Here’s the truth:
More than likely, a bad bow will impede your development as a violinist.
Admittedly, the bow doesn’t need to be a 5-figure French masterpiece, made by François Tourte.
But every serious violinist needs a set of good quality bows.
If you are in the market for a quality bow, today I will explain what makes a good bow and answer a few other questions you may be asking.
I will then point you to 5 of the best violin bows for the money that you can buy today.
What Determines Violin Bow Quality?
Here is something we can both agree on:
The right quality bow will encourage you to play more, which is what you need to improve your technique.
When choosing musical instruments, we often consider our budget and the intended user’s age, body size, and, sometimes, level of skill. That still applies for violin bows.
More than that, your bow should match the quality of your violin.
The ‘best’ in terms of bows is a somewhat relative term as it has to be the right weight and balance, which differs between people.
But what really determines the quality of a bow is the quality of the wood and horse hair used in its construction.
Related: The Complete Violin Buying Guide
Your Choice of Bow Has an Effect on Your Violin’s Tone and Playability
To illustrate the effect of bow quality on a violin’s sound one should play the same violin with different bows. There will be subtle differences in tone, timbre and projection between the bows.
It is generally agreed that Pernambuco, a Brazilian hardwood remarked for a dense grain and a superior strength to weight ratio, makes the finest violin bows.
These unique qualities mean the wood produces strong, perfectly weighted bows, whose tips aren’t likely to break on you while still producing an excellent tone, resonance, and speed of transmission.
However, because the wood is rare and only grows in Brazil, its harvest is now restricted and the bows made from it have become very expensive.
In place of the pricey pernambuco hardwood, bow makers have found carbon fibre composite to be a good substitute material.
For the most part, carbon fibre composite bows have sufficient flexibility and strength and will produce an acceptable timbre and tonal quality.
When it comes to the horsehair ribbon, white hair is the smoothest and the best for violin bows.
Beyond the horsehair, the width of the ribbon itself and the quality of the rosin you use to give it the necessary grip also affect the quality of the bow.
Can You Use a Cello Bow to Play Violin?
You probably shouldn’t for the reason that the cello bow isn’t really designed for violins.
A cello bow is heavier and its ribbon is twice the width of the violin bow. That alone tells you the two bows will not feel the same nor produce the same quality of sound.
Generally, if you find a cello bow produces a fuller sound or is easier to play with than a violin bow, it could be more a result of a poor technique than the bow itself.
More than the effect of the bow’s weight and its effect on the warmth and fullness of the sound, the biggest challenge violinists face is balancing the weight of the bow when playing lighter and delicate notes. .
And because the cello bow is held differently than a violin bow and produces a response that’s markedly different, using it to play violin will not help you improve as a violinist and may in fact impede your development.
There is just much more you gain as a violinist by learning to harness the delicate nuances you can only get from a violin bow.
What is the Ideal Bow Weight?
Bow weight affects the tone of your violin’s sound.
Not only that, but also how well you are able to express yourself with your instrument.
But the warmth of a sound and playability of a bow is too subjective to recommend a particular bow weight.
What is more important is how a bow feels when you use it.
In other words, it’s more helpful to worry about the balance - how the bow weight is distributed from the frog to the tip - as well as the flex it produces.
This is the reason why most violinists will own several bows, all of which may be a different weight.
If you are a beginner, a safer bet would be to start in the 59 - 61 gram range. It wouldn’t hurt to also have one in the 61 - 64 gram range.
That said, a lighter bow in the 55 - 58 gram would be worth experimenting with too.
In terms of violin sizes, a 4/4 or full size bow is considered suitable for anyone older than 11 years.
If you would like to use arm length as a measure, a 4/4 size would suffice for anyone with an arm that’s 23”(56 cm) and larger. For a teen or adult with a small build, a ⅞ size maybe a better fit.
A Violin Bow is Much More than an Accessory
Take a guitar for example. You can dispense of the pick and still be able to play the instrument proficiently well.
You will, of course have to brave through a period of sore fingers while you build your calluses.
