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Bow hair
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (4 votes) 
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RDP
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May 10, 2022 - 6:47 pm
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I'm working on Bach's Minuet No. 3 and it's got some 4th fingered E string action in it.  When I watch the videos for the piece it sounds great.  When I play the notes, they sound horrid.  My new D'Addario NS tuner says the notes are spot on, but they still sound like fingernails on a chalk board.

I'm also still messing around with Vivaldi's Spring. (I can trill!)  Same end result... fingernails on a chalk board even though I'm hitting the right fingering for the correct notes.  Faster bow speed and lighter pressure does make some change but it's still screechy.

My current bow is the replacement for the one that came with my violin which warped.  Both are the same level of bow - basic entry level carbon.  The description for the bow hair says "premium" Mongolian horse hair.  Meanwhile, I've noticed that the more expensive bows have hair which have multiple "A" ratings as a sign of "higher quality."

 

Am I correct in assuming that the multiple A rated hair would make a better quality sound in the higher registers?

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ABitRusty
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May 10, 2022 - 7:33 pm
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That E string can be a booger.  Still fighting it myself but I think its getting better.  Pretty sure its a normal thing when learning violin to have E string issues. 

 I hate to jump into the change string category here but that may be something to try.  Not the whole set just different E's.  The tzigane E seemed ok and the obligato gold is what ive settled on for the moment.

It also sounds like youre experimenting with different attacks, pressure, and speed so thats good.  Possibly going sideways with bow maybe?   not saying just a thought for something to check.

also rosin buildup and maybe too much on bow.. Im constantly wrestling with that.

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ELCBK
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May 10, 2022 - 8:53 pm
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Yep, try a new E string. 

Obviously, there's more than one good one available - I prefer Pirastro 'Gold Label'. 

Your bow is probably fine for where you are at, but "you get what you pay for". 

Check over the hairs - sometimes I find some 'mutant', knobby, hairs - just cut them out (don't pull).  

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Gordon Shumway
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ABitRusty said
 It also sounds like youre experimenting with different attacks, pressure, and speed so thats good.  

And so it's possible that the OP is a beginner who hasn't developed their bowing technique yet. Don't buy new strings, practise.

Andrew

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May 11, 2022 - 12:39 pm
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ABitRusty said
That E string can be a booger.  Still fighting it myself but I think its getting better.  Pretty sure its a normal thing when learning violin to have E string issues. 

 I hate to jump into the change string category here but that may be something to try.  Not the whole set just different E's.  The tzigane E seemed ok and the obligato gold is what ive settled on for the moment.

It also sounds like youre experimenting with different attacks, pressure, and speed so thats good.  Possibly going sideways with bow maybe?   not saying just a thought for something to check.

also rosin buildup and maybe too much on bow.. Im constantly wrestling with that.

  

Currently I'm using the full Larsen Tzigane set.  It's ok but not what it's advertised to be, which is "warmer."  I might have to go to full gut strings to get the tone qualities I want, but not right now.  Not next year either.  Or maybe even the year after that.

Re: Rosin buildup...

I saw a video by one of the major string makers who recommended taking a soft dry toothbrush to the bow hairs on a weekly basis.  I've been doing that and I believe it's to help keep the rosin from building up (the video didn't say why other than "general maintenance") on the hair.  It certainly makes the brush sticky and I can see a line of excess rosin from the hair about halfway up the bristles so it's doing something.

I also clean my strings after each session with a microfiber cloth and clean weekly with alcohol on a tissue.

 

I'm trying to get that smooth/even tone on the E string that's in all of the recordings of the pieces and not getting there.  I can only assume that the players are a lot more experienced and that's the reason they sound like they do.  Of course this is rebutted by the fact that there are recital videos out there of 6 year olds playing the same way so I have to take the hit and admit that it's me and my playing where the problem lies.

I'm just wondering if higher quality bow hair is part of the difference and if it's time to trade up.

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RDP
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May 11, 2022 - 12:55 pm
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Gordon Shumway said
And so it's possible that the OP is a beginner who hasn't developed their bowing technique yet. Don't buy new strings, practise. 

Admitted.

 

On the other hand, my F & G on the E string are very good tonally if I do my part and hit the correct fingering spots.  My A is weaker but the string still speaks moderately well if a bit quieter.  The B however, sounds like screeching even in recordings.  The tuner says I'm on the money for the note but the intonation isn't there.  It's not there in any of the even higher positions either.

