How to Keep Your Bow in Top Playing Shape: A Comprehensive Guide

As a luthier, you know that taking care of your bow is essential to keep it in top playing shape. Here are some tips to help you maintain your bow:

Keep it safe: Be careful where you put your bow when you’re not playing. Even if you don’t intend to be gone long, put it somewhere it can’t fall, be knocked off, or spilled on. The best place is right in your case, in the bow holder. Some older cases have bow holders made of metal and covered in fabric. Beware of the wear and tear on the fabric of your violin bow, especially where it frequently rubs against the strings. Over time, this friction can cause the fabric to fray, exposing sharp edges that could potentially scratch or damage the edges of the bow’s frog. It’s important to regularly inspect this area to prevent any harm to your instrument.


Know when to tighten or loosen the hair: At a certain hair tension, the bow “comes to life.” It is responsive, the sound is good, and it just feels right. When it is too loose, the bow feels sluggish, too tight, skitters easily, and doesn’t make a full sound. Don’t tighten solely by visual cues. There should always be some daylight between hair and stick, but hair that is at playing tension can look very different on different bows depending on the inherent characteristics of each bow. Playing tension is one of those things you learn to feel by experience. Loosen the hair when you’re done playing or even just taking a break. Be cautious and avoid leaving your violin bow under tension if you step away, even for a short period. A bow that remains tightened is significantly more susceptible to breaking compared to one that is relaxed. Distractions can lead to forgetting to loosen the bow, increasing the risk of damage. Always remember to release the tension before setting your bow aside to ensure its longevity and prevent breakage.


Keep it clean: Wipe the excess rosin off your bow with a soft cloth. Rosin melds with the varnish and makes a mess, sometimes even leaving a blackish buildup that the rehairer may have to charge you extra to remove. If there is an excessive buildup of rosin on the bow hair, it can be gently wiped away using a clean cloth. This will help maintain optimal performance and prolong the life of the bow hair.

Know when you need a rehair: The hair on your bow will wear out over time. If you play regularly, you may need a rehair every six months to a year. If you play less often, you may be able to go longer between rehairs. If you observe that your bow isn’t performing as effectively as before, or if the hair appears dirty or frayed, these are clear indicators that it’s time to consider getting the bow rehaired. Regular maintenance ensures optimal responsiveness and sound quality from your instrument.

Check for wear: Inspect your bow regularly for signs of wear. Look for cracks, chips, or other damage to the stick, frog, and button. If you detect any damage to your bow, it’s advisable to promptly take it to a professional luthier for assessment and necessary repairs. This ensures that your bow is properly maintained and remains in optimal playing condition.

I hope these tips help you take care of your bow and keep it in top playing shape. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


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