The bow is a very important part of the Erhu. A good bow improves the tone of your Erhu and brings out the best of your instrument as well as the best in you.
A bow can last for years, although professionals recommend that you change it once a year.
Say you walked into a store selling a myriad of Erhu bows, do you know how to choose the bow that you want?
Here are some points you can take note of:
1) Shanghai vs Beijing bow
The most distinct difference is the frog area. The Beijing bow has a quick release catch at the frog area where you can easily detach the bow hair from the bamboo to install or take out the bow from in between the strings. As for the Shanghai bow, you have to twist out the endpin before you can detach the bow hair from the bamboo.
2) Bow hair
We cannot really tell if the horse hair on the bow is good or not just by looking at it, so it is important to buy from reputable bow makers, or reputable shops like us because we only stock good bows. You can keep a look out though, for whether the bow has too much hair or too little hair and if the bow hair looks twisted.
3) Bamboo tension
We usually like to test the bamboo tension by stressing the bamboo like we are playing the inner string. If the bamboo has little tension it is very difficult to play loud or accented notes. If the bamboo is too stiff your hand gets tired more easily. Most would choose stiff over soft anytime. Some bamboo is thicker and heavier than others. It is easier to play fast notes with a bow with thinner bamboo and easier to play slow notes with a bow with thicker bamboo. The best would be something in between.
Spotted bamboo (Xiang Fei Zhu) bows usually is light and have good tension. They are also pricier.
4) Curvature of the bamboo
A bow with a bamboo that curves inwards towards the bow hair would have better tension than one that curves outwards.
5) Is it straight?
Sometimes the bow might be bent sideways which feels a bit awkward when you exert pressure on the bow. If it is unnaturally bent you can always bent it back. But if the bow is naturally bent you should look for another.
Watch this video for a clearer explanation:
Our favourite bow is the made one by Li Huai Gang. The bamboo tension is great and the bow hair is of good quality. A lot of professional players swear by it. It is currently out of stock but here is the link to it:
We do have a few spotted bamboo bow (Xiang Fei Zhu) in our stash. If you are interested do drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.