How Often Should You Rehair Your Bow?

August 14, 2004 at 01:51 AM · Can anybody tell me how often you should rehair your bow?

Replies (61)

August 14, 2004 at 04:06 AM · There are a few things to look for. Like have you lost a lot of hairs? How much you play. Type of horse hair, etc. My luthier describes the horse hair as getting filed down by the strings, and after a while it becomes too smooth. He seems like an honest guy, and I usually rely on his recommendation for when to rehair. It is usually about once a year for me.

August 14, 2004 at 04:34 AM · I do it maybe atleast twice a year. It depends on how much you play. I knew a cellist that would rehair his bow every two weeks. I think that's too much but I guess he's picky like that.

August 14, 2004 at 05:09 AM · I get mine every 2-3 months.. My problem is the humidity is very high where I live in the neck of the woods.. And the hair loosens a lot and becomes yucky.. So during this time of the year I get it done as much as needed.

The local shop here told me that young men tend to need to get they're bows re-haired more than the ladies. Mainly because we put a lot of pressure into the bow at our age and a lot of horse hair comes out quickly at times. So - it just depends on your playing style and local weather conditions in my opinion when needed.

August 14, 2004 at 10:44 PM · I have an old bow...it was used for close to 30 years...never been rehaired...and still doesn't need too...it's been retired because it warped...LOL...

...having said that...how often you rehair depends on how much you play, the quality of the hair (some batches may break quicker than others), environment (more humidity is harder on the hair it seems) and how well the bow was haired in the first place...if it's too loose, you'll loose hair faster...

...I'd suggest a rule of thumb for the 'average' non-professional would be anywhere from 1-5 years...all things being equal...

August 15, 2004 at 05:51 PM · I try to do mine every 3-4 months... but I never get around to doing it until every half a year.

August 16, 2004 at 08:03 PM · I last got my bow rehaired in April...and it needs to be rehaired AGAIN! God, I didn't think I practiced THAT much! Maybe I do. I also think it has to do with the weather here...it gets a bit humid here in the summer. Not as bad as the east coast, but still. Anyway, for most people, about every year or so should be fine.

August 16, 2004 at 08:13 PM · 1-5 yeras is too long no matter how little you play. I do mine quite often but then i play a lot, about every month and a half

August 17, 2004 at 02:43 PM · Okay...I'll tackle you on that one...if you don't mind...:)

...if the hair is in good shape, and lots of it...and it all sounds fine...why would you need to replace it? ...

...and I'm debating...not arguing...I do want to know...all opinions welcomed!!! :D

August 17, 2004 at 03:32 PM · well, N.A., if you are playing a lot, the hair is bound to break rather frequently, and also, when you get your bow rehaired, it's good to get the luthier to give it a "check-up". I get my bow rehaired maybe every 3 weeks.

August 17, 2004 at 03:48 PM · Fair enough...but how often do you play?

August 17, 2004 at 03:50 PM · LOL, I just checked your bio...I'm guessing 7 hours a day? :D

August 17, 2004 at 05:38 PM · even if it isnt played on i've never seen hair last in decent shape for more than maybe 6-8 months

August 17, 2004 at 07:15 PM · 3-4 on a good day :)

August 17, 2004 at 07:25 PM · Owen: I still don't understand why you'd have to change it if you're not using it that much...does the hair itself go 'bad'?

Andrew: Slacker...;p

August 17, 2004 at 07:43 PM · Yes, it does. The hair reacts to the environment very much like human hair does -- it stretches with moisture and shrinks with dryness, and it gets brittle and stale after it's been cut.

So hair that's been on a bow for 6 months, even if it's never been used, will more easily break. It's a good way to end up with shredded hair.

August 18, 2004 at 12:07 AM · If it's like human hair, then maybe we should shampoo and condition it with Pantene pro V to avoid the split ends! :)

I wonder if shampooing it with "head and shoulders" will cure it of rosin "dandruff"

August 18, 2004 at 12:57 AM · That's a good question!!

Who wants to try it? Then report back to us?!?!

August 18, 2004 at 01:16 AM · I LIKE TO REHAIR MY BOWS EVERY DAY!!

August 18, 2004 at 05:08 AM · ick, i shampooed mine today and now the stick is falling apart and the hair is all goey, dont try it.

August 18, 2004 at 12:12 PM · Owen, you forgot the cream rinse...

