Breaking in a New Bow - Why is My Bow "Skating" on the Strings?

When you get your new bow, especially if you have a new bass (or new strings), you should be aware that it will take some time (and a bit of extra rosin-ing) to get the bow "up to speed."

Rosin is the "magic ingredient" that allows us to bow our instrument; a somewhat sticky catalyst that allows otherwise smooth, slick materials (bow hair and a bass string) to "grab" each other and inspire movement. A brand new bow has clean hair that’s never had rosin applied to it. This works against getting great results on a bow you just took out of the box; it takes time to "season" a bow, just like a brand new catcher's mitt needs to be "broken in" before it becomes great.

When you apply rosin to a bow, the friction generates heat. The heat melts the rosin, and the rosin melds itself to the bow hair. When you subsequently run the bow across the strings, the rosin re-heats, and a thin coat of it transfers to the strings. Moving forward, the adhesion between the rosin on the strings and the rosin on the bow allows you to set the strings into motion.

In the future, that "base coat" will be so good, that you might not need to grab a swipe or two of rosin before beginning to play, especially if you play often. But with a brand new bow that isn't there yet, you'll probably need to over-apply a bit until you get to that level, which takes time and persistent play; and before it becomes fully “seasoned” it will skate and fail to grip as well as it “should.”

So trust me – it will likely be a little frustrating at first, particularly if you're new to arco; but as you work with it, it will improve. Just use a swift, firm stroke as you’re applying the rosin to the bow, that should help generate the heat needed to more quickly “coat” the hair well and smoothly. Once you get over the hump, it'll all be easier from there!

We include our original tip sheet with every bow and cake of rosin we sell; additional tips for use, storage, and care will be included with your order!