ECOFRIENDLY STABILIZED HARDWOODS FOR MAKING BOW FROGS.
This is a first in the history of bow making. Individuals who care about our ecosystem will
welcome this news. We at Berg Bows have exclusive access to these stabilized woods.
Several species are an option. Currently eye burl rosewood, cocobola wood and African
black wood are our favorites, but research continues, so we hope to find more. These
species are converted from the raw wood to a stabilized form, that in essence is like a
plastic. The beauty of the stabilized forms is greatly enhanced when this wood is buffed
and polished.The technique for stabilizing involves extracting all water and resin, if present
in the wood, then impregnating it with a resin, which is then dried and hardened. This new
form is very stable. Its propensity for cracking and chipping is greatly diminished. How often
one sees on bows, ebony frogs with splits and chips, usually at the heel. We at Berg Bows are excited because one species,
namely African black wood, has been used, in its raw form, to make flutes and odoes because it produces a wonderful sound.
Since a bow is like a sound loop we anticipate that this species may increase the dynamic power of our Berg Bows. We will
soon have an answer.
We have always placed great emphasis on keeping close to the tradition of the great French
bow makers, so that our molded sticks look amazingly like pernambuco wood, and now, with
the frogs made from stabilized hardwoods, we are the first to make a bow which is close to
totally synthetic, yet very beautiful in appearance. We are also exploring synthetic bow hair to
replace the traditional horsetail hair.
Another reality that prevails, is that top quality raw ebony wood sources are more difficult to
find, whereas African black wood is more plentiful. Stabilized, buffed and polished it is very
black, virtually as black as ebony, for those who want the traditional black color for their frogs
Berg Bow Bulletins
December 11, 2014
For over four decades, Berg Bows has worked to develop the best string bows in the world, guided by scientific research and state-of-the-art technology. Watch the interview on WTIU Indiana Public Media.
MICHAEL DUFF has gone from conducting experiments to handcrafting musical instruments, and now his violin bows are the top prize at an international music competition. Read his article in The Dominion Post
Please click here to check out the recent article in The Suit Magazine on Michael Duff about The Craftsman Behind the World’s Greatest Violinists.
Article from the Strings magazine,
Jaime Laredo, Augustin Hadelich Take Us Inside the 2010 Indianapolis Violin Competition. 165 violinists from 23 countries compete in the 'Olympics of the violin world' .
Michael Duff presenting a gold mounted 'Tourte-Voirin' model Berg bow to Clara-Jumi Kang, gold medalist of the 2010 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
An expanded endorsement has been gratefully received from violin virtuoso Augustin Hadelich. On December 6, 2009 he wrote saying;
"Michael, the Bergbow crafted by you and awarded to me, as one of the prizes for winning the gold medal at the Indianapolis International Violin Competition in 2006, is excellent. The sound is very beautiful, and the bow has great balance. It always does exactly what you want it to, resulting in clean crisp articulation. I love performing with it."
New Model Berg Violin Bow:
Berg Bows announces a new model violin bow which very successfully combines qualities of TOURTE and VOIRIN bows. Now our clients can commission bows in the weight range from 57 to 61 grams incorporating these qualities. Those at the lower weight range are not weak as some Tourte bows can be, while those of higher weight still have a nice flexural quality in the lower third of the stick, the octagon region.
The inspiration for developing this model came first from internationally famous virtuoso Mark Kaplan, professor of violin at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music,who favors performing with a very light pernambuco bow, at 56 grams. He tested two prototypes, the first weighing 61 grams, the second weighing 58 grams. The latter is the one now owned by virtuoso Eduard Melkus of Austria. Professor Kaplan praised both highly, specifically their flexural quality. Mr Melkus enthusiastically concurs. Further inspiration for developing the new model came from internationally famous virtuoso Corey Cerovsek, a pupil of the late Josef Gingold. Corey kindly made it possible for me to make detailed measurements of a Voirin violin bow that he favors. The data were very valuable.
The new model is a resounding success. Their sound is resonant and focused yielding crisp articulation, and their response is incredible in the difficult “off string” bowings because of the sticks fast vibration propensity.
Early purchasers of this new model are great masters of the violin, namely; professors Jaime Laredo and Mimi Zweig at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and professor Eduard Melkus retired after many years on the faculty of the famous academy for music in Vienna.
Endorsements for the new Tourte-Voirin Model Berg Violin Bow
August 20, 2014
"I have been the owner of a Berg violin bow for over 10 years. When I was in search for a new violin bow I was fortunate enough to be reintroduced to the wonderful Berg bows."
