Which way do you put your bows in your case?

Edited: April 17, 2021, 9:23 AM · Do you put your bows in the case with the hair up or the hair down? Do you have no particular preference, or do you follow the case makers recommendations (if there are any)?

The point of this post is that while I have my own personal convictions, which were matured with research including opinions of bowmakers, I'd like to know what the real world thinks. Thank you!

Replies (61)

April 17, 2021, 9:43 AM · In my violin case I put my bows hair down, mostly because of habit, not because I researched it. In my viola case, one bow is hair up and the other hair down, because that's the only way they will fit. It would be interesting to find out if I've been doing it wrong all this time!
April 17, 2021, 10:06 AM · I prefer to put them in hair-down when I can. I like to have the presentation side in clear view so I can choose the bow I want more easily. I don’t love the idea of hanging a bow up by its hair, either, although I am willing to admit that I don’t know if it truly makes a difference in hair longevity

Some cases force you to put the bow in hair-up, especially shaped models. It always makes me feel like the manufacturers are cutting corners at the cost of the musicians. I don’t mind if other players want their bows the other way, but I certainly don’t want to have the choice taken away.

April 17, 2021, 10:09 AM · Hair down. I think I might drop otherwise.
Edited: April 17, 2021, 10:51 AM · Some cases-- including at least one of yours-- require one of the bows to go hair-up. Otherwise, I tend to go hair-down. It means less chance of finger grease on the hair, and allows weight to be absorbed by the stick-- which doesn't usually stretch on humid days.
Edited: April 17, 2021, 12:41 PM · Hair up. I've no idea if it actually matters... I had to change my response when I actually opened my case rather than relying on memory :-)
April 17, 2021, 10:48 AM · I've never seen a case where the bow holder was so close that the hair was touching it. Anyway, hair down because my case for some reason doesn't allow me to insert the bow hair up.
Edited: April 17, 2021, 11:10 AM · I have an old American case from Shar with four bow slots. My lightest bow, in slot #2, middle weight, slot #3, and my heaviest & favorite, in slot #4. All of the hair pointing down.
April 17, 2021, 11:12 AM · Hair up in my 2 Musafia cases because the case sort of forces it.
In my no-name double violin/viola case that I have modified to hold 6 bows the 3 lower-positioned violin bows are hair down, the upper positioned viola bows are hair up because the case edges force it.

In my cello cases, hair away from velcro contact. (In cello cases there is no divider (spinner or whatever) between hair and stick.)

April 17, 2021, 11:19 AM · Is this a trick question? Are we all going to have to cut the last inch and a half off our Peccattes to make them fit in a new and improved case model?
April 17, 2021, 11:26 AM · Depends on the case set-up. But hair down would be my instinct.
April 17, 2021, 11:31 AM · I prefer hair down. But my American case does require hair up on the top slot. This has always annoyed me greatly. I am currently looking for an independent bow case to hold 6 bows. Any recommendations?
April 17, 2021, 11:51 AM · Both. I use a shaped case and it only has space for the wood facing the middle of the case. So top bow is hair up and bottom bow is hair down.
April 17, 2021, 12:46 PM · I'm with Andrew. One of my Musafia case (Aeternum) forces me to put my bows in the "upper" bow holders with hair up. Otherwise, my preference will always be hair down. Just a disclaimer, I have an older Musafia Aeternum case, so I don't know if the newer Aeternum cases have the same issue.
April 17, 2021, 7:34 PM · I prefer hair down, but my Musafia forces hair up, so there's what I do.
April 17, 2021, 7:51 PM · Hair up in my Musafia.

Whatever fits in everything else I've used (BAM, Gewa, American Case).

April 17, 2021, 7:56 PM · Just saying that I had one case that forced me to put the hair going up and I didn't like that. It's only one centimeter more of room inside that we'd need.
Edited: April 18, 2021, 2:29 AM · Thank you, everyone, for your responses. The bow makers I discussed the issue with during my initial research phase suggested that hair-up was the best solution, so where possible I designed my cases that way (the lower positions of the my elliptical and dart designs don't allow it).

