Thoughts on polymers for the purpose of inducing vibrations in strings via friction
It's gonna be time to rehair my good bow soon, and I'm all out of horse tail fibres. I'm probably just going to invest in a big ol' bundle of hair this time, but I'm thinking about trying synthetics, too.
Apparently they've gotten quite good recently. People say they don't stretch out as much and grip just the same (better, even) like the real stuff.
Is it worth it?
(... duck and run away...)
I'd be very interested to hear about this. I always assumed synthetic bow hair was crap, but it would be great if there was a viable alternative.
Last time I looked into this around the web, the one that stood out was a European product called Coruss, which many people seem to experience as acceptable, but you still hear of needing to use grippier rosin for a 'first layer'.
Newsflash: horsehair doesn't "grip." It doesn't have "little fingers" as is so often explained to the lay person or child. It's perfectly smooth and will make no sound by itself. Rosin makes the sound. I've heard (maybe a luthier can confirm) that instead the hair has pores which retain the rosin. If that's the case, then that could be the crucial difference: synthetic hair, if it lacks pores, may be unable to retain rosin for any length of time.
Well, yes, that's true.
The key issue is how well the plastic "hair" holds the rosin. Once there is rosin "fused" to the hair and to the strings (by transfer from the hair) the basis for adequate friction is in place.
There is already too much plastic in the world! Seriously.
I bet NOBODY has ever tried this before.
I've used a couple of the synthetics for street musicians and touring musicians with pop groups. In the case of the buskers, tone is not an issue and longevity is. With the touring musicians, they play through pickups and tone is controlled by the sound person, also longevity and consistency from climate to city to hot and cold rooms is important. They have liked the synthetic hair. Every single well-trained classical musician who I have attempted to sell the synthetic hair to have returned asking to have the bow haired with real hair. Tone is the issue, not playability or response, in their opinion.
I think the need to be rehairing one's bow all the time is overblown. Unless one is breaking a lot of hairs, which I don't, then I think thorough cleaning of the bow hair is a good alternative for most people. I also wonder whether gentle rubbing with a mild abrasive (200- or 320-grit garnet sandpaper comes to mind) would help refresh bow hair after cleaning. I just wonder whether it might exfoliate a little or something. Probably I need to think about this more but I also just might try it. Maybe not on my Peccatte.
Paul, sounds like you are treating rosin sticking to hair like topcoats/varnish sticking to the previous surface/base by creating small scratches. In that case, I would recommend 0000 steel wool.
I agree with Jean. Would you rather see Mongolian fields with herds of horses, or fields of oil derricks and refineries?
Engaging in a wee bit of abstract thinking, I'll go look at wildlife on an as-needed basis, and be glad for the oil derricks every time I engage in the modern lifestyle made possible by them (including the ability to travel and see the specific form of wildness which most pleases me.)
Andres, if we continue on the current track there will be soon be only zoos left where you can practice your wildlife hobby.
"There is really no such thing as a perfectly smooth solid surface but that becomes kind of a philosophical point that is not really useful here."
Cotton, I suggest you check out Norman Pickering's studies on bow hair and rosin. He looked at this years ago.
Paul - that was a very interesting post on rosin-hair interaction physical/chemistry. I wish you would expand it and pen a blog on V.com for future reference (and searchable)...
Elise you're very kind, but for a blog post I'd need to make a much more scholarly effort, finding what's in the literature and so on. I've got enough of that to do in my day job! :)
Arnie, I appreciate the suggestion of steel wool. I may try that too. And thanks for the reminder to degrease it first -- I didn't think of that. My idea was to clean the bow and THEN abrade it. This should side-step the clogging of the abrasive with rosin.
The amount of polymer used to make bow hair would be so small compared to other uses of plastics. Less than one percent of the total mass of the stickers that come on your fruit. People need to maintain a sense of proportion. Jeff said he'd rather see a field of horses than oil derricks, and I sympathize. But horses need to be fed, and the production of animal feed carries a very high carbon footprint, and then they emit greenhouse gases (CO2 and worse), and the processing of the hair consumes not only fossil fuel (potentially more petroleum than the weight of the hair itself) but also water. One needs to think more broadly of larger systems. To do otherwise is myopic, and willful myopia is indistinguishable from dishonesty.
Scott, you can try rubbing a cake of rosin across your violin strings, but I don't think it's going to sound so good.
That's like saying you can't finish a table with a lump of garnet. So obviously it's not the garnet in the sandpaper that's doing anything. But wait! Abrasives like garnet and corundum have been supported on various backings -- paper, cloth, mesh, etc., all to useful effect, even though paper remains the gold standard. So maybe it's the garnet after all.
Well, it's a no-go on synthetics this time. I emailed Sound Choice Violins with an order for one hank of their Coruss hair and they never replied. They really don't want to take my money, it seems.
