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Sep 18, 2021 - 2:26:40 PM
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59 posts since 5/1/2010

I was just looking at my two favorite bows and it occurred to me that it's been twenty years since I've had either rehaired. One of them still has the hair that was on it when I acquired it, so who knows how old that hair is! Both are pre-war Germans and are quite old. The weird thing is that I've been using those bows almost every day for twenty years and I haven't broken one hair yet, and I can't detect any "slick spots." I don't know why I'm getting away with this and I'm certainly not complaining! I assume they're both natural horsehair, at least that's what I asked for when I had the one rehaired way back when.
Are any of you experiencing such bow hair longevity?

Sep 18, 2021 - 4:27:46 PM

1873 posts since 12/11/2008

When I lived near a couple quality bow re-hairers I'd bring in my 2 bows every couple of years for rehairs. The improvement was clearly noticeable. Easier to get sound, and the sound was more than a bit higher fi. The bow felt better and more secure under my fingers.

Now that I have to go a pretty long way to get a rehair and what might be the sole rehairer on the island is a bit crabby & not quite as good, I've been putting my rehairs off. Yeah, I'm considering trying the job myself, but I'm kind of clumsy. Is the bow going to skitter off the kitchen table and break its tip?

Sep 18, 2021 - 5:31:11 PM

2298 posts since 8/23/2008

It was decades before I decided to rehair my bow, I only decided because I was just curious to see what the difference might make.
I didn't notice one iota of difference in how the bow played or felt, not even a change of sound quality.
But don't let me discourage you because I may have been the victim of an unscrupulous luthier, but I doubt that.
There's a story about Heifetz asking the luthier for a pair a scissors telling him that he wanted new hair not just a clean job...

Sep 18, 2021 - 6:01:39 PM

DougD

USA

10290 posts since 12/2/2007

I bought my best bow in 1997 and have never had it rehaired. Like you I break few or no hairs, and I have other bows with pretty old hair too.
I would believe that horsehair deteriorates over time, but as long as I can still get decent tone and volume I just leave well enough alone. My luthier passed away a couple years ago and I don't actually know where I would take a bow for a rehair these days.

Sep 18, 2021 - 7:02:02 PM

2419 posts since 10/22/2007

Actually loose more hair from my spare bows. Rehaired my best bow. Then found a better bow. That was at least 15 years ago. I'd rehair if I was down to what looks like one layer. Probably not in my lifetime.

Don't they say the hardest thing on bow hair is a dark abandon case? Party for bow mites.

Sep 18, 2021 - 7:13:47 PM

747 posts since 8/10/2017

I've never done it. Are you supposed to rehair your bow on a schedule? I've never changed the strings, either, unless they broke.

Sep 18, 2021 - 9:05:52 PM

530 posts since 3/1/2020

A general rule of thumb is to change strings and rehair your bows every six months if you play at least an hour a day. Light or very fastidious players might get a bit more life out of them, hamfisted players tend to need to change more often.

I’ve seen some top level bows with original hair, but those were in private collections and they were left that way to keep them as pristine as possible so that they could command top dollar in private sales or auctions. No one would dare to play them. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 09/18/2021 21:07:13

Sep 18, 2021 - 10:04:24 PM
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59 posts since 5/1/2010

Decades ago there was a one-hit wonder in country music named Doug Kershaw. One of his gimmicks was breaking bow hairs like crazy. He would literally render a bow useless after one song. I personally watched him do this in a live show in Louisiana in 1977. He had an umbrella stand filled with bows and would take out a fresh one for each new number he played. Those rehairing jobs must have cost him a fortune! Personally, I think he weakened those hairs with chlorine bleach or some other chemical to achieve that "Ragin' Cajun" schtick.

Sep 19, 2021 - 6:27:03 AM

110 posts since 1/21/2017

Thanks for bringing up this topic. It's nice to hear that I'm not the only one that has gone years if not decades without a rehair. I never break bow hair but I often wonder if a rehair would be an improvement. Same with my strings. I usually leave my Prims on for at least a year, usually longer.

Sep 19, 2021 - 7:11:33 AM

RichJ

USA

546 posts since 8/6/2013

There's so much hearsay on the subject of what kind and when to change stuff like strings and bow hair. Surprised no one has mentioned different brands of rosin and how some might be bow hair protective or degrading, lol.

Edited by - RichJ on 09/19/2021 07:13:05

Sep 19, 2021 - 7:12:39 AM

747 posts since 8/10/2017

People say the same thing about changing mandolin strings. I've gone a decade on the same strings without anything bad happening. I am a hobbyist. I play at weekly jams and the occasional gig. I've never noticed they sound better after changing them so I just leave them alone.

