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Tan/Brown Bow Hair

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by SteveFreides, Feb 2, 2014.

  1. I got my first bow rehaired with tan/brown hair. It was done by Kieran at AES in Brewster, NY. The bow is a Fendt originally imported by Ken Smith.

    I am very pleased with it. Somehow, it's in between black and white hair but it's not the same as playing salt-and-pepper. And it's not just that I'm pleased with it - everyone who has tried it has a "wow, listen to that" kind of reaction. I'd describe the sound as lively, almost raucous - can't think of a better way to explain it.

    Comments from other appreciated - anyone else like playing tan/brown hair and care to offer their perspective on what it may be best suited, and not suited, for?


  2. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I have used what is often referred to as "Chestnut". I also really like it. It is one of several options between white and black, and tends to be a little more towards black in my experience. I think that is what appeals to me so much about Chestnut and Fiddlers and some of the other types of hair; they are in the middle of the spectrum.

    It is a really great "everything" hair. I know a lot of players that prefer black for orchestra work and white for chamber music/solo repertoire. If you don't have two bows, or if like myself you have very different bows (a Prochownik Pernambuco, a Max Kasper Snakewood, an Ipe Brough) then you don't have the luxury of switching to your preferred hair every time you want to use that bow for one purpose or another. If you decide on something in the middle, you can be happy with it for a variety of purposes.

    There are some players that really don't like them as well. Instead of a "best of both worlds" they see "worst of both worlds". Usually this comes from a die-hard black or white fan, who wishes there was a way their black could be even "blacker" with more punch/edge/growl/sizzle/whatever you want to associate with black hair, or a white fan that wants more singing/smooth/silky/delicate "whiter" hair.

    So I wouldn't say it is for everybody. If you really love black and hate what white feels like or the other way around, I would not suggest you as a good candidate for some middle ground. If you like Salt and Pepper, if you get black for some rehairs and white for others, or you don't want to go "all the way" to the other camp, there are definitely options in the middle. Next time you're in for a rehair, ask if your shop does carry some of the other options. Bow makers tend to love talking about stuff like this because they never get a chance to with their "normal" friends. Tell them what you like about your current colour or what you're looking for, and they might have something that's a better fit for you.
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  4. Mike, one of my concerns is that the lack of popularity of Chestnut would mean it would be hard to find and/or if you find it, it will be old on the luthier's shelf because of the low demand.

  5. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    A very valid concern, and one that a lot of shops/bow makers take into account. Because it is a fairly rare request, a lot of shops don't carry it. Typically those that do have a fairly religious following when it comes to rehairs, and you would be surprised how many rehairs they do in a day. They also have a pretty good idea how many customers like it, and adapt their supply accordingly. Just like any other business that has goods with a shelf life, you are able to predict your market fairly accurately.

    There likely are a couple of shops out there that have some "sitting on a shelf" or "in the back somewhere" but I would say this is the exception to the norm. It tends to be a "we have it and go through it, or we don't keep it in stock" situation. If a shop has a Chestnut (or Silver, or Salt and Pepper, or other non-black and white) "following" then the shop often advertises it, or asks what colour you want. A few shops even keep various colours of dyed hair in stock if they deal with a lot of kids who really like it. Please don't get Purple hair in your bow, it's horrible stuff.

    Rehairs pay the rent/overheard for most shops. That isn't an exaggeration in the slightest. The material costs are relatively low, they are quick as far as repairs go, they don't take up a lot of space, and you get a lot of them. In that sense, if a shop sends out a bad rehair, be it poorly done or bad hair and word gets around, that can really hurt the business. For that reason alone, they tend to be as careful as they can to do the best work possible, and to use good hair.
  6. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
  7. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    I recently had a rehair done by Donald Cohen- http://www.cohenbows.com/

    I can't remember if he called it chestnut or cinnamon. It is very popular in his shop- he was sold out of it at the time of my previous rehair (went with black).

    I am very pleased with this hair! I am sticking with soft + oak rosin but I recently switched back to Spirocore Mitteln from Flex 92's (with a brief stint of Spiro Stark)- couldn't be happier!

  8. All very interesting, folks. Chesnut bow hair is one of those things, before I started playing DB and even a few years in, I didn't know even existed.

  9. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    There are a lot of things I still haven't discovered about bows even though I have spent several years studying them. I know a bow maker that is able to identify the maker of a bow by the shapes of the head, details in the frog, and with many of the French master bow makers she can determine the age of the bow to within a year. Things like "this bow was made by V while he was an apprentice of W in X's shop that was heavily influenced by Y, even though Z is the name stamped on the stick." Some of that is really knowing your history, having years of experience working with thousands of bows, fantastic teachers, and a good eye, but the accuracy of it is basically witchcraft. And she made a passing comment about not writing appraisal papers, because she feels there are more qualified people that should do that.

    It is impossible to be deeply knowledgeable about all aspects of bass, and I think knowledge of gear is one of those things that a lot of bassists aren't concerned with. My own ignorance was what drove me to learn about bows, and is one of the reasons why I'm still fascinated with them. Years later, I still feel like I'm just scratching the surface. I'm not saying ignorance is bliss or that we should all become bow makers, but that my own journey took me towards bows. That was when I discovered that there are more options than black and white, and the rabbit hole goes much deeper.

    The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. Or something like that.

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