Seriously, there's been a lot of attempts to clean or refurbish hair that's been on a bow. You can wash it and get all the rosin off -- unfortunately that doesn't solve the problem of the hair losing its teeth and becoming too smooth to grip the string.

There are some kits out there for sale that claim to clean old hair and make it "just like new!" Don't believe them.

August 18, 2004 at 01:28 PM · I actually got that bow cleaner product.. I purchased it a few years back.

It wasn't good at all and there was no difference in sound. The cleaner is a good idea - but needs to be improved greatly!

August 18, 2004 at 05:09 PM · new hair isnt that expensive

August 18, 2004 at 05:34 PM · LOL...now you're all sounding like hairdressers or groomers...

:D

August 18, 2004 at 11:37 PM · insert some kind of buri hair prune baldness joke here----

August 19, 2004 at 12:17 AM · I ALREADY SAID EVERY DAY.

WHAT CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND

August 19, 2004 at 06:38 AM · You must have very high standards Fernando, and/or play a lot. But I don't understand why you insist on using CAPS.

August 19, 2004 at 08:32 AM · Oh wow. I have had my bow for a year and practice AT LEAST 3 hours a day. I haven't gotten it re-haired at all. It seems fine. It's a bit dirty but the hair only breaks if u pull it. oh well. I shall look into re-hairing.

August 19, 2004 at 12:28 PM · My hair suppliers tell me that hair never really wears out, just that it gets dirty. My two bows I have never rehaired. I have cleaned the hair and rosined it up again. I haven't experienced the death of hair just sitting there. There's been a good deal of discussion on this and the folks in the hair business seem to weigh in on the doesn't wear out side of the equation. I suggest calling someone in the hair business, perhaps Adam Sweet at Pioneer Valley, and asking this question.

Certainly the good professionals playing my bows never comment on my old hair. I've had the same hair on one since 1997, but I don't break hair.

August 19, 2004 at 05:50 PM · Every four to six months seems reasonable. And yes, after six months it does begin to make a huge difference if you play on a regular basis.

August 19, 2004 at 05:59 PM · huh, thats weird. i wonder if it has to do with the conditions the hair is stored in then, because i definetely had hair die on its own before.

July 13, 2013 at 07:38 PM · I have a question for those who think that the "barbs" on the horse hair actually grip the strings. If this was the case why would we need to rosin the bow?

I practice 6 hrs a day, teach for 4 hrs giving me approximately 10 hrs of play time per day (5 day/week), then 10 hrs. play time over weekend at gigs.

The bow I use is over 4yrs. old and have re-haired it once. The music I teach and play is the Celtic style of music. Being classically trained I guess I learned a lot about pressure with my bow strokes and never really think about it.

I find that cleaning the hairs with denatured alcohol when the hairs are dirty only (that black streak one gets by the frog) has helped with the life of the hairs.

I have seen some pretty bad re-hairs in my time, hairs not cleaned, wetted and flamed properly (or not at all), improper priming, and so on. I also do not use hairs from China, let alone anything else in my life (that I know of).

July 13, 2013 at 10:03 PM · Isaac Salchow, one of today's top bowmakers and bow authenticators, says that the purpose of the rosin is to hold the barbs (or scales, or cuticles, or whatever you want to call them) open so that they can properly grab the string.

Another world class bowmaker, Vladimir Radosavljevic, says that playing with the bow hair grabbing the string and playing with the rosin grabbing the string are two completely different things, and that most people only experience the second, because so many people tend to over-rosin (and have been taught to do so by their teachers, who don't know any better themselves).

July 13, 2013 at 11:15 PM · I'm sensing a lot of BS in this thread. Of course the luthiers would like you to have your bow rehaired very frequently, just as they will tell you that you need your violin "adjusted" and so on. Has anyone looked at "worn" bow hair vs. worn but freshly cleaned bow-hair vs. new bow hair under a good microscope? Is there anything besides the usual unsubstantiated anecdotes and exhortations to guide us? Any (gasp!) science?

July 13, 2013 at 11:25 PM · Scales on a hair are microscopic compared with a string diameter and the string is under high tension. Imagine one hundred people all pulling on a thick high tension cable with just their fingernails...Ouch!

The other thing is the scales all face one direction. Is the bow hair specifically randomised before using?

