I’m a professional violinist and teacher, and I’ve been playing the violin for over 30 years. People often ask me a variety of questions about bows, including, what’s the best violin bow to buy?
The first thing to do is to make sure you have a violin that you love, and then you’re ready to look for a bow. You want to find a bow for your violin, not the other way around.
I’ve put together some information on what to look for and created a list of some of the best violin bows out there. I tried to include a good range of prices, so no matter what your budget is, you’ll be able to find the best bow for you.
What Is a Violin Bow?
A violin bow is necessary to play the violin unless you just want to pluck your violin like a mandolin!
Most beginning violin sets are sold with a bow included, but you may need a new bow or wish to upgrade to a better one. You may also want to have an extra bow on hand in case of an emergency.
Types of Violin Bows
There are two main kinds of bows, wood and carbon fiber. Traditionally all bows were made of wood, but these days many of the top violin bows are made of carbon fiber.
There are a few bows you’ll see made of materials such as fiberglass or other composites. These bows are usually the cheapest of the cheap, and I generally don’t recommend buying a bow made of those materials. You definitely want a bow with real horsehair as well.
There are other parts of the bow made of different materials that I’ll talk about later, but keep in mind that we’re talking about the “stick” part of the bow when we talk about wood or carbon fiber. This affects the weight, balance, and sturdiness of the bow.
Wooden bows are more traditional and how violin bows were made for hundreds of years. The highest quality and most expensive wooden bows are made of pernambuco, which is a Brazilian wood that’s endangered.
Some bows are made of other woods such as sandalwood or brazilwood, which are cheaper woods that are easier to come by than pernambuco. If you’re looking at a bow made of different wood, consider the quality of the craftsmanship and look at the reviews.
These days many bows are made of carbon fiber. I often recommend carbon fiber bows to my students because they’re sturdier than wood and often have a better quality for the price.
Carbon fiber is better for changes of humidity and temperature that wood is more sensitive to, and it won’t break as easily if you drop it. Many carbon fiber bows are made to exact specifications and are well balanced and sensitive to play.
Fiberglass or Composite
Some cheap bows are made of fiberglass or another synthetic composite material. These bows are often the cheapest bows and not easy to make a good sound with.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Violin Bow
There are a variety of factors to consider when you’re looking for a violin bow. You’ll want a bow that feels good in your hand, that’s well balanced (this affects how easy it is to use), and that’s well made.
You’ll want to be able to play in a variety of bow strokes and be able to easily play in different dynamics and on and off the string if you know how to do that. A beginner doesn’t need the same kind of bow as an advanced player, but a beginner still needs a good quality bow.
As with violins, bows come in different sizes. If you play on a 1/2 size violin, you’ll need a 1/2 size bow. Occasionally a player will use a bow that is one size up from their violin, but this is pretty rare and only done with a teacher supervising.
You’ll want to make sure that you can care for your bow properly, which means when you aren’t playing it, you’ll keep it in the case or hang it on the wall or violin stand. If you’re the sort of person who’s hard on bows, make sure that you consider a sturdier bow that’s made of carbon fiber rather than an antique wooden bow.
You can expect to pay between $50 and $1,200 for a decent violin bow. You can also spend, as with violins, many times more money and get a beautiful, one-of-a-kind handmade bow. I won’t even tell you how expensive the bow I use most is.
However, you’re likely here because you’re looking to buy an affordable but good quality bow, and you’re looking for the best bow you can get without breaking the bank or selling your house. That means getting a bow that’s part of a line of bows and knowing the best one for that parameter. You’ll pay as little as $50 and upwards of $1,000, with many great options in between.
5 Best Violin Bows
- Size: 1/16 up to full size
- Weight: (full size) 60-64 grams
- Material & finish: Carbon fiber bow, real horsehair, leather grip
- Best for: Beginner and intermediate violinists
The Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow is a great budget bow for beginning and intermediate violinists. It’s excellent quality for the price and comes with a warranty as well.
Why I Recommend It
For a beginning level bow, this is a fantastic bow. The reviewers are so happy with it, and it’s just a good all-around bow.
2. CodaBow Diamond SX Violin Bow
- Size: Full size only, 29.5 inches long
- Weight: 60-61 grams
- Material & finish: Black carbon fiber, graphite diamond weave, XEBONY frog
- Best for: Advanced to professional level players, those who traveling, playing outside
The CodaBow Diamond SX is the best all-around bow made by CodaBow. I highly recommend bows by CodaBow, and they have more options than this one. So, if you like the look of this bow but want something a little bit different, you can find that too.
Why I Recommend It
In case you can’t tell, I really love the CodaBow Diamond SX. This is a bow I play on my viola, and it works as well as far more expensive wooden bows. You can’t go wrong with this bow if you have the budget for it.
3. Holstein Sandalwood Violin Bow
- Size: 1/4- full size
- Weight: N/a
- Material & finish: Sandalwood, ebony frog, horsehair, leather wrapping
- Best for: Beginners who prefer a wooden bow
The Holstein Sandalwood Violin Bow is a budget choice for beginners who want the feel of a wooden bow without sacrificing any quality. It’s a bow you’ll grow out of, but it’s a solid choice if you’re towards the beginning of your violin journey.
Why I Recommend It
I wanted to include at least two wooden bows on my list, and this is a good quality budget option. It’s also good that it comes in a variety of smaller sizes, as many people start playing the violin quite young and take years to grow into a full-size violin.
