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Sep 21, 2021 - 12:14:17 AM
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1904 posts since 12/11/2008

I love Doug Kershaw. I can't remember the name of the TV program where he'd make his appearances but it just made me feel good watching him shimmy, sway and saw away with his fiddle at half-mast. It was the first time I'd ever seen somebody use the instrument "improperly," and it really showed me a new way to approach the instrument. He made the instrument dance & smile. He's one of the reasons why I succumbed to temptation and tried one on for size at the Blue Ridge Pickin' Parlor. I might have even seen him live at one of the folkie/hippie nite clubs in L.A.

Sep 21, 2021 - 3:29:50 AM
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12496 posts since 9/23/2009

I heard Merle Travis say one time that he "never" changed his guitar strings...lol...I mean, I think he did but he said he preferred the dull thud of old strings...being a thumbpicker has its advantages...you don't want a lot of sustain doing that style.

Sep 21, 2021 - 3:59:04 AM
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DougD

USA

10329 posts since 12/2/2007
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A little off topic, but have you ever heard Merle Travis play the fiddle? I recently came across this clip on YouTube: youtu.be/NIcMgCI3neA
Don't know how often he changed his strings, but I hope he didn't brag about it. It upsets the young people.

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:55:17 AM

5486 posts since 9/26/2008

"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."



It appears you don't want to play nice, do you? 

Sep 21, 2021 - 5:05:39 AM
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72 posts since 9/4/2007

OK, I'm seriously confused. After reading the posts here and then spending about an hour or so on the internet I'm not seeing any clear answer on the need to rehair a bow. The general rule of thumb given by luthiers and bow shops is that it should be done roughly every 6 months. However, there are folks (and I am one of them) who don't rehair bows and are Ok with that. I had a rehair done on one of my bows and frankly didn't notice a huge amount of difference, if any at all. How can opinions/facts?? be so far apart? Is there that much difference in what we appreciate in sound? I'm going to check in with some friends that are serious classical musicians and see what they say. Curious if folks who play different genres have completely different takes on the need for rehairing bows. I mean, all styles have technical requirements, but there is quite a variation in what those are and I could see where a classical, probably jazz and Irish, maybe bluegrass too, would need something that an old time folk fiddler wouldn't.

Sep 21, 2021 - 6:00:02 AM
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Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2372 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

A little off topic, but have you ever heard Merle Travis play the fiddle? I recently came across this clip on YouTube: youtu.be/NIcMgCI3neA
Don't know how often he changed his strings, but I hope he didn't brag about it. It upsets the young people.


Watched the whole show, which included this segment. What struck me was NO BANJOS, but there was one accordion.
 

Sep 21, 2021 - 6:14:25 AM
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113 posts since 1/21/2017

Personally, I wasn't bragging, just tellin' it like it is. I would love to have my bow rehaired every 6 months, or change my strings every month, but I'm not a concertmistress or Mark O'Connor so I can't really justify it, or afford it, and it works for me. I always think of the oldtimers. I'm pretty sure that Edden Hammons or J.P. Fraley weren't ordering up fresh strings from Shar every month, but I could be wrong.

Sep 21, 2021 - 6:29:31 AM
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DougD

USA

10329 posts since 12/2/2007
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Exactly. A member asked a question and other members just answered from their experience. I think only one person mentioned strings, which is a whole different topic. Also, the people who said they didn't often rehair their bows also said they didn't often break hairs, so unbalance is not an issue. I keeep an eye on my bows - check the straightness of the stick, the fit of the frog and keep the screw lubricated.

Sep 21, 2021 - 6:43:02 AM
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450 posts since 7/18/2014

Santa brings a new bow
Every single year
I am in good shape with that
And leave him a little beer
The cost is thirty dollars
I know that’s not too much
But I just play the holler
Sally Ann and such
I thought he liked my playen
For long he doesn’t stay
Now I see the reason
He lives so far away
La La La La La La La La La La La La La

Sep 21, 2021 - 7:19:28 AM

558 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

"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."



It appears you don't want to play nice, do you? 


Did you read the comments before mine? Taking potshots at luthiers in general is a very low blow, especially because so many luthiers are extremely dedicated and would never take advantage of their clientele.

If you're not playing much and your bow is in good shape, it doesn't need to be rehaired as often. I think I made it clear that six months is only an average for those playing daily for an hour or more.

Hair has a lifespan, and it changes as it's used more and more. There's a certain amount of elasticity in good quality hair (cheap hair is bleached and very brittle), and just like a rubber band, the elasticity is lost over time. Once it's stretched out the bow loses response. This is a reason people often overtighten their bows; they're trying to get the liveliness back by turning the screw more, but the issue is the hair, not the length or the stick itself.

