Chapter 3

Weight and Balance

In general, the importance of weight is overestimated because it is so easy to measure how many grams a bow weighs. But for the feel of a bow when played, balance is more important than weight per se. Balance too can be measured. I rest the bow on my index finger at the center of gravity, then measure the distance between the middle of my finger and and the frog.

Instrument Weight Balance Point
Violin 56 - 65 gr 17 cm - 22 cm
Viola 66 - 76 gr 16 cm - 20.5 cm
Cello 76 - 85 gr 15 cm - 19 cm
Bass 115 - 150 gr 10 cm - 13.5 cm

Of course, there are bows that exceed these values, but in my opinion the ideal measures lie somewhere toward the midpoint of the figures in the table.

As a rule, heavy bows are loud, but awkward to handle. This tendency is reinforced when the center of gravity is toward the tip, that is, when the bow is topheavy. This is because weight at the tip is more noticeable than more weight at the frog.

Light bows are usually preferable to heavy bows, provided that they are not too soft. These can, even should, have their center of gravity somewhere toward the tip. The advantage of a somewhat topheavy bow is that it tracks well, that is, that they continue easily in the direction in which they are moved. Their disadvantage is that they make quick string crossings more difficult. Whether more weight at the tip assures more contact is unclear. The contact with the string at the tip of the bow has more to do with the relationship between the camber, the strength of the wood, and possibly the flexibility of the stick, than with the weight of the bow and its distribution.

Weight and balance have little direct effect on the quality of tone, it's more a matter of playing technique. To be sure, volume and ease of playing have an indirect influence on the sound. It is easier to concentrate on sound production when the player is technically confident, without feeling a need to play as loudly as possible.

What is certain is that the combination of weight and balance is impartant in a bow. Weight by itself says little.

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