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  • Writer's pictureRaffaella Macuz


"Raffaella? Good morning, I'm Frederick, a cellist, friend of mine, told me that you fix the bows, I play with a bow that is too heavy, can you do something?"

Light, heavy, it's a movie seen hundreds of times, even a bit funny, musicians should know, teachers should know what makes the bow "light" or "heavy"... I am careful not to say anything about it, except: "when do you want to come?"

He arrives punctual, bubbly, very lively, he does not stand still for a second, he is an unstoppable torrent of stories of what happens to him with his bow, he brought with him his cello, definitely a beautiful cello, of excellent workmanship, and, of course, the bow ... we weigh it together, 84 grams, it is in an acceptable range, mah…, maybe a few grams more than due ...

I go to the case of my bows and take one, I hand it to him, and I ask him to try it for a few minutes with his instrument, without explaining anything, he looks at me questioning, I just smile ... sits down, agrees, and rehearses, Bach's suite, decisive, and then Brahms, thundering, and then Dvorak, so light...

He looks at me, surprised, not bad, not bad, light, tight to the rope, surely it will be an 80 grams ... do we weigh it? ... 84 grams!

They have the same weight, yet we feel them enormously different... I remember the long discussions with Master Lucchi, why are two arches, made with the wood of the same tree, different? One sounds, the other much less... true, there may have been slight differences in the manufacturing process, but not such as to produce that difference that is precisely objective, and that in a simplistic way is translated into light and heavy.

Simplistic yes, but true: it is that the fingers, the metacarpus, the carpus, the wrist, the forearm, the humerus, the shoulder, the back, the legs, the feet, must work differently to obtain the desired sound according to the characteristics of the bow ... these differences are recorded as differences in the weight of the bow, even when the weight is objectively the same.

It took years of research to find the right answer, the expertise and skill with which the master builds the bow is fundamental, it is essential that the technique is stable and perfectly dominated ... and a specific quality, a specific characteristic of wood, is fundamental.

We commonly say dynamic bows, a dynamic bow is light, adheres well to the strings, produces a better sound both in volume and in quality (quality, yeah... other endless discussions...). What does dynamic bow really mean?

We know the effects, with a dynamic bow the jumps, the trills, the points, the double strings, the flutes, the harmonics are precise and light ... the nod is instantaneous, the complete movement is stable, does not skid, the instrument responds impeccably, immediately, to the call of the dynamic bow.

Again, the attachment of the note to the tip is clean, immediate, the pianissimo is really a pianissimo, the fast passages are clean, precise, the bow becomes longer, it sounds from the tip to the heel, 32 notes per bowing ... in the end we found it, the answer we needed was hidden in the sound of the bow, in the speed with which the bow stick transmits the sound.

In order to transmit sound at six thousand meters per second, wood, which we know has been alive, be made up of microvessels and cellulose, must have that specific compactness, that specific resistance to load, traction, bending, only then can it transmit the sound at six thousand meters per second, six kilometers per second, only then can it generate, coupled with the bowhair, that living, round, precise sound, that sound capable of resonating, literally, the heart, the stomach, the diaphragm, the viscera, the lungs, the entire body of the listener.

... the wonder of wood, which comes from life, the wonder of bowhair, also produced by life, of the mammoth of the bowtip ("scarpetta" in Italian, little shoe), still the fruit of life, of the rosin... how can we not accept that only from the matter that comes from life can we obtain a living sound...

The Musician puts his whole body into the sound he gets from the instrument, uses his vital energy with very sophisticated skills... and the deaf bow, static, slow in sound, fatigues him, requires him to use more force, to hold, to drive, to touch, to get the sound that "spontaneously" starts late and ends too early, and that must be corrected, it can not start late and finish early ... and so come tendinitis, contractures, unsustainable physical fatigue, postures imposed by the effort to work a rebellious, slow and lazy bow .

So, the weight? Yes, what should be the weight, what is the right weight, the perfect weight... the answer depends on who is holding the bow, not on a general theory... the perfect weight can be identified only for that Musician, unique in the world, for that person, similar to us, yet different and unique, from his style, from his intent, we identify it through many calibration tests ... and we change it over the years, since the musician also changes over time, in the time of his life.

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