(I think) Wolf and bow vibration after recent rehair

October 2, 2020, 11:51 AM · I got my main viola bow rehaired a few weeks ago, and since then it's been AWFUL to play. The bow seems to vibrate a lot, particularly around 2/3 way up, there are far more wolfy tones, particularly on the G and D strings. I tried playing my viola with a non-recently rehaired bow and most of these problems seem to have gone away. Does anybody have suggestions for what may have gone wrong? I've gotten rehairs from this person several times before, but it had been (gasp) two years since the last one.

I don't believe i've suddenly become a worse player but that's of course always a possibility ;)

Replies (6)

October 2, 2020, 3:54 PM · Do you mean 2/3 of the way to the tip or frog - or 2/3 of the way from the end of the fingerboard to the bridge?

Did the "bow guy" pre-rosin your bow for you? (Different rosins can have a big effect on the behavior of a bow on the strings.)

If you have access to the bow technician take the bow there and explain the problem.

If you don't have that access:

1. "Bow" a clean cotton or microfiber cloth and see if you feel an irregularity that might be due to rough hair or some problem in the rehairing job.

2. Check to be sure the bow hair is evenly rosined.

3. Use a clean comb, insert it in the hair ribbon near the frog and gently "comb the bow hair" toward the tip. If the comb starts to get stuck STOP IMMEDIATELY and check to see if the hair is tangled in any way.

If none of these is the problem, contact your bow guy and discuss the problem and explain what you have tried.

October 3, 2020, 7:47 AM · The balance point will change slightly on a rehair depending on how much the hair was stretched out, so double check to make sure the hair length is good, there may also be more or less hair then before. Less hair on a strong stick will make the bow very bouncy. Information about hair quantity: https://adbowsllc.com/2018/06/11/determining-hair-length-and-quantity/

Also there may be crossed hairs, this is how to check: https://adbowsllc.com/2018/07/02/checking-for-crossed-hairs/

Best thing to do is bring your concerns to the person that did your rehair. They should know how to adjust things according to your tastes. We are only human and its possible he missed something, best to give him the benefit of the doubt since you've gotten several rehairs in the past and must have been happy enough to go back again and again.

October 4, 2020, 11:59 AM · Do you use light pressure on the bow?

The main method I use to precisely locate wolf tones is with a combination of light pressure and light rosin, and higher than normal bow tension. The bow can start bouncing noticeably and the howl of the wolf becomes prominent.

October 6, 2020, 4:17 PM · Wolf tones can be caused by a vibrational feedback from the plate through the bridge into the string, and this effect can change slightly depending on the stiffness/elasticity of the hairs.

I admit bow hair causing a wolftone is strange, but it could be that the rehair is just picking up a more subtle wolf than before.

Can you loosen the bow a turn less than you typically do and see if it comes back? When I had a really gnarly wolf in my instrument I could easily feel the vibrational feedback in the stick (thankfully, a simple adjustment of the bridge position fixed the wolf).

October 8, 2020, 1:58 PM · This is the first time I have heard the suggestion that a bow can cause a wolf tone. Experiment: Try that bow on several other Violas, and try several bows on your Viola, if you have a close violin shop, or are in a functioning orchestra.
October 8, 2020, 2:08 PM · Thanks for the suggestions! I'm going to clean a comb and check the hairs out. A half turn looser does seem to help a bit. I'll try to do the light pressure high tension exercise to more precisely locate the trouble spots.

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