"As a concertmaster, I was looking for a high performance bow and decided to rediscover the Berg line because of the continuous innovation and advancements that I had heard so much about. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. While all of the bows are of high quality, I found that the Tourte-Voirin was articulate and effortless. Mr Michael Duff, the artist behind the craftsmanship of the bows, invests much research, knowledge, and refinement into each bow. He does not merely attempt to replicate a classic bow. Instead, he rediscovers and improves a classic piece of art through the use of modern science, while adhering to the application of traditional working methods. His experience has allowed him to create great composite bows that retain the qualities of a classic bow while producing better stability, flexibility, and consistency. His green innovations of stabilizing natural hardwood is the perfect example of this. I am continuously impressed by the Berg bows and cannot wait to add another bow to my collection. I highly recommend them to my fellow musicians."
May 02, 2014
"I recently became the owner of a Berg Bow and have two students of mine at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University who have been thoroughly transformed as players with their respective Berg Bows."
"What is in a bow? If you put aside the actual recipe of materials and craft in making
them, I am referring to the chemistry between speed and weight of the bow arm with the bow, the sense of how it makes contact to the string and the resultant tone singing out from the violin. The bow is a player's communion with an immense language of sound possibilities. It can drive the grammar of articulation to new heights by how its innate balance grips the string and releases it. It can give depth at many expressive temperatures that can fulfill the player's imagination of what is possible and even take it beyond."
"My Berg Bow has opened up yet another avenue in how a bow can handle in my hands. I have learned to not be surprised what a bow can offer you. The Berg Bow's particular strength is a calm and steady pull right from the time you put it to the string. With this physical sensation comes a fullness of tone production and ease in movement from frog to tip, as though the arm never really cantilevers as it moves to the tip—the contact remains steady and sure throughout the stroke. The spiccato 'sweet spot' is in a comfortable location and produces a buoyant rebound of all varieties of weight."
"It was an effortless musical relationship when I put this bow to the string for the first time and felt the way it coaxed the quality of sonority into being and easily spoke in a variety of articulations. What more could one hope for on a first date?"
August 01, 2013
"The gold viola bow arrived yesterday and I played it for 2 hours last night.You have outdone yourself. it is an unbelievably sophisticated piece of equipment. It is light, smooth, and elegant, but is has immense bite and power. I have two good viola bows - a Watson and a John Norwood Lee. There is simply no comparison at all. The overtones this bow draws out of the instrument are downright startling. It permits a freedom of movement that I have not experienced before. The bow changes at the frog are extremely smooth, and there is all the power in the world at the tip. I had no idea that my Curtin viola was capable of such sounds. The bow absolutely unlocks the instrument. Also, it doesn't hurt that the bow is drop dead gorgeous to look at. If I were a world-class viola player that is the bow I would covet. Thank you, Michael, for making this dream of a bow for me."
June 21, 2012
I have been the proud owner of a Berg violin bow for the past 10 years. It has proven to be a very strong and reliable bow throughout many solo, chamber, and orchestral concerts. Recently, I decided to add the Tourte-Voirin bow to my collection and it is impeccable. I immediately fell in love with the bow's ability of having ease and flexibility while also demonstrating strength and balance all at the same time! I am very impressed. Your Tourte-Voirin bow evokes and shapes a vast range of elegant colors from my violin, which adds to versitility in playing. As Concertmaster of Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Colombia, I am both honored and delighted to be playing with your prestigious Tourte-Voirin bow in my future concerts and recitals.Your craftsmanship is amazing and it is clearly evident that your artistry has only improved to create such fine and detailed pieces. I will definitely be referring my fellow collegues to you and it is without reservation that I highly recommend your bows to all fellow musicians.
Michael, I sincerely thank you for your excellent craftsmanship and dedication. I will be in touch with you for future maintenance of your beautiful bow.
February 07, 2011
Dearest Mr. Duff,
I am a proud owner of one of your bows and I have to say I love that bow so much. I refuse to use anything else. I just wanted to touch base with you because I need to get my bow rehaired. At this moment I am living in Taiwan so I will be back in the U.S. in March for a few weeks. Could you please tell me how much it costs to get rehaired? How long do you need to do this? Since my time is very limited, I want to see if I have time this time when I am back in the U.S. Thanks so much for all your help. It is good to see you are coming out with more beautiful designs for your bows. They look breath taking :)
January 21, 2010
I have been the proud owner of beautiful gold Fleur-de-lis Berg violin bow for many years and have been extremely happy with it. However, the new 'Tourte-Voirin' model which I commissioned recently is really astonishing. Its special flexural and sound quality is as good ad most great French bows that I have performed with. It excels in its remarkable steadiness on the strings.
I couldn't be happier with its qualities! It is also a stunningly beautiful looking bow, superbly crafted.
