With a stringed instrument like a violin, the bow is just as important to the sound as the violin itself. But with a huge variety of bows at different price points, it can be difficult to know where to start.
That’s where we come in! We’re going to walk you through seven of the best violin bows out there – whatever your budget. And our buying guide will help you choose one to suit your needs and playing style.
ADM’s bow is available in half, three-quarters, and full-sized versions. At about the same price as five cups of artisan coffee, it’s a very economical buy. So what do you get for your money?
Well, the solid part of the bow is made from octagonal Brazilwood. The frog is ebony and it’s inlaid with mother-of-pearl. It’s both attractive and traditional in appearance.
It’s mounted in nickel silver, with the winding made from the same substance. The thumb grip is made from synthetic leather, rather than the real thing – not surprising at this price point. And you may find there are some small imperfections at the edges.
The strings are made from unbleached Mongolian horsehair. They’re decent quality, and you’ll get a far better grip than from synthetic bows. You will need to apply a good coating of rosin before the first use, and reapply it at the start of each practice session.
The frog is nicely aligned and there’s a good, even weight from frog to tip. That will make it easy to maintain control over your bow as you play.
The winding turns easily without being loose. But note that you may find you lose a few hairs from time to time.
One thing to be aware of here is that there are some issues with quality control. If you get a good bow, it’s a brilliant buy. But there are occasional duds.
Watch out for the bow curving the wrong way, i.e. the middle curving away from the hairs, rather than towards them. And we’ve also heard of cases where the metal clip next to the frog has come loose.
At this price, though, it’s worth taking a chance. You’ll be getting a great deal on a good, entry-level bow.
Extremely economical buy
Brazilwood and Mongolian horsehair construction with ebony frog
Evenly balanced throughout the length
Prone to losing the occasional hair
We’ve heard of quality control issues, so inspect your bow carefully before use.
The second budget bow to make our list, this one from Amzz is the same price as the ADM offering. There are plenty of other similarities too.
The construction is classic Brazilwood with an octagonal shape. The bowstrings are Mongolian AAA grade unbleached horsehair with a medium to strong stiffness. They take rosin well, so you won’t have to rub the cake along your bow for ages before you play.
The frog is made of ebony and is inlaid with abalone shell. And the thumb rest is wrapped in leather. So far, everything you’d expect from a more expensive bow.
You will need to be playing a full-sized violin to use this bow, as it’s not available in smaller sizes. It weighs 62 grams, and is evenly weighted from frog to tip. And despite the low price point, this is made entirely by hand.
So is there anything not to like?
Well, you won’t get quite as much volume from this as more expensive bows. Some people have found the sound quality a little grainy when playing piano. And you may find that you lose some hairs from time to time. At this price, it’s cheaper to buy a replacement than to get it restrung by a luthier.
It has a classic look. There are no fancy symbols on the frog and the polish is a simple mid-mahogany shade. If you’re looking for something more unusual, it won’t be the right choice. But for a clean, elegant bow that works remarkably well for the price, you won’t go far wrong here.
Attractive and classic construction with AAA Mongolian horsehair
Evenly weighted from frog to tip
Ebony frog inlaid with abalone shell
Only available in full size
Not as loud as more expensive bows – but great sound for the price.
If you’re prepared to spend a little more money, check out this carbon fiber bow from Kmise. It costs about half as much again as the Brazilwood versions from ADM and Amzz, but remains an economical option.
It’s available in five different sizes from 1/8 to full-sized. And because the wood isn’t wood at all, but carbon fiber, you’ll get a choice of colors too. Pick between black, coffee, blue, green, and purple. If you’re looking for a bow to stand out from the crowd, this could be a perfect choice.
The carbon fiber is lighter than traditional wooden bows, and it’s strung with Mongolian horsehair. It’s sensitive to the vibration from the strings, well-balanced, and very responsive.
The frog is made of ebony and inlaid with abalone shell. It’s very attractive, traditional yet a little different.
The winding works smoothly and you’ll be able to achieve the right level of tension for playing.
It doesn’t come pre-rosined, so you’ll need to spend a little time applying that before first use. When you’ve finished, you’ll get a good sound.
We have, though, heard of some issues with hairs coming loose over time. This will happen with most bows, and you’ll need to pay considerably more for a bow that can be restrung. But at this price, you can get a new bow for far less than the cost of repairing an old one.
Overall, this is a great choice for anyone wanting to try a carbon fiber bow without spending too much money. And the funky range of colors means you’ll easily be picked out in any orchestra!
Strong and light carbon fiber construction
Range of colors, from sophisticated black to bright purple
Available in sizes between 1/8 and full-sized
Not pre-rosined, so you’ll need to spend a bit of time preparing it
Coming in at the same price as the Kmise is the Haoyue. This is another carbon fiber bow, though it’s only available full-sized.
The colorways here are decidedly more traditional. Choose from a smart black or classic dark brown.
Because it’s made of carbon fiber, it’s light and strong. And it won’t be affected by changes in temperature or humidity to the same extent as wooden bows.
