Utility – the actual instruments
So, what are the tools of a musician? I think the most important would be the actual instrument. Those haven’t changed in hundreds of years. Sure the pitch of A has risen some, requiring a few structural adjustments. The modern bow is a little more modern than some of the music will still play, but only a little.
The biggest change to the actual instrument in the past hundred years would probably be the strings. That’s also the one thing musicians actually seem to want to talk about and try new things with. Most people are interested in experimenting with new strings, but as each set can last a month or more, and strings are not cheap, it’s a rather drawn out process. Each instrument is so unique that the strings that work best on one will likely not be the best on another, so this is also an endless debate of personal preference. I will on occasion try different strings, but I keep coming back to the brand I’ve been using since high school.
Sure, there have been advances in carbon fiber and its use as a material in instrument construction. It is relatively accepted in the world of bows, as most people will keep a carbon fiber bow around as a “beater” for gigs in less hospitable environments, or as a backup for when their main bow is getting a rehair. Musician are actually willing to talk about these things and play “can I try your bow?” Carbon fiber instruments on the other hand are relatively newer and more rare. I’ve come across a few, and the people I know who have them agree that they sound just like a carbon fiber bow plays – consistent. Flat, stiff, and brighter than all get out, but consistently so. Good for outdoor gigs and not much more. I should probably have a carbon fiber bow of my own, but this technology really doesn’t excite me. I mean why drop the money on a bow, when I could spend it on an iPad? I have two perfectly good bows already.