Berg Bow Bulletins
Berg Bow awarded to Augustin Hadelich, winner of 2006 Indianapolis International Violin Competition
Mr. Duff was pleased to present a Gold Mounted Fleur-de-Lys Berg violin bow to Augustin Hadelich, this year's gold medal winner of the prestigious Indianapolis International Violin Competition. After hearing much of the competition himself, Mr. Duff says we was extremely impressed with Hadelich's performances, and wishes him great success as he is launched into an exciting new stage of his career. In addition to the the Berg Bow, Hadelich won $30,000 in cash, a 24-carat gold medal, a four-year loan of the 1683 "ex-Gingold" Stradivarius violin and Tourte bow, a Naxos label compact disc recording contract, and more than 40 concert engagements, including a domestic and international tour. Besides the gold medal award, Hadelich also won a majority of the special awards. Congratulations Mr. Hadelich!
click here to view this prize bow
here to read a response from Hadelich on the Berg Bow
Berg Bows, Inc. Exhibits at Starker Celebration
The 75th birthday celebration for world renowned cellist and pedagogue Janos Starker was more than an average party. Held in our hometown of Bloomington, Indiana at the Musical Arts Center of Indiana University, this event was a celebration of a man and his achievements. Not only the milestones Mr. Starker has reached in music, but also those he has obtained as a father, a nobleman and a professor.
The two day event included a hall of exhibition where Berg Bows, Inc. joined about a dozen other luthiers and dealers to demonstrate products. Several cellists had the opportunity to play Berg cello bows and see the craftsmanship they had only heard about. (see President's Notes above).
The Eva Janzer Cello Center hosted the celebration. The music of the evening was a moment in history, noting the first time that Janos Starker and Maestro Mstislav Rostropovich have shared the same stage. A mass cello ensemble consisting of Starker's former students, was the finale to a program that will not be matched again. The evening ended with a gala dinner, giving those close to him, personal time to reminisce and celebrate Professor Janos Starker's grand accomplishments. BRAVO!!
Berg Bows Celebrates 20th Anniversary
2005 is a very significant year for Michael Duff and Berg Bows, as it represents the sum of 20 years of innovation, experience, and fine bow making. The following is a letter from Mr. Duff reflecting on some of the history as well as current issues involving the Berg Bow.
This year is the 20th. Anniversary of the forming of Berg Bows. Therefore it is appropriate and certainly interesting to reflect on those twenty years. To see how the significantly new standard of bow making fared, measured against the established traditional crafting of performance quality bows from pernambuco wood. For the reader's information Berg Bows pioneered making high quality performance bows, originally violin and cello, followed by viola, employing composite materials and molding technology. I qualify this statement by stressing that Berg bows were from the first year favorably compared to the best bows of the famous French tradition. In the early years there was prejudice, mainly from dealers and traditional makers, but also some, though much less, from respected performers. It is likely that some of it resulted through a lack of understanding, specifically of the unique Berg process and perfectionist standards of craftsmanship. For every step in traditional bow making Berg executes an equivalent step. Nothing is mass produced at Berg Bows, and no technicians are employed. I, Michael Duff, the founder of Berg Bows, do all the molding and crafting. Prior to founding the company I studied with the Danish violin maker Ole Stefan Dahl, an excellent teacher I might add, who had apprenticed with the Hjorth family of violin makers of Denmark. Ole had a great love for and knowledge of pernambuco bows. During several years working beside him a great number of high quality bows passed through our hands, most owned by faculty and students at renowned Indiana University School of Music at Bloomington. Also I was assistant instructor to Mr. Dahl when we initiated a diploma course in stringed instrument technology within this music school. It was the dream of members of the string faculty who successfully wrote a grant applying for funding. These years of experience gave me a great foundation for the Berg bow making project.
My bow work was admired and praised by a respected dealer in Germany, namely Heinrich Dick of Gunther Dick Company. I well remember his comments about the von Bennigsen bow company who were the next to get on the band wagon, but ultimately failed. Heinrich simply said 'They don't know bows' By implication he was telling me that I did know bows. It is true. However I never stopped learning. Many famous performers that reviewed my early work shared their experience with Berg bows. For my part I listened intently. I have much to thank them for. What I did was combine what I was learning from them with my knowledge of the mathematics of bow stick design and the use of our proprietary combination of materials, which I refer to as composite materials. To summarize, Berg Bows have a perfect stick design by virtue of computer and mathematical studies. This endowed the bows with exemplary steadiness and responsiveness. I addition I worked tirelessly to produce a bow which looked like pernambuco wood with its grain and varying colors. This has been the envy of several newer bow making companies employing carbon fiber. Their bows are gray or black and are very different from the tradition. The wood-like beauty of Berg bows are tremendously appreciated by my distinguished clients. Many of them own Tourte and Peccatte bows and expensive instruments like Stradivarius violins. They have said to me that they are proud to place their Berg bow in the case beside their valuable French bows. Beautiful looks are clearly important too.