It's true that if you have limited bow technique you probably won't be as aware of the difference between a good rehair and a bad one, but that doesn't mean the difference is unimportant. 

Sep 21, 2021 - 8:37:18 AM

12496 posts since 9/23/2009

My bows are so cheap it would make more sense to think of them as disposable. I've been using the same ones for years with no problems that I can see.

Yeah, hurray for Merle on Turkey in the Straw on that fiddle. Just about all of that generation of guitar thumb pickers started out on the fiddle...they're the ones who got my generation all lookin' in the direction of guitar as being the cooler generation...lol...so many of us that I know of started on guitar and went to fiddle later in life...Merle's generation did the opposite...it's a weird pattern of generational divide I guess. They also pick with thumb and index only...true thumbpickers...my generation generally cheats on that and throws in finger number two to pick with...it really messes with the rhythm in such a way that it's not truly thumb picking anymore...example...most famous example...the Everly Brothers...their dad was a real thumbpicker...they messed all that up and got all famous and rich...lol. Well anyway...it is interesting to see what happens with generational differences...Doc Watson (probably never played fiddle I guess) picked with two fingers, son Merle used three...etc. Merle was my generation...it's almost like some outside force you just can't get away from.

Sep 21, 2021 - 9:21:31 AM
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DougD

USA

10329 posts since 12/2/2007
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Peggy, don't want to stray too far, but when I got interested in "folk" music back in the 1960's people played what they called "Travis" or "Cotten" picking, using two or even three fingers. It was sort of "pattern" picking, largely to accompany singing (Joan Baez might be an example). I got to see both Merle and Elizabeth Cotten play up close, and of course that was nothing like the way they actually played, especially Merle Travis.
As far as Doc and the fiddle, when I was asked to play with them at Merlefest I went over to Clint Howard's one evening to run through some songs we might want to play. At one point I said that I guessed Doc could play about anything, meaning styles of music. Clint thought I meant instruments, and said "I'll tell you one thing Doc Watson can't play, and that's the fiddle." Apparently in the old days they'd been out in California and Doc got up early one morning and took Fred Price's fiddle outside to give it a try. Clint said he made "the awfullest noise you ever heard." So that's what I know about it.

Edited by - DougD on 09/21/2021 09:26:47

Sep 21, 2021 - 9:38:43 AM
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5486 posts since 9/26/2008

Yes I read the comments before yours and before my first reminder to play nice. You chose to continue the snarking so I called you out directly. This is why we need moderators, to remind people to be civil. Your choice of words were not civil. Henry took a pot shot and that was also before my first post; he's a working man who happens to be a pretty decent fiddler, despite not having the luxury of a conservatory education, and suggesting one spends $100-150 every six months on the parts that are considered disposable (right? You change strings and hair, not fiddle tops and tuners) when they are doing their utilitarian duty seems at best unnecessary and at worst, elitist, for lack of a better word. Let's move past the unpleasantness of that. 


I agree with you, by the way, in that hair has a finite working life and eventually stretches beyond its useful limits, but I also know people who don't really tension their bow much (even allowing it to run on the stick - my first instructor even told me that was how it was done indecision) so that (stretch) probably isn't even an issue for them, and probably they aren't too concerned about the subtleties of what the bow can do beyond making the strings vibrate. I imagine those type of fiddlers aren't crossing paths with you as much as classical players do. I even know fiddlers who would never think of going to a professional to get work done on their instrument (not me, mind you, I have a luthier who seems to be a shaman of sorts with the magic he does). They also wouldn't stoop to having a professional do any work in their house, so... surprise

Edited by - ChickenMan on 09/21/2021 09:50:22

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:59:03 AM

2004 posts since 8/27/2008

I use an inexpensive Fiddlerman carbon fiber bow, which I like a lot. I have 2 of them and been using them for years and they seem to provide as good a service as ever. One thing I discovered with carbon fiber bows (I expect some disagreement on this) is that they don't need to be de-tensioned. I adjust the tension as needed but don't religiously take the tension all the way down when I'm done playing. I don't know whether that would make the hair last longer or not last as long. For me I see no effect. I don't ever over rosin the bow. I only do a few swipes every few hours. Over-rosining, it seems to me, might contribute to shortening the life of the hair. At any rate, when my Fiddlerman bow finally needs rehairing some long time from now, it will probably be as cheap to just buy another one as to pay for a rehair. Although I build my own fiddles I don't have much desire to learn to rehair bows.

