Wednesday, October 3, 2007


A shipment of 3 bows from a bow maker in Quebec arrived this week. It is so very exciting!

Finding the right bow is a very difficult journey. It is often underestimated, but a good bow is almost more important than a good cello.

(The bows were shipped in a large tube).

Given the choice between a mediocre bow and a great cello or a great bow and a mediocre cello, most serious performers would choose the better bow over the instrument. This is, after all, what you make all of your sound with!

No one will ever say :"wow, your bow sounds so great!" I do remember when I bought my "modern" bow a few years ago, I suddenly got many more compliments about my cello than I ever had before.

All performers understand the value of a good bow. The journey to find one is difficult and personal. Not only does the bow have to feel good and do what you want it to do; it also needs to be the right bow for the instrument that you play. When I bought my modern bow it was a great match with my Mirecourt cello. When I bought the Luis and Clark, I had to find the right cello to fit with that bow!

I remember having to play my husband's cello for a few months when my Mirecourt was being restored. The bow that I had at the time sounded great on my cello, but really terrible on his!

Many students have to buy different bows when they buy a different cello. When the instrument doesn't quite sound the way they think it should, it is often difficult for them to understand that sometimes their bow doesn't "match" the cello!

Now I am repeating the journey that I took a few years ago with my modern bow, but with a baroque bow this time. Since it has been so many years since I have seriously played with a baroque bow, I had forgotten which qualities to look for in a baroque bow. It took me a few hours of playing to remember and be so very excited about it again!

This time I shouldn't be looking for a bow that easily sustains sound, or makes quick transitions from legato to spiccato. It has to be a different type of playing that it compliments. It is hard to describe. Since the weight of the baroque bow is so differently distributed, it makes the types of bow strokes very different from the contemporary bow. The down bow is definitely a much stronger stroke and the sound tapers to the tip. It is so easy to play "inegal" or uneven with it for example. It takes no effort!

While I am trying to simplify it here in an attempt to explain it; it goes much

deeper than that of course!

It is so exciting to hear the baroque bows bring such different overtones out of the instruments!

I am having fun with it right now. All these bows are very different. I will keep you updated.

Gut Strings

I put all Oliv's on my Mirecourt. I had forgotten how terrible these strings sound when you first put them on!

But have they ever changed already! The cello sounds better than it has in years and I enjoy practicing it!

I really enjoy the different approach. On gut strings you have to work a little harder, because the strings have such a different tension. They vibrate so much wider! This brings out all sorts of different sounds. The vibrato requires a different approach as well. Colouring with the vibrato on gut strings is so much more effective!

(In this picture you see the difference in thickness between an Evah Pirazzi C-string and an Oliv.)

Totally off topic: I suddenly have to perform a solo piece by George Andrix next week at an arts council conference. A camera crew from the learning channel will be there to film the performance as well, because they are making a documentary about the bow maker of my contemporary bow; Roy Quade. I really should play the Mirecourt, since playing it on the carbon fibre would be making too much of a statement. But since I just put these gut strings on, the instrument squeaks and squacks a lot!

I have my work cut out for me in the next week: I have many practice hours to look forward to, not only to practice the piece (which is great!), but also to try to speed up the "play in time" of the strings!

1 comment:

  1. Josephine:
    I really love you project, and I read every thing you coment, I'm a cellist from mexico and I know the "size" of this project, go on¡¡, and thanks a lot.