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Strength and power with a sensation of flexibility are classic characteristics of a fine French bow. Such combination brings out the warmth of an instrument. Stiffer bows are often easier to play at first while being brighter in sound (yet more nasal). Fine flexible bows are more subtle but allow a wider range of expression and technique with no sacrificing power. Rolland bows have this type of personality.

Another remarkable feature is their evenness. They are responsive along the entire length of the bow. Every stroke will be secure and stable. Sautillé, spiccatos, and staccatos are easy to play.

The playability of a bow results from the critical union of the wood’s inherent qualities and the particular shape imposed upon it by the maker with the tapering and the camber. Musicians often comment on the “effortless” experience of playing with Rolland bows, which enable them to negotiate long and difficult pieces without fatigue. Benoît Rolland indeed designs his bows to prevent stress on the arm muscles. “Effortless” playing does not mean that the bow is more compliant. It means that the player’s energy, rather than being dissipated by the bow, is transmitted straight to the music.

Rolland bows are designed for playing under a medium hair tension. Over-tightening the hair will drastically change their playability, degrading timbre.

In the recent years, Benoît Rolland focused his research on the sound potential of the bows. Though it is not an acoustic instrument, the bow plays an active part into organizing the circulation of vibrations between itself, the instrument and the body of the performer. In addition to this mechanical function, the wood stick has a sound of its own. Rolland analyzed these factors and many others. He is now able to predict the “sound” of a bow interplaying with an instrument.







Stick and hair motions in a cello bow



Cello bow playing



Vibrating bow

 

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