Is the bow worth it?

Violins have long been adorned for their beauty, both artistically, and musically. And it is not uncommon that musicians are willing to invest generously in order to hold onto these great instruments, to offer their best performance on stage with their skillful hands. But wait, that’s only one hand on the violin – the other is on the bow.

It is easy for us to think that music comes from the violin, because it does. When we draw the bow and play on the instrument, the sound is indeed coming out of the violin, not the bow (by intuition at least). And without going into a lot of complicated science, engineering, and things that don’t seem to exist in our daily experience, we will try to answer the question, as simply as possible, is the bow really worth it.

Sound comes out of the violin sound box (most of it), and it undoubtedly has a great influence on the final outcome of the sound that reaches our ears. But the sound box/violin itself does not make music. A great musician and an untrained person playing on the same violin will both make sound. One transcending you to the heavens, while the other may… you know what I mean. The violin makes sound, and the musician makes music. And it is through the bow that the musician makes great music that is amplified through the sound box of the violin.

For those of you who are audiophiles out there, you may know what this means already. The action and performance of the bow is the audio source, while bridge serves as an interconnect that brings the signal to the violin for amplification. So even the smallest details from the source becomes significant as the signal is being amplified by many folds.

With the analogy of a painter, the bow is like the paint brush. The painting artist has in his/her mind the vision they want to bring to life. And through the brush that controls and executes various techniques and colours applied, the vision comes to life on the canvas. It is a true that a great painter will likely be able to draw great works even on mediocre or sub-par brushes. But it’s also true that with superior brushes, the artist will be able to define texture and colours much better, and create works at a different level that gives them greater freedom to express their vision.

Is it worth it? It comes hand in hand. One hand on the violin, and the other on the bow. So yes, it’s worth it. With a good bow, you will find yourself having much more colours and textures to work with when playing your favourite pieces. And with mastery over time, you will find that these details, amplified by the violin, brings you to a new level of expression.

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