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thirteenthsteph

Narrow bow hair width = Harsher sound?

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8 hours ago, Guido said:

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? 

My rehairer simply offers three grades of hair (from expensive to a bit more expensive :lol:), but I was not aware of any differences in the properties of hair, I just thought that he considered the more expensive options better. I will ask him, thanks for the tip.

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10 hours ago, thirteenthsteph said:

I did you mean? :D

I meant to imply that not all rehairers are masters of their trade, nor necessarily even good at all, so one does need to take to take some advice in consideration of the source .

I wouldn't consider it a challenge at all to put more or less hair in a bow, aside from the exceptions I have already described.

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Steph--it's common for rehairers to arrive at a hair count that makes the bow work the way the customer likes, then remember that from rehair to rehair, rather than just stuffing in the amount of hair the bow seems to be able to hold. There's also a "thing" where customers feel cheated if they don't get as much hair as possible, which is an unfortunate idea for them to have.

Think of a weight hanging from one rope; the rope will be a certain tightness. If you use ten ropes, each one will be more slack,. supporting less of the weight. A player will feel this as a lack of tension and sprightliness in the bow, more sluggish. So you can moderate how lively the bow feels. A bow usually has around 150 hairs, and 15 more or 15 less can radically change the feel without much visual change. If a rehairer isn't considering this aspect and doing something random, you might think the hair is "bad" or that your bow was ruined when you get it back and it feels "wrong".

That's why David is talking about all this. With a rehairer who's aware, this is an important adjustment, just like moving around a violin post.

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It's the hair, in my opinion. Depending where you play your instrument and how old you are you will be more or less aware of how much the hair matters. I could be wrong and anyway, I never received a good explanation, but somewhere around 1965-70 I noticed a change in the quality of the hair. Hair became coarser and noisier. Less hair, cleaner and quicker sound. More hair, thicker sound. Mr. Darnton calls it fatter but I think thicker describes it better.

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

I meant to imply that not all rehairers are masters of their trade, or necessarily even good at all...

That I am very aware of, I just make do with what is available...

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2 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

Steph--it's common for rehairers to arrive at a hair count that makes the bow work the way the customer likes, then remember that from rehair to rehair, rather than just stuffing in the amount of hair the bow seems to be able to hold. There's also a "thing" where customers feel cheated if they don't get as much hair as possible, which is an unfortunate idea for them to have.

Think of a weight hanging from one rope; the rope will be a certain tightness. If you use ten ropes, each one will be more slack,. supporting less of the weight. A player will feel this as a lack of tension and sprightliness in the bow, more sluggish. So you can moderate how lively the bow feels. A bow usually has around 150 hairs, and 15 more or 15 less can radically change the feel without much visual change. If a rehairer isn't considering this aspect and doing something random, you might think the hair is "bad" or that your bow was ruined when you get it back and it feels "wrong".

That's why David is talking about all this. With a rehairer who's aware, this is an important adjustment, just like moving around a violin post.

This is all very interesting. While I wouldn't trust this particular luthier to move around my soundpost (from experience), I think he does a pretty good job with rehairing, at least compared to others here. I will however think about which direction (less or more hair) might benefit my bow before bringing visiting again. 

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1 hour ago, Eugen Modri said:

...Hair became coarser and noisier. Less hair, cleaner and quicker sound. More hair, thicker sound. Mr. Darnton calls it fatter but I think thicker describes it better.

Fatter and thicker both work for me, but primarily I am looking for sweeter, rounder. While I understand less hair might be desirable for the more focused sound that travels well (because of the higher frequencies?), but the resulting hiss is quite noticeable to the listener as well as the player and I can't say that I will be playing in any large halls quite soon.  

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A side note: I have noticed that the crickets next to our house do a fine job of making me absolutely deaf to the hissing of my viola and here it sounds sweeter than ever. Perhaps I might be able to sneak in an orchestra of crickets in a jar in whichever hall I perform... :D

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This doesn't directly address the OP, but I do think the tension in individual hairs matters, especially for the hairs on the leading playing edge of the ribbon.

