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How to Clean a Violin Bow

An Easy and Step-by-step Guide on How to Clean a Violin Bow

A violin bow is what gives a rhythm and a smooth sound to the instrument. But to make it slide smoothly on the strings, you need to maintain it well. This article comprises some tips on how to clean a violin bow. Read on...
Stephen Rampur
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
Violin Bow
Quite as important as the excellence of the instrument, is its care. - Carl Flesch
The violin is truly a wonderful instrument, which has been used for centuries to create music. Though it is a prominent member of the stringed instrument family, it is traditionally played with the help of a stick with extremely fine ribbons, called the violin bow. It is one instrument that is believed to improve in sound quality as it ages. So you can say that the older the violin is, the better sounding it would be.
Every instrument has to be taken care of, and it also holds true for the violin as well. If the instrument is not maintained properly, it may lead to serious violin repairs. The bow of the instrument is to be cleaned after every play to aid in clear sound quality. Before moving on to cleaning a bow, let us know about its characteristics.
The Violin Bow
A bow is a stick made up of wood that has a group of ribbons set somewhat parallel. The ribbons on the bow are meant to be slidden on the strings to produce sound. They are made out of white horsehair and range from 150 and 200 strands. Since the bow comes in direct contact with the strings, it has to be clean enough to produce a clear sound. Proper friction is also required between the hair and strings. The friction is maintained by rubbing resin over the hair. The hair is to be loosened before storing the instrument for next session, as too tight hair can warp the stick. Mentioned below are some tips on cleaning a bow.
Cleaning a Violin Bow
Experts suggest that you wipe off dust from the bow stick using a soft cotton cloth after every playing session. This will keep the violin bow like new and retain the varnish. Cleaning the bow is especially done to get rid of dust and dirt accumulated on the hair. Sometimes, to increase the grip on strings and quality of sound, players apply more than necessary resin on the hair. This creates a layer on the hair, adversely affecting the grip. Wiping the hair requires things such as denatured alcohol and a toothbrush. You can get this type of cleaning alcohol in hardware stores.
How to Clean a Violin Bow
Take an empty bowl and pour some amount of the denatured alcohol. You now need to take the bow, remove the button from the bottom by rotating it counterclockwise, and detach the frog from the stick. Here you need to be extremely careful with the frog and hair. Keep the frog in your hand, bearing in mind the exact position it was removed from.
This is because twisting and turning the frog can get the hair tangled, which is when only a professional can help you. Place it in the hand which was used to remove it, and do not let it change position. With the frog in one hand, use the other hand to maintain the tip of the other end on the border of the bowl. Dip all hair in the bowl, keep it soaked for a while, and then remove it. Squeeze the alcohol off the hair using hands, and use a paper towel to wipe it dry. After it's dry, join the frog to the stick, and install the button back.
In the other method, you can simply take off the hair carefully, take a toothbrush dipped in alcohol, and brush hair gently. Brush the hair particularly where there is a possible buildup of dirt. Dry the hair and join the frog again. Tighten the hair, apply resin, and try playing the bow on the violin strings. You will feel a difference in grip and the sound produced. In any condition, do not let denatured alcohol touch the stick. Keep the hair away from the stick's surface. This is to prevent the varnish from getting dull.
A regular wiping of the bow will help the hair retain its shine and grip on the strings. This will delay the need for rehairing the bow. Make sure you keep wooden sticks away from alcohol to avoid varnish removal during the cleaning procedure.