July 14, 2013 at 06:25 AM · Thanks Darrett! Great article, great find. I love AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy). As I suspected, the cuticles hold the rosin, which strike/slips the strings. Pictures of the string strike/slipping were in a video (great magnification and at 1000 or so frames per second, if memory serves) that was shown by the company that makes Dominant strings in the lecture they gave at Metzler's Violin Shop in Glendale, just after NAMM. So to the previous poster, the cuticles do not all face the same direction, it seems; they certainly aren't randomized, or perhaps the rosin at the interface is what's important. In any case, cuticle direction is irrelevant.

July 14, 2013 at 06:31 AM · There's some good threads on cleaning hairs with alcohol on maestronet and other places. 1) Bow rehairs are cheap, relatively, for something done once every few years for most of us, and gives luthiers a chance to examine and clean other things wrong with the bow. 2) One mistake and there goes the varnish on that expensive Torte, or cheap Finkel. 3) According to that poster, many who attempt this tend to over rosin, and if you don't clean the hairs properly, end up with a gooey mess of rosin and hairs anyway. 4) It appears that cleaning only works for over rosining; based on the article Darrett found, the cuticle breakage will not be fixed by cleaning. So at best, one appears to be extending the time before rehair. I suppose much of 4) and 5) depend on practice/play time, and amount of rosining. YMMV.

July 14, 2013 at 11:11 AM · It is my understanding that the cuticles/scales all face (i.e overlap) in the same direction or sense along a hair. So if the hairs are all lain in the same direction there will be a difference between up and down bow. But I agree the direction is probably irrelevant because the cuticles probably do not actively act on the string. However, if they do hold the rosin would that not be an obvious effect as the hair "wears out"?

My issue with that paper is that it already states that the hair is "worn-out" but without actually testing that hypothesis and the visual difference in cuticles is not related to any effect, nor is it obviously crucial.

July 14, 2013 at 03:08 PM · Interesting article, that is what I was looking for. Thanks for posting it. In my opinion it's not the world's most meticulously prepared report, and there are a few too many weakly substantiated claims, but at least there is some data.

I'm fairly underwhelmed by the differences between the "worn" and "new" bow hair from the atomic force micrographs (AFMs) shown in Figs. 2 and 3 in the article. If I had to guess which picture was the "new" hair I would have guessed the second one, as the structure appears more regular and less "broken." The dimensions of the features are largely unchanged -- distance between scales, depth of scale features, etc. If I had only those micrographs to look at, I would conclude that bow rehairing is unnecessary and that one's bow hair might actually improve with playing.

I also note that the dimensions here of these features are very small, and it's possible that scale features are not really that important except to hold rosin particles. The largest dimension is the lateral distance between scale features, which is on the order of 10 microns, which is 1/100 of a millimeter. And the scales are only about 100 nm high ... that's 1/10 of a micron or 1/10000 of a millimeter. It's hard to imagine those "catching" the string individually, and it makes me wonder about the advice that I have heard given to students to try to feel the "catching" of the string by individual scales on the bow hairs to improve one's tone.

July 14, 2013 at 06:02 PM · According to this study:

"A short glance at bow hairs played for one year and a sample of the same bundle left in mint condition indicates that primary the decreasing elastic properties as an effect of the ageing process are relevant for the playing quality. The surface of the used hair samples show only few slightly damaged scales."

July 14, 2013 at 06:58 PM · Joyce, thanks for another interesting link. While I don't mean to downplay the potential significance of these "papers" it should be noted that all "papers" are not created equal. Some are in more reputable journals, and some are not even peer reviewed. The paper of Mayer et al. is not a journal article at all, but rather a conference proceeding. I was pleased that they reported the variances in their measurements, which are large. The most interesting part of the article was the address given of the authors -- on "Anton von Webern Platz" in Vienna. A perfect place to study the scratchy subject of bow hair physics, and presumably other things.

"...primary the decreasing elastic properties as an effect of the ageing process are relevant for the playing quality..." As near as I can tell, this claim is completely unsubstantiated. I could not find, in the tensile-testing section of their report, any actual data on used bow hair. The report said that new hair was used, and that it was stored in a temperature-and-humidity controlled chamber (but did not specify either the temperature or the RH). This is why one cannot read only the conclusions of a report. One must inspect how those conclusions were reached.

