Does the type of bow hair affect tone?

July 26, 2005 at 07:22 PM · Does the type of horse hair on a bow affect the tone? I am about to rehair a bow and one shop says they use Siberian stallion hair and the other says they use Blue String Brand mare (female horse) hair. Any difference?

Replies (9)

July 26, 2005 at 09:06 PM · I don't know about specific types of hair, but bow hair does effect tone. If you were to rehair a violin bow with black horse would sound...bad (for lack of a better word). I'm sure someone will be able to tell you about the two hairs that you specified.

Bow rehairing is important so you should have it done by a good luthier close to home, because sometimes humidity changes can also change the tension of the bow hair.

August 8, 2005 at 02:22 AM · I got my bow re-haired a week ago and I don't like this hair as much as the stallion hair I paid $10 extra for last time and the time before that. This less expensive hair doesn't produce the same "ring" to the sound, even after a week of being played.

A word of advice. Don't ask for extra strands of hair (thinking you will break some). The right amount is about 150 strands. More than that will also dampen the sound.

August 8, 2005 at 09:04 PM · Hi,

I have never heard of the second grade of hair that you mention. At the moment, Stallion is considered to be the top grade of hair available. In the past it was Mongolian. There is a difference. As a general rule, Stallion is a little bit rougher, providing better contact and adherence with the string, though some have complained of additional surface noise.


August 9, 2005 at 10:14 AM · All the hair here in China comes from Mongolia. So far, the producers here tell me the difference in hair is caused by the washing needed. Nothing to do with colour. The stallion hair is easier to clean, because the stallion goes potty in a direction away from the tail. The mare goes potty in a different direction. So her hair gets dirtier (if you know what I mean). So her hair gets a bleach treatment to make it white for the violin market. Chlorine weakens the hair, and changes the physics. So yes, after treatment, the hair types do make a difference to the way a bow will play and sound. Before treatment, I'm told there is no difference. Regardless, I would not want to string a bow with unwashed hair, considering where the tail on the horse is. cheers!

August 9, 2005 at 06:55 PM · How much do you touch the bow hair? This time I got my bow rehaired with no bleaching and it's lasting me much much longer. The last one that was bleached was popping off hairs every minute. I've had this hairing for a few months and I've lost maybe 2 to 3 hairs. I recommend non-bleached.

August 10, 2005 at 05:47 PM · Bow hair affects part of the tone you produce and the feeling of the grip on the strings you get when you play. Some luthiers generally those in France prefer bleached hairs coz it has better looks than non-bleach ones. But yes the non-bleach ones last longer generally. If you play say 6-8 hours a day, you need to get them rehair every 6-8 months. Rehairing is very important. Try to get a good luthier to do it. If it is well done, you will notice that it is much more easier to produce the kinda tone you want and the right tension gives you much more control of your bow.

August 11, 2005 at 03:17 AM · In case any one enjoys trivia...

About 4000 years ago, the Chinese invented a string instrument called an ErHu ("two strings"). It may be considered primitive by some, but it produces a lovely haunting sound when played properly. Anyway, it needs a bow. The Chinese use horse hair only. The ErHu players tell me the best hair is unwashed, water rinsed, combed (not brushed) Stallion hair. Lasts more than 10 years. Colour is of no consequence: black, brown, white. Considering the hair is the same hair used on today's violin bows, perhaps we could learn something from the Chinese ErHu players.

August 11, 2005 at 03:38 AM · I have played with unbleached hair and noticed no difference. Of course, there was the cosmetic aspect, but I believe the way bow is rehaired (i.e. the amount of hair used) affects the sound/playability more then just the colour of the hair.

Erhu is a beautiful instrument, but it's not 4,000 years old. Technicially, it's not even a Chinese instrument. It was an instrument invented and used by one of the northern nomadic tribes in inner Mongolia.

August 29, 2005 at 04:17 AM · Hi Daniel:

Thanks for the lesson in history. It seems the ErHu is acknowledged to be 1400 years old. I went by what a Chinese ErHu player told me once, so next time I'll double check such facts. Cheers.

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