I always encourage my customers to carefully check over their bow when it is dropped off and picked up after service. Most of the time it is the player, but often enough a parent will pick up the bow. When I ask the parent to check over the bow, the most common reply is that they don’t know what to check for. It may seem like it’s something that our children and/or teachers should keep tabs on, but the responsibility really relies on us as parents. Checking our student’s equipment on a regular basis to ensure it is in good working condition, is a necessary part of setting our child up for success. The following list covers the bare minimum of what should be in good working order for a parent to check.
Keep in mind that what I have listed here is what is typical, and depending on the particular bow there may be some variations. It’s always good to ask questions if something seems out of place and most shops will happily explain more details about the work. Check out the accompanying video at the end of the post for additional information.
At the head, there is a small wooden block that the hair wraps around and holds a small knot at the end of the hair in place. We want to check that the block is seated well and that the ribbon of hair spreads the entire width of the mortice. Click the images to enlarge.
Running your eyes and hand down the stick you can see and feel if anything is out of place. We just want to make sure that it is clean and in one piece. Also check the brand to make sure that it is the correct bow being dropped off or picked up.
There is a block as well inside the frog, but is not visible. What is visible holding the hair at the metal ferrule is a small wooden wedge. This is designed to hold an even ribbon of hair across the entire width of the ferrule. We should check that there is a nice flat ribbon of hair entering the frog at the ferrule, spread across the entire width. We shouldn’t see any gaps at the ends or an uneven amount of hair bunched together. Click the images to enlarge.
We want to check a just few things here:
Length – When the bow is completely loose, with a violin/viola bow the hair should just about touch the stick, a cello bow will have a bit more space.
Tension – We want to see a nice tidy ribbon of hair with even tension, make sure there are no hairs more slack than others.
Tightening/Loosening – Turning the button clockwise should easily bring the hair up evenly and when loosened the frog and hair return to its original positions of an even ribbon of hair.
Click the image to enlarge.
Check out my article on How Often to Rehair a Bow for a typical maintenance schedule. Just taking a few moments to look over the equipment, is enough to see if anything is out of place. If something doesn’t look neat or tidy, bring it to the shops attention immediately. Feel free to ask as many questions as you like as most shops are happy to share this information.