German Bow vs French Bow

If you are a bass player, or have watched many orchestral bassists, you may have noticed that there are two different styles of bows: The French Bow and The German Bow.

The French Bow looks similar to bows used for the violin, viola, and cello. It also has the same overhand hold like that of a cello. In general, French Bows are typically easier for a beginner to accomplish more technically difficult bowing patterns and strings crossings; however, it does so with some loss of sound and power.

German Bass BowGerman Bass Bow

The German Bow uses an underhand bow hold and has a larger frog to accommodate for the handshape created by this hold. For a beginning student, this type of bow has the opposite pros and cons of the French bow---delivering more sound and power but requiring more work to achieve the same technical skill of a beginner. If a student has shorter arms, the German bow would probably not be a good fit due to how the underhand hold would make it harder for them to comfortably keep the bow in the best range on the strings for a good sound.

Beginning bassists typically start with whatever their teacher plays or whatever bow is available at their school and may change for a variety of reasons. Some professional bassists will learn both the French bow and the German bow and then pick what feels best to them or pick a bow to match the needs of the performance.

While each bow type has its own pros and cons, a good musician can get a good sound and develop advanced technical skills on any style of bow and bow hold!