All musical instruments require attention and maintenance. When it comes to the violin, however, it is easy to forget that the bow needs as much care as the instrument itself. After all, the way you treat your violin bows will affect the way the violin sounds. If too much resin builds up on the hairs, for example, the sound will come out wrong.
While it may not be as costly to repair or replace violin bows, why waste money when it’s easy to keep your violin bows in good working condition? Below are several tips on how to properly care for your violin bow.
1. Cleaning Your Bow
Chances are you’re already aware that you should regularly clean the area under where you bow because resin can build up. However, it’s just as equally important to clean the bow because of resin build up as well. To properly clean your bow, wipe it down with a dry cloth after every practice session.
2. Tightening and Loosening Your Bow
Once you’ve finished wiping the non-hair parts of the bow, make sure to loosen the hair. You should never put the bow into the case with the hair still taut because you can create unnecessary tension against the bow, which can lead to problems like warping. However, be careful not to make the bow so loose that the hairs snag on the case. When you take the bow out to use it, tighten the hairs again, making sure not to over-tighten it.
3. Broken Bow Hairs
If you notice that a few hairs are broken, don’t get overly concerned. Simply use scissors to cut the broken hairs near the frog. Do not pull on the hairs to remove them. If there are more than just a few hairs that are loose or broken, you may need to take the bow in to a technician to be re-haired.
4. Rosining Your Bow
Typically, violin players rosin their bows as soon as they finish tightening the hairs. Remember, the hairs have to be stiff when applying the rosin. Most players begin at the frog using fast strokes and work their way up the bow. Once they have reached the opposite end, they use several long strokes to evenly distribute the resin along the length of the bow. Make sure to store the rosin in its case or a cloth when you’re done.
5. Handling the Bow
Avoid treating the bow like a tool. The best rule to follow is this: if you wouldn’t use your violin to do something, then don’t use the bow either. You wouldn’t use your violin to turn a light on or off. Nor would you pretend to sword fight with the actual violin. Bows are fragile, and should be treated with as much caution as the violin itself.
Proper bow handling and maintenance will ensure that you can have the best sound possible. Your violin teacher can offer you other tips on how to manage your violin bows if you aren’t sure that you’re doing it correctly.
Photo by D. Mitchell Photography