black horse hair for violin
Has anyone here experience using black horse hair? I know some cellists who use it and say it's got more grip, so I'm interested in trying on the violin, and even more so on the viola. I use wound G, D and plain A E on my modern setup instrument so I thought maybe it might help with pulling the sound more powerfully especially with the initial attack...?
I have one violin bow with all black hair: it was half the price, some of which is for the "archetier" so the hair itself must be a lot cheaper.
I don't know anything about horsehair but I do have to wonder why black hair would be intrinsically thicker than white. However a local pro violinist told me that he knows other pros who mix in some black hair to improve grip and bite. I recently saw Shmuel Ashkenasi playing with black hair on his bow (but I did not see up close). That's one hell of a good violinist.
I was under the impression that all horsehair was dyed anyway. Perhaps they just don't bother to dye the thicker or rougher hair so that it can be recognized.
Well, Scott, I'm usually the one wondering (aloud) whether the influence of a certain detail might just be all in one's head. I have a certain level of respect for "pros know" (and Nate Robinson is definitely a pro), and I'm all in favor of the "benefit of the doubt" but in some cases there is one hell of a lot of doubt.
...Or maybe he didn't play with the exact same pressure and contact point. Perhaps he subconsciously wanted your violin to sound better ....and made it happen.
Differences in the surface texture of hair probably have more to do with how well it acquires and retains rosin, than any action of the roughness itself on the string. As Scott mentioned, a bow without rosin makes almost no sound.
I post website URLs here all the time - it seems to be allowed.
Is this the URL? https://iwk.mdw.ac.at/?page_id=96
If you had half as many hairs that were twice as heavy, how would that play? Even if they retained rosin just as well, my guess is your sound and playability would both suffer.
I wonder how much of it is 'tradition'/preference opposed to function.
The darker hair available for bows is cheaper because it is less sorted and the better selection goes to other industries like brushes. I would say dark hair can be good, but because the dealers know that white hair is preferred, they are going to seperate the best white hair for that. So given whats available, for a violin bow specifically, I wouldn't use the dark horsehair. "Salt and Pepper" is fine for cello bows, but there are coarser grades of white hair that will work better, in my opinion. You may want to experiment with your rosin if you are looking for something else regarding grip. And if the bow still isn't gripping the way you would like, try a different rehairer and have your soundpost checked.
Again, as far as I know, and maybe David Burgess can chime in:
I experimented a few years ago. I tried a few things: my luthier did me a 'zebra' alternating stripes of black and white and another time half black and white - the idea being that the tilt brings you onto the white and full hair brings in the black. I also had a spare bow haired with black. Really, if there was any difference at all it was not much from what I remember. IF there is any difference it is in initial attack but I'm not really sure how much. If my bow could magically morph from black hair to white hair then maybe there could be a valid comparison. Even then, they may be inconsistencies in white hair. Certainly, black hair is not scratchy or anything.
Hi everyone, yes as Charles wrote above I do use a mixture of black and white horsehair on my primary bow (Sartory). I got the idea from Shmuel Ashkenasi when I met him years back. As Paul mentioned, Shmuel Ashkenasi uses 100% black horsehair on a few of his bows. Many bass players do as well. I do feel it gives my sound a more defined articulation when I use a combination of white and black hair. Black hair tends to be a bit more coarse. I think it works especially well with gut strings. I also noticed when I use this combination, I only break 4-5 hairs in a entire year. I have Isaac Salchow in NYC rehair my bows. He calls this assortment of hairs I get the ‘trident’ rehair. I highly recommend his rehairs if you’re in the NY area!
I used it for orchestral playing, Arthur Grove having done the rehairing (Do they make rehairers like him anymore?). It worked well, but for solo work i think I'd need to have at least some white hair.
There's a 14th-century pub , the Black Horse*, a few miles from where I live. Great beer and grub, very dog friendly, and I've played Irish folk music there in the past (so there's some sort of fiddle connection!).
I use salt and pepper on both my violin and viola bows. I know when I first started using it I did notice a difference. It has been too long for me to remember much about that difference though.
I use black hair on gut strings. I like the articulation from black hair.
Scott Cole wrote, I'm 99% sure that they simply take ALL the hair and grade it for thickness. If it's thicker, they dye it black and sell it to bass players. If it's a finer grade, they dye it white and sell it to luthiers.
Much of the white hair is bleached, just like our paper. In the IPCI book there is a scholarly article that discusses white vs black hair. The diameter is basically the same, but black hair appears to be larger and coarser because of the density of color.
Does horse hair come from the tail, mane, or both?
Back when I was doing some research on getting my bow rehaired I came across several reputable bow makers and rehairers that specified they would only use unbleached hair. Less white hair, while of similar quality to whiter, brings a lower price, so many suppliers will bleach it. Reputable suppliers will acknowledge this, less reputable won't. As mentioned in a previous post, dying isn't practical as it would eventually come off during cleaning, especially when cleaned with EtOH. There was an article in the Strad that mentioned the inferior practice of bleaching bow hair as well.
Coloration is also one reason why stallion hair is more highly valued than mare hair. The stallion gets less pee on the hair.
That's very true David, as growing up working on ranches and having my own horses I can tell you without a doubt that male horses, stallion or gelding, will have much cleaner and uniformly colored tail hair due to mare's consistently getting urine on their tails. I can't help but believe it's harmful to the hair as the urine contains urea of which ammonia is a byproduct of, which is also caustic. Since it attacks and degrades most organic material, and from what I've seen it do to leather and fabric, I imagine it would weaken the horse hair as well.
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