Too tense potentially could contribute a hardness of response and tone.  And a narrow ribbon with fewer total hairs carry to tension from thw stick could contribute to this.

But, I believe the more frequent problem is when the stick tension is carries by too many hairs.  The tension in individual hairs can be too lose then.  And the playing edge of the ribbon can seem unfocused.

 

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I didn't realize for quite a while (until an Asian teacher pointed this out to me)  that it's common for Asians to play on the flat pads of their fingers rather than the tips because they don't have the fatty fingertips we have (notice, for instance, that Yo-Yo Ma does this). The idea is that the softer, fat part of the finger gives a warmer tone quality than a bony tip. I think that something similar is going on with hair spread, that the wider hair footprint tends to subdue the higher frequencies and internal string harmonics which involve shorter portions of the string and are more fragile.

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7 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

I didn't realize for quite a while (until an Asian teacher pointed this out to me)  that it's common for Asians to play on the flat pads of their fingers rather than the tips because they don't have the fatty fingertips we have (notice, for instance, that Yo-Yo Ma does this). The idea is that the softer, fat part of the finger gives a warmer tone quality than a bony tip. I think that something similar is going on with hair spread, that the wider hair footprint tends to subdue the higher frequencies and internal string harmonics which involve shorter portions of the string and are more fragile.

Interesting.  So a perfect perfect synthetic bow hair might be only one strand wide - or just a few strands - but capable of exciting the whole string more precisely, exactly/better than horse hair might, to yield a very focused tone? Perhaps because only one part of the string was excited, and not a band of the string - the width of the hairs? or that might be because a wider bow damps some string excitation? That magical synthetic substance would also have perfect flexion, so it feels correct in the players' hands, and not be too elastic under increased load. Of course, no one has found this elixir of hair, though I am aware a few tried to find horse hair substitute, and most do not like the results. 

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2 hours ago, l33tplaya said:

Interesting.  So a perfect perfect synthetic bow hair might be only one strand wide - or just a few strands - but capable of exciting the whole string more precisely, exactly/better than horse hair might, to yield a very focused tone? Perhaps because only one part of the string was excited, and not a band of the string - the width of the hairs? or that might be because a wider bow damps some string excitation? That magical synthetic substance would also have perfect flexion, so it feels correct in the players' hands, and not be too elastic under increased load. Of course, no one has found this elixir of hair, though I am aware a few tried to find horse hair substitute, and most do not like the results. 

Joke,??

No. Because our culturally preferred sound demands a particular sort of random stream of multiple grips and slips on the string.  Any idealized single hair would give a too different and probably not a variable enough stream of grips and slips.

 

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2 hours ago, l33tplaya said:

Interesting.  So a perfect perfect synthetic bow hair might be only one strand wide - or just a few strands - but capable of exciting the whole string more precisely, exactly/better than horse hair might, to yield a very focused tone? Perhaps because only one part of the string was excited, and not a band of the string - the width of the hairs? or that might be because a wider bow damps some string excitation? That magical synthetic substance would also have perfect flexion, so it feels correct in the players' hands, and not be too elastic under increased load. Of course, no one has found this elixir of hair, though I am aware a few tried to find horse hair substitute, and most do not like the results. 

Only if you wanted the brightest possible simple sound. The OP seems to be asking for the opposite of what you are suggesting would be suggesting. But as with many things, the good answer is somewhere in the middle of the extremes.

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

Only if you wanted the brightest possible simple sound. The OP seems to be asking for the opposite of what you are suggesting would be suggesting. But as with many things, the good answer is somewhere in the middle of the extremes.

I don't think I am asking for the opposite of that per se, I just think that my bow is a bit too much on the bright side and would like to sweeten it a bit, bringing towards the middle. Wouldn't want it muddy and sluggish.

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On 8/16/2020 at 6:37 PM, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Tipping the bow so that only the narrow outer edge of the hair bundle contacts the string gives you some insight on the effect of the width of the hair contact has on tone tone. 

I didn't see any difference in the harmonic spectrums when the bowing was done with the bow tipped on its hair edge or flat on the strings.  I bowed an open E string with up and down full length bow strokes about one second long.  This was repeated ten times and the two groups (edge and flat) were analyzed with Audacity.  This test was also done on the open G string.

