The 'other half' of your instrument.
This time I will be doing a review not about violins, but about bows.
In this section, we will be comparing two magnificent violins within the price range of around $900 to $1,200. This review will focus particularly on the Finkel Lefin bow and the Sautille 4-Star bow, respectively.
It should be noted that many experts, including luthiers, believe that the choice of bows is about as important as the choice of a very good violin. While it is so convenient to do a review about the qualities and sound features of a violin, it is so easy to disregard the very things that make these violins tick. The best sounding and most expensive violins of a Stradivari, Guarneri, or Amati would all be useless without their bows. In fact, have you ever wondered what an old masterpiece violin would sound like if the bow being used is less than ideal? If that had always been the case, string instruments that require bows would have suffered a slow death centuries ago.
It is very obvious that professional violinists and those called masters will demand so much more from their bows than students or even new professionals. Violinists comprising the latter normally lack the technical know-how and experience to notice the difference between the really expensive bows and bows that are within this price range. That being said, there are still qualities that are much sought after in bows regardless of the status of the violinists.
When it comes to material composition, violinists have the option of using brazilwood, pernambuco, and carbon fiber. Practically anyone who knows a thing or two about violins and bows would point out that pernambuco has always been the preferred choice by the best bow makers. This is the type of wood that is preferred by the best bow makers, including the early masters of bow making.
Pernambuco sticks are sought after because of their high quality and their inimitable combination of elasticity, strength, and responsiveness. So far, no other wood on this planet comes even close to replicating the qualities of the pernambuco. As such, they are becoming more expensive because of its increasing rarity and because of the restrictions imposed by the Brazilian government in the harvest and use of this wood.
Violinists should be delighted to know that both the Finkel Lefin and Sautille 4-Star bows are made of this exceptional wood. It means that the qualities that make the pernambuco superb are readily evident in these bows. Qualities like strength, elasticity, and responsiveness are all in abundance with these two bows.
More than the kind of wood used for the bows, as there are several variations of the use of the pernambuco, the makers of the bows should be another good factor to consider. Both bows come from companies with excellent reputations when it comes to bow making. The Finkel, in particular, traces its bow making heritage all the way back to the later part of the 18th century.
The Finkel bow making industry moved to Switzerland around the 50’s and from there the company has gained renown as easily one of the best bow-making entities around the world. Many of its foundation and principles started when bow making was at its finest. The Finkel bows are now proudly Swiss-made and boasts of quality that is coveted by the hundreds.
I can still remember the first time I met a Finkel bow. Back then, I had a student who came into the shop brandishing a Finkel Lefin bow. I was just extremely excited the moment I looked at it because I used to have a really old and fantastic French bow that I had used for many years. That old French bow and the Finkel Lefin bow owned by my student were uncannily similar in quality and performance.
The Sautille 4-Star bow on the other hand, is from the top of the range bow making company in China. Sautille also offers bows in the lower range, but does not have the kind of quality and performance that the 4-Star offers.
Personally, the reason why I have not been doing reviews about bows as compared to violins is because the qualities of a bow are more about feelings. Feelings, as we all know, are intensely personal. Violinists feel differently towards a bow compared to any other part or accessory of a violin.
For my part, I usually feel wobbly at the knees when I feel like a bow is able to do whatever I want it to do. I really had jelly knees every time I use either one of these bows. They just have so much balance that it requires only the most minimum of efforts to play several styles like a legato or a sautille. There are other bows out there of the same price range that would not allow me to get the right kind of sound out of my violin.
And then there is strength, which is the main thing I am always looking for in a bow, regardless of the price. The strength should not be too much because it will impede my movements and would not allow any fancy techniques. On the other hand, it should not be too soft that the hairs would touch the bow when you really push it hard when you play. Once the hair meets the bow, the sound becomes warped, fuzzy, or distorted.
Although both bows have almost exactly the same qualities in balance and strength, I would give the slight edge to the Sautille 4-Star bow when it comes to the latter quality. Both violins are extremely well made with silver tips and mounted frogs. There are also additional decorations on the Sautille 4-Star bow than the Finkel Lefin. Other than that, they are somewhat the same in other areas. These are worth every penny of their price range and get a thumbs up from Whitehorse Music.