It’s well balanced and weighs between 59 and 62 grams. These are all hand-made, so expect some minor variation from bow to bow. It’s nicely balanced, so it’s easy to control, and produces a bright sound. If you’re looking for something mellower, though, you’ll need to spend a fair bit more.
The frog is made of ebony and mounted with nickel silver. It’s inlaid with beautiful abalone shell. The thumb grip is textured leather.
It’s strung with unbleached Mongolian horsehair. It’s not quite as taut as some bows, even when properly tightened. If you’re used to a firmer feel, it will take a bit of getting used to.
It comes presented in a smart black box. It looks good enough to be given as a gift to the violinist in your life. And if you don’t have room for another bow in your violin case, the box will provide effective storage.
All this, and you’ll also have the reassurance of a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
If you’re looking for something above entry level but don’t want to spend too much, this is well worth considering. You’ll get an attractive and responsive bow with a bright sound. But professionals searching for a performance quality bow will need to spend significantly more.
Carbon fiber stick makes this lightweight yet strong
Attractive box, great for additional storage
Less tension than many bows, even when fully wound
This bow from Fiddlerman is available in four sizes: a half, quarter, three-quarters and full-sized. It’s another step up in terms of cost from the Haouye, costing about 40 per cent more.
The design is intended to mimic the weight and performance of more expensive bows made from Pernambuco wood. It’s well balanced along the whole length, with a pleasing arc for a controlled bounce. It can produce a good bite and dynamic range.
The carbon fiber construction means that it won’t be vulnerable to changes in temperature or humidity. And if you’re playing col legno – with the wood of the bow – it won’t scratch.
It’s strung with quality Mongolian horsehair, and there’s an attractive copper-mounted ebony frog. The wrap is made from cowhide leather for durability.
You won’t have any choice when it comes to the color. This is made only in black. But that means it will be smart enough for orchestral performances if required.
The appearance may be smart and clean, but some aspects aren’t quite as attractive as other bows. In particular, there’s no mother-of-pearl or abalone inlay in the frog.
That’s rather a shame, but it’s a minor compromise. With this bow, you’ll be getting performance that’s significantly better than most others at this price point. It’s genuinely comparable to bows costing at least twice as much.
We have heard of some issues with the amount of rosin required. In this case, dark rosin seems to work better than the light rosin more commonly used with violin bows.
And we’ve also found the bow retains some tension even when unwound. Fortunately, the carbon fiber construction means this is less of a problem. The bow stick shouldn’t warp, as it would over time if it were wood.
If you’re looking for an upgrade from a bow provided as part of an outfit, this is a very good option. And even professional musicians may find this an effective practice bow.
Strong and light carbon fiber construction
Evenly weighted along the length
Good bite and dynamic range
Takes more rosin than some – use dark rosin for better results
This bow from Vingobow costs more than three times as much as the Fiddlerman. But if you’re looking for a quality Pernambuco bow, it’s well worth considering.
The Pernambuco stick is round in section and made from wood that’s been air-dried for over 20 years. The bow weighs 62 grams and is 74.5 centimeters long. It’s evenly strung with Mongolian horsehair and takes rosin well, delivering a warm, sweet tone.
The stick has a smooth arc and is well-balanced along the full length. There’s a good bite and bounce when playing spiccato.
The appearance is classic, and all the components are made of top-quality materials. The winding and frog mount are silver. The frog is ebony inlaid with a mother-of-pearl slider and Parisian eyes. The grip is leather.
The bow is made by hand by an experienced craftsman. The tip copies the design of renowned master bowmaker Eugène Sartory.
When set alongside the most expensive bows used by professional violinists, this is very well-priced. But for those who don’t play for a living, it’s still a significant investment. As a wooden bow, it will need to be handled with care – you may prefer a less expensive option for col legno passages!
And if your violin case doesn’t have one already, we’d recommend investing in a hygrometer. This will allow you to monitor the humidity levels your bow is being exposed to. Humid conditions can cause the stick to warp over time. It’s possible for bows to be recambered, but it’s an expensive business.
All in all, this is an excellent quality bow for those looking for a big step up from student models. And you won’t have to spend thousands.
But it won’t be the best choice for traveling musicians. It is sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, and needs to be treated accordingly.
Handmade by master craftsman
Well-balanced Pernambuco stick gives excellent control
Silver fittings and winding
Sensitive to changes in humidity
You may prefer a more robust – or less expensive – option for playing col legno.
For those prepared to spend serious money on their bow, the CodaBow Diamond GX is a worthy contender. It will set you back over three times as much as Vingobow’s Pernambuco model. But you’ll be getting a bow with some excellent features.
It’s designed to give you the playing experience of a far more expensive Pernambuco bow. But the stick here is made of carbon fiber with an acoustic Kevlar core.
It’s light and well-balanced, and won’t be vulnerable to humidity. You’ll be able to feel the vibration of the strings through the stick, making it very responsive.
