Great for One Thing – Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Bow Review

by | Apr 4, 2022

Lots to say about the $70 Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber violin bow, but I will cut to the quick. This bow is perfect for one particular kind of person: beginner beginners (no, that was not a typo). Intermediate beginners, advanced beginners, and musicians would be well served to look elsewhere.

That said, it is a well made bow and very attractive, at that.

Musicians may want to skip to the end of this article. Parents, teachers and students, read on!

Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow: The Beginner Beginner’s Bow

The Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Bow is perfect for beginner beginners, or students early in their violin or viola career. Beginner beginners are just learning how to hold the bow; bow correctly with the right arm; keep the bow straight and steady on the strings; and do the most basic of bowings like detache, legato, accents and staccato. For these purposes, Fiddlershop’s entry-level carbon fiber bow is all the student needs and, more importantly, is perfectly suited to the task.

Straight Stick

One of the key qualities that makes the bow so good for beginner beginners is the fact that it is made of carbon fiber. Beginner wood bows that typically retail for $20 to $60 are still prone to being warped or becoming warped early on in their service lives. When a bow warps, it becomes harder to keep the bow straight and steady while playing, frustrating a beginner’s efforts to learn their fundamentals. Carbon fiber bows are very robust against warping, guaranteeing a smoother time learning basic beginner technique.

Nigh Indestructable

Another advantage is durability. Wood bows are also prone to breaking when subjected to strong forces, like being banged on something or having a kid or teenager lean on the tip. Incidentally, some kids are, well, less aware of themselves and their surroundings while some teenagers are, well, not yet fully able to think theirs actions through. Carbon fiber bows like Fiddlerman’s Carbon Fiber bow are perfect for ones such as these. While the bows are not indestructible, the stick will certainly be able to take accidentally being whacked on a stand or wall (many, many times), and will bend instead of break under the weight of a person.

Bow with the Good Hair

There is one last thing that makes the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow perfect for beginners and that is the hair. The bow is properly haired with decent horse hair. This means that it tensions properly and gets a decent tone when drawn over the string. This is important for beginner beginners because we always want the player to be the reason the instrument sounds bad rather than the instrument, itself. Good bow hair simply eliminates one more factor. As a side note, a properly haired bow is pretty standard if you shop from Shar or Fiddlershop. However, there are no guarantees the cheaper bows on Amazon will be as well appointed.

What is a Beginner Beginner?

So what is a beginner beginner? A simple way to think of it is relative to different learning standards. A beginner beginner would be working in Suzuki Book 1 to early Book 2; RCM preparatory level, level 1, and halfway into level 2; and ABRSM preparatory level and Level 1. However, the real measure is where the student is at with their bow technique. I have a student that is on Suzuki book 3 that recently switched to me from another teacher. Unfortunately, that teacher had not been preparing my student adequately with her bow technique. As a consequence, she is still fundamentally at the preparatory level with her bow. Even though she is playing in Suzuki book 3, something like the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow is still all she needs – and will be for some time to come.

If you decide to purchase the more expensive model, all you are getting are nicer looks, not improved performance. This bow will serve a student for the first 1 to 2 years of play, depending on their pace of learning (and the quality of their teacher).

Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Violin Bow

Not for Anyone Else

As good as this bow is for beginner beginners, it is not really for anyone else. It is not that the bow can’t be used for more advanced bow technique; it can be. I can do most things I need to do with the bow as an advanced player. However, it is harder to do those things with the bow.

Intermediate & Advanced Beginners

The problem this poses to intermediate and advanced beginners is more significant than you might think. If something is harder for me to do with the bow when I have the knowledge, skill, and muscle conditioning, then it will be harder for the student to learn how to do that thing with that bow. In the case of the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow and intermediate beginner students, one of the big steps this bow will hold the student back on it speed. The Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow does not enable going fast – be it fast runs of 16th notes or brisk passages with lots of string crossings. Instead, it resists the quick changes in direction that we need to be able to make.

I’ve seen this in real-time with one of my students who is starting to have to play faster passages. In addition to his regular cheap-o wood bow, I allowed him to use Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow. Both got the same result: he could not play fast runs of 16th notes or passages with fast string crossings cleanly. I then put a slightly more expensive bow in his hands ($110 instead of $70), and he was able to perform the passages perfectly. This is important to understand: my student already had the ability to play the passage. The only thing holding him back was the bow.

This same student is also trying to learn spiccato, which is an advanced beginner to early intermediate level technique. Here, he and I have seen the same trend. Where he struggles with his cheap-o wood bow and the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow, slightly nicer bows allow him to learn the new technique with much greater ease.

The significance of this difference is really in the emotional impact on the student. The violin is a hard instrument to learn, even on a good day. It takes time, patience and persistence. Certain things, like speed and spiccato, don’t come easy to most students. As a result, these things can already be a little discouraging and frustrating for the student. A bow like the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow, good as it is for beginner beginners, will only end up amplifying this frustration and discouragement as it prolongs the learning process. In the worst case, this can actually lead to the student wanting to give up on the instrument because it is ‘too hard’.

From a financial standpoint, prolonging the learning process means you, as the parent or adult learner, are not getting as much value out of private lessons. Put another way, you have to pay for more lessons to achieve the same outcome. Spending an extra $40 or even $140 on a bow can save hundreds on lessons over the long-term. The emotional impact on you or your child is enough; but ithe financial tradeoff is pretty nice, too.

So what should you buy instead? You can drop to the bottom of this post to find out.

Musicians Looking for an Outdoor or Backup Bow

Some of the reviews I have read for this bow suggest it is great as a backup or outdoor bow for musicians. I want to suggest reconsidering and maybe spending a little bit more. Remember, this is bottom dollar for a carbon fiber bow, so it performs as a bottom dollar bow would be expected to perform. This bow can do most, if not all, of the things many fiddlers and musicians will need it to do. However, it does not respond very well to speed, including fast runs of notes and fast string crossings. It feels light in the hand, true; but not in a way that is good for playing. If you spend even $40 or $50 more, you will be able to get a bow that responds much better while still being cheap and carbon fiber.

I finally got to use this bow at an outdoor festival back in fall of 2021 and found that it was not just underwhelming, but was outright bad. The tone quality it produced with my violin was harsh while my ability to play smoothly and clearly was greatly impaired. After an hour of using the bow (I was on a walk-about), I got back to my case and swapped for my nicer wood bow. Immediately, the violin sounded pleasant and my bowings returned to being smooth and clear. As to carbon fiber versus wood for outdoors, I’ve never had an issue with wood. Both will loosen or over-tighten if the weather is too damp or too dry.

Carbon fiber or wood, you do you. Either way, spend a little more on your backup bow and you will likely give much better performances. Some suggested bows are below.

You can listen to a more in-depth description of how I experience the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow perform here.

Alternative Bows

Alright, so you are convinced that you should get something a little nicer than the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber bow, but what should you but!? In general, any bow in the $110 to $150 price range will be a respectable step up and meet the needs of an intermediate beginner or musician looking for a cheap backup bow. If you child is an advanced beginner, then bows starting around $200 would be a reasonable purchase. Here are some specific listings I have tried so far. In any event, I recommend buying from Shar Music or Fiddlershop if you plan to buy online and steer clear of anything Amazon offers, no matter how many 5 star reviews it appears to have.

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