Bow Damaging Violin

November 28, 2004 at 08:29 PM · Does anyone have any stories about damaging a violin with the bow? Was it fixed? Something the violinist should do to ensure it will never happen and so on.

By damaging with the bow I mean that the bow gets too close to the body of the violin and hits it, something that can happen when getting carried away with the music.

Replies (19)

November 28, 2004 at 09:11 PM · My main fiddle has some damage on the right belly edge in the middle of the waist though I don't know whether this is from careless bow strikes or faking.

I once had a bow kind of spring out of my hand, and the metal face of the tip chipped the varnish on one violin. I have no idea how it happened - weird.

I don't really see how any major damage could be done by the bow....


November 28, 2004 at 09:54 PM · As long as the rosin clinging to that part of the body is wiped off. I heard about a "bib" or "shield" for people prone to hitting the violin waist. I can't imagine that being practical or necessary.

November 29, 2004 at 12:25 AM · I have problems with chipping my violin's varnish with my bow. Fortunately I am more careful, now, but there are times when I get too carried away and stop paying enough attention to it, causing the pretty thing some pain. (tear) I've learned to deal with the frustration, but then I know of someone who got so carried away he did chip off the entire corner. I don't remember if he was doing pizz or not, but it was fixed with a lot of painstaking care (not to mention a lot of money). So yes, serious damage can be done by the bow. I'm forever terrified of doing the same thing.

November 29, 2004 at 02:32 AM · The device to which Inge refers is known as a "C-clip". There is one pictured here about halfway down the page.

I would actually endorse these gadgets for beginners, until they were competant at basic string crossings and had confidence using the lower half of the bow. But of course since it is a training device, it should be removed as soon as possible.

November 29, 2004 at 02:38 AM · I've taken chunks out of my violin's ribs while playing alternate pizz/arco. My luthier's touched up the varnish to a degree, but I think it'll always be noticeable.

November 29, 2004 at 02:57 AM · The first thing to do is to put a pencil on two strings at once at the bridge, rotate it so it touches the next two strings, etc, and note the amount of rotation space between each string, and finally between the E string and the edge of the violin. If the angle to the edge from the E is less than the others, then something's wrong with your setup, and it needs to be fixed. If the angle to the edge is greater than between the strings, then it's your technique that needs to be fixed, and you should concentrate on approaching the strings more precisely so this doesn't happen.

November 29, 2004 at 03:26 PM · I recently threw my bow in an orchestra concert during a rapid pizz to arco change (doh! wrist a bit too loose) and chipped off some varnish on the edge of the treble f-hole. I hope to get that patched over by my luthier soon.

I have also had problems sometimes, especially on my previous violin, with hitting the treble rib with the bow and chipping off bits of varnish. (I'm not sure any violin setup is proof against a 15 year old trying to teach themselves ricochet bowing from a recording. *chuckle*) I haven't had that problem much with my new instrument, as I have better bow control now than when I was 13 and got my last instrument, though I do tend to get rosin on the rib edge sometimes.

November 29, 2004 at 06:46 PM · Molly:I was another 'someone' I got carried away and chipped a corner of my violin off with the metal screw? of the bow!

for me the equation is:

~*clumsiness*~ + violin= :o + AGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

November 29, 2004 at 07:08 PM · Just a thought: Is there a common tendency to think of E string bowing to be at a much greater angle than it really is and thus to dip too far down toward the violin body? I mean, the angle difference between the other strings, say A & D, D & E, isn't really such a great angle, but when we get to the E string there's nothing beyond it to limit the changed bowing angle. When I changed my bowing style I found myself hitting the body more often. Then I made myself imagine that right behind the E string there was a fifth "A" string that I wouldn't want to accidentally bow - and that cured me.

(Hey, didn't somebody have a bad dream about a 5-string violin and uncooperative students?)

November 29, 2004 at 10:29 PM · The uncooperative students dream would have to be one of mine;)

November 30, 2004 at 02:43 AM · You must have been dreaming about me, then. ;-)

November 30, 2004 at 03:46 AM · Inge,

I've never had problems with my bow hitting/chipping the violin.

However, I do agree somewhat with your observation that there's a (psychological) difference to bowing the E string compared to bowing the other strings.

I tend to relax my bowarm more when on the E :-)

HORROR STORY: As a kid, I was playing around inserting my bow's screw into the lower part of the right-hand f-hole (where the hole terminates in a round opening). Then the bow fell over and I broke off a small triangular part of the f-hole!!!

Fortunately, the damage was easily repaired and I am now somewhat wiser. But yes, even though I was a kid, it was -still- a "D'oh!" moment.

December 1, 2004 at 08:52 AM · In terms of damage to the violin - the only thing I worry about is what comes off the bow when I'm playing - rosin. You forget to wipe it off just once and there goes the varnish.

The only other worry I associate with my bow is the possibility of breaking the bow itself. But that's something that I don't have to worry about when I'm playing.

December 1, 2004 at 03:10 PM · You've had rosin damage after only 1 time not wiping it off?

I wipe regularily, but not every 30 year old violin (bought new at the time, so I'm the only history it has) has no obvious varnish damage, nor does my new one.

Maybe you have a soft/strange finish on your violin or use a more acidic (or whatever) rosin?

December 1, 2004 at 03:21 PM · That last question about rosin damage prompted me to check something - In one of Menuhin's books there is a photograph of his violin sporting a metal practice mute, and draped across the body beneath where the bow goes there is a tissue. In the caption he explains about the mute but also the tissue - to prevent rosin from dropping on the instrument and damaging the varnish. Would that let us suppose that when he practised Menuhin used the tissue, and only left it off when actually performing?

December 1, 2004 at 05:20 PM · I use a tissue a la Menuhin all the time when practicing - even if I am not using a mute. It's a simple matter of sliding the edge of the tissue around the little slots in the treble and bass sides of the bridge and that friction is sufficient to hold the tissue in place. So by doing this I never get any rosin build up on the body of the violin in the first place. Additionally there is no significant sonic effect on account of having the tissue in place. Obviously I would not use it for performance, but proportionally, actual performance time is usually far less than actual practicing time. So I think the small amount of preliminary effort in positioning a tissue before each practice session is worthwhile.

December 1, 2004 at 11:38 PM · Never thought about using a tissue, lol. Thanks.

December 2, 2004 at 01:09 AM · In relation to rosin on a violin, a friend showed me this picture the other day. After I had gotten over the warpaint bit, I asked her if all the white stuff on Nigel's violin was the way the light was reflecting, or whether it was in fact rosin. Well, I was told it was in fact rosin! That being the case, it is certainly not the way I want my violin to be kept!!

December 2, 2004 at 04:12 PM · I'd have to say that I think Nigel was going for a visual effect, much like the look that many traditional fiddlers' instruments have. The war paint is more than a little disturbing, though... :-)

Rosin will damage the varnish of the instrument if left unchecked, and if you have a particularly soft varnish, it will begin that process immediately. If you feel comfortable playing with a tissue or any other means of keeping the dust off the instrument, by all means, do so. I wouldn't worry too much for those who don't do this, however. For most instruments, as long as you wipe the dust off after playing (each and every time), you shouldn't have a problem with build-up.

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