We are happy to pass along the expert advice of Mosa Havivi, who was one of the world's foremost bow experts, a formidable cellist, and the most influential of my mentors on this subject.

  • The First Rule in Choosing a Bow.
    Do not compare it with your old bow. Start with an open mind. It is possible that your old bow was not that good for you; you may have developed some bad habits because of it. The new bow will have different characteristics for you to discover and to which you will need to adjust.
  • Which Bow is Best for your Instrument?
    Trying to match the sound of the bow to the sound of the instrument is the wrong approach.

    Use the following concept to achieve tonal balance between the instrument and the bow: Match a "dark- sounding bow" with a "brilliant" instrument or a "brilliant: bow with and "dark sounding instrument".
  • What to Look for in a New Bow.
    The following are the qualities to look for, in their order of importance: 1) Balance 2) Comfort 3) Sound 4) Condition 5) Appearance.

    The bow should be flexible but in a firm way. It should give easily, but not too much; there should be resistance as well as give. Choosing a bow using these principles will help to achieve a richer tone, a freer spiccato and a more flowing staccato.

    Remember that the player, the bow and the instrument must all be in harmony in comfort and sound.
  • Is the Bow Weight Crucial?
    It is a mistake to weigh the bow first; the weight is your last consideration and should not influence your choice. Balance is the first and most important consideration. Be aware that some pernambuco wood can be light but strong, while some can be heavy but not as strong.
  • Is a Worn Frog a Problem?
    Just as a fine violin can be restored, a frog can be repaired with excellent results. Remember that it is the stick that counts in a bow, so do not hesitate to repair the frog.
  • Is the Wood of a Bow Important?
    The wood of a bow is very important. The new bow should be made from fine quality pernambuco.
  • How Important is the Bow Hair?
    There are different grades of hair available for; when possible, you should choose from the highest qualities when rehairing your bow. The correct amount of hair for each individual bow is determined by the spaces in both the tip and frog. Too much hair actually decreases the strength of the bow, makes it feel clumsy, and detracts from the sound by restraining vibrations. It can also damage parts of the bow and cause cracks. Rehairing a bow calls for great skill; many bows are ruined by poor rehairing.
  • The Importance of "Reserve Power."
    When you test a new bow you should be looking for a full-bodied sound, but to achieve this you should not have to use the full force of the bow. The bow should have additional strength held in reserve for the most powerful musical passages.
  • Be Your Own Judge.
    Ultimately, no one can determine which bow is best for you. Always test a bow yourself on your own instrument. Others can assist by saying which bow sounds better or by playing the instruments for you, but only you can determine whether you feel comfortable with a bow.
  • Is One Bow Enough?
    It is a good idea to have more than one bow in you case, and not just in case you break one in the middle of a performance! It is advisable to give your bow a rest from the continual tension of extended use. In addition, your instrument may go through subtle changes due to annual changes in temperatures and humidity and may respond better at times to an alternate bow. You will need to maintain close familiarity with both bows to feel comfortable at all times.