How often to rehair a bow is really a factor of the numbers of hours the hair has been used, the type of repertoire being played, and the number of exposures to climate changes. The grip of the hair and quality of sound deteriorate so gradually that it usually goes unperceived until the hair has been replaced. It amazes me how many players think that their instrument is out of adjustment or that they need new strings when all they really need is just a good rehair.
Many professionals and dedicated students who practice and rehearse daily have their bows rehaired every 3 to 6 months. It is particularly recommend this often if you have a fine bow as a rehair is not only a necessity to preserve the playing characteristics of a bow but to also preserve its condition and value. There are a number of things I do when rehairing a bow to ensure reliability and preservation like lubrication of the screw and eyelet or french polishing of the stick to protect it from excessive perspiration and rosin buildup.
For the casual player in the Midwest, it is recommend to rehair a bow every 6 to 8 months as the seasons stabilize and to not let it go over a year between rehairs. Check with your bowmaker if you will not be playing your bow and will just be storing it for several years.
There are a number of additional factors to consider when determining if your bow needs a rehair. If it has been 6 to 12 months since your last rehair and have noticed one of the following, it is definitely time to get a rehair:
- When you find yourself applying more and more rosin, whether consciously or subconsciously, the hair is completely worn out, has lost its grip, and needs to be replaced. If you are unsure, check the stick and fiddle, if they are covered in rosin, that is a sign that you are using an excessive amount of rosin.
- If you are breaking hairs or start to break hairs more frequently, chances are you are hitting the stick of the bow against the strings are you play. If you lose too much hair on one side, usually the playing side, you can start to wear away wood from the stick and even possibly cause your bow to warp. Read my article on how much to tighten the bow and its effect on tone if you find that you continually play against the stick.
- When the hair is stretched out, there will be a large gap between the grip and the nose of the frog when the bow is tightened to play. Not only does this throw off the ideal balance and playability of the bow, it weakens the hair and can lead to more breakage. It can also be cause for concern if the eyelet hits the back of the stick mortise.
- If the hair is too short and are unable to relax the tension fully. This can happen if the bow was rehaired tight in a humid climate and then transported to a dry climate or here in Michigan we can have unexpected and extreme weather changes as well. When I rehair bows, I’m always conscious of the weather, humidity, and/or travel plans of my customer.
- Lastly, whenever in doubt, show the bow to your local bowmaker to have it checked over as they can look for several signs of worn out hair or parts and can advise on the proper course of action.
When a bow is in for service, it is at its most vulnerable state and cannot stress the importance of finding a qualified and experienced technician. There are a number of techniques I utilize when rehairing a bow that ensures it looks and plays its best. I comb the hair in the correct direction, make sure there are no crossed hairs, lubricate all working parts, clean and french polish the stick, lightly buff all metal parts, precisely fit blocks and wedges, and use only high quality hair, just to list small number of them. Check out my services page for more information on my rehairs.