Tone differences between bows?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by tornadobass, Mar 19, 2006.

  1. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    I have two French-style an older German-made bow, the other a recent import from Shar. The older one has black hair, the newer one has white.

    The difference in tone between the two is surprising.

    The older bow with black hair is very dark sounding with little definition of the note edge.

    The newer bow with white hair is very nicely defined and clear.

    The newer one with white hair has a larger tip, is a little lighter and thinner, a bit more flexible.

    The older one with black hair has a somewhat stouter stick and less flexibility.

    How much of this has to do with the hair and how much with the bow itself?
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The hair matters a bit but it's like a microphone in a way. It will only sound as good as the voice going into it.

    I have two GREAT Bows now and one real good one and a few just good ones. Each has it's own tone but play differently as well. One of my good Bows was rehaired awhile ago and I noticed it sounded a little fuller. It didn't make it better than the next bow up but made that particular bow better. My real good bow (#3 for me) was also just rehaired and I think it sounded better before. I can head and feel the difference with more hair but the 'Salt & Pepper' hair he used is the last time for me. I just don't like that hair!

    I have a Bultitude Bow (# 1 or 2 for me) with Black hair tha came from London that way. I know when it is rehaired with white hair it will sound a little smoother but the stick will still be the same. Until the bow needs new hair, I will use it as-is.

    It's like Basses and strings in a way. You can improve a bass with better suited strings a bit but you can't turn a plywood Bass into an old Italian or English Bass.

    Better is better within itself sometimes.
  3. kraid


    Apr 11, 2003
    I've talked to a few bow makers about black hair because I was curious about it at the end of this summer. The general consensus was that black hair is lower quality and does not draw the same amount of tone as white hair because of its gritty qualities. I'm not really sure about the difference in the same bow. All of the bows I've tried with black hair and some black mixed in with white just didn't seem to grip the string the same way that white hair does, but it's so hard to say when they're all different bows. It's sort of like saying that flat blacks project better when there's no way to play the same bass with a flat back and a round back against itself.

    Also, something I found interesting is what Ron Forrester, who does work on my bow, said to me about black hair. He said that it appears louder from the player's standpoint, but does not project outwards. It doesn't need to be replaced as often as white hair, however. Lawrence Hurst told me in a lesson once that he thinks that a bow should be rehaired every 3 months. I believe that Gary Karr wrote something on his website about black hair lasting two to three times longer than white hair.
  4. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    I'd agree that the black hair bow sounds louder from the playing position than the white hair bow. It also seems that white hair might sound clearer and play easier. At one time, I'd heard black was coarser and would play easier.