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Looking at various double bass bows, I noticed that some of them have black hair, like for instance:

enter image description here

I'm not sure if this happens to bows from other instruments as well, but is there any difference in the double bass bows with white hair from the bows with black hair?

Ι am referring to natural horse hair, not synthetic.

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

I'm assuming we are talking about natural horse hair and not synthetics.

From what I understand, the white hair is finer and preferred by violin and viola players. The black hair is the coarsest and strongest and used almost exclusively in double bass bows. It 'grabs' the string better and is said to give a grittier sound.

Here is an article from Strings Magazine on how different kinds of hair affect the feel and sound of a bow: How Different Hair Types Influence a Bow's Sound and Feel. This page on Johnson String Instrument's site is also adapted from a Strings article, and quite informative: From Horse to Bow.

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I've also known a few violin players who own horses, and save the tail hairs for their own bows. They like knowing that it came from their own horse, and it's rarely white. – Karen Jan 8 at 1:43
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Yep. Black hair is actually thicker than white hair (on average) and it does indeed grab the strings more. Many bassists here (in Vienna) prefer a "salt and pepper" hairing, mixed black and white. – Scott Wallace Mar 13 at 20:30

Bows are traditionally haired with the tail hair of horses (taken from the core, usually from males because their urination direction is more compatible with that goal). Horses come in different colors.

I haven't kept up with the times so I don't know about the progress of synthetics for that purpose. My guess would be that black combines less favorably with rosin, so I consider it likely that the black variant might be natural. Either that, or the uncolored synthetic versions looked so unnatural that the producer decided to rather go for black.

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