How tight should double bass bow hair be?

Getting the right amount of bow hair tension is key to good sound and response on the bass.

With Jason Heath · San Francisco, CA

One of the most frequent inquiries that I receive is regarding the tightness of bow hair. The tension of the bow hair plays a critical role in producing the desired bow response and tone. In order to achieve the best possible sound, it is important to understand why proper bow hair tension is crucial.

In this post, we will delve deeper into the significance of bow hair tension, highlight the methods to find the ideal tension, and share with you a bonus tip that will help extend the longevity of your bow hair. By the time you finish reading this, you will have a better understanding of how to properly care for your bow hair and improve your playing experience.

Importance of Bow Hair Tension

The perfect bow hair tension is essential for a good response and tone. However, many beginners make the mistake of tightening their bow too much, almost to the point where the stick is parallel to the hair. This is counterproductive and makes the bow less responsive. The bow is designed to be springy and resonant, and over-tightening crushes these qualities.

How to Find the Right Bow Hair Tension

Most people find that a little bit of tension on the hair works best. The ideal tension for your bow will vary depending on whether you use French or German bow, but not by much. Here’s a neat trick: tighten the bow until it almost touches the stick when you have your weight into it but not quite. This creates a bow and arrow-like effect that pulls the string back and lets it go.

With optimal bow hair tightness, putting weight into the bow causes hair to depress toward the stick, but not to the point of touching it.

A Bonus Tip for Extending Bow Hair Life

A great way to extend the life of your bow hair is to loosen the bow when you finish playing. Loosen it to the point where you can see the hairs loosen up. This practice prevents the bow from becoming over-stressed, which can lead to damage and breakage.

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