How do I choose a bow with my violin, viola, or cello?

When you are in the market for a new stringed instrument, remember the significance and importance of choosing a bow, as it is a critical aspect of your instrument's overall playability and performance.  The research you put into selecting that perfect instrument for you should also be repeated for the bow, and remember to ask for help if you need it!  (We've included a helpful chart at the bottom of this blog with some suggested 'pairings')

child playing a violaMatch Bow to Instrument: A violin, for example, can have fantastic capabilities - singing, bright high register, and a powerful rich lower register that allows for bombastic chords during a concerto performance.  With an unsuitable bow, however, the instrument won't be able to fulfill these qualities, as the bow needs to be properly weighted, balanced, and a stick that is both giving and strong, to equip the player with the tool that allows the instrument to shine.  Buying a cello of the Soloist level, for example, and choosing the least expensive bow (designed for rentals, essentially, but a good bow nonetheless) is akin to buying a sports car and putting the cheapest, thinnest tires on it.  The car will not perform as it is capable of doing so.  As a general rule, plan to spend 15-30% of the instrument price on the bow.

Budget, Performance, and Materials: When choosing a bow, in addition to recognizing your budget, playing ability, and performance aspirations, consider the materials used in the bow, which help determine price and performance.  Bows can be made of brazilwood, pernambuco (what all great collectible bows are made of - a diminishing resource, unfortunately, and increasingly harder to find), and composites. CodaBow was one of the first to introduce a composite bow, and the advantages of these bows are numerous (durability, consistency, less likely to warp), primarily the ability to replicate the playing abilities of a much more expensive pernambuco bow, because of the increasing cost of the raw materials.  Composite bows have a different feel and response than wooden bows, so be sure to try both if you are unsure, as sending a bow back, safely, is quite easy and inexpensive.

Materials other than what is used on the stick will help determine a bow's price, such as the frog material, the metal (gold, silver, nickel) used in the mountings, and whether or not an exotic material is used in the frog or nut/screw.  If you are working with a budget, Johann Krausch Select Cello Bowalways choose the best PERFORMING bow, and skimp on the mounts or fitting materials, but if you want a bow that is equally as beautiful to look at as to play with, go for something along the lines of a Johann Krausch Select, shown here.

Using the sample cited above - the Soloist cello - a good 'budget' bow selection to match with the instrument would be the Joh. Krausch.  The Joh. Krausch is a value-priced pernambuco bow, with great performance capability.  It is a lighter weight bow, with a solid combination of flexibility and strength, and a tremendously sensitive feel.  We love the Joh. Krausch bow, and have sold thousands of them over the years as a result of their value and performance combination.  Because it comes with nickel fittings, the cost is kept affordable, versus a similar stick that would be fitted with silver, for example.  Another good option would be to step up to a stronger stick, such as the CodaBow Diamond SX.  This composite bow is beautiful to look at, and a pleasure to play.  Less sensitive in feel than the Krausch lines, but more oomph behind its performance, and a beautiful smoothness on bow changes.

Trade-In Benefits: An additional benefit in choosing the best bow you can afford comes into play if you happen to upgrade your instrument, trading it in later for a higher end line.  If you've chosen a bow that can match several levels above the current one, you can keep the bow and only need to worry about upgrading the instrument.  For those who purchase a bow that is a good fit with their current instrument, but likely not an equal match for their upgraded instrument, fret not, as you can (and should) keep the bow as a spare, for when you are rehairing your good bow!

Let us Help: As always, we encourage all those shopping for any instrument from any violin shop never to shy away from asking for recommendations.  The folks at StringWorks have all played violin, viola, and/or cello for decades, and we can talk with you and help find the right fit for your budget, playing ability, and performance aspirations.  Give us a call at 888-624-6114 or email us with any questions as you search.  I've created a chart below to help guide you with some of our suggested 'bow pairings' :)

 Instrument Suggested Bow(s)
Crescendo StringWorks, Harmony, Hoffmann
Artist Harmony, Hoffman, Joh. Krausch
Virtuoso Joh. Krausch, CodaBow Prodigy
Maestro Joh. Krausch, CodaBow Prodigy, CodaBow Diamond NX
Soloist Johann Krausch Select, CodaBow Diamond NX or SX
Michael Todd Johann Krausch Select, CodaBow Diamond SX or GX
Kallo Bartok Johann Krausch Select, CodaBow Diamond SX or GX



What do you think about the Virtuoso Violin & Harmony Bow combo?

Shanne July 10, 2019

David, I’m hoping to get Evan to comment more specifically to compare the Amedeus model to our Crescendo and/or Artist, as he used to work at Shar!

Todd April 25, 2018

I have an Amadeus cello from Shar and I think I need to upgrade.
What is the difference between your Crescendo and Artist cello and is it much of an upgrade.
Many thanks for your help.
Dave t.

David Therrien March 31, 2018

Craig – sorry for the delay, didn’t see this blog comment until now! We’d be happy to help find a cello for you, as a huge portion of our clients are adults who have always wanted to play violin, viola, or cello but never had the time. Artist and Virtuoso are our most popular instruments for adult beginners, but give us a call, or email us, and we can help steer you in the right direction, specific to your daughter’s needs!

Todd March 15, 2016

My daughter is 32 years old and has expressed a desire to play the cello. She plays piano and saxophone. Please give me some suggestions!

Craig Brookins January 01, 2016

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