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 questions I get so frequently is “how tight should my bow hair be?”

Getting this right is super important, so in this post, we’re going to cover:

  1. Why bow hair tension matters
  2. How to find the right bow tension
  3. An extra tip for keeping your bow hair lasting longer

Why bow hair tension matters

Finding the right bow hair tension is really important for getting your bow responding well and getting good tone.

I find that most beginners tend to crank their bow too tight. They’ll crank it so tight that sometimes the stick almost parallel to the hair!

You might think that that helps with responsiveness, but actually it makes your bow less responsive.

The bow’s built to be springy and resonant, and when you crank it up like that, you kind of crush all the qualities that we want in.

How to find the right bow tension

Most people find that their bow works best when there is a bit of tension on the hair, so it’s not completely floppy, but not too much tension.

The way that I find works well for me is to tighten up the bow and have it so that I can put it on the string and that it almost touches the stick when I have my weight really into it, but not quite.

By the way, this will vary depending on if you play French bow or German bow, but not too much. I find that for German bow, you just test it out a little further in the stick and it’s the same sort of thing. You want it to come close to the stick and not touch it.

When I get it just right, there is a springiness to the bow. It. It’s almost like the hair kind of wraps around the string a little bit.

I’m not sure the physics behind it, but again, when tightening it too much, you might think that’s going to maybe help with getting weight into the stick, but I actually find that it feels more like you’re skating on the surface of the string.

When you’re really dialed in, I can just feel that hair wrapping around the string and kind of like bow and arrow pulling it back and letting it go.

How to keep your bow hair lasting longer

Loosen your bow when you are done playing!

I loosen mine to the point where I can see the hairs loosen up. I don’t need to loosen it to the point where the screw is coming outta the stick, but I almost get to that point.

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