It’s strung with horsehair and, unlike less expensive bows, it’s possible to get this one re-haired when the time comes. So whilst it does represent a significant investment, with care it can last a lifetime.
The frog is made of premium ebony and is crafted by Walter Paulus, the specialist for master bowmakers. Here, the Parisian eye is replaced by an inlaid target design for a distinctive look. It looks smart, but traditionalists may wish CodaBow had stuck with the classic appearance.
The whole bow is made by hand and comes individually numbered. As long as you buy it new rather than second-hand, you’ll get a lifetime warranty too.
There’s very little not to like about this bow. The only thing it’s worth being aware of is that it’s a little longer than many – by about half a centimeter. That may mean it won’t fit into every violin case.
In summary, if you’ve got deep pockets, this is an excellent buy. It won’t be affected by humidity, so you’ll be able to take it on the road without difficulty. And the carbon fiber stick means it’s robust too. If you’re prepared to get it re-haired from time to time, you may never need to buy another bow.
Carbon fiber bow with the feel of expensive Pernambuco
Ebony frog crafted by Walter Paulus
The target design on the frog may not be to everyone’s liking
If you’ve read the reviews but aren’t sure which bow is right for you, our buying guide is here to help. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you commit to a purchase.
One of the easiest ways to narrow down your search is by making sure your bow is the right size.
As long as you’re playing the right-sized violin for your stature, you’ll need a bow the same size. In other words, for a full-sized violin you’ll need a full-sized bow, a half-size bow for a half-size violin, et cetera.
If you’re not sure whether your violin is the right size, it’s easy to check.
Stand with your left arm extended straight out in front of you. Then get someone else to measure the distance between the base of your neck and your left wrist. If it’s 23 inches or more, you should be playing a full-sized violin with a full-sized bow.
If it’s 22 inches, you’ll need a three-quarters violin and bow. Younger players may have smaller measurements, so consult an online size guide to check the appropriate size.
Check what’s available in your size before you get your heart set on a particular bow. A number of those on our list are designed for adult musicians and come only in full size.
Brazilwood, Pernambuco or carbon fiber?
Next, consider what kind of material you want your bow to be made from. One of the main components of any bow is the stick which keeps the hairs taught. This can be made of wood or carbon fiber.
Traditionally, bows were made of Brazilwood or Pernambuco. Both types of wood actually come from the same tree, Caesalpinia echinata, known as the Pau Brasil.
Brazilwood is the less expensive of the two. It comes from the older, denser hardwood around the outer circumference of the tree. Pernambuco comes from the younger, less dense newer growth known as the “heartwood”.
Because it’s softer, it’s easier for bowmakers to produce delicate cuts in Pernambuco. And it will produce a stronger and more flexible bow for the same weight.
Of course, there’s no strict line where Brazilwood becomes Pernambuco, and wood densities will vary from tree to tree. So while Pernambuco will usually produce a better quality bow than Brazilwood, that’s not always the case.
Unfortunately, the best guide here is usually price. If you’re able to pay for a more expensive Pernambuco bow, you can usually be fairly confident in the quality. Pernambuco at a suspiciously low price may perform no better than Brazilwood.
And Brazilwood bows can produce very good results too. A skilled bowmaker can produce a well-balanced bow that is a pleasure to play.
It’s worth noting that Caesalpinia echinata is an endangered species. New woods such as Ipe are now coming into the market as more sustainable alternatives.
And if you want to reduce the impact on the environment, consider carbon fiber. A relatively modern innovation in bow making, carbon fiber has lots of advantages. It’s lightweight and far more robust than wood. And it won’t be affected by changes in temperature or humidity.
You can get fantastic performance from carbon fiber bows at a fraction of the price of the most expensive Pernambuco options. And for musicians traveling between locations with different environmental conditions, they’re an excellent choice.
Balance and tone
Finally, there’s no substitute for testing out a bow for yourself. See how it feels in your hand – is it a comfortable weight? Is the thumb rest smooth and the correct size? Is the weight evenly balanced from frog to tip?
We’d always recommend horsehair over synthetic bows – you’ll get better volume and tone. But make sure you take a good look at those hairs.
Check for any that are loose. If there are more than three or four, your bow may have a shorter life. Are the hairs an even thickness from end to end? And are they smooth and parallel, rather than crossing over one another?
Re-hairing won’t be cost-effective for less expensive bows, and in some cases may not be possible at all. But if you’re going to invest in a pricier bow, check that it can be done. If you’re going to be spending serious money, you’ll want your bow to last beyond its first set of hairs.
Ready to play?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the seven best violin bows at all price points! No matter how much or how little you want to spend, there are some great options out there.
Our favorite is Fiddlerman’s carbon fiber bow. It’s light, strong, and beautifully balanced. It provides exceptional tone for a bow at this price point. And you won’t have to worry about damaging the delicate rainforest environment in the search for beautiful music.
If you can, take some time to experiment before you make your final choice. There’s no substitute for being able to compare the feel of different bows in your hand.
And when you’re ready to choose, we hope your new bow brings you – and your audience – hours of sweet music!