As the years have passed several new companies have formed that make carbon fiber bows. They vary greatly in quality. Most are student quality and are relatively inexpensive. Because they are shock proof they fill a valuable niche in the market. My perception is that they also are appreciated by students because they generally perform the challenging off-string bowings well. This is a valuable quality for beginners struggling to master these strokes. Their shortcomings are that they are mass produced and to the trained eye they come up short on craftsmanship. They are made by technicians, not by master bow makers. The mission statement of these companies has to be 'Make large profits'. Also carbon fiber bows produce a sound which is not warm enough for the discriminating concert artist. The late Franco Gulli switching back and forth between several Berg bows and his Charles and Domenique Peccatte bows declared the Bergs to have a very 'healthy' and 'clean' sound matched with his Stradivarius violin. Overall it is pleasing to watch these other companies prosper. In the early years the wise pundits predicted failure for them - indeed for all of us. They were wrong!
People sometimes ask 'Why are Berg bows so expensive?' They are so because the craftsmanship is very high quality. Now it is the highest it has ever been, and the sound and performance quality are simply great. If they are 'neck and neck' in quality with famous French bows as so many artists claim, then relative to today's market Berg bows are a great bargain. In addition they are virtually indestructible and do not fatigue or warp with age. Furthermore, again contrary to the wise pundits' predictions Berg bows are also appreciating in value. Another question that I have been asked is 'What makes Berg bows the best - what evidence is there to prove it?' This is an easy question to answer. Study the recordings in the audio section of Berg Bows web site, all performed with Berg bows on very expensive instruments. This testimony stands as strong and unique evidence. New recordings with Berg bows are waiting to be downloaded to CD quality. If you are a Berg bow owner and have a recording that I am not aware of please notify me. It could be added to the list in the listening booth.
One of the problems challenging companies like Berg Bows is that of promoting and marketing. In the early years upwards of thirty thousand dollars was invested in advertising. Two leading journals got most of that. The reward is a great image, but sales were not commensurate with dollars spent. A lot of readers are not professional performers and don't buy bows. Some of that money could have been on a new mold or further research. Another problem with that type of promotion is that you must keep it ongoing. Advertising rates have become exorbitant. You frequently hear it said that word of mouth is the best advertising. I have proved this to be true, however, in the classical stringed instrument world many professionals are very reticent to share what instruments they own with students and colleagues. They appear to be more inclined to talk about their violin, viola or cello than their bows. This may be reflected in an article or noted in the notes accompanying a CD recording. Only once did a world famous soloist and concertmaster (London Symphony) discuss the whole picture and refer in the CD booklet notes to his using his Berg violin bow for his recordings of the complete solo violin sonatas and partitas of J. S. Bach. That artist is Gordan Nikolitch. Bravo Gordan and thank you! When you read this want you to know that your performances and interpretations are the ideal of your famous violist colleague Csaba Erdelyi. I sent him copies and he plays them to his students to inspire and teach them. It saddens me to say that another of my famous clients recently requested his Italian recording company to mention in the notes that he always performs with his Berg bows. They did not act on his request. It is truly time to begin telling the whole story, and believe me the readers of these stories love the details. They tell me so. There is a significant story in print, in Strings magazine I think, about famous bow maker William Salchow saying to a cellist after his concert when he mentioned what cello he performed on, that he ought to have also mentioned that he performed on a Salchow cello bow. Whereupon the cellist replied 'You are right'. This seems to say that the omission to include reference to bows is simply and oversight. It is time to change that. Strings magazine has certainly done admirably in having their featured artists include what bows they perform with. So let me make a further earnest appeal to all artist/teachers to make the change. Share with your students, colleagues and producers of your recordings. Insist, if possible, that they mention your bows in the notes.
Making Berg composite bows for twenty years has been a challenge that has been very gratifying. To make them to comparable quality and aesthetic beauty as top quality French bows is a great achievement. To be the pioneer at that high standard and still maintain first place in overall quality is a major success story. It Francois Tourte's bows represent a milestone in bow making because of their new shape, then Berg bows deserve similar status because of their new materials. My dear friend and colleague in France, Alain Herou, said to me during a shared International Workshop presentation in Biaritz, France, "Michael I see why you have been so successful. You have stayed so close to the tradition in both appearance and sound". In closing I wish to express my gratitude to all string players who have made it possible.
Michael F. Duff (bow maker - founder, sole proprietor of Berg Bows)