Sep 21, 2021 - 11:25:54 AM

1635 posts since 4/6/2014

yep i just can't afford a good luthier, and i have a few friends who are good luthiers/uilleann pipe makers/flute makers. Newark Violin school is within spitting distance. i used to use them when i earned some money playing, but now i just can't justify/afford it. Last time i used one it was about £50 to cut a bridge and then i didn't really like it much, so i fitted my own . Then about 20+ years ago at a fiddle festival someone was rehairing bows for £11 and you couldn't get a look in because the dealers where bringing bunches of them to be done. So now i rehair my own bow after looking on youtube. its not that hard really. just get some decent hair and carefully have a go at a few. you'll get it eventually. I've gone about 3 years or more without rehairing, playing at least an hour a day. but if you are a beginner (or a concert mistress) you might need a rehair every month or three.

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 09/21/2021 11:31:12

Sep 21, 2021 - 12:09:35 PM
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echord

USA

765 posts since 4/5/2009

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

"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."



It appears you don't want to play nice, do you? 


When I take my car to a mechanic for an oil change and tire rotation, I expect him to hand me a bill along with a long list of all the things he thinks require (or will soon require) fixing. I expect and appreciate that list, but I have to decide if I need all the work now or if the garage wants to drum up more work (that's their business after all).  It's not always easy to determine, but I am the one who has to review my budget, decide what I can afford and assess  the way my car runs now.  Unless it's a safety issue, the buck stops with me indecision.

I would likely feel the same way if I took my fiddle to a luthier and was presented with a list of all its shortcomings. I'd appreciate the assessment and consider his opinion, but I probably would not react favorably to being told I'm ridiculous or ignorant if I don't accept everything he says .... or that I'm a mediocre player (which I certainly am, but that doesn't mean I should fork out all my money on his say so).  A polite response is always the best policy when dealing with customers or posting public comments.

Anyway, while I change my fiddle strings when I can hear or feel they are shot, I have never had a bow rehair. The reason is, I have inexpensive bows and it's just cheaper to buy a new one than rehair the old. This would not be my choice if I owned a really good bow perhaps, but it's the way it is now.

Edited by - echord on 09/21/2021 12:16:48

Sep 21, 2021 - 12:15:39 PM
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292 posts since 4/15/2019

Brian, I also have a fiddler man carbon bow and have been using it for 2 1/2 yrs. Still looks and sounds good to me. I change strings about twice a yr. Can't say I really notice a real difference in the sound. They just look cleaner. But that's just me. In my younger years I changed my guitar strings every other month or so. I love the sound of new guitar strings! Especially the old regular full strength ones! I know they were murder on guitar necks and tops!

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:23:55 PM

12496 posts since 9/23/2009

I use extremely low tension on my bow...maybe that's why it never wears out. Oh but anyway, Doug, that's really funny to think Doc Watson could make any instrument sound bad...lol. I've heard people say they play "Travis Picking," but as you say, it's nothing like Merle Travis...I think maybe they might mean as opposed to flatpicking...or something.

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:48:22 PM

558 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by echord:

When I take my car to a mechanic for an oil change and tire rotation, I expect him to hand me a bill along with a long list of all the things he thinks require (or will soon require) fixing. I expect and appreciate that list, but I have to decide if I need all the work now or if the garage wants to drum up more work (that's their business after all).  It's not always easy to determine, but I am the one who has to review my budget, decide what I can afford and assess  the way my car runs now.  Unless it's a safety issue, the buck stops with me indecision.

I would likely feel the same way if I took my fiddle to a luthier and was presented with a list of all its shortcomings. I'd appreciate the assessment and consider his opinion, but I probably would not react favorably to being told I'm ridiculous or ignorant if I don't accept everything he says .... or that I'm a mediocre player (which I certainly am, but that doesn't mean I should fork out all my money on his say so).  A polite response is always the best policy when dealing with customers or posting public comments.

Anyway, while I change my fiddle strings when I can hear or feel they are shot, I have never had a bow rehair. The reason is, I have inexpensive bows and it's just cheaper to buy a new one than rehair the old. This would not be my choice if I owned a really good bow perhaps, but it's the way it is now.


As the owner of your instrument, it's always up to you to decide what you're comfortable with and how you'll maintain it; that was never in question. The original question was about how often a bow ought to be rehaired. The average time between rehairs that shops and teachers recommend is based on centuries of experience and feedback from players. It's not just arbitrary. But the crucial point is that it depends on the type and amount of playing. If you want the best results, follow the guidelines.

When I talk to customers, I always provide a detailed estimate and explanation of everything I think should be done, and I'm clear about the difference between what's absolutely necessary and what I think would be ideal. I never expect anyone to blindly go along with everything, and I take great care to make sure each customer is fully on board before I pick up a tool.