The advantages are that a) you don't rub the rosin off the bow hair when you slide the bow into the in the bow tip holder, b) hanging the bow by the hair allows for more freedom of movement should the case shell be broken in an accident, possibly saving your bow, and c) the wear on the bow that the spinners will inevitably cause will be done to the hair, which is changed periodically anyway, and not to the stick or winding.

But it appears the real world sees it differently! Again thank you for the insight.

April 18, 2021, 1:00 AM · @John, Maurizio Riboni makes excellent bow cases.
April 18, 2021, 1:29 AM · I have two shaped cases. My vintage American “Bull’s Head” will only work with the upper bow (when the lid is open) hair down, and the lower bow hair up. My Gewa Jaeger case requires the exact opposite. I have no choice in the matter.
April 18, 2021, 7:29 AM · Hair down.
April 18, 2021, 9:51 AM · Many of you have indicated hair-down as a preference, sometimes strongly. May I ask why?
April 18, 2021, 9:56 AM · I put them with the hair facing the long axis. Dunno why, just do. In some cases this is the only way some will comfortably fit.
April 18, 2021, 10:36 AM · I often wondered why Musafia's cases are made so that bows are stored as "reversed" :)
I had read the reasons by Dimitri in the past, the things told by bow makers, etc.

In my humble opinion, bow rehairers have all the interest to see bows hanged by hairs, so they are more frequently stressed by the stick bow when the case changes state, close/open ... :)
And will last less time.

I really need to have my bows hanged with hairs facing down. I'd never use a case with hair up position. Because i think that statistically hairs are less pulled if the bows hang on the wood. Rarely inside my case the bows will hang from the hair, this way.

If i have to be completely honest, some years ago i considered a Musafia case, but i skipped it equally for cost reasons, but also for this way of hanging bows, that in my view are reversed.... :)

Maybe a "Musafia Brancalion Custom", someday, with hairs facing down ? :)
Or eventually some new revolutionary way of bow hanging which won't put stress on hairs? .... :)

April 18, 2021, 10:44 AM · Ciao Dimitri
Why hair down? Psychology! A bow looks up-side-down, like a turtle on it’s back with it’s feet in the air, with the hair up!!!
Cheers Carlo
April 18, 2021, 12:53 PM · Marco-- perhaps a special order from Cremona, with a mirror-lined lid?
April 18, 2021, 8:54 PM · Hair up, always hair up. Seems more logical to me for the reasons Dimitri stated
April 18, 2021, 9:23 PM · It has just never seemed wise to me to hang the weight of the bow on the hair. Hair stretches.
April 18, 2021, 9:32 PM · It has never been an issue, but I guess from reading the thread, that it really does not matter what one does!
Edited: April 18, 2021, 10:41 PM · I've never worried too much about it - I hang my bows symmetrically in my Riboni case, bottom with hair down and top with hair up, and over time my #1 bow has switched often between top and bottom. I can't say I ever noticed the hair stretching, I personally doubt there's a grand conspiracy to get more rehairs out of us.

By the way, my #1 bow has its brand on the audience side, not the players side, so it looks good with the hair up!

I store my case on its bottom (what you would get closing the lid after packing up). Wouldn't the bow weight be more evenly distributed that way anyway? I understand that there is curvature in the lid, but it seems to me that during storage and during transit (with backpack straps) the weight will be distributed all around anyway. I'm sure Dimitri has thought a whole lot more about this.

Edited: April 18, 2021, 10:54 PM · Which Musafia model requires hair up? A shaped one?

I am glad my old Aeternum model does not. Even the bottom (shorter) slot fits a regular modern bow normally, hair down.

As far as I remember, have "always" gone hair face down for all my cases, except perhaps my very first shaped one, for which I have zero memory recollection right now.

Do as it fits your needs, of course.

