Why doesn’t your violin sound as good as you like? Could it be the bow?
If the violin bow itself sounds scratchy, how can you make it sound better? Have you used enough rosin? Is the bow too loose or too tight?
Let’s look at how a beginning violin player can get better sound from their violin bow and get rid of the scratchy sound forever.
Does a Violin Bow Affect Sound?
Yes, the bow plays a huge role in how a violin sounds, although the strings do not. Violin bows are made of different kinds of wood, or from modern materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber, or even epoxy.
To hear the difference that different materials make in the sound of a violin, check out this excellent video from YouTuber Violin Tutor Pro.
How Do You Know if a Bow is Good Quality?
In one sense, choosing a bow is like choosing a violin: You have to choose the bow that is right for you.
Differences in weight, feel, balance, and tension are extremely subjective, and every violinist has their own preferences.
But there are some key details to look for that make the difference between a high quality bow and a poor quality bow, and they include:
A bow needs to be absolutely straight from screw to tip. The best way to tell is to hold it directly up in front of your nose and look down along the length of the bow.
Never buy a bow that isn’t perfectly straight.
Look for a large quality of new horsehair, with no sign of wear.
Check that the winding is in good condition. If you have contact allergies, make sure you are not allergic to the winding material.
Material and Origin
As a rule, the most affordable bows are made in China out of carbon fiber. Higher quality bows are made in America or Europe, and typically made of wood.
The highest quality bows are made of a specific type of wood called Pernambuco, which comes from Brazil, so many excellent bows are made there.
How Much Rosin Do You Need for a Bow?
For a brand new bow, or newly cleaned strings, you need to apply 10-12 strokes of rosin to the strings. After that, 6-7 strokes of rosin will help to refresh the bow.
For a quick lesson on how to apply rosin, watch this video from Howcast.
Why Does My Violin Bow Sound Scratchy?
That “scratchy” sound can be caused by almost any flaw in the bow, the violin, or the playing technique. If you think the scratchy sound is caused by the bow, check the following:
- Rosin the bow. Often this will resolve a scratchy sound
- Too much rosin on the bow. Often this will cause a scratching sound that will go away after a few minutes of playing, as the excess rosin wears away
- Check the tension of your bow. It’s rare, but sometimes a bow will scratch when it is too loose
- Check the hair on the bow. If the hair is worn, it may need to be replaced
How Can I Make My Violin Bow Sound Better?
Every violin and every bow has a “sweet spot.” Many players spend years perfecting the tension of their bows.
Other factors include choosing the highest quality rosin, and experimenting with different types of bow materials to get the best sound from a violin bow.
The best way to make your bow sound better is to use a properly rosined and tensioned bow with good technique.
This also means holding the bow correctly and using the right amount of pressure.
Proper maintenance of the bow also helps, so have it professionally cleaned and re-haired when needed.
Use Proper Bow Technique
As mentioned, a combination of proper grip and bowing technique will go a long way in making both your bow, and your overall violin playing sound much better.
Fortunately, there are great inexpensive violin bow trainers and guides available designed to make sure your bowing technique is on point.
Is Violin Hard to Learn?
Experts agree that yes, the violin is one of the more difficult instruments to learn.
A piano or guitar may sound nice from the first time you touch the instrument, but it takes practice to make a violin sound good.
Violin music is often more complicated and harder to learn, and violin requires more precision than other instruments. It’s an incredibly rewarding instrument to play, but it is hard to learn.
The best way to choose a bow is to buy it in person, so you can feel the weight and balance of it in your hand.
Every violinist has their own preferences, and tiny differences in how your body moves can make a big difference in the sound of your bow.
Choose a high quality bow that feels right to you, and take care of it, to get the best possible sound from your violin.