Some Tips for Bow Shopping and Bow Maintenance

by adminKFS on · 2 comments

This post is inspired from a student’s question.

How do I pick a bow?

I’m not a bow expert but can offer these basic tips. At the end of the post you will find some links to resources that offer good information about bows and what to look for.

The one thing to remember is that a high price does not necessarily mean a better bow. One of the main things that determines price is the quality of the stick. The quality of the stick can be determined by some of the following:

Balance – A good bow will be fairly balanced, meaning that the frog won’t feel too heavy compared to the tip. Imbalances like this can make the bow more difficult to control.

Camber and Strength – The bow has a natural curve in the middle of the stick. This curve is called the camber. The bow should not have to lose much of this curve in order to make the horse hair taught and playable. If the hair becomes taught only when the stick becomes straight, the stick is too weak.

The sticks tend to come from the following sources:

Pernambuco wood – tends to make for better sticks

Carbon Fiber– seen as a good substitution for Pernambuco

Brazilwood – used a lot by students

Fiber glass – used mostly by beginners.

Should I find a bow with real horse hair? Do I need to rehair my bow?

There is synthetic material available instead of real horse hair, but white horse hair is said to be the best. As to how often you should rehair your bow, it depends on the amount that you play. A good sign is when you see that the hair is thinning, meaning that you have broken a few! Since the hair is organic, it shrinks and stretches with changes of temperature and humidity. When it is getting worn out, you may notice that it takes a lot more rosin to get a good ‘bite’. If you do not play that much, getting your bow rehaired once a year should be sufficient. For those who play more, twice or more times a year is normal.
Always remember to loosen your bow hair when you put your instrument away. Constant tension when not in use will weaken the stick and may cause it to warp.

Again, I am not an expert on bows, but these are some important things to consider. I have listed some other resources that give more detailed advice and other considerations.
But the bottom line – you do not need to spend a fortune to get a decent bow. Every player likes different things in a bow and ultimately a good bow is one that makes you feel good playing it. But playing experience is necessary to understand what you as a player want and need. It will be difficult to understand what good balance feels like if you have not developed good bowing skills. So for students I recommend trying to find a decent quality stick that helps facilitate good skills.

Further resources:

A Short Post about Violin Bridges

by adminKFS on · 1 comment

I’ve seen a number of students with warped violin bridges lately so I thought I would just say a word about how to prevent this. Disclaimer: I am not a maintenance expert; when in doubt, see a professional.

Every time you tune the violin, the tension of the strings pulls the bridge ever so slightly forward. After a period of time, if it is not straightened regularly, the bridge will warp permanently. If the bridge is severely warped, there is a good chance that it will fall over-and if the bridge falls over, there’s a good chance your sound post will too. This actually happened to me once when I tried some heavy gauged strings. When I restrung the fiddle, the strings pulled my already slightly warped bridge very far forward and after a few days the bridge completely collapsed. Ever hear that sound? Very much like a gunshot! To prevent this, straighten your bridge regularly by gently pulling it backwards from the forward position until you see that it is perpendicular to the body of the violin. Ideally, I check for this every time I tune. I’ve included a youtube link with a demonstration of this, but if you are still feeling uncomfortable adjusting your bridge yourself, or if your bridge is already warped, take your violin to a shop and have a professional help you.

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