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A load of Horses' Butt
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Ferret
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July 5, 2014 - 8:42 pm
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Over my unimpressive not much over 2 years of experience on the violin I've heard much talk about the wood that bows are made of and how the different woods or composite materials effect the playability, sound quality of your violin.

However, I've not heard anything on our forum of the part of the bow that actually causes the bow to to make any sound what so ever. You can drag that piece of wood or composite material over the most expensive strings that you can buy all day and make very little or no sound at all.

Everyone seems to have forgotten about that that piece of 'horses' butt' that is that is stretched between the ends of the bow. And after some research I've found that the quality of the horse used on a bow is as equally important as the material that supports it. And I have personally become to believe that it may be even more important than the material supporting it.

When you have been looking at buying a new bow have you ever considered or even heard of bow hair with names like stallion, mare, Siberian, Australian, Canadian and so on. I would guess, never. Most may have heard off Mongolian as it's a name for bow hair that seems to be bandied about 'willy nilly' as a description on the likes of eBay.

Regardless of the hair type or source, I've read that many believe that the most important factor determining the quality of bow hair is how well it has been sorted, or graded. Only a relatively small number of hairs from each tail are suitable for bow hair.

The grading process involves pulling strands of horsehair through human fingers to feel the thickness, roundness, stretchiness, and strength of each hair. Hairs that are kinky, vary in thickness, or have knots, splits, deposits of crud, or other defects get sorted out and saved for use in paintbrushes. Sorting is done by hand which is an expensive, labor-intensive process. This helps to explain prices that can vary anywhere from $75 to more than $600 per pound wholesale: less expensive grades of hair are sorted “en masse” to eliminate only the most obvious bad hairs, while the most expensive bundles have been carefully selected.

Even the gender of the horse that the hair comes from seems to matter.

I've read that mare hair is a bit thicker and more aggressive than stallion hair. “Color drift” is the industry term that describes the variation in color from one end to the other in a bundle of hair. The whitest hair, with very little color change throughout the length, is often bundled and sold as stallion hair, while hair that has more color drift to a darker color is sold as mare hair.

And then just to complicate things a bit more there is the relationship between bow hair and rosin.

There are many who believe that even with the many different types of bow hair, it’s actually the amount and brand of rosin, and not the hair, that has the greatest affect on the feel of the bow and the sound that it pulls from an instrument. But that's a whole different topic and I feel that it's one that has been well enough covered on this and many another forum.

To me there seems to be just too many variables in 'what is a good bow'. The more I read the more confused I get.

I've not included any graphs or charts because I don't really understand most of the ones I've seen drooling

So I think I'll just go and pick up my bow of unknown origin and rosin it with my block of mysterious rosin and go play a tune and try not to think about it.

What you hear coming from a bow is only as good as the player after all. You could give 'me' the most expensive and best made bow on the planet and I'd muck up the tune. bunny-headbang

(source) generally plagiarised from all over the internet wink

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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coolpinkone
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July 5, 2014 - 10:01 pm
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I love this John.  I so so so think I am ready for a "big girl " bow.... Humm... But maybe I need to promise 80 hours of pure bow practice to get such a treat.  😉 great article .. Thank you.

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Barry
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July 5, 2014 - 10:45 pm
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next to using quality strings, a great bow is a step in the right direction. 

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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Ferret
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July 7, 2014 - 12:03 am
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Barry said
next to using quality strings, a great bow is a step in the right direction. 

@Barry 

Very true Barry. I have, what I think, is a good instrument. I'm using Larsen Virtuoso strings (one of Pierre's favorites). But the right bow is, I think, much harder to find.

With all the 'variables' I'm beginning it think that, as a novice, the best thing to do is go to a reputable seller and to let the price be a guide.

How would 'you' choose a new bow?

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Oliver
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July 7, 2014 - 12:40 am
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Ferret

Some history.  The very expensive bows emerged in sync with the rise of the VSO.

The Western violin business suffered a real blow in the near loss of student violins.  Bows to the rescue!  Shar  sometimes publishes an entire catalogue of ..... guess what...bows.  10 years ago that was 1 page!

So what?  

At one point I had 11 bows.  Cheap.  Some were horrible.   Some were very good.  I think taper is the clue.  All the parameters are there as you realize.  So, that leaves the player to tame the bow.  I'm sure some bows are just unplayable.  But that leaves you and your ability to get the results you want.  Try a bow before you buy it.  I guess cost is a factor but I can not imagine more than $300.  And mostly, don't depend on the gossip!

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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MrYikes
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July 7, 2014 - 11:54 am
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Ferret, I agree with you and have been perplexed that the hair was never talked about.  But then, how would a person be able to judge and even then, what would be the choices.  Decline a good looking bow because you don't like the color of the hair?

When a person takes a very expensive bow to be re-haired, what is demanded and what is supplied?  And then what happens when the hair is bleached? or in other ways manipulated?

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MrYikes
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July 7, 2014 - 12:59 pm
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and here is what happens when you leave the hair in bleach too long.  It just simply melted. Soooo, maybe bleaching is not a great idea.  Does hot water melt the glue that is used to hold in the hair?  I would like to try to replace the hair and frog.

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Barry
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July 7, 2014 - 1:33 pm
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Ferret said

Barry said
next to using quality strings, a great bow is a step in the right direction. 