(I see; perhaps it is only a problem with the upper slot, which I have not used as I do not have four bows.)

April 19, 2021, 1:35 AM · @Carlo, my older daughter has a master's degree in psychology, I'll have her check this thread out, she may find it interesting! :-)
Edited: April 19, 2021, 3:07 AM · I put the bows hair up. I have a Musafia ultralight or whatever it's called, and I can't fit more than two bows if I put them hair down because the arches on the bow will interfere.

Mr. Musafia, nice case designs. I love my case and it looks beautiful without being tasteless. I especially love the brown and gold mix. A little bit of understatement and exuberance, and contrarian just like the INTJ. Very nice.

April 19, 2021, 3:51 AM · Greetings?
I have never considered this issue before. I have great respect for Musafia’s principled and thoughtful position on this and many other issues. Psychologically speaking I tend to reflexively assume the hair would get stretched and need replacing more often but I have zero evidence to support this position so it comes under the heading of sheer intellectual laziness. Learning new things is always fun.
April 19, 2021, 4:06 AM · Thank you, Mike and Buri! And I agree, addressing details that most people pass over can be fun, because the closer you look, the more you see and learn.
Edited: April 19, 2021, 8:52 AM · A normally tightened bow with 150 hairs will apply a force of about 0.85 pound to the bow stick (more for a stiffer stick with more hair). The force is considerably greater while it is producing sound on the violin.

A bow (which typically weighs 0.13 pound) stored with the hair upright in a case will apply a force of somewhere around 0.1 pound to the hair (somewhat more than half because the hair is supported near the heavier frog end of the bow).

True, the force is greatly magnified when the case is being carried, but there is no force on the hair when the case is resting on its bottom with the lid closed (which is the way my cases have been stored during this pandemic).

Not only is the hair replaceable, it is replaced fairly often anyway, the stick is not. This might be an argument for "hanging" the bow by the hair.

I recall a 1947 Jaeger double violin case I had which was clearly made to hold the bows at the frog end by a clip on the button. Nowadays most cases seem to use a "spinner" to hold the bow at the frog end; any damage it might do to the stick (over many decades) would be the same whichever direction the hair points. Besides, the spinners on today's cases seem to be designed to hold the bow sticks on the replaceable thumb leather and not touch the wood at all.

April 19, 2021, 9:05 AM · Andrew, I too remember those clips that would hold onto the button. They were metal and with a velvet lining that would quickly wear off. Who knows how many bow buttons were ruined by that nasty design!

As a last-ditch attempt to stay with the original idea, in the early 70s the same manufacturer used a plastic clip in-and-out device. I got one of those cases along with my first 4/4 size violin, and remember thinking that they weren't going to last very long. And I was only 12! And yes, it did break within a couple years due to fatigue.

Edited: April 19, 2021, 9:29 AM · Hair-up or hair-down is much less important than orienting the ends of the bow north-south, so the bow aligns with the earth's magnetic lines of flux, and won't be pulled into a warped state during storage. :-)
Edited: April 19, 2021, 9:47 AM · Respectfully, David, East-West is more important. Mariners since the 1400s could calculate latitude (North-South), but longitude (East-West, from Greenwich, obviously) took until Harrison's "Sea Clock" of the mid 1700s, tested by Cook in the Pacific during his epic voyage and map-making.

It's totally a different enchilada. :-)

April 19, 2021, 9:54 AM · This is getting as strange as some of the luthier "discussions" on Maestronet!
April 19, 2021, 10:43 AM · Jokes could go ahead forever... :)

Fact is that personal preference has not to be ignored, whatever the reason (also a silly one)....

April 19, 2021, 10:49 AM · I've always had hair down - by habit? I certainly don't recall who taught me / who I caught it from.

In one of my shaped cases, the top spot requires hair down and the bottom spot requires hair up. I tend to put my primary bow in the top spot and spare in the bottom (except the bottom has been empty for a while because I tend to keep the spare with my outside violin in a different case now).