 

Technique?  Or equipment?  Or both?

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stringy
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May 11, 2022 - 4:06 pm
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Its just practice, if you change strings I would try the ones I use pirastro tonicas , cheap and very good value for money, they are a bit bright though and wont give you a darker sound, but to be honest they may not make much difference, for yoir problem, keeping the bow absolutely straight, and not moving from the contact point is the best way to get a better sound, along with even pressure as you perform the stroke, the way you do that is standing in front of a mirror while you bow. There are hundreds of bowing exercises for a better sound on youtube, five mins every time you practice would do it.

Actually, just a thought but have you checked that your bridge isnt leaning either back or forward, if not try it, you do this with a credit card , on top of the fiddle at the back of the bridge, one side of the card on the body, the other end on the back of the bridge, there shouldnt be a gap of even a tenth of a millimetre, the bridge being out can have a massive impact on sound, before you try to move your bridge though look how the test is done o  yOu tube, I check mine is perfect every week, the bridge moves every time you tune even though you cant see it with the naked eye, and if it isnt checked will most likely eventuaĺly fall over, its easily checked and corrected though.

Whatever you do, dont try to move the bridge u til you have seen exactly how to do it and how to hold the bridge while you do it, 

Hope thats some use

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×[email protected]?#[email protected]

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SharonC
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May 11, 2022 - 10:36 pm
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@RDP  Just a guess, but maybe your bow is getting too close to the fingerboard and/or going crooked when you try to reach that B.  

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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May 12, 2022 - 9:31 am
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@SharonC

I've watched a ton of videos on "how to get rid of the E string screech" and they all discuss moving up the contact point toward the bridge the higher you go on the string.

 

I'll probably replace my current bow with something better eventually.  At this point I'm leaning more toward a wooden bow but the carbon weave bows get good reviews.  It won't be immediate, but I'll probably upgrade within a year.  We shall see I guess.

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Gordon Shumway
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It's possible you are using too much bow speed and not enough bow pressure. It's also possible that just before playing the string a stray lefthand finger is accidentally touching the E string and setting up a harmonic or simply preventing the string from vibrating properly.

Andrew

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Gordon Shumway said
It's possible you are using too much bow speed and not enough bow pressure. It's also possible that just before playing the string a stray lefthand finger is accidentally touching the E string and setting up a harmonic or simply preventing the string from vibrating properly.

  

Anything is possible.  However, what if it isn't me?  Or partly me and partly the violin?

THAT is the question I have no answer for other than to say, based on several videos from self-professed luthiers on youboob, the measurements on my violin put my soundpost about 2mm further toward the centerline than the bass bar.

I won't mess with it.  Something like that is above my pay grade at this point in time.  Which means that for now I have to live with it until I can find a luthier who will return my messages.  There's a cello luthier in Santa Barbara I've hesitated to contact but her website does mention luthier services so... maybe.

 

At some point I will have to consider upgrading my bow.  A student bow will take me a long way, but eventually I will need something more capable of delivering better performance if I wish to continue to progress in my studies.  I have a long way to go before I get to that point, but I will eventually get there.  When I do I'd like to have enough knowledge to make a good choice.

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Fiddlerman
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June 8, 2022 - 3:45 pm
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@RDP - The first thing to enter my mind after reading your post is that you may not be using enough pressure to get the sound that you want.
Don't get me wrong, I don't want you to crush the string, but the fourth finger is the weakest finger and a firm downwards pressure is crucial in getting a pure solid sounding tone.
We want to use enough pressure to get the string to touch the fingerboard but not so much that you create unnecessary excess pressure.
To test my idea, simply press down harder for now and let me know if you can hear an improvement.

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

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Fiddlerman said
@RDP - The first thing to enter my mind after reading your post is that you may not be using enough pressure to get the sound that you want.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want you to crush the string, but the fourth finger is the weakest finger and a firm downwards pressure is crucial in getting a pure solid sounding tone.

We want to use enough pressure to get the string to touch the fingerboard but not so much that you create unnecessary excess pressure.

To test my idea, simply press down harder for now and let me know if you can hear an improvement.

  

Like anything, the more you practice the better you get at it.  Right now I'm doing ok and improving my 4th finger intonation.  It's not as reliable as the other notes when I'm not playing scales, but I'm getting there.  Mostly it's because of sloppy fingering on my part where I'm not on the tips and more on the pads.

