At first glance, a violin bow is a relatively simple tool. After all, it’s just a stick with horsehair, right? What could be so complicated about that?
There’s a lot more to it. Every component of the bow plays a crucial role in producing the precise melodies you’re playing. Among these components is the frog: a small part that often goes unnoticed.
Unsure what the frog is, where it’s located, or where that name comes from? We’ll explain the ins and outs of bow frogs, their purpose, and more.
What Is a Violin Bow Frog?
If you haven’t stopped to examine the anatomy of a violin bow in a while (or ever), learning about the frog is a great place to start and will help you become reacquainted with your bow.
When you look at a violin bow, you may notice a small, notched rectangle at one end opposite the tip and before the screw. This piece is called the frog (also known as the heel). Most stringed instruments’ bows, from violin to bass, have a frog on the end that you hold while playing, though your hand position may vary.
Why Do You Need a Frog on a Violin Bow?
So if you hold a bow near the frog, is the frog on a violin bow just a handle? Not quite. The frog is more complicated than it appears at first glance.
The frog houses the mechanism that attaches the horsehair to the bow and adjusts the tension of the hair. Additionally, the frog helps maintain a gap between the horsehair and the stick.
What Is the Frog on a Violin Bow Made Of?
Like the different materials of bows, frogs have been made of many combinations of materials and inlays throughout history. Most commonly, they are made of black tropical wood called ebony. Ebony is an extremely dense tonewood famous for its suitability for instrument construction.
However, ebony grows in tropical climates that are often over-harvested and can be unsustainable. Many modern bows, such as the CodaBow Escent, have frogs made with composite materials as an alternative to ebony.
Why Is the Frog on a Violin Bow Called a Frog?
No amphibians were involved in the making of your violin bow! There are several theories about the origin of the name “frog,” though none are proven definitively.
1. It’s named after a tool used for building bows.
Some theories state that the name “frog” is a nod to the word “frock,” which is a tool used by bow makers (also called archetiers) to shape the bow.
2. Horse anatomy inspired it.
On a horse, the frog is a small shock-absorbing area near the back of the hoof – much like the small piece towards the back of a bow.
3. It comes from the shape of the frog.
If viewed from the side, the frog of a bow looks a bit like a crouching amphibian.
How To Repair or Replace Violin Bow Frog
The frog can break like anything else on your instrument, especially if you drop your bow or bump it against something. Replacing the frog means your bow must also be rehaired. While it is possible to do it yourself, for most players, it is worth the cost to have repairs and rehairing performed by a shop.
The frog contains many small moving parts that maintain the tension of the hair and is best left to a bow repair professional. Contact the manufacturer of your bow or your local luthier for repair recommendations.
Exceptional Bows From Tip to Frog
CodaBow crafts every part of our violin bows with the utmost care, and the frog is no exception. Our XEBONY® frog solution uses organic fibers and resin to create a more durable, eco-friendly frog than natural ebony. And bows like our master-level Escent feature innovative designs to elevate your playing experience. Shop our bows online today and request an in-home trial to feel the CodaBow difference for yourself.