Players have been turning to carbon fiber bows as backup bows for some time now but more players are turning to carbon fiber for their primary bow. Traditionally the accepted material for bows has been pernambuco but with the advent of new manufacturing technologies coupled with the decrease of production costs has perpetuated carbon fiber to be used in thousands of products, including bows for stringed instruments. Carbon fiber is currently the best synthetic material we have for the construction of acoustic components. What they lack in tone is certainly made up for in other areas and these bows definitely can a have a place in your arsenal of bows.
Carbon fiber bows tend to be much more durable than wood bows, they are less susceptible to temperature and humidity changes, and are less labor intensive to produce. They also are less likely to warp. These characteristics make them excellent bows for performances off of the traditional concert stage in venues like coffee houses, outdoor concerts, and even in tight spaces like in a pit orchestra. Basically any performance where tone is not the most critical like when performing a concerto, audition, or classical recordings. They work especially well on electric instruments, which are gaining popularity in all genres of modern music.
The tone that carbon fiber bows or any bow for that matter is completely subjective. All factors of the player, instrument, and what the player wants to hear. Though in my experience and in most conditions the sound of a carbon fiber bow will never compare to a finely crafted pernambuco bow. But I wouldn’t let that stop you, many musicians and listeners can’t clearly discern the tonal differences anyway. As long as the bow functions well, it’s definitely a viable option.
I think what is important for any bow to function properly is that it needs to adhere to few characteristics. Particularly weight, balance, and deflection. There are a number of companies that spend the time and money, researching and developing carbon fiber bows to the acceptable parameters. Others are just making glorified fishing rods. With some lines of carbon fiber bows, price will fluctuate simply because of the frog and button are mounted with different materials like nickel, silver, or even gold, while the production and materials of the stick are exactly the same. You are not necessarily getting a better bow because you are paying more for the silver or gold.
If you are in the market for a new bow, It is always important to do some preliminary research. Play a number of them searching for the best playability and versatility. Even amongst the same model of bow there can be variations in weight, balance, and deflection. Manufacturers do this on purpose as they know players have varying preferences.
I personally think bows made of carbon fiber should be utilized more as we shouldn’t harvest large quantities of pernambuco to mass produce low quality bows. Of course the quality of a carbon fiber bow will never match a finely handmade bow of pernambuco, but it could definitely replace the brazilwood and mass produced and poor quality pernambuco bows. Pernambuco is a precious resource and should be utilized to make fine quality bows. What this could actually look like in reality would still need to be determined. I’m just a woodworker that cares about trees.