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A good bow is as important as a good instrument
Up to $500 Discounts
Call 92319317 for an appointment. Screenshot this web page + show your T'ang Quartet concert ticket (electronic / printed) at the shop to get $20 off a bow rehair or up to $500 off a new bow commission.
9 King Albert Park, #01-38 S598332
Bow maker Paul Goh feels that too many string players do not realise the importance of having a good bow.
“Bows are what deliver the sound of the violin, and a good instrument could become limited by the poor quality of an inferior bow,” says Southeast Asia’s only bow maker. There’s a reason for this lack of emphasis on having a good bow.
“They are used to buying violins that come with a free bow,” explains the T’ang Quartet’s second violinist, Ang Chek Meng. Indeed, parents would buy an inexpensive student violin when their children start learning, and these would of course come with a bow. When the child grows, improves technically and requires a violin of better quality, these parents would be more than happy to get an instrument that matches their child’s prodigious level of proficiency.
“However, they continue using the same bow that came free with the previous instrument or replace it with one of mediocre quality because they just aren't aware of how important having a good bow is,” adds Chek, who also teaches many young violinists.
“There are certain advanced technical skills which require a good bow to execute – I’ve seen bows so bad that you cannot even play a spiccato on it. Parents of young musicians need to know that when the child struggles with a bad bow, they create all sorts of problems for themselves, even if they have a very decent violin.”
Paul, who also produces quality handmade fractional (for example, half-size or three-quarter size) bows, is in complete agreement with Chek. “Children and young players are beginning to display their talent at a younger age,” says Paul. “Some of these talented child violinists are playing pieces from the adult repertoire, and they need a high-quality bow to be able to deliver these or else they would develop very bad habits. Even worse, they could end up injuring themselves while using a low quality bow, which is not great for a budding young talent.”
Paul, who left the teaching profession in 2005 for training in the French tradition of bow- making, makes it easier for parents to purchase fractional bows for their children by allowing them to trade in their bows for the original price when they need new, bigger ones.
“That way, parents see it as a rental until their children are big enough to commission a full-size bow,” explains Paul. Typically, Paul produces 20 to 25 commissioned bows a year, and when he isn’t making a bow, he would be rehairing old ones.
"Rehairing is important as the combination of factors from hair and rosin degradation, and wear and tear will affect the performance of the bow, so I would recommend rehairing at least once a year," says Paul. And what happens when someone commissions a bow?
“I would observe the player and after that have a discussion as to what kind of bow the player would need to push on to the next level, or if it is already an established player, what kind of bow might match the player’s style. Sometimes, the player may already have his or her own ideas,” says Paul. “Sometimes they might even want something that’s in a similar style to a very expensive now by, say, a renowned French bow maker, so I will build a bow in that style for the player.”
And the quality of his work? “People might say, hard-disk from Singapore? Sure. But an instrument bow from Singapore? Hmmmm...” says Paul, realising he is at a disadvantage simply because of the geographical location of his workshop at KAP Mall. Even so, he has had commissions from European musicians who have been quite satisfied, he says.
While European bow makers can get by simply by being who they are, Paul has had to work harder. And if one needs a ringing endorsement of Paul’s workmanship, one could find a very sonorous one from none other than Chek, for whom a bow is just as important as his violin.
“As an instrumentalist, I am always amazed by the bow – it needs to be so strong in order to take so much punishment, yet it also needs to be so supple,” says Chek. And he has commissioned two bows from Paul – one for himself, and the other for his daughter, Amanda. “My bow is the same price as my Czech-made violin, if you want to know how important a bow – this bow – is to me,” says Chek.