But you can’t play your violin without the bow. The bow is, in fact, more than an accessory.
Although it is not physically attached to the violin, it is practically an extension of the instrument. You will need to invest just as much care in selecting the bow as you would the violin itself.
In the hands of a capable violinist, a good bow should feel like it’s not even there - it must feel like it’s an extension of your arm.
Ready to go shopping for your bow?
The 5 Best Violin Bow Reviews
Advanced to pro players are usually drawn to master crafted than factory made bows.
This isn’t to say beginner to intermediate violinists don’t value the precision, beauty, and oft superior feel of custom made bows. In most cases they just can’t afford these bows, some of which sell for several thousands of dollars.
But that’s not to say the mass produced bows we will review here can’t be as good. In fact a few pro players will tell you they can hardly tell the difference between crafted bows and some factory bows.
So take note of that, in case you were saving up thousands of dollars for a crafted bow when you could spend a few hundred dollars for a bow that plays just as beautifully.
Perhaps you own a more prized pernambuco wood bow that you don’t feel comfortable taking out to fiddle with at the downtown bar. The bows we review here will be perfect substitutes.
Let’s get to it then:
Crescent Well Balanced Carbon Fiber Violin Bow 4/4
Looking at its low price, you may be tempted to dismiss this Crescent bow as cheap, poor quality.
But, for its price, it is a very well made bow. It has a round stick, itself made from what feels like a very strong carbon composite fibre.
If you are a beginner violinist who is limited on budget, this Crescent Violin Bow 4/4 is a good alternative to the cheap wood and fibreglass bows that you might find at this price point.
Other Features and Benefits
- A solid carbon fibre frame that is perfect if you play outdoors or in very humid conditions that may affect your prized wood bows
- The strong carbon fibre makes this the perfect bow if you sometimes play in bars where rowdy and drunk patrons may damage your more expensive bows
- The frog is made from genuine ebony, with no plastic fittings of dodgy quality
- Fair quality hair that holds rosin well
- Will work well for beginners and as a backup bow, but more advanced players should go further up the price scale
Glasser X-Series Carbon Graphite X-Bow with Horsehair (4/4 Violin)
The poor woods sometimes used in the cheap wood, as well as fibreglass bows are often found out because of their poor tensile strength.
They may appear strong under compressional pressure, but they will give in to the tensile pressure of good quality horsehair.
Made in the USA, using patented graphite molding technology, you can easily confuse this Glasser X-Series Carbon Graphite X-Bow’s quality for that of a proper wood bow
Other Features and Benefits
- It is a fairly light weight that is smooth to play
- There are no fancy bow logo markings, but the bow is a solid quality with a nice matte finish that will last years of constant use
- Uses genuine horsehair that produces a much more pleasant sound than the cheaper synthetic fibres used on poorer quality bows
- Plays beautifully for the pacier, high spirited music
- May sound a tad too bright than would be ideal
- The packaging the bow comes in is poor and rather disappointing for what is still a good quality bow
Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow 4/4
An average 4.5 out of 5 stars from 479 reviews from verified buyers on Amazon is clear testimony to how well this violin bow is regarded.
Analyzed objectively by a violinist who isn’t so stuck on tradition, this Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow 4/4 is better than most medium quality pernambuco bows on the market.
The bow is handmade from a high quality carbon fibre, with a balanced weight distribution and a nice arch for great bounce.
Other features and Benefits
- An embellished, copper mounted genuine ebony frog
- Features genuine quality Mongolian horsehair that produces a true, professional grade sound
- Produces minimal hiss, handles very well, and holds rosin remarkably longer than other bows in same class
- At roughly 60 grams in weight, the bow is easier to hold and will play like a dream for nimbler players once you have had time to mine its potential
- A solid construction that will handle adverse and humid conditions well
- Will need to be rosined well and need a few practice sessions to break it in before you can get the desired warm, rounded sound off of it
CodaBow Prodigy Carbon Fiber 4/4 Violin Bow
In a world where even student violinists are told to steer clear of non-wood bows, the challenge for bow manufacturers is how to produce carbon fiber composite bows they can convince pro players to consider.
