Breaking in a new bow

November 23, 2010 at 02:34 AM ·

I've probably already missed the boat on this as my new CF bow has about 7 hours on it now but was there something I was supposed to do to break in a new bow?   I once read something about it but can't find any links now and can't find anything in archives. 

Replies (33)

November 23, 2010 at 05:04 AM ·

I would say just play on it and enjoy. Particularly with a CF bow, I think what you see and feel is what you get.

November 23, 2010 at 10:02 AM ·

Um, rosin up the bow?  The only thing you really have to consider is rosin.

November 23, 2010 at 10:08 AM ·

 I feel nervous when I see "break" and "bow" in the same sentence :)

November 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM ·

I'm not sure if breaking -in is applicable to a carbon fiber bow. I've been using a Prism CF bow for months, I've noticed nothing other rosin building up...

Regarding wood bow, I'm not sure either because I've only used the cheap Barizlwood bows came with my violins (yes, plural) and they were not very stable to tell if that's breaking-in or broken on!

November 23, 2010 at 10:17 AM ·

Breaking bows is something I try to avoid, especially with my younger students.

(New bows, or new bow hair, need a lot of rosin when used the first time. That's all, as far as I know.)

November 23, 2010 at 10:25 AM ·

Breaking in a new CF bow?   How about  a bit of 'En garde.... Reprise... Riposte.... Coup de grâce!!"

Just remember to wipe the blood off the tip before playing.

November 23, 2010 at 10:28 AM ·

 Baroque bows have real points!

November 23, 2010 at 10:33 AM ·

So do broke bows ...

November 23, 2010 at 11:30 AM ·

Trevor Jennings wrote : 

Baroque bows have real points!

Sure!! I use mine to toast marshmallows over the fireplace!!

November 23, 2010 at 11:37 AM ·

You really CAN shoot an arrow with a violin bow.

Er, not that I'm in the habit or anything....

November 23, 2010 at 11:55 AM ·

Let's just hope airport security doesn't get wise to that when you take your violin to check-in! 

November 23, 2010 at 12:17 PM ·

"Er, not that I'm in the habit or anything...."

I didn't realise you belonged to a religious order ... (You could even say that playing the violin is a bad habit ...)

I don't get the point of this thread anyway ...

November 23, 2010 at 12:37 PM ·

Trevor said:  "I feel nervous when I see "break" and "bow" in the same sentence :)"

LOL!  That's why I got a CF bow.  My friends keep yelling at me for my poor bow habits - tapping the tip on the floor when I'm thinking, dropping it, I accidentally poked someone with it the other day!  I knew I needed one that would hold up to my unconscious bad habits.

I knew it needed rosin but I am apt to overdo it.  I asked someone last Sunday at a music jam I was at and she said to only rosin when I feel the bow slipping.  I am the type of person who tends to overdo things like rosin - if a little is good, more must be better, right?  (I know the answer, don't worry!)

November 23, 2010 at 01:44 PM ·

"Bowing but not scraping" - Y. Menhuin, noted writer

November 23, 2010 at 02:54 PM ·

I think you should be careful not to rosin the h=bow hair too fast. If you go fast enough the rosin can melt - and that is not what you want, because the melted rosin does not transfer to the strings the way you need to get a good "core sound." This is one of the reasons that people who use too much rosin still need to add more.

When I rosin new hair I will (with very clean hands), holding the rosin in my left hand, push the bow hair into the rosin with my left thumb while I move the hair on the rosin. This is not necessary with all new hair - but with some - otherwise one can spend 5 minutes and more trying to get some hair sufficiently rosined for the first time. ( I recall this was a problem with the hair on the Glasser Composite bows, when they first came out -- they just would not hold enough rosin without that procedure. ) AND-- I always (yes always) wear dark trousers so that I can check that there is enough rosin on the hair to "show" when I am playing - a very quick way to check..


November 23, 2010 at 04:47 PM ·

Just don't drive it over 55 mph or at a steady speed for the first 1000 miles and you'll be fine!

November 23, 2010 at 05:12 PM ·

... just remember to change the oil.... er, rosin :X

November 23, 2010 at 07:12 PM ·


What's that for then?

November 23, 2010 at 07:38 PM ·

 Last year I actually had a CF bow die on me.  It was an inexpensive one (~£120 if I remember rightly) but very nicely balanced and easy to play.  One evening as I was playing I noticed something odd about the head.  I investigated and found that the head was starting to break away from the stick – a fine crack on the top side of the stick had developed by the head, and if I tightened the hairs I could see it opening a little and the head bending away from the stick.  So off to the violin shop where I had bought it a year previously.  The proprietor said that he'd had three or four returns of that brand with the same problem, and one had actually broken.  He replaced mine with a different brand without question.