Perhaps the bow is tipped merely because it is easier to hold that way--the resulting music is better because of a more relaxed hold.

I recall seeing an experimental bow having the frog shaped with an angle such that the hair was flat on the string rather than on edge. Some bow maker believed there was an advantage of having more hair contact on the string.

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On 8/20/2020 at 3:29 PM, Marty Kasprzyk said:

I didn't see any difference in the harmonic spectrums when the bowing was done with the bow tipped on its hair edge or flat on the strings.  I bowed an open E string with up and down full length bow strokes about one second long.  This was repeated ten times and the two groups (edge and flat) were analyzed with Audacity.  This test was also done on the open G string.

Perhaps the bow is tipped merely because it is easier to hold that way--the resulting music is better because of a more relaxed hold.

I recall seeing an experimental bow having the frog shaped with an angle such that the hair was flat on the string rather than on edge. Some bow maker believed there was an advantage of having more hair contact on the string.

I must say, this is very surprising. Each manner of bowing sounds different in a very specific way. 

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If we summed all the times someone on this forum has said they didn't either hear something or see it in FFTs, so it didn't exist, we would be forced to conclude that violins emit no audible sound.

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6 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

I didn't see any difference in the harmonic spectrums when the bowing was done with the bow tipped on its hair edge or flat on the strings.  I bowed an open E string with up and down full length bow strokes about one second long.  This was repeated ten times and the two groups (edge and flat) were analyzed with Audacity.  This test was also done on the open G string.

Perhaps the bow is tipped merely because it is easier to hold that way--the resulting music is better because of a more relaxed hold.

I recall seeing an experimental bow having the frog shaped with an angle such that the hair was flat on the string rather than on edge. Some bow maker believed there was an advantage of having more hair contact on the string.

Players absolutely do work with the tilt of the bow.  This effects the number of hairs the player is setting to the string, the directness of strength into the string, the maximum strength that can be delivered into the string, potential and directness available to grip the string, and something more subtle about the 'fatness' versus 'stiffness' of the hair/string contact.

Many factors are manipulated in consort with actual playing.  The bow tracks, bounces, bites, and feels different tilted versus straightened up more.   

If a player wants a brighter sound, or a harder stiffer articlulation, or to play hard against the bridge, the player will often straighten the bow as part of reaching for these sorts of results.  If you want a more rounded, or a more floating, or warmer sound, a less direct initial articulation, or a smoother tracking of the stroke, the player will likely tilt a bit extra in reaching for these sorts of results.

But it's a complex thing.  

Science and art look at the same thing from very different views.

The scientist must dig down to simplified fundamentals to claim any inderstanding at all.  Then slowly the scientist can puzzle together an increasingly inclusive understanding of more complicated or subtle cases.  But the puzzle is always being extended and corrected with time, and is never completed.  The honest scientist knows the gaps in the puzzle work are blind spots, not 'places where I know there is nothing because nothing has yet been found.'

It's good and helpful for the scientist to say:  We found that under 'x' circumstances, and observing by 'y' method, 'x' does exist and happens.    We tested and can produce and reproduce this limited result under these limited circumstances.

It is not good to say that under 'x' conditions, using 'y' method of observation, we didn't find 'z'. Therefore, 'z' simply does not exist and isn't true.

This is false methodology.

 

 

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On 8/20/2020 at 1:39 PM, Michael Darnton said:

If we summed all the times someone on this forum has said they didn't either hear something or see it in FFTs, so it didn't exist, we would be forced to conclude that violins emit no audible sound.

That's very true.  

But the opposite is also true--people sometimes hear, see or believe in something that doesn't exist in the real world.

