Violin bow ribbon width

October 3, 2018, 1:54 PM · Is there a standard width for the violin bow's ribbon? If I used a wider ribbon (and more hair), would I produce more sound?

Replies (4)

October 3, 2018, 2:16 PM · No. Maybe.

The ideal width of the ribbon is the width of the opening in the ferrule. That's what the archetier intended the width of the hair to be.
Having too meagre a ribbon definitely weakens your sound, but adding too much hair can also have a significant muddying effect. Not sure why exactly, but it does.

October 3, 2018, 4:29 PM · I agree it is safer (for the violin edges) to fill the full width of the frog ferrule with hair. However, some soft sticks might require that be done with a very thin hair ribbon and a very thin hair ribbon, played on the edge, is likely to be harder on the edge hairs, breaking them faster than a narrower ribbon that does not fill the ferrule.

My experiments with bows almost 20 years ago led me to believe that:
1. for any bow stick there is an ideal tension in that stick that is created by tightening the hair
2. there is an ideal stretching of the individual hairs for best sound a conclusion also reached by Anders Askenfelt (Swedish scientist specializing in acoustic research).

This means that there is an ideal number of hairs for a given stick and the stiffer the stick the more hairs are required - and the converse.

All these factors need be taken in account when rehairing a bow. When my Coda bow was first rehaired the bow tech used noticeably less hair than the Coda company had (actually Nova Products Co. in those days) and he made a narrower hair ribbon. All the playing qualities of the bow were much improved. Since then I have monitored the way all my bows are rehaired (and their math is all set up in my bow EXCEL spreadsheet).

October 4, 2018, 7:39 AM · Everything Andrew said is great info, however in general the "standard width" is the width of the entire ferrule, it is possible your wedge isn't holding and the hair could be clumping. Check with your shop. Vorin school ferrules outside dimensions are roughly 13mm, depending on the gauge of the metal the hair ribbon could be anywhere from 10 to 12 mm.
Edited: October 4, 2018, 10:49 AM · It is determined by the width of the ferrule and the width of the mortice at the head.

Too much or too little hair is a problem, and it has more to so with the strength of the stick than the width. A flexy bow rehaired with too much hair won't play or respond well and a strong, stiff bow won't give you what you want with a thin ribbon.

A friend, a bow maker, was complaining about the last rehair done on a client's Kittel, and he was lamenting that the last person to rehair the bow didn't understand that bow. They used 11.5mm width and they should have used, " a little more than 11mm, but 11.5 is just too much!"

It's all about balance, although the hair should be spread to the edges of the ferrule. You can argue about the practice of wrapping around the edge of the playing side...

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