Purchasing a new violin bow is a big deal! From the quality of the build to the material used to construct it, a violin bow is just as much a work of art as the instrument it is designed for — which makes the material of your bow hair even more important. 

The type of bow hair you use can significantly impact your playing experience, and doing your due diligence is an essential step in selecting the right bow for you. Here are some key questions and answers about violin bow hair to help guide your research.

Q: Why is horsehair used for violin bows?

A: Horsehair has been the go-to material for violin bow makers for centuries due to its unique qualities. Horsehair is durable, flexible, and has a natural ability to grip the strings thanks to tiny barb-like indents on each strand of hair. This added grip allows for greater control over dynamics and tone. Additionally, horsehair is porous and able to absorb rosin, an essential component for getting the best sound from the violin.

Q: Violin bow horsehair vs. synthetic, which is better?

A: While synthetic bow hair materials are available, horsehair remains the preferred choice for many violinists. Even good quality synthetic hair can lack the natural feel and grip of horsehair, leading to a less nuanced sound. However, synthetic hair can be a good option for beginners or those on a budget.

Q: What is the best violin bow hair?

A: The best violin bow hair depends on personal preference and the type of music you play. Generally, unbleached Mongolian horsehair is considered the gold standard for violin bows. These horses come from cold climates in China and typically produce thicker, stronger hair, which can be much more resilient and produce a warmer, vibrant tone when strung on a bow. 

Other types of horsehair, such as white or Siberian, can also be suitable depending on your needs.

high quality carbon fiber bows

Q: How is horsehair harvested for violin bows?

A: The type of horsehair used for violin bows comes from the horse’s tail due to its length and durability. The hair is collected through a process called “mane-pulling,” where the hair is carefully removed from the horse’s tail without causing pain or injury. 

CodaBows use three different grades of Mongolian horsehair on our carbon fiber bows, and each bow is designed to provide optimal sound quality no matter which type of grade is used.

Q: Can violin bow hair be cleaned?

A: Yes, it is possible to clean violin bow hair! Although it’s essential to be careful not to damage the hair in the process. For the best method to clean bow hair, use denatured alcohol to wipe the hair down with a soft cloth. Dry the bow hair completely, then apply a new layer of rosin to the horsehair. Avoid cleaning your bow hair too often, as cleaning it multiple times may cause it to lose its grip and your bow may need to be rehaired.

Q: Can you replace the hair on a violin bow?

A: Yes, the hair on a violin bow can be replaced when it becomes worn, damaged, or loses its grip. Rehairing your bow can be tedious and involves removing the old hair, preparing the bow for new hair, and attaching the new hair to the bow stick. It’s best to leave rehairing your bow to the professionals at CodaBow. Send your bow in for care and maintenance every 6–12 months depending on how much you play.

Choosing the Best Bow Material for You

At CodaBow, we pride ourselves on creating high-quality carbon fiber bows made with unbleached Mongolian horsehair. We understand the importance of selecting the right bow hair for your playing style as well as the right bow type. 

Are you still unsure of what bow would work best for you? Our support team is ready to talk to you about all of our bow options and help you pick the right one. If you’re just looking for a little bow maintenance, we offer professional rehairing services to ensure your bow is always in top condition, whether it’s a practice session, rehearsal, or full-blown concert. Find a reputable CodaBow dealer near you or complete a service request online and send your bow to us.

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