Chapter 2

Differences according to instrument

In principle, the demands placed on an instrument are generally the same. As Shmuel Ashkenasi says, "What I look for in a bow are basically four qualities: sound, articulating qualities (referred to above as "response"), strength and perfect balance." But these take different forms in different instruments. The violin and viola are played in a more or less horizontal position. The cello and bass are played vertically. There are therefore clear differences in the demands on the bow. In addition, each group of instruments presents specific structural problems that the bow has to deal with,

For many years I tried to compensate for the weaknesses of the instrument by building bows in a certain way, but without much success. Vice versa works better. What is needed is a bow that goes in the same direction as the instrument. This will emphasize the instrument's strengths and also moderate its weaknesses.

In the remarks that follow I run the risk of over-generalizing. Not all violins are alike. Every instrument has its own complicated character. But there is a certain bow for each group of instruments. In fact, I have seen violists play with cello bows. But this is an exception.

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