I heard once it was better to put the bow in the spinner location where if it wasn't locked correctly, if the bow fell away, it would hit the chin rest side of the violin instead of the other side - but I wonder if this was just advice given to clumsy young students.

Edited: April 19, 2021, 10:57 AM · @Marco, no maker can make everyone happy in any field. Personal preference is a divider, not a uniter. Ask a BMW owner what he thinks of Mercedes (or vice-versa).
April 19, 2021, 1:10 PM · Dimitri: and a user configurable locking system? :)
April 19, 2021, 10:57 PM · I think a lot of the preference for the hair-down position comes from a couple main ideas:

1) The idea that hanging the bow by the hair will damage the hair. I don’t know for sure if hanging the bow by the hair does any harm, but I have seen people break hairs trying to get their bows out in that position. It happens in the other position sometimes, but not quite as often.

2) Bows are made to be used in the hair-down position. When a bow is displayed, it has a presentation side. Makers will go to great detail to make the bows look their best on the presentation side (e.g. selecting the pearl for the eyes so that their flame looks best from that side). When you put a bow in your case, it rests in its presentation position if it is hair-down. It looks more natural and does not require the player to turn the bow over when getting it out. It’s a very small detail, but it’s one that people tend to notice.

Many shaped cases are contoured to be slender, either for aesthetics or to reduce weight. This often results in the top bow holder’s space losing a small amount, just enough to prevent the bow from fitting in hair-down. When the bow won’t fit in, the case just comes across as cheap because a lot of cheap cases have issues with fit.

It reminds me of a time that a batch of cases came in at a shop where I once worked. I was about to sell one to a customer, only to discover that the bow spinners had been attached in the wrong spot. No bow would fit in, and all the cases in the batch had the same problem. It was extremely frustrating and just one of many reasons why I felt no love for the supplier.

I don’t think any Musafia case is designed to cut corners or through carelessness—they’ve earned an excellent reputation. The issue is that the bow position dilemma causes one to draw a connection to the cases that are made carelessly or to be cheap.

April 20, 2021, 4:40 AM · @Marco, if you can come up with a good, reliable one, please let me know! :-)
April 20, 2021, 6:02 AM · Only slightly of topic...

Has there been a case designed where the violin goes in belly down? With the right cushions this could, in theory, be safer for the fragile bridge and belly. If this was designed, and could be demonstrated to be safer, would there ever be an uptake?

Cheers Carlo

April 20, 2021, 6:27 AM · When your violin is found belly up it’s probably time to buy a new one.
Edited: April 20, 2021, 7:03 AM · Apparently I'm among the few exceptions in always putting my bow in hair-up whenever possible. I've always been extremely uncomfortable with putting my bow in hair-down for the same reasons that the bow makers listed.
April 20, 2021, 12:51 PM · I imagine that setting the violin face down might be challenging for case makers, since they have to accommodate all the different shapes and heights of chin rests.
April 20, 2021, 1:29 PM · Carlo asked:
"Has there been a case designed where the violin goes in belly down? With the right cushions this could, in theory, be safer for the fragile bridge and belly. If this was designed, and could be demonstrated to be safer, would there ever be an uptake?"

"Suspension" cases already have provisions for keeping the top and back of a violin from making contact with the top and bottom of the case, so how would this be an improvement?

April 20, 2021, 11:32 PM · I’m not saying it is an improvement, but rather IF it were, could people be convinced to use it? Or would they think the the violin would be the “wrong” way up, like bows hanging from the hair?

Cheers Carlo

Edited: April 21, 2021, 12:42 AM · @David and Carlo: all you have to do is take a violin case and place it on its lid and check it out! :-)

The reason why since around the year 1700 violin cases have flat bottoms and curved (i.e. stronger) lids is exactly to protect the fragile bridge and belly. While the back of the instrument is relatively flat, and can be protected by a flat bottom panel (useful also to keep the case steady), intelligent reinforcement, and Weber's suspension system, the violin belly has the projection of the bridge which requires a curved lid panel for reasons of space and protection.

