When bowing cymbals, wires, plates, etc. to create sounds. How much does the quality of the bow matter? I was looking on ebay for a bow and the price range is insane. Can I cheap out? What's the point of diminishing returns? Is there a benefit to certain types of wood? What other qualities should I be looking for?

Secondly, what's your bow technique? I'm not a stringed instrument player so I've barely held one, let alone know how to use it properly. I'm hoping that will work to my advantage, but a starting place would probably be beneficial.

@Tim Prebble, @NoiseJockey, @Chuck Russom knowing the results you guys have achieved here, I'm hoping for an answer from any of you, but if anybody else has a notion or a youtube/vimeo instructional video that would be great.


I don't think you need to spend much money on the bow, especially seeing as how you may damage it against the various non-stringed objects you're planning on using it with. Regarding technique, it completely depends on the surface of the object and where its "sweet spot" is - you'll only figure out your technique after some experimentation. Have fun -- and be sure to roll your recorder right away so as to capture any happy accidents!

  • 1
    I kinda thought that I'd start with a cheap bow, since I have no idea what I'm doing and would probably obliterate the strings. But it's good to know that even once I have a clue I'll still destroy them! – Steve Urban Jul 16 '10 at 20:20
  • "Obliterate the hairs", you mean. The strings are on the instrument. :) – endolith Jul 16 '10 at 20:31
  • See, no idea... – Steve Urban Jul 17 '10 at 0:29

@Steve Urban, I use a very cheap bow, $15 to be exact, and it fulfills its purpouse very well. In fact, I think it's better to use cheap bows, because you can "push" them, pressing very hard and scrapping very fast without fear of breaking. Best from Argentina! @alansende


I'm a violinist, and I don't think you're going to hear much difference. The bowing technique and type of rosin will have more of an effect than the wood or hair, certainly.

You are using rosin, right? :)

  • At the moment I'm not using a bow, so I'll be sure to have rosin on hand when I start! Thanks! – Steve Urban Jul 16 '10 at 20:15
  • Well there are different types of rosin. Rosin for cellos and basses I think is more "sticky" and soft, so it would be more appropriate for cymbals and other heavy things. – endolith Jul 16 '10 at 20:26

I've been actually using "free" bows for years. Go into a music shop that sells string instruments and ask for "junk" bows. They will look at you funny until you explain its for experimenting on non-instruments and then they'll possibly drag out a box full of bows that are in too poor of a condition to repair. Dig through the pile and pick out a few that look usable, buy some rosin to support the shop and then be on your way. One's persons trash is another's treasure.


I second the use of cheap bows. Make sure you purchase Bass rosin as well, as it is designed to vibrate heavy strings.

  • Had no idea there were different types of rosin but it makes total sense. Thanks for the heads up! – Steve Urban Jul 16 '10 at 20:18

I also agree about cheap bows, but you need to watch for the bow curvature. Some bows, even when the frog's totally tight, will "bottom out" (the bow meets the wood of the bow) in the middle of the bow when you need to push a bit harder to resonate a larger object/string. I've found standard rosin to work just fine to resonate a cable up to 1/8" in width. No rosin = no real decent sound.


The size of the bow is important as well as the choice of rosin. If you want to vibrate small objects use a violin bow, if you wish to vibrate large objects use a double bass bow. The quality of the bow does make a difference, but nowhere near as much as your technique. Practice is the main thing, spend some time perfecting the right sound.


I agree with everything everyone has said, I just have something that might help out on the technique side of things:

While 'bowing' or moving the bow back and forth, bow at an angle. I've noticed its less likely to bottom out by doing this and you get a better sound (I think).

Hope that helps.


I've only used a bow once, and it was a cheap violin bow that I borrowed. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on such a thing.

  • Good to know that even the first recordings can turn into something that's not only highly usable, but marketable too! – Steve Urban Jul 18 '10 at 22:35
  • Haha, yeah, kind of funny isn't it? I just had a good idea of the sounds I was after and set up some time to experiment. When I was done, I was so happy with the results I decided that I could include them as part of a library. – Chuck Russom Jul 19 '10 at 5:10

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