That's the result of playing pieces that do a lot of bridging so I'm flattening my fingers to catch both strings at the same time.  Which means I'm not actually fingering on the strings but in between the strings all the time.  Bad RDP!!!

 

I'm seriously looking at the DZ Strad M4 bow for when I'm ready to step up.  It's 59g and my Fiddlerman bow is 60g.  The DZ Strad 854 is also in the running but its 62g and I'm concerned about it being too heavy.  They're both hand made.  That's not to say they're bench made, but hand made is probably better than high speed production machine made.

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Gordon Shumway
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RDP said

I'm seriously looking at the DZ Strad M4 bow for when I'm ready to step up.  It's 59g and my Fiddlerman bow is 60g.  The DZ Strad 854 is also in the running but its 62g and I'm concerned about it being too heavy. 

Please don't be! A pinch of salt weighs 2g!

Andrew

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AndrewH
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This needs to be said again: the "weight" you feel in your hand comes more from balance than actual weight. When a bow feels heavy, it's probably just tip-heavy.

My backup viola bow feels much heavier than my primary bow. It's actually 2 grams lighter. It's just that the balance point is higher.

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Gordon Shumway
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RDP said

Currently I'm using the full Larsen Tzigane set.  It's ok but not what it's advertised to be, which is "warmer."  I might have to go to full gut strings to get the tone qualities I want, but not right now.

.

.

I'm just wondering if higher quality bow hair is part of the difference and if it's time to trade up.

The difference is 99% in you. You are a beginner, and you need to be patient for a few years. What you call string howl, I don't perceive as howl, just beginner's tone. You are bowing over the fingerboard. Bow half way between the fingerboard and the bridge. Good tone production is a technique. It needs to be taught and it needs to be practised. Money doesn't buy it.

Your bowhair doesn't need to be that tight, btw. 

RDP said Technique?  Or equipment?  Or both?  

This sounds like denial.

Rather than describe a bow (warped carbon, really?), you're going to have to quote dollars spent on violin and bow. Then if it's foolishly low, a better alternative could be suggested, such as one of Fiddlershop's kits, but then could you be happy with that kit for at least 5 years?

Andrew

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Gordon Shumway said

RDP said

Currently I'm using the full Larsen Tzigane set.  It's ok but not what it's advertised to be, which is "warmer."  I might have to go to full gut strings to get the tone qualities I want, but not right now.

.

.

I'm just wondering if higher quality bow hair is part of the difference and if it's time to trade up.

The difference is 99% in you. You are a beginner, and you need to be patient for a few years. What you call string howl, I don't perceive as howl, just beginner's tone. You are bowing over the fingerboard. Bow half way between the fingerboard and the bridge. Good tone production is a technique. It needs to be taught and it needs to be practised. Money doesn't buy it.

Your bowhair doesn't need to be that tight, btw. 

RDP said Technique?  Or equipment?  Or both?  

This sounds like denial.

Rather than describe a bow (warped carbon, really?), you're going to have to quote dollars spent on violin and bow. Then if it's foolishly low, a better alternative could be suggested, such as one of Fiddlershop's kits, but then could you be happy with that kit for at least 5 years?

  

1.  The Tzgane strings are advertised as "warmer".  You don't have to be an expert violinist to recognize "warmer" vis a vis "brighter."  However, I'm going to retune at a half-step lower frequency to see if that changes my opinion of the strings.  I might even go lower and tune for Baroque.

 

2.  The howl shows up, my note quavers then the tone disappears as long as I continue to bow.  If I stop bowing for a second, the tone may or may not reappear when I begin bowing again.  Whether it does or not depends on how long I pause.  This is a CLASSIC sign for a wolf.  I have had other people play my violin and it happens to them too.  We did a test with a graphing setup when this phenomenon first showed and it shows clearly on the display.  That's not my being a "beginner" it's a wolf.  Retuning might let me work around it since the sympathetic resonant frequency won't be there.

 

3.  Yes carbon can warp.  I sent a picture of my carbon Fiddlerman bow showing the warp in it to Fiddlershop and they agreed and sent me a replacement bow.

 

4.  My violin is a Fiddlershop Artist which I purchased new last November.  The quality and construction of my violin is top notch and I have EXACTLY ZERO complaints about my violin, Fiddlershop, or their customer service.  Prices are available on the Fiddlershop website for those who need those details.

