Music for a lifetime: Educating musicians to create a better world

Bow Maintenance

Bow hair wears out over time and needs to be replaced. Your bow hair is past its prime if you notice any of the following:

  • The bow doesn't grip the strings as easily as it used to, or produces a softer tone.
  • The bow hair is a darker color closer to the frog, due to a deposit of oil from your fingers.
  • The hair on your bow does not extend all the way across the metal ferrule that holds the hair onto the bow's frog. You may notice a number of broken hair stubs where the hair used to be.

Never touch the hair of your bow. You will leave a slick spot from oils on your fingers that will make it difficult both to produce a good sound and for rosin to stick to the hair. New bow hair should perform well for six months to a year, depending on how much you play and the quality of hair on the bow. We recommend that you have a violin shop or bow maker rehair your bow, to make sure that good quality hair is used, that it is placed evenly across the frog, that it is cut to the correct length, and that the correct amount of hair is used. Ask to have your bow checked for warps while it is being rehaired. The shop should be able to straighten any bad curves in the bow and make any other repairs, such as broken tips, or poorly fitting end screws.

The bow can be fragile, and the string player who has not broken the ivory tip of the bow or even broken off the head of a bow is rare. Do not wave your bow around, and avoid knocking the head of the bow against anything. Bows can be repaired, but the expense of repairing a broken head is often more than the value of the bow itself. Even with this repair, the value of the bow will never be the same as it was before it was damaged. The ivory tip is not simply decoration. It protects the head and should be repaired, if it is broken.