A Brief History Of The Modern Violin Bow
According to contemporary historical consensus stringed instruments long preceded the bow. Early stringed instruments were played by primitive cultures worldwide, and were plucked, but not bowed. Cave paintings of bowed instruments have been found in central Asia, and this is where bowing probably originated.
These early bows were extremely elementary and did not have mechanisms to adjust the tension of the horse hair, which was directly fastened to the wood. Due to central Asia’s proximity to the Silk Road the bow spread very quickly and was used throughout Islam and the Byzantine Empire.
The bow was not introduced into Europe until the 11th century, but development remained dormant until until the mid to late 17th century when tensioning mechanisms were added. In the late 18th century the shape of the bow transitioned from convex to concave. The fluted bow and pike’s head gave way to the ferrule.
As Antonia Stradivari is acknowledged to have perfected the violin, Francois Tourte is credited for having perfected the violin bow. He used mathematics to determine the correct proportions of the bow that still remain to this day. His bow had greater dynamic range and projection, and allowed for a greater variety of bowing techniques.
In Paris, France during the mid 19th and 20th centuries modern bow making reached its zenith, and became a hub for bow makers aspiring to learn and master the craft.