bow in a performance. It’s hand-crafted by artisans, and the bow offers a slight curve with an otherwise straight stick.
The materials used in this bow are some you would expect to find in a bow two to three times its cost. Mongolian horsehair offers excellent grip on the strings, the carbon fiber material makes it lightweight but durable and the bow is also more stable than a purely wooden bow. An ebony frog helps to provide a traditional look and feel, and the nickel silver mountings will resist rust, tarnish and corrosion. The bow was even designed by an experienced master luthier, so you know you’re getting something built to perform at the highest levels.
- Light: Carbon fiber material helps to make this bow lightweight and flexible.
- Stable: The materials used promote a consistent response in a range of environmental conditions.
- Craftsmanship: Hand-crafted bow is modeled after the specifications of a master luthier.
- Materials: High-quality materials are used, but Pernambuco wood is not one of them.
- Shape: Rounded shape makes this bow more flexible, which may not provide enough traction for a beginning player.
- Craftsmanship: Since the bow is handcrafted, you may need to request a replacement or two to find a perfectly made bow.
Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber
Here is a good bow that is made of carbon fiber. The bow uses Siberian horsehair, which is not common for a bow. It also features a rounded stick that is ideal for the performer who wants a flexible bow. The bow has a nice slight arch to it, and the bow will provide a good and responsive action. This bow rivals some bows that are twice the cost. The handmade design ensures that it’s created by professionals who really understand how to create an effective bow.
The copper mountings are less commonly found in a bow, and they give the bow a slightly inferior appearance to nickel-plating. This is a good upgrade from a beginning bow, but it might now offer the quality level expected or a professional. While it doesn’t use Pernambuco, the carbon fiber provides an excellent sound. This offers a good option for the professional who doesn’t want to use their bow in conditions that may result in harm to the bow itself. The length of the bow makes it suitable for violas ranging in length from 14 to 17 inches. If you’re looking for a bow that plays consistently in any environment and has low maintenance needs, this is an exceptional bow that you should consider.
- Bow: Top-quality carbon fiber bow provides a more relaxed playing experience.
- Action: Highly responsive action thanks in part to the bow’s Siberian horsehair.
- Size: Suitable for most any viola regardless of size.
- Materials: Carbon fiber is a good material, but Pernambuco is the preferred material.
- Weight: The bow is a little light, which can make it more difficult to play forcefully.
- Mountings: Copper mountings aren’t as sleek or attractive as nickel-plated mountings.
The Vio Music Pernambuco bow is our best pick for a new viola bow. It’s the right size for a professional player, it uses a carbon fiber core with Pernambuco mixed in to get a more realistic tone and it uses a nickel and silver mount. The natural Mongolian horsehair will provide you with good grip so that you can worry about playing the right notes and not focusing on the limitations of your bow. It’s at a relatively decent price range for a bow, and most violists will be able to budget this bow into their finances.
The bow seems weighted just right and the balance is good. While it might be a bit heavy for a beginner, it’s pretty standard for your average viola bow. For a lighter bow, you’ll likely have to move down to a violin bow. However, you’ll lose some of the viola’s characteristic sound by doing this. Overall, this bow offers all of the right features at a price that is sure to please.