July 14, 2013 at 10:30 PM · Does nobody else notice how when the bow hair stretches the position of the frog substantially changes the balance and response of the stick and hair? Here in New England if you get your bow rehaired in winter you are probably going to need it rehaired again in the humid months of Summer when the hair will be longer. I'm happy to have finally found a rehairer who makes the hair tight enough (Seerystrings.com).

Frankly, the violin bow is a very inefficient, primitive object when it comes to self-adjustment. We need something like the Tete-Beche bow here: http://www.gillesnehr.com

July 15, 2013 at 01:00 AM · I've seen that second paper before. It really just suggests that scalation is not seen as important, at least between different types of hair.

July 15, 2013 at 12:36 PM · Misuse of rosin has been mentioned - rosin and bow hairs are of course intimately linked. If I had £1 for every time over the years I've seen a string player before a concert or rehearsal earnestly scrubbing away at a cake of rosin for two or three minutes until the dust flies I'd probably be on my second Strad by now.

My attitude to rosining a bow is strictly minimalist. I have long taken the view that if you apply the bow to a clean string and can then see rosin on the string then there is no point in applying further rosin to the bow. My pragmatism is backed up by a retired member of one of the major British professional symphony orchestras who now plays in my chamber orchestra. A consequence of my rosin use policy is that I am still using two rosin cakes that I purchased well over a decade ago, and I fully expect them to outlast me. I don't know what the manufacturer's share holders would say to that!

Too much rosin on a string will surely deaden its response and tone. The answer some players (perhaps more than "some") have to this is to apply yet more rosin and to press down with the bow even harder, thereby worsening the situation. If this doesn't cause bow hairs to wear out quickly and break then I don't know what does. The answer may often lie in a reassessment and reconstruction of bowing technique.

Fwiw, the last time I had a bow rehaired was several years ago - I don't remember exactly when - and the only time I have a hair break is if it gets caught on something.

July 16, 2013 at 07:33 AM · there's less hair on my cheapie-chinese, baroque-style bow - narrower width and less loft. in time, as hair is broken-off in the normal course of play, its absence will become more noticeable - in appearance and with diminishing projection. when the quantity of hair gets right down there to thinny-thin-thin, i'll re-hair the bow, but not until then.

the amount of pressure placed on the bow may vary from player to player but i can't imagine it ever being consumed or worn away.

July 16, 2013 at 08:16 AM · [quote]

.. A consequence of my rosin use policy is that I am still using two rosin cakes that I purchased well over a decade ago, and I fully expect them to outlast me.

Fwiw, the last time I had a bow rehaired was several years ago - I don't remember exactly when - and the only time I have a hair break is if it gets caught on something. [/quote]

Why post such nonsense?

It makes people believe rubbish and urban rumours.

If you don't wear the hair out in several years, you're obviously not playing enough to be posting an opinion.

Most decent players need at least 2 rehairs per year, and then they have one or several spare bows to fill the gaps between a bow being out for work.

Fact is, there are large numbers of disastrously bad rehairers out there, that "think" they know what they are doing. (I could name names!)

Their work quality varies from awful to simply dangerous for the stick to idiotic.

Furthermore it's well known rosin has a shelf life, so it gets hard over the years.

July 16, 2013 at 10:14 AM · Dear violinists, what kind of bow are you talking about in this topic? Are they custom-made professional bow by maker or mid-level or entry level bow?

I am beginner. So I want to know how to manage the my 50$ bow. For entry level bow, do people still rehair or just change the whole bow since rehairing with luthier may be more costly than getting a new entry level bow.

thanks

July 16, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Chin Kim (faculty at Mannes, CUNY Queens, Columbia University, etc.) does all his playing on Glasser fiberglass bows - I hear that he simply buys new ones when he wears out the hair.

July 16, 2013 at 06:36 PM · Gareth wrote, "Most decent players need at least 2 rehairs per year," as if this was a statement of fact. But this is the subject of the thread. The question is whether this is a real "need" or whether something less frequent or more frequent is needed, or if indeed bows need rehaired at all. Jumping all over someone because they say they've not had their bow rehaired in a long time and seem happy with the results doesn't seem to be helpful.

As for rehairing a $50 bow, by the time the bow "needs" rehairing according to the conventional interval, your playing skill will probably demand a better bow anyway. I suggest moving up to a carbon fiber bow in the $300-$450 range. I have a Cadenza 3-star ("master") bow, and I love it. I think such a bow will take you through the whole of the Suzuki method.