When I think about it, a jam mate of mine, a former elementary school music teacher and lady who plays violin probably every day in many kinds of groups, has not reahaired her bow for at least a year. Her bow is rainbow-colored so it's easy to tell. They died the hair in rainbow colors. If I ever rehair my bow I want a rainbow bow. It's a "rainbow", get it?

Sep 19, 2021 - 7:23:37 AM

300 posts since 6/21/2007

I play a German trade fiddle from the late 19th century. My bow was a cheap student bow a luthier who set up my fiddle gave me. .I had gone decades and never had it rehaired. I upgraded to a fiddler man carbon fiber bow a few years ago. I usually change my strings twice a year. Alternating between Helicore and Fiddlerman .

Sep 19, 2021 - 9:35:36 AM
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5401 posts since 9/26/2008

Those of you who don't change your strings are doing yourself a disservice, unless you like dead dull tone. New strings are like new speakers installed after you've spilled beer into the old ones (bar monitor speaker reference there but you get the point). Your sweat and skin cells and other detritus get into the strings windings and degrade the sound. You don't realize it because it happens gradually and subtly, but new strings are an instant change.

I break hairs occasionally by catching them on front right corner of the fiddle when I'm not paying attention. Eventually when enough hairs are gone I get concerned about warping the bow and get a rehair (which has gone up in price due to pandemic transportation issues since most hair comes from China).

Edited by - ChickenMan on 09/19/2021 09:36:40

Sep 19, 2021 - 3:38:33 PM
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530 posts since 3/1/2020

There seems to be a competition among fiddlers to go the longest without maintaining the instrument and bow.

This is a major source of frustration for luthiers, as it’s very common for fiddlers to show up for something simple, but upon inspection, lots of issues not noticed by the players come to light. Once an estimate is given, the response is: “But it’s been fine for x years without having to do anything to it. What do you mean ‘it needs work?’” Yes, there are some dishonest people in the field, but it’s not reasonable to assume a luthier is deceiving you by assessing the condition of the instrument.

If your bow hairs haven’t all broken out, that doesn’t mean a bow is still in good order, let alone its hair. The hair loses its elasticity over time and it stops picking up rosin the same way. If hair is missing, it tends to happen on the paying side. This leads to uneven hair tension over time, which can cause the bow to track poorly and the stick to warp. Not having the right amount of hair also changes the feel of the bow and its playing characteristics considerably, another reason why having a professional rehair done is so important. For example, a Tubbs bow will just turn into a wet noodle if too much hair is put in. The maker originally made his frogs to be haired without a spread wedge to prevent hacks from overhairing his bows, but almost all of them were modified by those very hacks to fit spread wedges. A pristine frog is very rare and very valuable now.

I’ll repeat a maxim I was taught by an old German maker:
“Take good care of your tools and they’ll take good care of you.”

Bragging about not changing strings and hair is about as wise and ethical as bragging about not feeding your dog.

Sep 19, 2021 - 4:33:01 PM
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doryman

USA

207 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddleharp

Decades ago there was a one-hit wonder in country music named Doug Kershaw. One of his gimmicks was breaking bow hairs like crazy. He would literally render a bow useless after one song. I personally watched him do this in a live show in Louisiana in 1977. He had an umbrella stand filled with bows and would take out a fresh one for each new number he played. Those rehairing jobs must have cost him a fortune! Personally, I think he weakened those hairs with chlorine bleach or some other chemical to achieve that "Ragin' Cajun" schtick.


On behalf of the entire Cajun nation, I take great offense in you referring to Louisiana Music Hall of Fame member, Mr. Doug Kershaw, as a "one hit wonder."  If you want to learn a little something about the amazing Mr. Kershaw, and his brother Rusty, I highly recommend episode 13 of the podcast, Cocaine and Rhinestones: The History of Country Music, by Tyler Mahan Coe (son of David Allan Coe).  You can find it here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cr013-rusty-doug-kershaw-the-cajun-way/id1304192102?i=1000416206423.  In fact, I highly recommend the entire podcast series. 

Sep 19, 2021 - 11:25:44 PM
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2553 posts since 10/6/2008

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

Those of you who don't change your strings are doing yourself a disservice, unless you like dead dull tone.


I agree. I changed my strings a few months ago and my fiddle is alive and ringing again. For me, it makes it so much more enjoyable to play it that way. 

Sep 20, 2021 - 5:57:01 AM
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2419 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful


Bragging about not changing strings and hair is about as wise and ethical as bragging about not feeding your dog.


Careful. I can't afford new strings or bow hair, let alone a dog. 

Sep 20, 2021 - 8:04:52 AM
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doryman

USA

207 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful


Bragging about not changing strings and hair is about as wise and ethical as bragging about not feeding your dog.


Careful. I can't afford new strings or bow hair, let alone a dog. 


I do agree that talking about the "ethics" of changing bow hairs is probably overstating the seriousness of the matter. 