@Barry 

Very true Barry. I have, what I think, is a good instrument. I'm using Larsen Virtuoso strings (one of Pierre's favorites). But the right bow is, I think, much harder to find.

With all the 'variables' I'm beginning it think that, as a novice, the best thing to do is go to a reputable seller and to let the price be a guide.

How would 'you' choose a new bow?

As for how would I choose a bow, it depends. I have a nice presto encore in need of a rehair, I also just ordered a fiddlerman CF so I have a back up. What do I look for in a bow...agility & balance, also the smoothness of the stroke. Those cheap wood and fiberglass bows feel like clubs to me after playing with the presto.  Now for the depends : it would depend on what I was spending.. I think anything over $200 you should go try them out. For me locally , its Sam ash for low end stuff, The Fiddle house for high end used, and Nashville violins for choking on your drink while viewing price tags.

 

In closing, I just have to say that I believe the importance of the bow is often over looked and blame placed on strings,soundpost or the price of the fiddle.

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 7, 2014 - 5:26 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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MrYikes said
and here is what happens when you leave the hair in bleach too long.  It just simply melted. Soooo, maybe bleaching is not a great idea.  Does hot water melt the glue that is used to hold in the hair?  I would like to try to replace the hair and frog.

No glue used to hold the hair. The hair is tied and singed with rosin, the end is then stuck into the hole and a properly cut wooden wedge is pressed into that hole. It's actually kind of difficult to do a good job without training. The hairs need to be combed and spread. The hairs need to be tied the right length and spread properly at the frog. You'll understand how it works if you start taking apart the frog and hair from you present bow.

Also, use alcohol instead of bleach. Rubbing, or grain alcohol melts melts and cleans rosin which is what has usually turned dark by the frog, etc......

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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MrYikes
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July 7, 2014 - 5:44 pm
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Thank you.  Got it back together but it was a little short, so while tugging gently on the frog, the hairs came out of the frog.  I've got another hank of hair that I'll play with some day.  For now, I've gained all the experience I need to know.  Thanks again.

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Ferret
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July 8, 2014 - 6:32 am
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@Barry 

Barry

have you ever considered a Baroque Snake Wood bow.

its a rather 'minimalistic' bow. They weigh next to nothing. The only down side I've found is that they are a 'tad' short.

64.5g for my FM CF bow. 55g for my Baroque Snake wood.

They are worth a look if you are ever thinking about a new bow mate :)

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Barry
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July 8, 2014 - 7:44 am
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I actually have thought about them. Didnt realize they were that much lighter. As for shorter, I choke up on the bow most of the time anyway. Fiddle styles dont require a lot of long bowing

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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Fiddlerman
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July 8, 2014 - 8:20 am
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Ferret said
@Barry 

Barry

have you ever considered a Baroque Snake Wood bow.

its a rather 'minimalistic' bow. They weigh next to nothing. The only down side I've found is that they are a 'tad' short.

64.5g for my FM CF bow. 55g for my Baroque Snake wood.

They are worth a look if you are ever thinking about a new bow mate :)

I have to say Ferret, that we have weighed hundreds of FM CF bows and that is heavier than any that we have ever weighed. We have pretty precise equipment to weigh them here. Generally they weigh between 58-62 grams. Once in a while a person will ask us for a lighter or a heavier bow depending on their preferences. Maybe you use super heavy rosin. ;)

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Uzi
Georgia
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July 8, 2014 - 11:20 am
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Interesting topic.  It looks like really good white horse hair will run about $400-$500/lb. I wonder how many bows there are to the pound?

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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MrYikes
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July 8, 2014 - 11:34 am
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google search says about 75 bows per pound.

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Uzi
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MrYikes said
google search says about 75 bows per pound.

Thanks, Mr. Yikes.  Further reading indicates that some of the bow rehair guys say that even in the best quality bundles only 15%-20% of the hairs are selected for use in rehairing, which would reduce the number of bows per pound down to about 15 at the upper end. That would indicate that the hair alone would be at least $25 for a top notch hair job.  

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Fiddlerman
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July 8, 2014 - 2:30 pm
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That would explain why I used to pay $100 per rehair back in the day. I believe that "Top Notch" is a bit over rated for price vs quality though. IMAO

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Uzi
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Fiddlerman said
That would explain why I used to pay $100 per rehair back in the day. I believe that "Top Notch" is a bit over rated for price vs quality though. IMAO

Well, the way I play, they could use the beard hair from the ZZ Top guys and I wouldn't know the difference. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Ferret
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July 8, 2014 - 5:52 pm
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@Fiddlerman

Pierre

It turned out that I forgot to take off the 'Bow Mate' that I was using off. Weighs 3.6g

I use it occasionally. Sometimes I bow better/straighter when I do

I use electronic jeweller's scales. Fairly accurate. I collect antique silver and weight is important. 

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Ferret
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July 8, 2014 - 6:01 pm
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Ferret said
@Fiddlerman

Pierre

It turned out that I forgot to take off the 'Bow Mate' that I was using off. It weighs 3.6g so that brings the bow back to 60.9

I use it occasionally. Sometimes I bow better/straighter when I do

I use electronic jeweller's scales. Fairly accurate. I collect antique silver and weight is important. 

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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