But the CodaBow brand hasn’t been too discouraged to still try. And their bows, though perhaps not full pro quality, are certainly worth a look in.
Looks don’t count much for the quality of sound a bow produces. But this CodaBow Prodigy Carbon Fiber 4/4 Violin Bow is sure made to please your eyes first, which can’t be a bad thing.
The workmanship is impeccable and the graphite itself is a high grade quality.
Even though the bow is made from a composite graphite, it has a blended Kevlar core that’s said to produce a warm, acoustic sound at par with wood bows.
Other Features and Benefits
- A great investment bow with good quality horsehair that won’t require a trip to the luthier’s shop every few months
- The frog is designed by the world-renowned Walter Paulus and is made from a composite XEbony that is eco-friendly, feels smooth to the touch, and looks really pleasing to the eye
- Spots a Moroccan goat skin grip and a classy graphite shaft in a diamond weave
- Engineered for great balance and bounce and all-round good handling
- Fabulously detailed with nickel and silver mountings
- May not be as forgiving for learner players
D Z Strad Violin Bow Pernambuco Wood 4/4 Full Size Model 600
As I pointed out earlier, if you are a student you have probably been advised to stay away from any bow that isn’t wood.
We would still advise to try the carbon composite bows we have reviewed here. The quality of carbon composite bows has improved so much you could be better off settling for our picks than the wood bows in the same price ranges.
But if you still rather have a wood bow at a manageable price, this D Z Strad Full Size Model 600 would be a good choice.
It is finely crafted from pernambuco, remarked as the best wood for making violin bows.
Other Features and Benefits
- Perfectly balanced for maximum playability
- The hair is genuine, unbleached Mongolian white horsehair
- Weighs around 62 grams, which is standard for full size bows
- Thanks to the pernambuco wood, the bow has great tensile strength and resilience
- A fair price for a pernambuco wood bow
- A carbon composite bow in the same price range may still be a more pragmatic purchase
CodaBow Diamond GX Carbon Fiber 4/4 Violin Bow
Those who have been around violin bows long enough will know you only start to get proper quality wood bows at a several thousand dollars.
Value wood bows aren’t much good most of the times.
Perhaps you have a wood bow that came came with your violin. I will take a guess and say the bow was already warped and skewed by the time you received your violin.
If you are going pro and are out looking for a good quality bow to use while you raise the several thousand you need for a master crafted bow, you won’t do much beter than this CodaBow GX Carbon Fibre 4/4 Violin bow.
This is a fine performance carbon graphite bow of the highest quality.
In fact, CodaBow is so confident of the bow’s quality they are offering a lifetime warranty on new purchases from authorized dealers.
Other Features and Benefits
- Made from super strong carbon fiber with a kevlar acoustic core, which produces a warm and robust sound
- Handcrafted, with exquisite detailing, including the Walter Paulus designed premium ebony frog
- Individually numbered as a mark of handcrafted quality
- A sleek diamond weave finish
- Perfectly balanced for a high response and expressive playing
- Could be too expensive for some students and intermediate players
And Our Pick is…
The CodaBow Diamond GX Carbon Fibre 4/4 Violin Bow.
Yes, it is the most expensive on this list. But there is a good reason for it. For one it is professional grade at a price that will be a steal if you were considering a pernambuco bow of comparable quality.
If you are a beginner to intermediate player and find the CodaBow Diamond GX out of your reach, the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow 4/4 is excellent value.
And if your budget is really tight, the Crescent Carbon Fiber Violin Bow 4/4 or the Glasser X-Series Carbon Graphite X-Bow wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
For something sleeker, at a price that’s not too steep, the CodaBow Prodigy Carbon Fiber 4/4 Violin Bow is worth checking out too.
For purists, the DZ Strad Pernambuco Model 600 bow will give you a fair sample of how a wood bow feels and plays like.
But I really hope you are not too stuck on tradition, for you have got to consider the CodaBow Diamond GX.
Here is to happy fiddling.