 

5.  My high bow tension is an attempt to compensate for my shaking due to my hand/arm tremors.  For me, the excess tension works to somewhat reduce bow bounce.  Currently I'm working with my doctor to find a way to reduce the tremors even more.  We are not having much success at the moment.

 

6.  All of the above is not new to this reply to your post.  I have been open and honest about my abilities and the issues I face since first joining this forum.

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AndrewH said
This needs to be said again: the "weight" you feel in your hand comes more from balance than actual weight. When a bow feels heavy, it's probably just tip-heavy.

My backup viola bow feels much heavier than my primary bow. It's actually 2 grams lighter. It's just that the balance point is higher.

  

This is probably it.  I often want to tape a fishing weight on the heel of the bow to change the balance point and reduce the heavy and overbalanced feel of the tip.  Beginner bows are probably intentionally built tip heavy to help develop tone at the top of the bow stroke.

 

Someone mentioned black bow hair in this thread or another related one so I went and looked.  I could go for that except I wonder what rosin dust does to the way it looks.

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ELCBK
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@RDP -

I had problems with my hand migrating up the stick with my 1st regular Fiddlerman CF violin bow - was me who actually experimented with added a fishing weight to my early bow - Anyone Ever Tweak Their Bow's Balance Thread

It helped for a while, but then Fiddlershop came out with an 'improved version', which was much better - and also a FM CF Snakewood Frog option that I REALLY liked.  Snakewood is a slightly heavier wood than ebony - for whatever the reason, it's a very nice inexpensive bow.  I stuck with that bow AND the FM CF Weave Violin bow up until just recently - now trying new Viola bows. 

 

Fiddlershop has their FM Performance Series CF bow, a FM Hybrid bow and a much lighter FM CF Pro Violin bow that could be worth trying - but don't think it will help if you are still having trouble with tremors in your hand.  

You can always try taping the fishing weight.

If the choice comes down to between an inexpensive CF bow and an inexpensive Wood bow - IMHO you'll get more for your $ with a CF bow.

Btw, I checked into Black bow hair, thinking it might help with quicker response/less effort on my C & G strings - don't think you want it for your Classical playing tone.  Maybe if you were in to more Pop, Rock or hard Old Time fiddling.  

...and Larsen, as well as most other String mfr's, DO NOT RECOMMEND USING ALCOHOL ON SYNTHETIC CORE STRINGS!  You should only have to wipe your strings down with a microfiber cloth - it's okay to have a little rosin on your strings - just not all over your instrument, or flying through the air off your bow hair.  Quit applying so much rosin & maybe only twice a week - if you are practicing a lot.

Larsen actually makes a special string cleaner "Larsen Royal Oak" - can find at amazon.  I don't think Fiddlershop carries it or any string cleaner (just instrument cleaner/polish) - but I could be wrong. 

Royal Oak string cleaner is the premier string cleaner available. Alcohol free, this string cleaner will not damage your strings or your instrument.

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway
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I wish you well with the doctor, RDP.

Have they confirmed that you have a medical condition? We had a violinist in our orchestra before COVID who had Parkinson's, and violin-playing acted as therapy for her. Something in contact with the skin can help tremors - she had lightweight plastic braces on her wrists, and there's a bassist on youtube with focal dystonia who plays with a half glove on his left hand for the help from the pressure on the back of his hand.

Or is it performance anxiety? As a teenager I played piano in many local competitions before many audiences, and I hated it, but the most nervous I ever got was in front of a tape recorder. There's not just literal performance - playing to yourself may also generate anxiety.

I read somewhere that new violins take 10 or more years to play in. Could @Fiddlerman comment? What are the symptoms of the un-played-in-ness?

The violin is a difficult instrument.

Personal (as opposed to equipment) factors in tone production are 1) quality of bow movement, 2) speed of bow movement, 3) amount of bow pressure, 4) position of bow on string 5) volume of noise, 6) the place where the string is stopped. Each of these 6 factors affects the other five. Your ears determine how to balance the six. Your hands learn to respond to the messages from the ears. Initially they do it slowly. After some years they do it unconsciously and rapidly (as well as other things like intonation). Controlling both the left hand and the right hand without one swamping the other is also something that takes time to learn. Literally - as you are learning something that taxes the left hand, the brain will lose control of the right hand!

It's a long journey. Black horse hair isn't the answer.

Andrew

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