The Bow: The Soul of the Instrument

When was the bow (for musical instruments) invented?

To the best of our knowledge, the bow for string instruments was invented in the eigth century A.D. in the region known today as Turkestan. The first bows may very well have looked like the one held by our anonymous Indian musician for playing his dilruba (Information: Robin Krishnan). Indeed, the grip and bowing technique shown do not differ from those in use today on the viola da gamba or on the Chinese violin (known as the Erhu), for that matter. With the violent and rapid expansion of Islamic hegemony all along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the 8th Century, the use of the bow was brought to Spain by the Arabian conquerors, from whence it spread to the rest of Europe, becoming essentially ubiquitous in Western Culture during the Middle Ages.


The Historical Bows of the Vazquez Collection


Modern copies by Scott Wallace


Modern Historical Bows by Antonino Airenti


Der Bogen by Scott Wallace


Drawing your Violin bow
An iconographical survey of bows for the violin family


Drawing your Viola da Gamba Bow
An iconographical survey of bows for the viola da gamba family