What’s that on your violin bow? It has loose hair! Loose hair is a common nuisance, but it may raise many questions, such as “Do I need to rehair my bow?” and “Am I doing something wrong?”.
While the horsehair used for violin bows is typically high quality and strong, it’s still prone to become loose or eventually break. Learn more about why violin bow hair becomes loose or breaks, how to fix it, and when your bow may need a rehair.
Why Do Violin Bows Get Loose Hairs?
Over time, the hair on a violin bow can become loose, and individual strands can break. This is a normal part of the life cycle of your bow’s hair. However, a few factors contribute to this and can also accelerate breakage:
Wear and Tear
Every time you play, you create friction between the hair on your bow and the strings of your violin. Over time this friction can cause the hairs on the bow to break down, eventually coming loose or breaking. Loose hair on a violin bow is often a simple matter of wear and tear and no cause for concern.
Excessive Tension on the Bow
Bow hairs are stretched tightly across the bow’s wooden frog and tip to create the necessary tension for playing. Over time, the repeated stress from playing can cause the hairs to stretch, weaken, and eventually loosen.
Rosin is applied to the bow hairs to provide friction against the strings, producing sound. However, excessive rosin buildup can create a sticky residue that weakens the grip of the hairs on the strings and the bow itself, leading to loosening.
Humidity and temperature can affect the horsehair’s elasticity and strength. Extreme conditions, like very low humidity, can make the hair more brittle and susceptible to breakage.
Accidental Bow Damage
Sometimes, accidental mishandling or impacts to the bow can lead to hair loosening and breakage. Bows are delicate and need to be handled carefully. Of course, accidents happen, and bows get dropped, bumped, and damaged, but minimizing these mishaps can help extend the life of the bow’s hair.
Improper Bow Care
Neglecting proper care and maintenance of the bow, such as not loosening the tension after playing or failing to clean excess rosin, can contribute to the degradation of the hair.
If you open your case and see hairs with jagged ends, or your strings break in the middle, this might be a sign of bow bugs! Yikes! Bow bugs, or mites, can be a silent menace to string players, wreaking havoc on bow hair and causing unexplained breakage. These tiny creatures are attracted to the keratin protein in hair, and as they feast, they weaken the strands and make them more prone to snapping.
How to Remove Loose Hairs on a Bow
Even if you handle your bow properly and take great care of it, it’s not uncommon to find that your violin bow has a few loose hairs. If so, you can trim those few broken or loose hairs and keep playing! Get a very sharp, clean pair of scissors, and then follow these tips to trim loose hairs on your bow.
Tip: Do not attempt to pull or yank the hair out, as this can loosen or damage the rest of the hair.
1. Stabilize the Bow
Place your bow on a solid surface like a table to ensure it doesn’t move while you work.
2. Separate the Broken or Loose Hairs
Carefully inspect your bow hair and identify the loose hairs.
3. Trim the Hairs
If you have broken hair, you can simply use the scissors to trim it off. Cut them closely at the frog first, then separate the hair from the rest. Cut again at the tip and remove the hair.
If you have loose hair, first cut it at the loose portion and then cut at the frog and tip as you would a broken hair.
When Loose Bow Hairs Mean It’s Time to Rehair
A bow typically has 150-170 hairs, so losing a few isn’t the end of the world – or a sign that your bow needs to be rehaired. After a fair amount of bow hair shedding, though, you may need to consider rehairing.
Even with proper care, the hair will eventually wear out due to its natural properties and the stresses of playing. When the hair becomes too worn or breaks, it needs to be replaced to maintain the bow’s performance and sound quality.
It may be time to rehair your bow if your bow:
- Won’t tighten anymore
- Makes a scratchy sound when you play
- Has hair breaking in the middle
- Has hair breaking to one side
- Has smelly or dirty hair
How frequently you rehair your bow varies depending on how often you play, the environment, and other factors, but these signs indicate that it may be time.
Expert Rehairing ar CodaBow
When you have a few loose hairs on your CodaBow, it’s easy to gently cut them off and get back to playing. But if your bow hair seems to be in a worse state, it’s likely time for a rehair. Complete a service request form today for expert rehairing service from the pros at CodaBow.