November 23, 2010 at 07:48 PM ·


What make of CF bow was that? I have one - cost about £310 I think. Don't use it much now as I have a really nice wood bow.


November 24, 2010 at 02:13 AM ·


The bow didn't have an indication of origin, and the shop wasn't really sure, because the bows had come as a batch from a middle-man, but they  thought it "might" have been of Italian origin.  It was obviously a faulty batch, because this kind of fault must be fairly unusual in CF – but then at about £120 it wasn't in the top range, but useful for playing in pubs, as I do about once a week, and I got a free replacement which I use for the same purpose.  

Sorry I can't help any more. 

November 24, 2010 at 11:27 PM ·

 Soak in brine for 24 hours, dry, and coat thoroughly with turpentine, then wrap tightly with 1 in. strips of white cotton cloth.  

Remove cloth in one week and repeat.

November 25, 2010 at 02:23 AM ·

OK Benjamin, I did that.  Now what do I do to the bow?

November 26, 2010 at 03:50 AM ·

After the steps outlined by Benjamin, it is a good idea to cure the bow.  The best way to do that is to use a pottery oven.  But if you do not have access to one, you can just roast some marshmallows with the bow and that usually works just as well.  The final step, and probably the most critical (I'm surprised no one mentioned this), in order to get the carbon fibers properly aligned, you should play with the bow upside down for the first 1-2 weeks (e.g., holding the tip end of the bow rather than the frog).  I follow this process religiously with all my carbon fiber bows.

November 26, 2010 at 01:50 PM ·

Wow!  I am so glad I have you guys!  I thought I needed to soak the horse hairs in melted pig lard to keep them conditioned.  I would have been so off track if it wasn't for your help.  Thank you!

November 28, 2010 at 05:16 AM ·

Actually, you use wild boar lard for lubricating the end button screw, unless you live south of the equator; in that case you should use Tasmanian Devil tallow.

November 28, 2010 at 05:23 AM ·

Breaking in the bow:

Pernambuco: Soak in a solution of cacao, cocaine, and coffee essence (23 grams each, in 23% solution of ethyl acohol and water) and let soak for 23 hours. Then remove.

Brazilwood: do the same, but up the cocaine portion.

carbon fiber: Plant a tomato, and use the carbon fiber as a stake. After the first tomato is ripe, juice it, and rub all over the stake. Remove the bow after all the rest of the fruits have been picked.

Fiberglass: Hang a small rug by your front tree, and use the bow to beat the dirt out of it. In is important to swing 23 times.

That's pretty much all there is to breaking in a violin bow.

November 28, 2010 at 06:58 AM ·

I am in the process of carrying out all the exercises mentioned above by the august body of vcommers. Just purchased material to build a greenhouse so I can start growing tomatoes this winter. The stakes are ready and so are the bags of coffee grounds. I have also revised the recipes a little. Added some exotic herbs and spices to the mix such as dill, turmeric, cumin, cilantro, watercress, alfalfa mixed in a menthol-based paste after speaking to the local medicine man. This is what he recommended for breaking in a bow and curing problems related to technique:

Dill, watercress, and alfalfa: To cure problems with ricochet.

Turmeric: To cure problems with spiccato.

Cilantro: To cure problems with staccato (including stiff-arm).

Menthol: To cure problems with detache, legato, and playing at the frog.

Will report on the progress in a few months ;-)

November 28, 2010 at 07:51 AM ·

VJ: where are you getting your cocaine?  I'm thinking it might be necessary to do the breaking in at some unkown location in peru...

November 28, 2010 at 12:49 PM ·

Elise, he could tell you but then he would have to kill you.....

November 30, 2010 at 04:47 PM ·

 @Smiley: Thanks for making me laugh out loud with the roasting marshmallows comment :-)

November 30, 2010 at 07:03 PM ·

?My friends keep yelling at me for my poor bow habits - tapping the tip on the floor when I'm thinking, dropping it, I accidentally poked someone with it the other day!

Joking aside, even if your bow is made of carbon fiber, you really shouldn't allow yourself to get into these habits.  Bows break very easily, and you need to treat them with respect.  When I was a kid I learned my lesson after I accidentally broke two bows, and today--more than half a century later--it pains me to read about mishandling of bows. 

December 1, 2010 at 12:12 AM ·

Here in New Mexico we favor a red chile marinade, with a margarita on the side.  Green chile may be used for brazilwood, but good pernambuco demands red.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition
ArmSymphony AI Violin Competition

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program Business Directory Business Directory

AVIVA Young Artist Program

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine