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Yet another bow hair thread as a public service announcement.

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Berniez40, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. I realize that many people ask this question, and it seems to show up on a regular basis. There are many posts that are well meaning, but sadly full of disinformation. Rather than take someone's second hand information that was learned from a friend of a friend etc.... I thought I would post this reply from a bow maker who is renowned for his quality of work, and knowledge of bows...including bass bows. (Sadly bass bows are often just an after thought as far as some violin bow makers are concerned.) This was actual research he conducted based on scientific fact rather than guesstimation. Inr esponse to a violinist column printed a few years back Joshua Henry stated.

    i Brian (and others). The question about the differences in horsehair is something that comes up often for me. John Greenwood had a great response above (Good to see you again on here John!).

    I've linked HERE to a research paper that was published in 2007 that measures, describes, and has electron photographs of the different types of hair that is commonly used in bows.

    I've copied below a response that I wrote awhile back to a similar question that was posed on another forum.

    First off, bowhair should never, never, never be bleached. Bleaching does
    weaken the hair, and changes the feel (and probably the sound as well) as
    the bow is drawn across the strings. Usually, only cheap, unsorted hair gets
    bleached to make it whiter to resemble better, more expensive hair. I don't
    know of any reputable shop or bowmaker that uses bleached hair. Do not
    confuse (non-bleach) color-dyed hair with bleached hair. Color dying does
    raise the texture slightly, but usually does not weaken it.

    Better grades of horsehair are not more expensive because the hair is whiter
    with less variation in color change from end-to-end (known as color drift).
    Better hair (more expensive to purchase) will always be quality sorted,
    regardless of the source. The reason better hair is more expensive relates
    to the processing of the hair itself, a process known as double-drawing the
    hair. This process involves pulling single strands of bowhair through human
    hands to feel the thickness, quality, strength, etc. of each hair to
    eliminate bad hairs that are kinky, zippy, have knots, splits, deposits of
    crud, etc. Because it is all human labor, this is a very effective process
    to produce consistent, high-quality hair, but adds considerable expense.
    Lesser grades of hair are only sorted "en masse" to eliminate only the most
    obviously bad hairs.

    Horsehair for bows comes from several places in the world-most notably
    Mongolia, Siberia, Argentina, and Australia. Opinions from players and
    bowmakers differ as to which source is the best, but hair from Mongolia is
    probably the most popular. My personal preference (and that of many of my
    clients) is Mongolian Stallion hair.
    * Mongolian hair tends to be slightly finer than hair from other
    * Siberian hair tends to be slightly more elastic (slightly more
    stretchy). This additional elasticity can be good for climates that have
    extremely dry humidity which causes hair to contract more.
    * Canadian hair tends to be slightly more gray in color, slightly
    thicker, and more elastic than Siberian hair.
    * Argentinian hair tends to be courser (slightly thicker) and is good
    for cellists, bassists, fiddlers.
    * Stallion hair is often preferred because it is whiter than mare
    * Mare hair is not quite as strong as stallion and has more color
    drift (from white to tan) due to staining from urine. This does not mean
    that it is inferior. The urine stains very slightly raise the texture of the
    hair making it more aggressive than stallion hair.
    * Black hair is the thickest and strongest of all bow hair, but tends
    to get a "grittier" sound to it.
    * The sound bow hair makes is only very subtly a result of the source,
    but much more influenced by the choice and quantity of rosin.

    Josh Henry, Bow Maker & Restorer
    Lee Moses likes this.
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    This is the Bass Guitar side of the forum, you want the Upright Bass section, mods will move for you. :)
  3. Thanks!
    bholder likes this.
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    And "Mongolian Stallion Hair" would be a great band name! :D

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