Narrow bow hair width = Harsher sound?


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Hello everyone, it's been a long time. 

A couple of years ago I bought a bow for my viola and recently I noticed that the ferrule (and the frog itself) is slightly narrower than most viola bows I've seen. It also generally seems to produce a harsher sound (higher frequencies, 'khhhhh' noise behind the notes) and I've had a pretty good rehairing, so I think that this narrowness might be the cause. 

Does anyone have a similar experience? I mean, I think it's pretty apparent when many hairs break and only a narrower band remains that the sound becomes thinner and harsher, but I also cannot say whether the stick itself is part of the cause.

Which brings me to my other thought: is it possible to replace the frog with a larger one and see how it functions? I suppose that the width at the tip is also a limiting factor, though. 

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4 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

...a wider ribbon gives a fatter sound...

I'm trying to imagine an experiment to test this hypothesis -- a frog with an adjustabe-width ferrule.  Perhaps one of those strange frogs with very wide ferrules so you could make the ribbon wider or narrower.  You would use the same stick, the same frog and the same hair.  The only variable would be ribbon width.  Has anyone done this?

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Spread the hair and hold it with tape? 

One way to test is with many bows over time to try to notice a general tendency, which is what I've done. 

I don't think this was originally my idea. . .  I can't remember where ir came from, but it might have been from a conversation with one of the John Norwood Lee bowmakers regarding the differences between Tourte (narrower) and Peccatte (wider). I think it's interesting that OP made this observation on her own.

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3 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

... I think it's interesting that OP made this observation on her own.

The OP is a he. :D The tape idea is interesting, I might try it myself. Regarding increasing the amount of hair inserted, I too imagine it would only (adversely) affect the feeling of my bow and not really the sound, as I doubt that more hairs would be in contact with the string, they would just form a thicker band. 

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Be very careful about adding extra hair in the frog. The amount needed is dictated by the mortise in the head, so if there’s a small mortise, more hair will be bad for the structure and likely the sound. It’s often said that less is more when rehairing. If the frog is causing issues and you’re sure nothing else can fix them, perhaps a replacement frog can be put on. A lot of bowmakers keep frogs around that they can use for similar purposes.

I agree that a bow with too little hair can be problematic, but a lot of that comes from the way the ribbon is distributed and the way the bow responds when hair on the playing side is gone. 

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11 hours ago, thirteenthsteph said:

A couple of years ago I bought a bow for my viola and recently I noticed that the ferrule (and the frog itself) is slightly narrower than most viola bows I've seen. It also generally seems to produce a harsher sound (higher frequencies, 'khhhhh' noise behind the notes) and I've had a pretty good rehairing, so I think that this narrowness might be the cause. 

I am not sure that I understand if it has always sounded like this or you're just noticing it now after a re-hair.

I have found that bows with fresh re-hairs often take some time to re-equilibrate with my preferred rosin (Andrea Rosin).

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1 hour ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

Be very careful about adding extra hair in the frog. The amount needed is dictated by the mortise in the head, so if there’s a small mortise, more hair will be bad for the structure and likely the sound.

No, the amount of hair needed is generally not dictated by the mortise in the head, although a small mortise in the head may establish a safe upper limit on some bows.

Personally, I have mostly preferred less hair in a bow, which I think tends toward a brighter and more focused sound and response, but not everyone's tastes and preferences are the same. And there are those who think that if a rehairer puts less hair in a bow, the rehairer is trying to save money, and cheating them somehow. :blink:

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9 minutes ago, jack london said:

David--- could you elaborate, please?

On which part?

On fitting more hair into the head: Shorten the plug, and more hair fits in front of it. Unless the mortise is to shallow to fit a larger knot, in which case one might cove the underside of the plug, to give the knot more room, while still maintaining  the plug depth much of the way around.

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56 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

I am not sure that I understand if it has always sounded like this or you're just noticing it now after a re-hair.

I have found that bows with fresh re-hairs often take some time to re-equilibrate with my preferred rosin (Andrea Rosin).

No, it's not due to a recent re-hair, it has always seemed harsh to me, but blamed it either on bad playing on my part or on the viola, whereas I only recently realised that with different bows my viola sounded much better. 

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12 minutes ago, thirteenthsteph said:

No, it's not due to a recent re-hair, it has always seemed harsh to me, but blamed it either on bad playing on my part or on the viola, whereas I only recently realised that with different bows my viola sounded much better. 

Then get a bow that better matches your viola. No point in trying to make this bow work for your viola. It may work well as-is for another viola. Bows are funny like that.

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1 minute ago, GeorgeH said:

Then get a bow that better matches your viola. No point in trying to make this bow work for your viola. It may work well as-is for another viola. Bows are funny like that.

Sure, that would be the best option, I was just thinking if there was a less costly way... After all what I was suggesting was completely reversible, but I understand that it would probably fail.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

On which part?

On fitting more hair into the head: Shorten the plug, and more hair fits in front of it. Unless the mortise is to shallow to fit a larger knot, in which case one might cove the underside of the plug, to give the knot more room, while still maintaining  the plug depth much of the way around.

I don’t use that approach for two reasons:

1) Putting more hair than what’s needed for a flat ribbon into the mortise will crowd it and can distort the ribbon. If the ribbon is compromised, the hair won’t track on the string as well. 

2) To allow for more hair in this method, you have to leave a bigger hair gap when making the plug. In theory the extra hair will keep the plug in place, but a gap that’s too big is one of the biggest causes of plug failure. I’ve found that being very exact with the size of the hair gap is important in getting the plug right for the head.

When I’m measuring out hair for a bow, I always look at the head mortise to determine whether I want to use more or less hair. Even with a smaller head mortise, a wide ferrule can still spread the hair out without it looking too thin, so I choose not to use the ferrule as my indicator for hair amount (unless the ferrule or frog mortise are noticeably different).

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Have you considered different types of hair? E.g. Mongolian vs Siberian. That might have a bigger effect than some of the points discussed above.

Maybe you had Mongolian hair before and your rehairer thought it would be a good idea to use the stronger Siberian hair for a viola bow? 

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On 8/16/2020 at 7:31 PM, The Violin Beautiful said:

1) Putting more hair than what’s needed for a flat ribbon into the mortise will crowd it and can distort the ribbon. If the ribbon is compromised, the hair won’t track on the string as well. 

2) To allow for more hair in this method, you have to leave a bigger hair gap when making the plug. In theory the extra hair will keep the plug in place, but a gap that’s too big is one of the biggest causes of plug failure. I’ve found that being very exact with the size of the hair gap is important in getting the plug right for the head.

Sounds like you've somehow managed to get some weird and unusual chit goin' on. :lol:

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