Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bow Care 101

Written by Debra Krein, violinist at Fein Violins:

Your bow is HALF of your sound, so it needs just as much TLC as your instrument!

Bows are very fragile (except for good ol' carbon graphite bows), so you need to treat them like you would treat an infant. Hopefully, you aren't the type of person who would lean on an infant while standing, or use an infant to tap on your music stand - I think we've all seen people doing both of these things (and worse!) to their bows. These are, of course, the same people who seem so astonished when their bow breaks. I guess some people need to break their bow, before realizing that they are not made out of titanium.

However, you do not have to be one of these people! The following tips on how to take care of your bow will help prevent costly bow repairs.

1. Humidify!
Properly humidifying your instrument plays an essential part in caring for both the instrument itself AND your bow. Humidity levels affect not only the wood of your instrument & bow, but also the hair of your bow.
Therefore, even if you are playing with a trusty carbon graphite bow, you still need to take good care of it! Bow hair stretches & shrinks with humidity, so don't forget to use your dampit in your violin, viola, or cello, as this will keep your bow properly humidified.
2. Tighten to play, Loosen to put away
Because bow hair stretches and shrinks with humidity, you need to loosen it EVERY TIME you finish playing.
If you put your bow back in your case without loosening it first, the bow hair could shrink, causing the head to snap off. This may sound extreme, but even if the head doesn't snap off, forgetting to loosen your bow hair before putting it away could (and most likely, WILL) cause your bow to seriously warp. You can't properly play your instrument with a warped bow!
3. Rehairs!
It is very important to have your bow rehaired at least once a year, and even more frequently, depending on the amount of playing you do.
Bow hair gets worn out from playing, and if you lose too much bow hair, the uneven tension will eventually cause your bow to warp!
Bow hair stretches in the summer and shrinks in the winter, so spring & fall are the best times for you to get your bow rehaired. Of course, if your bow needs a rehair, and it doesn't happen to be spring or fall, you should still get your bow rehaired right away.
4. Moth balls in place, keep BUGS out your case!
Poorly attempted rhyming aside, this is a very important step in bow care, and one that is often neglected. And yes, I did say "bugs". The bugs we're talking about here are carpet beetle larvae, which LOVE to eat away at the hairs of your bow (OM NOM NOM, BOW HAIR!).
"Moth balls" fit my little ryhme better, but at Fein Violins, we actually more highly recommend using cedar balls (they don't smell quite as funky), but either one will do the job. All you need to do, is place a few of these little balls (made of cedar, hence "cedar balls") inside your case, to prevent the nasty carpet beetle larvae from entering your case and munching on your bow hair & case lining. 
Not sure if you have carpet beetle larvae? If your bow hair breaks somewhere in the middle, you may have carpet beetle larvae. They also leave their little buggy shells behind them as evidence. If you see either of these signs, thoroughly vacuum your case, inside and out, several days in a row, then use moth repellents to keep them away.
5. Perhaps most importantly: NEVER Leave Your Bow Where it Might Get Stepped on, Sat on, or Knocked to the Floor!
This seems obvious, right? But you'd be surprised to learn how many people neglect this very important (& easy!) step in caring for your precious bow.

This wraps up today's little lesson in bow care, but if you would like to read more on caring for your bow, click here for helpful information on our website, or visit www.FineViolins.com.

Of course, if you have any further questions about how to care for your bow, instrument, or if you have any other violin-, viola-, or cello-related question, you can contact your friendly violin shop, Fein Violins:

Email: mail@FeinViolins.com
Phone: 651-228-0783 OR 1-800-347-9172

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