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A closer look at the violin bow

Abstract picture of a violin bow

The bow is a very important part of the violin, and can cost a great deal of money

Pizzicato violin

TO PLAY THE VIOLIN you can either pluck the strings, which is called pizzicato...

Bowed violin

...or much more commonly you draw a bow across the strings to produce a sound.

The end of a violin bow known as the frog

The bow is a very important part of the violin, and can cost a great deal of money. In fact a good bow is almost as important to a violin-player as a good violin.

At one end of the bow, where you hold it, is the 'frog'. As well as being the handle, the frog clamps the bow hairs at this end and has a little metal adjuster which you twist to tighten and loosen them. On the bow in this picture you can also see a piece of rubber around the bow which is used to protect the violin-player's thumb.

Quote

There are very many different effects you can get with a bow. The most useful one is the long singing tone which string instruments are renowned for – and you don’t have to take a breath, so you can go on forever

Miranda Dale

The hairs of a violin bow

The hairs are generally made of horse hair – from the horse’s tail – although nowadays, you can also get synthetic bow hairs. There are about 150 hairs on a bow, although they tend to snap every now and then. After a particularly energetic violin performance you can often see a few broken hairs straggling from the end of the violin-player's bow. The actual ‘bow’ bit of the bow is generally made of pernambuco wood from Brazil or ebony from Africa, although you can buy bows made of other materials now, such as fibreglass.

The tip of a violin bow

The pointed tip at the opposite end of the bow to the frog holds the hairs in place at that end. The tip end is much lighter than the frog end so that there isn’t too much weight on the violin string.

The bow is capable of achieving many effects on the violin.

Miranda Dale of Britten Sinfonia explains and demonstrates a few.

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