“French” or “German” Bow – What’s in a Name?

Unlike other modern bowed string players, bassists have to decide between two different bow types (or use both). I grew up hearing them referred to as French or German (also called Butler). I never learned the origin of these names but use them to describe the differences between the natural sounds of the two bows. The French bow makes it easiest to play and articulate like the sound of the French language, and the German most easily plays like the sound of the German language. Of course both bows are multi-lingual in the hands of a good player – but they both have their strong points that are very different from each other.

Today John Rutledge sent me this interesting bit about the names we use, though:

German and French as designations seem to be based on English-speaking conventions:
… die Franzosen sagen “sur la baguette”. Die Deutschen sagen “Oberbogengriff”.  ….[die] Hand hält den Bogen von unten, also “sous la baguette”. Auf deutsch “Unterbogengriff”.

The French say “sur la baguette” (upon, above the baguette), the Germans say Oberbogengriff, grip from above the bow, or (humorously) “beneath or below the baguette”, in 

German, Unterbogengriff, grip from beneath. 

As always – musicians are thinking of food!