Video: Watch and listen to Lynn Harrell play with an Arcus, original Austrian-made Cello bow
Arcus bows are a new concept in bow technology. The creator of these carbon fiber bows did not seek to copy high end pernambuco bows, but instead has developed a bow with high resiliency (stiffness) but with very low weight. That means that the bow plays more easily as it is considerably more maneuverable than its heavier pernambuco counterpart. Design characteristics allow for a softer adjustment of the hair without bottoming out on the stick. There is an ease to the playability of the bow that is difficult to describe until you actually try one and get used to the unique feel that it offers. You must set your other bows aside and use the Arcus bow exclusively three days - you must promise to do this!
Most instruments when played with an Arcus bow sound as if there is simply more resonance being offered - more core to the sound and more volume with less effort. One professional Cadenza Gold player said that this is the fastest bow he has every played, and that the notes start cleaner and faster than any other bow he has tried, even when changing directions. The bows are manufactured and then graded after being acoustically tested. The best become Cadenza models, and they are the most exquisite in their ability to offer subtle nuance in response.
The Cadenza bow is intended for professional soloists and offers the most power, modulation, agility and responsiveness. The Concerto is intended for professional orchestral players. The Sinfonia will fulfill the needs of most amateur players, and the Sonata and Veloce models are intended for students on a budget. Although this may clarify what will fulfill the needs of a player, it is still possible to derive more pleasure by using the next level up. Gold Cadenzas (vs. silver) are simply the best of the best.
Arcus bows produce an extremely pure and warm sound. Their epoxy matrix filters unpleasant high frequencies, while the special carbon fiber structure enhances the important basic tones and overtones to a maximum. The resonance quality of the sticks is the criteria by which these bows are selected and assembled. In many blind tests the Arcus Cadenza and Concerto bows came out as the clear winner over even the most expensive and rare wooden bows. The Sinfonia and Sonata bows similarly outperform just about every other bow in their price range. The most important criteria in such tests are projecting power, beauty of sound, and the possibilities of creating a variety of tonal colors.
When developing these bows, there was a surprising discovery that due to the hollow core and some other design characteristics, that they sound and play slightly different when constructed round or octagonal. The round bows tend to be more focused and clear with a steady calm character. The octagonal tends toward a broader, richer sound, and is a bit more jumpy, bouncing more easily and having more of a life of its own.
In our opinion after getting input from a number of good players, we subjectively think that the Concerto has about 90% of the positive playing characteristics of the Cadenza, and the Sinfonia is close behind. If you want the full effect, and the money doesn't scare you, go for the Cadenza. You won't be sorry. On a budget the Sinfonia is an excellent bow, and an excellent value.
If you would like to try an Arcus bow on an approval basis, please call toll-free 1-888-499-6165 to arrange a trial.
Arcus Tips & Hints
Arcus bows combine a very low weight with highest resiliency in a new and unique way. This results in a somewhat different feel, and it therefore normally takes three days to get completely used to the playing characteristics. We strongly recommend playing with the Arcus bow exclusively during that period. Going back and forth with the old bow may slow down the learning process significantly. After this period there is absolutely no problem alternating with traditional bows.
During the first few days some musicians find playing an Arcus bow tiring, and they believe that it has to do with "missing" the weight of the bow, when in fact it is simply that the bow hand has not yet un-learned certain compensations and corrections that are not required when using an Arcus bow. After a time the hand learns to relax and to skip unnecessary maneuvers.
For off-string bowings the recommendation is to keep the bow closer to the strings and use a little more movement. This way the strokes become very precise and the tone contains a lot of sound and very little noise.
You may find that spiccato with your Arcus bow is performed closer to the frog than you are used to.
For a strong, robust sound you may play closer to the bridge than with other bows, but your tone will neither become rough nor will it break.
The curvature or camber of Arcus bows is significantly shallower than that of wooden bows. In a completely relaxed state you will see a distance of several millimeters between the hair and the stick. For a start you may tighten the bow in a similar way to what you are used to, but note that even under light tension the stick will not bottom out. Try more or less tension to see how it works. Arcus bows sometimes need fewer turns of the screw than you are used to in order to get to optimum playing tension, and with quarter turns you will feel significant changes in the playing characteristics. Because of the strong stick, the bow moves very steadily on the strings. The stick will not bend sideways even under high pressure, and there will be no unintended movements or tremble on the fast bowings. The unique light weight allows for the most virtuoso and comfortable playing.