The Structure of the Violin
[Experiment2]Using alternative materials for bow hair

We used a variety of materials as bow hair instead of horsehair.

Experiment steps

  1. We used five strips of wood as the bow stick.
  2. To these pieces of wood we attached a piece of cotton yarn, fishing line, wire, a 1-cm wide rubber band, and cellophane tape.
  3. Applied rosin to the cotton yarn, fishing wire, and wire, and attempted to play the violin.
Test image

Results of the experiment

Cotton yarn

Cotton yarn

Fishing line

Fishing line

Wire

Wire

Rubber band

Rubber band

Cellophane tape

Cellophane tape

*As this was an experiment, the recorded pitches differed from the correct notes.

It was very difficult to make these various materials flat and attach them tightly to the sticks. The cotton yarn would not make any sound at all without any rosin, and with rosin, it would only produce a thin, faint sound. The fishing line surprised us by producing an unexpectedly good tone when completely white with rosin. The rubber band produced a warm crackly sound like an old gramophone. The wire produced an unexpectedly decent tone. We put some dust on the adhesive side of the cellophane tape, and we made sure that it did not stick to the strings when we tested it, but the violin made a sound as if it were going to break, so we immediately stopped the experiment.

The rubber band would catch on strings and release, creating a long wave length, so the sound it made was a choppy, padded sound like a drum. The wave length created by normal bow hair is short, so the sound is smooth and continuous. The hair must have a somewhat uneven surface and durability, conditions that horsehair fulfills perfectly.