It is very easy to think and talk about stringed instruments and fail to mention a very crucial counterpart: The Bow. Your bow requires maintenance and care just as your instrument does. Just as your strings wear out, the hairs of the bow wear out as well. Here are a few signs and solutions regarding the maintenance and rehairing of your bow. Just as with anything that is used on a consistent basis, bow hair wears out. Loss of sound quality and sound production are two key indicators of it being time to get your bow rehaired. There are also a few visual characteristics that are more easily noticed to indicate it is time for maintenance.
1. There is a large amount of hair missing from the bow.
Lack of hair is likely the most obvious indicator that your bow needs refreshing. The hairs toward the outer edges of the bow will tend to snap first. The thinning will travel inward and as this happens, your sound quality will reduce. Hairs snapping or falling from the bow are often caused by brittle/old hair or aggressive use and playing.
2. The hair of the bow is visibly dirty or isn't holding on to rosin.
A build up of dirt and oil from your hand is inevitable over time. Since the bow hair is generally white, it will become visible eventually. At this point, you will notice a decrease in sound production at the frog of the bow as rosin is not able to stick to the hair any longer. The more buildup on the hair, the less sound will be produced. Another common indication that you need a rehair is frequent rosining of the whole bow. This tells you the oil and dirt from day to day use has built up along the length of the bow.
3. The bow does not tighten further or the hair is obviously stretching.
Several issues arise when the hair is too long for the bow. All of these issues stem from the over-tightening of the bow and are very problematic. There is a small screw inside the frog of the bow that allows for the tightening and releasing of the bow hair tension. Once the hair has become too long, the screw will twist and twist until the mechanism strips out, breaks, or even warps the bow itself. At this point, not only do you need a rehair, but possibly a major bow repair. If you notice that your bow is particularly difficult to tighten, please seek assistance from a reputable bow repairmen.
A stringed instrument would be nothing without its bow. Just as you have made a sizeable investment in your instrument, you have likely also made a similar investment in your bow. Keeping an eye for the situations listed above will ensure that your investment is protected and your music making will continue to thrive.