Which is better, a carbon fiber or wood bow?
It’s a question I’ve received a lot, so…
Here are my thoughts!
As many of you may have noticed, I actually play both a carbon fiber and wood bow. While it’s essential to try out a bunch of bows at your local luthier to find what YOU personally enjoy playing, I think I can help point you in the right direction using my experience!
While technology hasn’t really improved upon the perfection of violin design from the last few hundred years, it certainly has improved the quality of reasonably priced, high performing carbon fiber bows. You can usually find them for a few hundred dollars, and they play like many wooden bows 2-4x that price.
Because the material is synthetic, bow manufacturers can be really specific on the weighting and balance of these bows, making their quality extremely consistent. In contrast, different cuts of wood have different densities, so quality can be hit or miss in the low to mid price ranges.
But on top of playing fantastically, carbon fiber bows are practically indestructible and totally immune to the elements (temperature, humidity, water). Take it from someone who performs 90% outdoors, these bows can take some punishment unlike their wooden counterparts.
If I could only own one bow, a nice carbon fiber bow would be my choice. They play extremely well and will last a lifetime.
JonPaul and Coda are two brands that make really nice carbon fiber bows, but there are many others. Here’s my JonPaul Bravo:
If you happen to have a sizable budget (at least $1000) and want something absolutely luxurious that can bring out the best in your violin, I recommend you play some wooden bows at your local shop and consider this big upgrade. The subtlety and nuance of a masterfully made wooden bow feels like a dream.
But make sure the wood type is pernambuco, which is a sturdy and dense, yet very flexible wood which the HIGHEST quality bows are made of.
But be warned, wood bows can be fragile to heat, humidity, accidental water damage, and warping (i.e. leaving your bow tightened for a long time so it loses its natural curve). Keep that in mind if you are set on buying a wooden bow and treat it with care!
Here’s my German Heiko Wunderlich bow, which plays like driving a Ferrari.
Choosing what’s right for YOU
You really can’t go wrong with either option as long as you enjoy playing it and the bow feels amazing in your hand. I’ve played hundreds and hundreds of bows, and I can tell you that there are amazing carbon fiber AND wood options spanning across price ranges. You just have to seek them out.
Make sure before you purchase a new bow to play it on YOUR violin to make sure you like the sound. And even if you’re not in the market for a new bow, head on over to your local shop sometime and try a bunch out, from cheap all the way to high end, just to feel the difference and get an idea of what you may want if you decide to change or upgrade in the future.
I hope my answer helps you guys out! Leave a comment below with your thoughts on violin bows and what kind of bow you play. I’d love to hear your opinions!
More answers to questions and updates coming soon!