Re-hair and recording
So I have a recording session coming up pretty soon, I'll be playing a lot of pizz but some arco. I have black hair on a German bow, have owned the bow for a few years and never re-haired it, but a good portion of the time I have owned it I've been playing mostly pizz. The past few months I've been getting back into arco and figured it was about time for a re-hair. Just wondering if I should wait until after the recording to re-hair since it takes a bit to "break in" the new hair. I also figured I could just clean up my current hair with a toothbrush prior to recording. I've only had black hair on this bow and am considering trying white hair or S&P. Is there a difference between white and black in relation to the string tension? Reason I ask is because I've noticed arco players like Edgar Meyer and Paul Kowert of the Punch Brothers always use white hair on their french bows, but they also play higher-tuned strings. I play regular orchestral tuning with black. Does the white hair grab better on higher-tuned strings and black grab better on lower-tuned strings? Does this make a difference? Thanks.
I don't think you need to worry about any "break in" time for new bow hair. I love a fresh rehair.
As for the color of the hair- that's rather a tough call. Prolly the best advice would be to stay with black if that's what you are using now and you like it...mho.
I opted for cinnamon hair on my last rehair- some might call it "chestnut". It's a really nice mid point between white and black.
What ever you decide, make sure that the person who rehairs your bow has nice, fresh hair- that makes a big difference.
Best of luck with your decision and your recording project!
thanks man! think I'm gonna see what cleaning it a bit does and then decide on the re-hair.
If you have owned the bow for a few years without a rehair, then there will be an adjustment period for sure. Usually a "break-in" period of a day or two before you find just the perfect amount of rosin happens, but a brand new rehair is going to feel a lot different than a bow with hair on it from years ago. While a lot of people like that feeling, it might be a little foreign to you.
I would suggest a rehair, as it sounds like you are long overdue for one. Just warning that there will be a "transition" period that isn't really breaking it in so much as getting used to fresh hair again.
As for hair colour, if you like black, stick with black. There are a ton of posts here about the benefits of different colours of hair, and there are a lot more options than just black, white, and Salt & Pepper. Use the search and do some reading. Ultimately it's up to you to make that decision, but "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind when people start exploring hair options.
Hair doesn't go off with storage. So if you haven't been playing on it that much, it's probably not that necessary to rehair it.
Thanks Mike! :)
Thanks guys. I guess I was thinking that it might take some adjusting to the new hair feel as well, and didn't want to throw any different elements into the mix right before recording if you feel me. Any thoughts on the hair grab to string tension ratio with different types of hair?
White hair: comes in many different grades. The "best" is Live Stallion hair, which as its name implies, comes from live stallions. This tends to be very fine, very white, and has the characteristics many people find desirable in white hair; smoother, brighter, etc. A step down has hair from both mares and stallions, is a little bit coarser, not as white in colour, but can still be really great hair, and have that "white sound"
Playing characteristics: White hair is known to be smoother sounding than black hair. The hair itself is less coarse. Some people find it "brighter" than black, some find it has less "attack" but more "finesse" and a lot of people prefer it for solo music because they feel it "sings" a little better than black. It is often more elastic than black hair, so while it might not be as "strong" if it is fresh it has a little more life in it. Delicate is a word that comes to mind.
Keep going, and you end up in coarser still whites, and then silver - silver/grey hair (which people often confuse for salt and pepper, which is an actual blend of white and black hair) then chestnut, then into mixes closer to, and finally black. The various shades in the middle tend to be a blend of characteristics, and it's entirely personal preference as to which end of the spectrum you want to lean towards.
Black hair: can be darker sounding. It is noticeably coarser than white hair, which is extremely apparent when you have Live Stallion and Black (before it has been put in a bow and covered in rosin) side by side. More attack and power are common descriptions. A lot of people prefer it for orchestra playing, where the desired sound is often quite different than solo playing. There's a little more of a "sizzle" or gritty sound to it, among other things.
With all that said, most shops carry the best white they can get their hands on, something a step down from that for some of their cheap bows, black for bassists, and occasionally a silver/grey or in really rare cases a good salt and pepper blend. Most players don't know that there are so many options, get confused/scared by choices, and just want white or black anyway.
Stay away from anything green or blue or purple (I had to do a rehair for a kid who wanted it, and it's absolutely horrible to work with) but there is a NATURAL rainbow of hair colours out there. I get hair from a supplier who has eight different options available, and I personally like some of the options in the middle as a compromise/"best of both worlds" between black and white.
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As for string tension, hair grab, tuning differences, string lengths, or any other variables that are out there, the short answer is this: All of the above options can be put into double bass, cello, viola, violin, gamba, viol, or any other bowed instrument bow. I have put black hair in violin bows, and white hair in bass bows. The Chestnut colours are really nice looking and sounding as well. It entirely comes down to personal preference, and what you perceive to be the benefits and drawbacks of the hair you chose to (not) use.
As for soloists and their preferences, they are just that. Edgar Meyer is famous for using a "horrible" bow that has been broken and repaired a couple of times, he apparently bought it for next to nothing etc. He likes it, but obviously doesn't lose a lot of sleep over it. Joel Quarrington uses black hair, and will tell you that's what he likes. He has tried various different colours and keeps going back to black. Both have very different sounds, use very different tunings, approach the bass in extremely different ways etc. To say that the colour of the hair on their bow makes them the bassists they are is kind of like saying a world renowned chef is entirely the sum of the colour of chef's jacket s/he decides to wear. That is but a small gear in a very complex machine.
So, what should you go with?
If you are happy with black hair, stick with black hair. Your bow is going to be considerably different after a rehair considering how long it has been, (and I disagree with Andrew that hair doesn't go off with storage, but I'm already writing a novel here) so I would stick with black for your first rehair. After that, evaluate your technique and tone, and see if there are things about it you would like to change. While technique can make a huge difference, different bows, rosin, strings, bow hair etc. can also make subtle changes. If some of the characteristics described above seem more desirable than others, then try a different colour of hair. It isn't going to be a silver bullet and magically you sound super smooth when you play white hair, but it does make a difference.
To clarify, a couple of the main shops in my area I've talked to about re-hairing have only offered the white, black, or S&P, which was why I was basically thinking in those terms. Maybe certain locales aren't as into the other varieties?
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