Quest for a Better Bow
A Story and Testimonial for Fiddleheads' Prism Bow
by Ian Mathers, Kanata, Ontario, Canada
A little bit about me - I’m a 3rd generation fiddler who has only recently taken up the violin. I carried the instrument I play around with me wherever I went (It belonged to my Grandfather, and my, but could he play) for about 10 years before one day thinking “I should do something with this…”
More on my violin - it's a JTL Medio Fino purchased by my Great Grandmother probably in about 1910-1915 for the princely sum of $ 2.35 in the hopes that my Maternal Grandfather would play it. Alas, he was virtually tone deaf, and my Mother (who is anything but tone deaf) fared no better.
A few decades later it passed to my Paternal Grandfather, who could set the strings on fire, as it were, so he played it for many years, until my Grandmother passed it back to me in the late 1990s. It traveled with me from Canada, to New York, To California, and back again until I picked it up in 2005.
I embarked upon lessons, and practice, with the predictable initial results – Wife screaming, Baby sitting with his hands over his ears, doors slamming, cat fleeing for the woods, and the kind cousin who kept saying “that’s really pretty good.” God bless you, Dennis!
Slowly I improved, and before long, I could play after a fashion, but it came with a price – in this case, the knowledge that my bow just wasn’t doing its job.
At first I tried a different variety of rosin, as the one I’d started with (name omitted to protect the guilty) felt to me as though I’d put raw tree sap on my strings when playing. The better rosin did improve the sound, but didn’t address how I had to struggle with the bow to produce that sound.
I thought to myself that maybe it was just a case of the bow needing a rehair, since I’d been using it for over a year. So, off I go to my local luthier, who while rehairing my bow kindly loans me a Dodd reproduction bow, and to my amazement my violin became a living thing in my hands – it just sang - projection, tone, everything, IT WAS EERIE (and thrilling!!)
Quest for a Better Bow
My quest for a better bow then began in earnest, with my trying various pernambuco bows ranging in price from $ 150.00 to $ 600.00 as well as those requiring more faustian terms, and found that carbon fibre bows seemed to produce the best result in regard to tone, responsiveness, playability and in my case, value and durability.
(I have a 3-year-old whose enthusiasm can cause mayhem with fragile and not so fragile things).
The carbon fibre bows available locally were somewhat over-priced in comparison to what was available on the net, with the obvious advantage being that as they were available locally they could be played prior to purchase.
About this time I discovered the fiddleheads website, and was favourably impressed – even more so when I spoke with Rhiannon and found her to be patient, helpful, and willing to take the time to discuss the pros and cons of the Prism bows with me, while keeping in mind my stated needs and budget.
In fact, Rhiannon even played a Prism bow over the phone for me so I would have an idea of the sound they produced.
Early this week the bow arrived, and with some trepidation I rosined it, and drew it across the strings. Ah, bliss! A lovely, rich and clean sound, responsive, and oh, so playable.
My first bow can look forward to a happy retirement as a relic of my journey thus far, and Fiddleheads has created a very happy customer who looks forward to a long standing relationship with the shop.
You may also like to read other Testimonials on the Prism bow, including one by fiddler Shari Ulrich