Viola Bow 101: A Checklist in Choosing the Perfect Viola Bow

21 Oct


While thoroughly assessing the kind and brand of viola that will suit you, many may tend to neglect that the same applies for choosing a bow as this also affects the quality of the sound the instrument produces. 

In the strings family, violas are bigger than violins, thus, there’s also a difference between the bows of both instruments. Viola bows are heavier compared to violin bows, and there are instances that the frog of viola bows are curved instead of straight-edged. That’s why in playing the viola, it is necessary to choose the perfect bow that will accompany your instrument.

And although bow may be expensive for both beginners and professionals, the price is incomparable to the aid it can provide for you to have a superb performance.  To make this task easy for you especially if you’re just starting to learn the instrument, here is your complete checklist in choosing the appropriate bow for your viola:

  • How’s the weight and balance? It is necessary that the bow you’ll choose will feel like it’s just a natural extension of your arm. Ideally, your bow should weigh at least 60 grams and not more than what’s prescribed for heavier than that may lead to frequent uneasiness while playing the viola.
  • How’s the sound it produces? Comparing each bow should help you to decide which one produces richer sound. However, if all bows of various brands sound the same to you, it’s best to choose the least expensive one and practice refining your sense of hearing when it comes to this criterion. This way, it’ll help you to make better decisions in choosing your next viola bow.
  • What are the materials used for the bow? Definitely, the materials of a bow has a huge impact on the sound your bow will produce. As an example, choosing a stiff bow will give you clear sound and the best choice for beginners.

Octagonal-shaped bow tend to be stiffer than its round version. The round bow has the warm, soft, and quiet tone which is a complete opposite of the octagonal one for it has more treble and high ending. 

Soft bows won’t be able to produce clear articulations of notes compared to its stiff counterpart. That’s why it’s ideal that you test the bow before purchasing it and choose the one that is stiff enough to produce rich sounds.

Bow hair made of white stallion or synthetic hair are your best options if you want long lifespan for your bow hair. Low quality bow hairs tend to have discoloration (i.e. bleaching) over time which can weaken the quality of the hair.

  • What are the other components to compliment the viola bow? As you may know, the bow has also other components such as the frog or the thumb grip. 

In choosing a frog, ebony-made frogs are the best choice. However, its synthetic version is also considerable as long as you are comfortable using it. As for the winding or thumb grip, you may choose from a variety of materials, from leather, copper to silver. It all depends on which type of grip you’re most comfortable with when using it. 

While some of you may choose the aesthetics versus the comfortability of the material, it’s ideal, especially for beginners, to choose components that you are actually at ease when playing as these things help you to have good performance.

If you are still hesitant to buy a viola bow by yourself, it’s best to seek out professional advice either from the store you’re interested to buy a viola bow, from your music professor or lecturer, or from a friend or acquaintance that already has a good grasp in choosing the perfect viola bow.

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