4. JonPaul Avanti Violin Bow
- Size: Full size only
- Weight: 62-63 grams
- Material & finish: Reddish-brown carbon fiber, silver tip and mountings
- Best for: Advanced to professional players
The JonPaul Avanti Bow has an almost cult following, and it’s a good bow for professionals who want a quality bow for a carbon fiber price. It’s made to look similar to wooden bows, so you can sneak it into a serious setting and no one will know it’s not wooden.
Why I Recommend It
I haven’t played this bow myself, but many trusted colleagues highly recommend the JP Avanti Bow. Like for many top quality carbon fiber bows, you’d have to pay two or three times as much (or more) in order to get as smooth and balanced of an experience from a wooden bow.
- Size: Full size
- Weight: 62 grams or so
- Material & finish: Brazilwood bow, polished ox horn frog, real horsehair
- Best for: Beginners to intermediate players wanting a real violin bow
The DZ Strad Model 524 Violin Bow is a solid quality wooden bow for beginners and intermediates players It’s advertised as completely handmade, so there will be variations from bow to bow.
Why I Recommend It
DZ Strad bows are good quality violin bows for beginning and intermediate students. If you want a wooden bow, this is a good one to get, which is a possible step up from the Holstein.
Best Violin Bow Brands
As you might expect, some companies have a better line of bows than others. Oftentimes, the best bow company is one that only makes bows, so they can really specialize. In other cases, the brand makes violins and other products as well.
CodaBow is the oldest carbon fiber bow company, making bows from 1958 on. They have a high quality of craftsmanship and a huge variety of bows to try out. I recommend trying several different bows and choosing the one you like best.
Arcus is an Austrian company that started making carbon fiber bows in 1999. Their bows tend to be lighter and more agile than other carbon fiber bows, and are worth checking out.
DZ Strad makes violins, violas, and cellos as well as bows. They also sell cases and other accessories. They have good quality and great customer service.
Holstein is a family-run company that works with international makers and workshops to make their products to exacting specifications.
Violin Bow Aesthetics & Build
Different bows look different and are made of slightly different materials. I’ve mentioned some of this already, but there are a few things I haven’t talked about yet.
I’ve already talked about carbon fiber versus wooden bows, but let me reiterate. Wooden bows are more traditional and some players swear by them, that nothing matches the sound.
Carbon fiber bows vary from brand to brand and from model to model, but generally are cheaper than wooden bows. Therefore, you’ll get a better quality bow for the price. You’ll find they’re also sturdier and not as susceptible to temperature and humidity changes.
Other parts of the bow have different materials. For the hair, you’ll want genuine horsehair.
For the frog, ebony is most common, but you’ll see different materials, including some antique bows with ivory frogs. You won’t find that on any modern bows, but you’ll find things like XEBONY on the CodaBow, which is their specific frog material, unique to CodaBow.
For the grip, leather is the most common and feels nice on the hand. The winding and tip are made of silver or another color.
Bows tend to be shades of brown or black. You’ll see different colors sometimes, especially for the smaller bows for younger players. If you want a traditional looking bow, you’ll want to choose one that’s a shade of brown.
Buying New vs Used
You’ll likely be looking at a new bow, but a used bow is great if it’s well made, well taken care of, and can be rehaired. Bows need to be rehaired once a year or more.
Violin Bow Brands To Avoid
I don’t like to say specific brands, because usually the brand to avoid is the one you’ve never heard of, with no reviews or bad reviews, sold by a source that you don’t know.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do I know which bow to choose? Play them! If you’re beyond a beginner, I recommend getting a few bows and then returning some.
Which is better, wood or carbon fiber? I think this is a personal choice, but I often recommend trying carbon fiber bows before you rule them out. Many players find they’re very responsive and a great choice.
Will a better bow make me a better player? A great player can make any bow sound good. Nothing is a substitute for practice, but a better bow can make it easier to make the sounds you want to hear.
How Much Do Violin Bows Cost?
You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $1,200 for a good bow. You can pay $2,000 to $10,000 (or more) for a fine, antique wooden bow, but you don’t want to do that unless you’re a professional or advanced player who really knows what you want in a bow.
What Are The Best Violin Bows?
CodaBow Diamond SX Bow: Best Overall
I just love this bow. You’ll find it will help you play in a variety of situations and it’s just a good all-around bow.
JeanPaul Avanti Bow: Best Repeat Customer
The people who love this bow really love it, so that says something. They will pop on your message board telling you to try it and recommend it to all of their students.
Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow: Best Beginning and Budget Model
This is the best starter bow on my list, and the least expensive.
Where to Buy Violin Bows
You can buy bows online or in person. In person means you can try out quite a lot at once, but usually online you can order several, and some shops will send you some bows that you can try out and return. I recommend making sure whatever you order has a good return policy.
Many people don’t have access to an in-person shop, so don’t feel bad if you’re shopping online. That’s why it’s there!
You’ll find a good variety of bows on Amazon, and they always have a good return policy and easy shipping all over the world.
Online Music Retailers
Fiddlershop.com has a good selection of bows and a great warranty. Sharmusic.com is another great place to shop, and they have a good service to send you some bows out to try.
Your Local Music Store
In person is great for bows, as you’ll get that personal touch and get to try far more bows in one hour than you could at home. I always recommend using a local music store if you have one available to you.
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Finding the best violin bow is a personal and artistic choice. No matter what your level or commitment to playing is, there’s a great violin bow out there for you.
I hope you learned something about bows from this article and that I helped you make a better decision about the best violin bow to buy.
Let me know in the comments if you have thoughts, and share this with your friends!