About the use of the word "mediocre," you'll find that the person to whom I responded used the term to describe himself. I merely used his terminology. I've never heard him play anything, so I have to take his word about his ability. As to ignorance, it's simply a lack of knowledge and understanding of a subject. I find the comments made based on willful ignorance ridiculous,  not the people.

I have enjoyed reading comments from many of the people with whom I'm currently disagreeing, and I hope that I'll continue to enjoy them in the future. It's just that at the present, there's a lot of misinformation and character assassination in this thread, which should be a straightforward topic. Answering questions about maintenance isn't an elitist thing, just as an auto mechanic isn't an elitist for suggesting work. You may choose to follow his suggestions or to disregard them, but elitism has nothing to do with it unless the mechanic is trying to suggest he's part of a superior class and you are inferior. To be honest, it seems to me more elitist to just assume that luthiers are morally bankrupt and their work is something any DIYer could do, as if it's not a "real" profession. 

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:56:19 PM

1904 posts since 12/11/2008

DougD -- My high school girlfriend taught me double-thumb Travis picking in the mid 1960's, and it's been my musical mainstay ever since. From Cocaine Blues to Joan Baez to Donovan to Peter, Paul & Mary to Doc Watson to Dylan to Bert Jansch to Who Knows Who, it's what my fingers just want to do.

Sep 21, 2021 - 8:57:40 PM

2302 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
 

It's true that if you have limited bow technique you probably won't be as aware of the difference between a good rehair and a bad one, but that doesn't mean the difference is unimportant. 


This maybe the case in many instances especially with beginner violinists, but this does not apply to me. Even though I am a self taught fiddler I have been diligent in my approach to acquire a proficient technique of bow control. I had not rehaired my bows in decades because I believed the existing hair was adequate, but since I've read much on internet forums about the benefits of bow rehair I was very keen to experience any differences between the old hair and the rehaired bows. Recently I was in the market for a Coda Bow, I began with trialing the recommended 'Luma' for the fiddle music. This bow came no were near to matching the precision of my wood bows, but I was determined to own a carbon fiber bow so I began trialing all the Coda Bow models from the shop. Eventually I decided on the Marquise because of it's obvious superior quality. My point is; I could feel the subtle differences between these Coda Bows and thus I should be able to feel the difference between the old hair and the re-haired  bow, but I honestly did not feel any difference after the re-hair. If the story about Heifetz cutting the hairs of his bow prior to a re-hair is true then maybe he had difficulty in telling the difference from the old hair. And if that is so then maybe he also knew that the hairs could just be cleaned rather than re-haired without the fiddler realizing, which may have happened to me, I will never know, but I'll be taking to the bow with scissors next time. 

Sep 22, 2021 - 12:03:54 AM

558 posts since 3/1/2020

I believe you when you say you don’t notice a difference with a new rehair, buckhenry, but I consider that an unusual opinion. In my own experience, the difference is rather astonishing, especially when I’ve waited too long to change the hair. I’ve had a lot of customers bring bows to me after being unhappy with rehairs elsewhere. They can usually tell right away that their bows just don’t draw the same sound. It makes me very happy when a customer contacts me after their new rehair to say that the bow is either sounding the way it had before or, in some cases, better.

It’s fairly common for customers to have a rehair a couple weeks before a concert or orchestra or music school audition in order to have a little time to adjust to the new hair. The same goes for string changes.

Sep 22, 2021 - 1:26:04 AM

2302 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

I believe you when you say you don’t notice a difference with a new rehair, buckhenry, but I consider that an unusual opinion. In my own experience, the difference is rather astonishing, 


Ah well , this confirms my suspicion... The luthier did just a clean-the-hair job on my bows, I doubted that at first because he is one the most reputable luthiers in my city. Wont be going to him again, well, he retired anyway. 

Sep 22, 2021 - 6:26:56 AM
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Earworm

USA

235 posts since 1/30/2018

I'm just finding all this interesting. For one thing, who knew bow hair could ignite such passion? I've just always thought that rehairing a bow was something you only needed to do if there was some epic fail, or severe deterioration. I guess, based on what I've heard and seen, I just never thought it was an issue. It never occurred to me that it needed to be done on a regular schedule, like strings need. I'll check into it. Thanks for the info.

Sep 22, 2021 - 9:07:57 AM
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2465 posts since 10/22/2007

I've had to prime several new bows, and find it to be a p.i.a.. So much so, I'd weigh it as a con against rehairing. No mention of this, thus far.

BTW 2 pages and no mention of body chemistry or ph, when it comes to string life duration.

No mention of bow camber and how it relates to the laws of conservation of angular momentum, as it deals with rotational moment/torsional moment.

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