July 17, 2013 at 01:29 AM · @Richard:

I started on a half size violin with a cheap bow - I think that the whole violin set was something like $30 at a rummage sale. The bow was certainly not worth more than $20. After two years, I moved up to the next size violin and a slightly better bow - the bow was probably in the $35 range.

After a year or two of that, my teacher told me I should buy a $300 bow. I actually went about 3 or 4 years without re-hairing that one. That was probably a mistake, but the bow was still functional and nobody told me I should re-hair it.

When I decided to buy a new bow, I immediately realized that my old bow had been way past ready to re-hair. I live in a humid area, and the bow was dirty and icky. Luckily, the re-hairing didn't really cost me anything since I traded in my old bow for the new one. It's been a year and a half since then, and I've never had any of my bows re-haired, although I traded in my last bow for a better one a couple months ago.

July 17, 2013 at 02:01 AM · Here is an analogy, FWIW.

A tennis pro will have many racquets, have any used restrung after a match and be very picky about which one to use. Is that all just about the game? An everyday player may only restring when absolutely necessary or when affordable.

July 17, 2013 at 01:34 PM · Emma: thanks for information.

July 17, 2013 at 02:06 PM · When I was a kid, I never had any of my bows rehaired, ever - I purchased my 1/2 size and 3/4 size violins instead of renting (better rental shops tend to recommend rehairing at least once a year) and I never got the bows that came with them rehaired even once; after upgrading to my first full size, I went halfway through middle school without ever rehairing my bow (I had purchased a good carbon fiber bow by then), until I finally switched to a legitimate teacher who urged me to get a rehair done at least once a year. After I bought my first fine pernambuco bow midway through high school and made my decision to go into music, it became necessary for me to get another rehair at least two or three times a year. I started getting a rehair once every two months when I did my first year at Eastman (but the quality of rehair work in Rochester was so inconsistent, I would sometimes be in need of new hair within the space of just a month if I went to one of the less reputable places to have it done).

November 24, 2016 at 08:34 AM · Horse hair is indestructible. Unless you are going to play on concerts or do recordings, you can easily use it for 3-5 years.

Professional violinists do it either once or twice a year but that is an overkill for hobby violinists or amateurs

November 24, 2016 at 12:38 PM · My rule of thumb would be to rehair when I can visually count the number of hairs left on the bow :) The non-problem is - I almost never break hairs, no matter how much playing I do, and that includes a minimum of six hours a week of orchestral rehearsals. Go figure.

November 24, 2016 at 01:02 PM · It's a bit funny because previously, before I made adjustments to my playing technique. I would snap hairs exactly 1/3 way from tip to frog on a upbow. Basically everything I would play a piece, I would break 2 strands on the same spot everytime.

With adjustments, I am yet to break a single strand, making it a little harder to decide when to rehair.

I've decided to rehair my new bow(since May) Today because it just sounds so uneven throughout the bow(too much grip by frog,, no grip by the tip, just right in middle, except 1/3 from frog to tip I spilled something on it, and it is the slipping zone).

November 24, 2016 at 01:39 PM · I rehair whenever I have an inexpensive opportunity to do so without shipping my bow -- such as a summer camp where there is a luthier on site. Otherwise I do pretty well just cleaning my bow hair with denatured alcohol every few months. I very seldom break hairs, so that is not an issue for me at all.

November 24, 2016 at 03:14 PM · A Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I rarely break bow hairs and am puzzled by videos of Charlie Daniels, Doug Kershaw and others shredding their bow hairs in a hour of performing.

I am a frugal person but do spend the extra money to change my strings every three months and get my bows rehared twice a year because it just sounds better to me. I probably should try to wash my bow hair as Paul Deck and Andrew Victor advocate and see if that would work as well or possibly better and save myself a lot of money.

November 24, 2016 at 07:30 PM · "I'd love to go out with you but I have to wash my hair." Hmmm, sounds different coming from a violinist...

When I started playing viola I was breaking a hair or two at every rehearsal. Eventually it got to the point where I had to rehair before there was nothing left. Ever since, I only break a hair when playing something really exciting, or catch it on something. I've gone two or three years now on the same hair. That first hank must have been bad.

November 25, 2016 at 09:32 PM · Lol, who ressurected this blog

O.O

Its been like 3 years... Haha.

November 29, 2016 at 09:42 PM · Three years? Time to re-hair, perhaps? Nah...

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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

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

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe