Asked by Anita from Mulberry TN.

  • The bow is too tight if it looks like an archery bow
  • Too loose if the bow hair touches the would when you play
  • Fiddlers keep it a little looser than classical players

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One response to “How do I know if I tightened the bow hair enough?

  1. One thing I learned maybe a million years ago is you can use a regular olde #2 yellow hexagonal pencil as a spacer gauge to set the hair tension. Tighten the bow hair some, then try to slide the pencil in between the stick and the hair so the pencil is perpendicular to the bow. Hold the pencil kinda loosely and if the pencil is loose in there between stick and hair, i.e. tries to slide/fall out, the hair is too tight. If the hair drags the pencil, it’s too loose. For me, I set the hair tension so the pencil juuuust baaaareeeely kinda drags the hair when you try to move the pencil along the hair and stick, i.e. if you hold the bow at maybe 45 degree angle, then almost let go of the pencil, it will maybe just try to start sliding. This way the hair tension is set exactly the same way, every time you play, and there’s no guessing. This method gives you enough tension as a really good starting point. Then you can go up and down from there as needed. One pencil width’s worth of tension works well for waltzes and airs. If you need more “mustard”, tighten the hair a little more. The pencil will now fall out because the hair is tighter. Note that your bow and hair may have a different shape than mine so it might a little different, but I was taught this along with nine gazillion other students 🙂 so it must be OK. This way you are always starting from the same place, every time. We call that ‘repeatability’. A Good Thing in fiddle playing. 🙂 Hope this helps!

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