Sep 20, 2021 - 3:12:34 PM
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2298 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful



Bragging about not changing strings and hair is about as wise and ethical as bragging about not feeding your dog.


Only a luthier would say this..." Go ahead, change yer strings a rehair yer bow every 6 months........"

Sep 20, 2021 - 5:49:25 PM
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530 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful



Bragging about not changing strings and hair is about as wise and ethical as bragging about not feeding your dog.


Only a luthier would say this..." Go ahead, change yer strings a rehair yer bow every 6 months........"


Are you suggesting you know more about instruments and bows than luthiers?

Actually, this advice is pretty commonly given by teachers, and many players adjust based on their level of practice.

A customer at the shop used to come in for new strings every two weeks, and she always wanted the most elite set available. She practiced up to 10 hours a day, performed as a concertmistress and soloist. When she finished high school she was accepted into the most coveted studio in the country. Perhaps her string changing was a bit exaggerated, but it certainly didn't hurt her. But who knows, maybe she just isn't as good a player as buckhenry...

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 09/20/2021 17:51:24

Sep 20, 2021 - 6:28:12 PM

12377 posts since 9/23/2009

12-13 years and counting...

Sep 20, 2021 - 7:25:58 PM
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2298 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
based on their level of practice.

 


So, maybe ask the 'fiddler' if they....."practice  up to 10 hours a day, perform as a concertmistress and soloist and require the most elite set available..." before you tell them they are bragging when they don't change strings and rehair every 6 months. 

Here we play 'old time music'  on the porch after a hard days yakka on the farm, we can't justify unnecessary financial expenses....

And, nice try comparing my mediocre fiddling to a concert master/soloist.....I labour 10 hours a day, not play......     

Sep 20, 2021 - 8:34:57 PM
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1873 posts since 12/11/2008

When stuff that wears out gets a little too worn out for my tastes, I'll change them out. It's not that I'm making money or anything with my playing, but it's enjoyable as heck to hear and feel fresh strings & horsehair. It makes me play happy. It puts a smile on my face. It makes me play longer. It encourages me to improve my craft. Musical instruments are more than tools or appliances. As much as I like my screwdrivers, I like my musical instruments a heck of a lot more.

Sep 20, 2021 - 9:14:06 PM
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5401 posts since 9/26/2008

Now now, play nice.

But seriously, it's as if we were on Violin Hangout instead of Fiddle Hangout. Henry had a very valid point, not everyone is as hard on strings OR needs that level of freshness out of them,or cares to spend their hard earned cash like that. We're mostly hobbyists who play for fun and not for our livelihood. 

 

When I was gigging every week in my rock roll band, long 3 set nights at bars mostly, I changed strings every two weeks and at the same time was also very obsessive about wiping them down before and after handling my guitar so that most would have said they really didn't need changing. Between gig weekends, often Thursday to Saturday, I was playing up to another 15 hours. But I liked them really fresh and chime-y and could really hear the difference. I would never suggest anyone who isn't a gigging musician do that, it isn't cheap, and in the end they can figure that out on their own what they liked. I have a friend who can rust a set of strings in one playing. He knows of no other kind of string because new ones are only new for about 20 minutes depending on the heat of the room. laugh

Edited by - ChickenMan on 09/20/2021 21:15:29

Sep 20, 2021 - 10:51:36 PM
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doryman

USA

207 posts since 2/10/2020

Some blues harmonica players would bend the reeds so hard that they would throw out their harps after one gig. On the other hand, I'm still playing a Marine Band harmonica that my grandfather gave me in 1966.

End of discussion. Ethics aside, of course.

Sep 20, 2021 - 11:14:30 PM

530 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry
quote:

So, maybe ask the 'fiddler' if they....."practice  up to 10 hours a day, perform as a concertmistress and soloist and require the most elite set available..." before you tell them they are bragging when they don't change strings and rehair every 6 months. 

Here we play 'old time music'  on the porch after a hard days yakka on the farm, we can't justify unnecessary financial expenses....

And, nice try comparing my mediocre fiddling to a concert master/soloist.....I labour 10 hours a day, not play......     

 


If you are a mediocre player and don't know anything about lutherie, perhaps it would be worth listening to  those who know something instead of making ridiculous and ignorant comments.

Strings and bow hair are critical to the performance of the instrument, so they aren't "unnecessary expenses." Customers ask me how often they should change strings or have their bows rehaired almost every day. I always start by asking how much they're playing. I then explain that six months is a rough average for a player who practices at least an hour a day, but playing style and frequency  of playing affect the life of the hair and strings for each individual. I would never recommend work without  it being necessary, and I am happy to tell a customer when a bow doesn't need a rehair. The intimation that it's just soliciting to tell customers to maintain their violins and bows is extremely offensive and makes abundantly clear a lack of understanding and a jaded and warped view from of the professionals who study, work on, and devote their lives to instruments. 

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