Bow response get worst

November 24, 2017, 6:20 AM · Hello there,

I am beginner violinist (after 20 years of guitar and piano), I am playing almost 2 years, so I dont have such experience. I have (not cheapest but cheap) carbon fiber bow (wanna upgrade next year). It sounds good, but after year it begins to be less and less gripping string, forcing me to add more rosin. I tried my wife's bow, she is not playing active way for years so, there is 10 years old, very used, hairs, but it is working much better.

It leads me to my question, do I need rehairing? I think maybe on cheap bow is cheap hair and it can be bad now. My wife has maybe much much more high quality hair (it can be wear of too, but not too much).

I don't know it is worth for to rehair, I would like to buy new bow in 2018 when I will have a money (something more expensive - yet I still dont know how much I will be able to spend).

P.S. I have a beautiful 100years old violin, with 2 months old Dominants (I have experience how dull strings sounds, I have changed strings every 4 - 7 months - from guitar I am very hypersensitive to strings quality :-)). I am playing around 7 - 10 hours weekly

Thanks for tips


Replies (6)

Edited: November 24, 2017, 8:10 AM · Do you clean the rosin off your violin strings? A cotton or microfiber cloth can do a good job, a nylon "scrubby" (check ebay) can do a more though job*, even after that there may still be rosin stuck between the metal coils on the string - I use alcohol pads to clean the last rosin off the strings and immediately try to remove the last dissolved rosin with a cotton cloth. Be careful not to get alcohol on the violin itself. I probably clean my strings with alcohol no more than 2 or 3 times annually.

Rosin melts from heat generated in the bowing process and this changes the nature of the rosin that comes in contact with the strings and also causes the hairs to stick together. The bow hair can be wiped with a microfiber cloth - that might help some. When I suspect trouble with my bow hair I clean it off with alcohol (after dry-wiping it) - a process I have described multiple times on this and other websites (cello chat, maestronet, etc.) You can also shampoo bow hair, but it is critical that no water get into the tip or frog where it might expand thee wooden wedges therein that hold the hair. If these wedges expand they can crack the frog or bow tip. i probably clean bow hair with alcohol no more than once every 2 or 3 years. I have shampooed bow hair with dish soap no more than 2 times in the past 20 years.

I play violin, viola, and cello and I have about 2 dozen bows so my frequency of cleaning has some relationship to those numbers. There are professional musicians who will tell you that "rosin is rosin" and it makes no difference what kind you use. It's been 79 years since I was given my first violin and 20 years since I really got involved in spending too much money on experimenting with 'this and that' - different rosins can make a real difference in one's playing and the sound one gets! I have no doubt about it!

Rehairing a cheap bow might cost more than the bow did originally, but might yield an improvement more economically than simply replacing the bow with another of the same quality. I recall the quantum leap in sound quality after I first had my Coda Classic bow (that I had bought new) rehaired years ago - and the Coda probably cost 10x more than a "cheapest" CF bow. By the way, the amount of hair in a bow is also a factor - too much hair in a "soft" stick is not good.

* SHAR sells a few interesting string-cleaning products.

November 24, 2017, 1:06 PM · I agree with Andy. Clean your strings (easy) and your bow hair (more tedious but still not difficult) with denatured alcohol. Do not get the alcohol on the other parts of your violin or bow, just the strings and hair. Works wonders.

I also wonder whether the original hair on cheap factory-made bows is generally inferior hair.

November 24, 2017, 1:56 PM · Andrew, thank You for perfect answer. Advises from professionals and expert players are very important.

Many years playing guitar (I have 12 guitars - electric and acoustic) and I have a high school degree in music, taugh me to take care about instruments, so my friends making jokes on me, that will be great to take care about my car as I take care about instruments :-) I am cleaning all violin with micro fiber cloth after every play, once a week I am cleaning strings with pure alcohol. I use paper towel to prevent loose of liquid and hold my violin strings down to clean them. I am very obsessed by cleaning instruments.

Explanation of melting rosin fascinates me, that is right and I understand. I will try to clean bow hair, I read discussions about it. I am really thinking about upgrading to better bow. Around 500 usd (in my country - czech republic) 500 dolars means much more money than in us or uk same value, but I hope I can invest that price. (I have 1 year old daughter so I must plan my investments now, but I dont have a problem with investments in instruments, they deserves it).

So I will try to clean hair, hope will help for some time and I will be looking for better carbon fibre bow. I don't want brasil wood wooden bow, in a future, when I will be better player, I would like to have pernambuco one.

Paul, thank You for Your opinion, means a lot for me, from experts as You both are

Thanks a lot, I will post an reply as soon as I will try :)

Have a nice weekend.


Edited: November 24, 2017, 2:13 PM · Beware- the range of quality of pernambuco bows is immense, from worse than many less expensive "brazilwood" bows to the greatest bows ever made.

I had an adult violin student whom I gave lessons for a few months who was returning to violin. She had a W. Seifert pernambuco bow, avow that would sell for about $600 US today - it was awful. She was doing everything right and could not bow decent sautille strokes. I handed her a $100 composite bow and her sautille was perfect. I had a W. Seifert viola bow which is very good - but more recently I got a bow on for half the price that is a much better sounding bow. I have a colleague whose violin is a 100 year old $150,000 Italian and he plays a carbon fiber bow in preference to his 19th century French Lamy (one of the great bow makers).

The match between bow and instrument and player is more important than any descriptive words.

And - I am not a pro - just a very long-time, well-aged amateur.

November 24, 2017, 2:15 PM · Cleaning bow hait with ethanol on a swab there is a big risk that you are just dissolving the rosin and redistributing it, but not removing all of it because the ethanol evaporates. I use a couple of tablespoons (maybe 3-4 tablespoons) of ethanol in a bowl to wash the hair. Then I wash it again in a new quantity of ethanol and at that point the amount of rosin left on the hair is very small. I wipe of most of the ethanol and let the hair dry. if done correctly the hair will not be sticking to each other when dry. When reapplying rosin I make sure to also apply it to the "side" of the hair and use a toothbrush to distribute teh rosin all over the hair.
November 25, 2017, 1:35 AM · I would like to buy pernambuco as soon as I will be better player than now. I am playing 2 years, many people and my teacher says that I am playing better than 4 year players, I think it is that I am playing other instruments. But I will dare to buy pernambuco after few more years. I feel a huge difference between a year before and now in the matter of what I can feel and how I rate things (bow etc).

One of my students (I am a guitar teacher, jazz, rock, blues styles) is also playing violin, he tolds me how violin improved his guitar skills, I feel the same, much precise ear etc. I love to play :)

And I will ask for help my teacher (she is great violinist focused on emotions, not so for technique), and it will last a long long time.

For now I would like to have a better carbon fiber. It's amazing that differences. Unfortunatelly in my country (czech republic) is not a huge range of types and makers. I can find just Dictum (Bondix and carbondix). Something else is problem, You must buy from thomman from germany etc. And I would like to try before buy.

Bo, thanks for the tips, I will give them try. I will be very precious and check it. I will try it, the worst thing is that I will need rehair, it is around 25 usd in my country, and I was thinking about it. Just for imagination, for 25 bucks in my country You can have 5 bottles of wine, or 4 dinners or 3 cinema tickets :)

Thanks for helping, at monday I will buy ethanol and will try.

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