1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

proper bow tension

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by arcobigj, Oct 1, 2004.

  1. arcobigj


    Sep 14, 2004
    Easley, SC
    Hello to all! Can anyone give me any advice on the proper tension to be placed on the bow? My sincerest appologies if this has been covered before, but I have not been able to find this information. Any help will be greatly appreciated!
  2. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    Bow hair tension is a very personal thing. Obviously, you need the hair somewhat taut to properly draw sound. Personally, I like mine to be relatively tight. It's where I draw the best sound. Really, it takes a lot of experimentation with rosin levels and hair tension for you to make this determination. Boy, talk about not answering a question directly.

    Okay, here is what it boils down to. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Different combinations of tension and rosin, until you can determine the best combination.
  3. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I followed the "keep the hair as loose as possible without letting the hair touch the stick while bowing" formula when I started. Now I like it tight... LOL

    As I've learn to control the bow and the various strokes, I don't really pay much attention to some optimally conceived tension with the bow anymore. I just turn the screw until I feel the hair tense up the stick and get to work in the manner that I tune the strings to pitch and stop worrying until I hear them out of tune.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    It really is a feel thing. I find it more difficult to start a string if the hair tension is too high.

    My teacher, a orch. player who is beginning his 50th -- yes that's 50th -- season, says that not only is it easier to bow with lower tension, but the re-hairs will last longer and you can use less rosin to get the sound.

    Again, it is a matter of preference. When I tighten up my bow, I usually test it by pressing the bow to the string. I should be able to bottom out the hair on the inside of the bow with slightly more bow pressure than I would ever use when playing.

    It may also depend on what you are trying to play. It may take a bit more tension to get a quality up-tempo spiccato while you may getter better tone on a slow, long-bowing passage with a little less. There's no rule that says it has to stay in the same place all the time. It is fairly common to see players tweak their bows in the pit from time to time.

    In terms of pure physics, with a given bow pressure, the higher the hair tension, the less hair you have on the string.
  5. kontrabass


    Sep 29, 2004
    I was taught recently to tighten the bow as much as possible (Note: Don't do this!) but after one try, I dont think I will ever, ever, ever recommend doing that. Like basses, bows need to "breath" too, so what I personally do is tighten the bow enough so that the hair isn't stiff, then loosen it a tiny bit. While this changes from bow to bow it covers the same basic concept.
    To reiterate what has already been stated, experiement. The forumla varies GREATLY (!) from bass to bass.

  6. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    i tighten just enough so i do not "bottom out" on loud passages.
  7. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    I'm with Don Z on this one. I always tighten just enough to be able to play fff without touching stick to string.

    Gary Karr mentioned that he likes to make is bow as tight as possible.
    Of course, he can afford to get a re-hair whenever he needs one. :)
    Bows can break, and overtightening works against the camber that many players prefer. But Gary made a good point of playing with loose, then tight, hair -and tighter definitely sounded better to me.

  8. arcobigj


    Sep 14, 2004
    Easley, SC
    Thanks for the input. I kind of figured that it was a feel thing, but I did not know if there was a standard rule for this. Again, many thanks!
  9. Quote:
    Johnny L: "Now I like it tight... LOL"

    Sorry I cannot resist, THATS WHAT SHE SAID!!!! XD

    But um anyway, Thanks Everybody for the helping info!
    Much appreciated. : )
    (please, forgive me if this post is not allowed >.>)
  10. I play with it pretty tight. I think it just depends on the player. Just be aware that you shouldn't be excessive with the tightening.
  11. standupbassman


    Jul 7, 2009
    The thing that ive always been taught is to tighten the bow so that if you hold it in your right hand and let it fall onto the back of your left hand the stick just barely touches the back of your hand.
    that probably wasn't worded the best but I hope you get the idea
  12. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Are you using a French or a German bow?
  13. endorka


    Oct 15, 2004
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Someone demonstrated to me the way of finding the point beyond which making the hair tighter will deliver substantially diminishing returns. This point is found by lightly pressing the bow on the A string, then gradually putting more pressure onto it until either the hair bottoms out on the bow, or you find the hair not bottoming out, but touching the E and D strings on either side. If it is the former, there will be some benefit to tightening the hair a bit more. If it is the latter, you may as well slacken the hair, because the pressure is already maxed out, and by slackening the hair you will get a bit more grip, as others have mentioned.

  14. + 1 for the last advice. With bow stationary I tighten the hair until at the middle of the bow I just touch three strings at once when the hair touches the stick. This is the maximum weight I will put on the bow when playing. I try note starts and tighten or slacken the tension until I get the control I want. Too tight and the bow skids and the sound is brighter. Too slack and the sound is fluffy and doesn't project. About right is when the elasticity of the bow, of the string and of your bow hold come together. Then playing is effortless.

    It helps to have a great bow and for most beginners I would say that the first equipment to upgrade is the bow, more important than the bass.


  15. that's an interesting idea, but it seem to me it would be different from one bass to the next depending on string spacing and shape of the board/bridge.

    i tighten it as little as possible to where i will bottom out only while playing ffff. i also know that that's about 5-6 turns from slack for my bow. experiment, keep track of how many turns and see if you get better results. i've never been told by teachers or experienced players that my bow is too slack, but teachers have told me when they thought it was too much tension.