Everything You Need to Know about Violin Bows

Everything You Need to Know about Violin Bows

Posted by KK Music Store

Written by the KK Music team

A violin without a bow is like a car without wheels. 

Sure, it seems like a simple item, but each component of the bow is crafted with intent and purpose. These separate parts help the others to achieve the ultimate in tone and sound.

Violin bows vary in terms of quality, stiffness, length and materials used, but the bow comes with the three fundamental parts: the bow stick, the bow hair ribbon, and the frog. Learning a bit about the primary parts that make up your bow will help you know what you’re playing with and how to choose the right bow for your playing needs. 

What is the violin bow stick? 

A violin bow stick is one of the most recognizable parts of the bow. Known as the backbone of the bow, it is a tensioned stick that determines the length of the bow and holds the bow hair ribbon and the frog. When you’re shopping for bows, you’ll find that the vast majority of the violin sticks on bows are made of pernambuco, brazilwood, or fiberglass. 

Though pernambuco is often used for the high-end, pricier violin bows, brazilwood is an excellent inexpensive and durable alternative for most beginner and mid-experience violinists. Some bow sticks are made of fiberglass or carbon fiber as well, which are adequate for quality sound. 

How you hold your bow can make the difference between a better technique or can hinder your play. 

What is bow hair and bow hair ribbon?  

Each violin bow uses between 160 and 180 individual hairs to form a ribbon that creates friction with the strings on the violin to produce music. 

For centuries, string musicians have relied on horsehair for bow hair. It has traditionally been the go-to choice for beginner and advanced violinists, but natural horsehair can be a bit persnickety when it comes to humidity, breakage, and premature wear. 

In the last 20 years, musical instrument technology has advanced tremendously. Today, there are plenty of new synthetic bow hairs that provide an excellent alternative to musicians opposed to using horse hair. 

What part does rosin play in a violin bow? 

Rosin is a hardened sap from pine trees that can be applied to bow hair before the violin is used to help the bow rub the strings. Basically, rosin helps the bow grip the strings and produce sound. Without rosin applied to the bow hair, there is no friction to grip the strings and the sound is practically inaudible. Many musicians rub resin on their bow hair as needed to keep their sound sharp.

What is the end of a bow called?

There’s a frog at the end of your bow? Sure is. Usually made of ebony or plastic with metal fittings, the frog holds the bow hair in place. It creates the necessary tension and tightness of the bow hair ribbon for the quality of play. The frog is a 16th century invention that transformed bows from medieval tools to an evolution of the bows we use today. The frog allows adjusting of the strings and applies enough pressure to play. 

What is the tip and the grip of a violin?

The tip is the upper edge of where the bow hair connects to the bowstick, and the grip is the rubber and metal part that sits at the base of the bow stick near the frog. 

Where can I get a quality violin bow?

Violin kits typically include one violin and bow, but there are high-quality, affordable kits that come with two bows featuring options for both children and adults. You can also check your local music stores or visit our site for a kit. 

What else do I need to know about a violin bow? 

Finding a good kit with a quality bow is critical, but when considering the fitting of your bow, make sure to account for stiffness and the length. A younger or less experienced player may want to choose a stiffer bow that will add a bit more control to keep the bow in place. Generally, the shorter the violin bow, the stiffer it tends to be. 

A few takeaways about violin bows 

  • All violin bows are not the same in terms of quality, stiffness, length or materials 
  • Every bow has three fundamental parts: the bow stick, the bow hair, and the frog
  • Materials for violin bow sticks include pernambuco, brazilwood or fiberglass
  • Bow hair can be made from horse hair or synthetics, both solid choices for beginner violin bows 
  • The end of a violin bow is called a frog, and it’s responsible for tightening and holding the bow hair ribbon
  • There are plenty of high-quality violin kits online that come with high-quality brazilwood and horsehair bows

Contributing Writer: Britney Jackson