Cases with flat bottoms and lids have been made, but they appear very bulky and are heavier as well.

Edited: April 21, 2021, 6:51 AM · Like most people, I suspect, I put my bows with the hair down (although in one instance this is dictated by the case's curvature), but of course it's silly - once the case is vertical and bouncing about on your back, all the variables change.
Edited: April 21, 2021, 8:50 AM · Come to think of it, this discussion reminds me of when case makers started positioning the main accessory compartment to the right of the case, instead of to the left, where it had been for well over 150 years.

The compartment to the right struck me as awkward, as one would hold the violin in your right hand to be able to rummage around in the compartment with your left, and with the compartment where it always had been, this was far more practical.

However, the relocation caught traction with the widespread diffusion of cheap plastic bow spinners, the failure of which could let the frog of the bow drop straight onto the violin belly. Moving the instrument "forward", away from the bow frogs, resolved that problem and people eventually got used to the new placement of the accessory box.

April 21, 2021, 11:55 AM · When did the accessory box get moved to the right side of the case? Every case I have ever owned has the box on the left. I most recently bought a case about five or six years ago.
April 21, 2021, 12:11 PM · @Dimitri "The compartment to the right struck me as awkward, as one would hold the violin in your right hand to be able to rummage around in the compartment with your left"

I always hold my violin with my left hand. I don't know if I have a reason - it's just a habit, afaik. It leaves my right hand free to do things without awkwardness, and I just swing the violin up to my shoulder if I want to play it.

April 21, 2021, 2:44 PM · A reason to have the accessory compartment on the right side is not only potential failure of the bow spinner but the failure of the user to fasten the spinner; it has happened to me in my old Jaegar case (luckily with no damage to the violin) and now I will only buy cases with the compartment to the right. I used a Gewa Venezia case for many years and I have given my children similar cases. It is a matter of habit and I normally don't "rummage around" in the compartment with the violin in my hand. The fact that it has been on the left side for 150 years is no argument to continue to do it "wrong". Much like cases were made without suspension systems for hundreds of years, but now no-one would dream of buying such a case.
BTW I put my bow in my beautiful Musafia case hair down and with the frog over the right hand compartment ;)
April 21, 2021, 3:33 PM · My first case was dart shaped. It allowed bow placement in only one specific orientation: bow stick inwards, hair outwards. It formed a habit, that's why I still place the "upper" two bows in ma case "upside down", but to be honest I don't believe that it makes a significant difference.
April 21, 2021, 3:40 PM · Dimitri, if you want to know what MY real world thoughts are - well, I don't care about the way the bows are oriented in the case, as long as you could make room for more of them. Six would be nice, eight even greater... Would be a serious incentive for an upgrade!
Edited: April 21, 2021, 9:37 PM · I’ve seen more polycarbonate cases with the pocket on the right side in the last few years. I definitely notice it but it doesn’t bother me in the way the bow placement does.

There are arguments to be made for all these changes to case design, but I don’t agree with calling traditional designs “wrong.” Good cases have protected violins well for centuries. To me, the reasons for changing designs are more to do with accommodating different outlines and economizing space. If you shape the case like a cello case, the pocket ends up at the bottom, or else there’s barely enough room for rosin and nothing else.

There used to be much more demand for sturdy cases with plenty of room for everything. A saying I used to hear a lot was “buy the strongest, heaviest case you can handle.” These days lightweight minimalist designs are more popular. I like some of the modern designs for carrying on the Metro, but I have no intention of getting rid of my excellent old cases. For me the choice of case comes down to the occasion for its use.

Edited: April 22, 2021, 5:23 AM · The placement of the accessory compartment (right or left) can be as polarizing an issue as the bow placement.

In 2012 I redesigned my Master Series model to put the compartment on the right, and to this day I have clients who want still want to commission the old model with the box on the left. So I kept it in production as a special order, which drives my collaborators crazy because they both have the same code number. Have to fix that...

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