When it comes to purchasing a violin bow, be sure to keep in mind that the material plays an important role in the overall quality. The higher the price, the warmer and smoother the sound. That being said, beginner bows can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 and professional bows range anywhere from $500 to $1200 and beyond.
Let's break those costs down.
1) Fiberglass, Wood and Carbon Fiber
The most cost effective material for bows is fiberglass. Typically, these bows will end up being less than $100. They are just as durable as those made from carbon fiber but their responsiveness is not nearly as good.
Carbon fiber bows have become popular for their durability and for their price point, which is similar to that of the Brazilwood bows. It's synthetic, which means the quality of sound from one bow to the next will remain the same.
Brazilwood is a generic name that encompasses many types of tropical woods. Bows made from Brazilwood tend to be less responsive because the material is softer than carbon fiber or pernambuco. These bows sell for $50 to $200, the same as carbon fiber.
Lastly, there's Pernambuco. This wood is extremely rare and it shows in its price point of $500 to $1200 and beyond. Pernambuco was first discovered in 1500 and it became a precious commodity. The wood produced a red dye that was highly sought after by textile manufacturers. Pernambuco comes in a variety of colors and gradually darkens with age. Despite how heavy the wood is, it has an amazing texture and finish. Professional bows are usually made from this wood.
2) Bow Hair
The ribbon of hair that will eventually slide across a violin's strings is made up of 160 to 180 fine hairs. The highest quality comes from a white stallion though some bows (less expensive) will use bleached hair. In order to make the long ribbon, horse hair is attached beside each other. Kinky or thick hairs are quickly disposed of and only the straightest hairs will be used to make up the bow hair. If hair from a white stallion is not used, hair from a brown mare can be used but it has to go through a discoloration process (bleaching) and oftentimes, this will weaken the fibers. Alternatively, using synthetic hair will ensure the bow hair lasts longer and a horse will keep its lovely tail hair.
Bow hair must be kept well rosined in order to play. This process will boost the friction and improve sound quality overall. Without rosin, the sound produced is often flat and unpleasant. When you purchase your bow, it would be a good idea to get bow rosin as well. Buying rosin, like buying your bow, will require a bit of research as there is a wide variety of rosin. Most shops will be able to point you in the right direction, so fret not!
And there you have it; all the basic information you'll need in order to purchase a violin bow!