Part of this might be electrostatic binding of the hair to the rosin.
The synthetic hair is the same price, but only because they know vegans and other crazies will buy it anyways. It's definitely cheaper and easier to make.
"Vegans and other crazies" is a bit pejorative I think. There's something to the arguments, I think, that animals raised for food and other by-products are not, in general, treated too well, and that their carbon footprint is very large. I'm neither a vegan nor a vegetarian but I do admire those among my friends who stand for these principles. I don't know about the horses from which bow hair is taken -- how well they are treated and so on.
Since the topic is synthetic polymers, I'm wondering if anyone has ever experimented with the idea of using a polymer ribbon instead of a bundle of individual fibers.
Imagine a bow that you'll never need to rehair, never needs adjusting, always has the correct tension and is light as a feather.It won't break if you drop it. That's the incredibow. I'll admit the name probably doesn't do it any favors. It sounds like something you see on an infomercial. The counterpart instrument could be called the "Wonderfiddle". Aside from the name it is a very playable bow. The tone will never sound as good as a wood bow IMO.
I experimented with a product called IncrediBow, which is an extremely lightweight carbon fiber stick and synthetic (non-replaceable) hair.
We shall see.
Interested in hearing about your results.
Just for reference for the thread:
FYI I hear there are Mastodons thawing out in Antarctica.They are like hairy elephants you know.
As far as I know, there were never any mastodons in either Australia or Antarctica.
The value of theories seems to be based on who came up with it. One such theory is that Antarctica was once a tropical place millions of years ago based on findings there under the ice. Yet another theory is that plate shift moved the continent to where it is today from a once warmer more tropical clime.Mastodons appear to have been better equipped for colder weather.
Timothy, Maybe you are thinking of parts of Siberia where Woolly Mammoths and Mastodons have been discovered, thawed out in the tundra.
Jeff, I was under the impression they had found Mammoths and Mastodons there until Paul corrected me.. I had been investigating some of the mysterious things going on in Antarctica and so it was on my brain at the time.
So the archeaologists may be loving Global warming....
Timothy, I believe Paul mentioned Australia and Antarctica, not Russia.
Jeff when I said "there" I mean't Antarctica. I give up. You win.
I use a "vegan bow", which has Coruss bow hair, using Pops bass rosin to make it a little grippier and Andrea Gold for the top layer. I rarely need to apply the Pops, usually only to get my top layer of rosin to adhere a little better. I haven't looked back since I started using it. Something that makes me chuckle, is that when I was trying out bows I made sure I was testing them blind, as to avoid bias. I naturally gravitated towards the vegan bow, its balanced, lightweight, great for fast passages. For me it's a bonus it hasn't got animal bits all over it. Coruss bow hair has the thumbs up from me! I bought my bow from Cardiff Violins in Wales. :)
Dear Mary, what do you think would happen to the business of breeding and grooming horses for their tail hairs if everybody switches to plastic hairs? Do you think the fields would be reverted to a nature preserve for wild horses? Or would the land be quickly claimed for plastic factories, another industry, an extra road, or a luxury villa complex?
I don't like to try something from plastic or that kind of matter to the bow. Concerning food, I am a vegan, not trying to do everything vegan, I am just absolutely disgusted consuming anything from an animal (especially dead one :)) from my childhood. And also these products make me sick (real medical issue). But my bow is my horsehair bow.
I can understand not loving meat. I'm not a beef eater most of the time. It's greasy and bad for your heart.I guess you would call me a light meat eater. Mostly poultry of some kind and the occasional bacon.Everyone is a little different.I don't refrain for any religious reasons.My religion encourages everything in moderation except adultery and a few other things.Those are really bad for you.
I'd like to say for all of you who were asking earlier (I think it was Mr. Paul?), I'm not 100% sure about all horse farms for horse hair production, but most horses are slaughtered for their hides and other parts, and the hair is mostly just a byproduct. So, uh, I don't think that using real hair is much better for the horses than synthetics. I'm not vegan, and I do feel pretty weird sometimes thinking about the hair on my bow coming from a dead horse, but I use it anyways.
From what I have been able to learn, most bow hair comes from already deceased horses, or from slaughterhouses. The horses which go to slaughterhouses do not go there for their tail hair, but primarily other purposes, like meat or hides, or to put suffering horses out of their misery. If the tail hair wasn't used on bows, it would probably just go to waste.
Interesting to read. I have no idea. Here in my area there are wealthy people who have horses for sport, even employing full time people to take care of them. My original thoughts were that bow makers simply gathered the hair like they gather wool from sheep periodically.I had no idea any animals had to die as a result.
I also had imagined it was harvested from horses like wool from sheep--a renewable resource. Is there a reason it can't be?
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