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On 8/18/2020 at 1:59 PM, Michael Darnton said:

I didn't realize for quite a while (until an Asian teacher pointed this out to me)  that it's common for Asians to play on the flat pads of their fingers rather than the tips because they don't have the fatty fingertips we have (notice, for instance, that Yo-Yo Ma does this). The idea is that the softer, fat part of the finger gives a warmer tone quality than a bony tip. ( ... )

There are quite a few players that play this way. It can be evolutionary in the developing of technique and is suggested to all my students. Playing near the tips might be important to develop precise placement of the finger, so for youngsters the use of a flatter finger is best for the 1st finger. The arching of the fingers also make a difference. With the development of better double stop technique, the flattening of the pad might be required to "squarely" hit a perfect 5th across the strings. But playing with flatter fingers when the student is still growing within fractional sizes may not be suggested, but at some point it helps to diversify their placement on the string. Playing on flatter pads is different on both cello/ bass and violin/ viola as the use requires more than the flattening of the finger. On violin/ viola, the player with a short -er -ish  pinky requires a greater twist in the upper arm, so the touch and contact also needs to be worked out, especially in the upper octaves.    

Tone is one reason to change. And a good one.

The range of vibrato is another. If the pad of the finger has a small radius, the range of motion is larger than one with a softer larger radius. More "sophisticated" use of vibrato might be achieved for some thinner fingered students by reducing the angle of finger placement. 

The third might be that some people who play with the tips develop nerve pain. It is not consistent when the pain occurs, otherwise it would be reasonably easy to adapt. It can be a sharp pain that randomly occurs surprising the player but may continue with greater frequency during that session. The pain develops for some over time with hours of practicing, while other develop it with age. I have seen it in tiny cellists ( who might have developed this from a super tight grip ) and in tall athletes. In the taller man's instance, his pads were too large - almost square - to get in to tighter, higher positions, though he could an octave harmonic in 1st position. He played on his finger tips and brought down the string with considerable force to the fingerboard in higher positions. In both instances, technique had to be changed in order to better accommodate the music. One tiny cellist changed to flatter pads relieving most of the pain but adapting took a great length of time and caused an immense amount of frustration. The adjustment made her professional life very difficult.

Many traditional piano students who switch to other instruments use their fingertips. But as they develop into more modern keyboard performance techniques, the introduction of flatter fingers can make for more subtle attacks and phrasing on many keyboard instruments. Some keyboard instruments have very sensitive mechanisms allowing for a much more varied strike. I do notice that this variety of flatter finger playing also crosses over to bowed instruments. 

There are other reasons, but it varies with a player's needs and personality as well as having an instructor willing to deal ( have empathy ) with the frustrations of forcing adaptation on students. My point here is that for some students, upgrading instruments and bows, requires some learning to adapt as it often becomes necessary ( at a given price point or availability. ) 

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On 8/18/2020 at 11:48 PM, David Beard said:

Joke,??

No. Because our culturally preferred sound demands a particular sort of random stream of multiple grips and slips on the string.  Any idealized single hair would give a too different and probably not a variable enough stream of grips and slips.

 

"Culturally preferred sound" is a good way to describe what is heard by many of us. But what is the idealized version of this? Each person, piece and performance ( and place ) might have an ideal sonic profile or need to best express the occasion but there are too many practical limitations.

A well-rehaired ribbon of modern hair, with decent rosin will sound different when playing with decent pressure and speed on the edge of the ribbon and with flat hair. More frequently, when playing on the edge of the ribbon, bow placement on the string makes the greatest tonal difference as well as the location of the bow, upper- mid- or lower- half.  A tight grip on the bow will reduce the overall tonal effect as well as bow that is too tight.

Bow placement has a great effect on the tone using flatter hair but the greater tonal shading varies by the degree of how aggressively the player activates the string near both edges of the ribbon. This shading is best heard when the bow is nearly perpendicular to the string. When the inside edge of the hair pulls or pushes at a slightly different location from the outside edge, there might be more noise, especially with a tight grip. But with a better bow, I believe the overtones are strengthen. 

Maestro Beard's comments are interesting because it is a bit different than my thoughts on the importance of the single hair hypothesis. I have dreamed of a single hair bow as a tool to better hear particular segments of an instrument's tone. I imagine that the single haired bow would allow for a player to test the dynamic range of the instrument without too much difficulty. But like many things, this is likely to more complicated than is dreamed up. It would only be one facet of the instrument's quality, but I have played too many bows that altered the sound of an instrument. 

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