The great bow hunt (stress) is on...

There is a little detail that is seldom revealed when you start learning to play an instrument. Yes, it is very lovely to be able to play Happy Birthday for your grandmother, and to play Silent Night in the school nativity (though I always wanted to be Mary and I never, ever got to be). And yes, when you get older, it is incredible to explore and discover your personal tastes in music; what you enjoy playing, what you enjoy listening to, what actually sets your teeth on edge.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't exchange my career for any other (a week's work experience in Belfast Crown Court put an end to my fleeting consideration of law as a possible career path), but no one every tells you just how expensive it is to be a musician.

I'm not talking about the expense of lessons, college or master classes, though I'm sure if my parents were to calculate how much they spent on my piano (hated it), singing (liked the folk songs), theory (really couldn't care less if my chorales in the style of Bach had parallel fifths or not) and viola lessons (liked them) over the years, they would need a holiday to get over the shock. Best not to think about it, Father.

What I am talking about is the cost of instruments themselves. If you are a string player, the purchase of the instrument, the bow, and then the maintenance of these beautiful pieces of craftsmanship is colossal. And do not even start me on the expense of strings.

My bow is not a bad bow, but neither is it a good bow, and I have to work very hard to make certain bow strokes work. While it has been good enough to get me through college, and into my first job, I have quite simply outgrown it, a bit like a child outgrowing a bicycle in some ways.

I've probably said it before, but the relationship between a musician and their instrument is a complex one. While a good workman should never blame his tools, if you are on stage playing an instrument you feel limited on, or using a bow that you have little faith in, it is a most uncomfortable situation.

It's not just string players either - I dare you to ask a wind player about reeds (try a bassoonist or oboist for best results). Musicians are sensitive to small changes in the condition of their instrument and can, understandably, be rather precious when it comes to what is, essentially, their livelihood.

I've never been in a position to really invest in a bow before and I'm finding the prospect of trying out lots of (hopefully) fabulous options very exciting, if a tad scary. I'm saving very hard, so if you see me in Cardiff city centre looking a bit thin and miserable, please buy me a coffee (conversely, if you see me shopping, remind me I'm saving for a bow)!

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