Playing quality of too-long hair?

August 22, 2020, 2:13 PM · A question maybe most relevant to summer months. I'm trying a few bows now, and one in particular sounds fantastic-- but has too much flex in the stick. It bounces a bit in long detache, and doesn't do as well as it might in spiccato.

The hair isn't so long that it can't be tightened. I can actually get the stick nearly straight, which helps a bit. But it could also be somewhere between 3-5mm shorter without being too tight at rest.

Might shortening it purge the wiggles, while keeping most of the tone?

Replies (12)

August 22, 2020, 2:33 PM · Shorter hair might change the balance point very slightly, but I don’t believe that it would change the action of the bow. If you can already tighten it to straightness, which is too much anyway, then you’re able to experience the bow’s action, such as it is. It sounds like it’s just too soft for you. Soft bows tend to produce beautiful sounds, but they’re deficient in so many other ways.
Edited: August 22, 2020, 3:40 PM · Loosen the ribbon till it looks a bit frizzy, run it under the tap (try not to get the stick wet) and go over it with a clothing iron on the highest setting. I do this every time I rehair a bow.

Just don't stay in one spot too long!

August 22, 2020, 3:41 PM · Before I found a good rehairer I was always getting rehairs that were too long. I found that the frog moving so far down made a huge difference in the balance of the bow.
Edited: August 22, 2020, 4:48 PM · Optimally, a flexible (i.e., "soft") stick will do better with less hair than a stiff one. Since you feel you can bend the stick enough but that it feels too soft with the current hair length, if it were my bow I would try removing a few hairs at a time. I do this with a straight edge Xacto blade (the triangular one) nipping them from the stick side of the hair ribbon roughly in the center of the ribbon for starters. When you tighten the stick with less hair each hair will now be under more stress.

When I was doing this 20 years ago, my bows performance and sound got "better." The worst outcome, assuming you don't damage any of the bow hardware might be the need for a premature rehair. I did this sort of thing with some 24 bows and never needed to rehair because of it and never damaged a bow.

Another thing - to minimize the chances of having hair that is too long or to short is have your bow(s) rehaired locally. When I lived in the California desert and bought some bows from SHAR (Michigan) the hair lengths were not good when the desert got really dry (5% RH) - hair got to short to fully loosen the bows. Also had some problems with rehairs from Norman, OK.

Edited: August 22, 2020, 11:17 PM · Interesting thought. I have tried a Dodd that may well be too wiry a stick, but performs brilliantly with a really narrow band of hair. This being the idea of the maker, who made the frog quite skinny-- not me or any owner.

Possibly, it was redone in the winter-- but now my house is 45-50% RH even with a little help from HVAC.

August 22, 2020, 10:04 PM · The bow isn't yours, don't do anything to the hair of the bow!
August 22, 2020, 11:17 PM · Quite right.
August 23, 2020, 8:28 AM · This article might shed some light on hair length and quantity for you:
Edited: August 23, 2020, 10:20 AM · When my daughter was playing 3/4 size violin, the bow that "came with it" was a nice bow, very playable and so forth, but it was just weird because you had to tighten it until the stick was nearly straight to get it to function like a normal bow. Not really a problem unless she did a summer camp or had a lesson from a visiting teacher or such, and they'd always comment "your bow is too tight" when really it wasn't, and she's have to explain that the stick is slightly weak, and of course they would not believe a little girl explaining this basic thing, so they'd have to try the bow themselves, loosening it to the "correct" point, realizing immediately that it's unplayable when tightened "correctly", and then spend 5 minutes trying to diagnose the problem and so forth. Besides that minor annoyance the real downside for us is that we'll probably never be able to sell that bow. Probably end up just giving it to the local music school even though if you can get over the fact that the stick is nearly straight, it's a really 3/4 bow.
August 23, 2020, 10:34 AM · Paul - did you see the comment above about reducing the number of hairs? Makes sense since the remainder would have to be tighter and should reduce the pressure. Didn't want you to miss that...
August 23, 2020, 11:03 AM · While it is true that with fewer hairs, the tension on each hair will be greater, it is also true that regardless of the number of hairs, the total tension required to put a certain arc on the bow will remain about the same.

Most bows (though not all) can have widely varying amounts of hair installed, given sufficient competency of the rehairer.

August 23, 2020, 11:49 AM · Well, experimenting with humidity. Not with the iron (!) but but cranking up the a/c. RH down from 47% to around 35%. It does help, although the stick can still be made to touch the hair closer to the frog than most others. But perhaps a second look at the shop sill make further progress. Thanks for all comments.

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