Bow Hairs

Hair from a violin, cello or double-bass bow is an alternative to using a bow on the harp. The advantage is that it is possible to prepare the harp in advance with the bow hairs and leave them in place without disturbing regular playing. The disadvantage is that the hairs can become tangled and that the resulting sound is then less stable than if a bow were used.

Production

The hairs from a string instrument bow are placed between two strings. It is possible to leave them hanging on the string at the soundboard without them disturbing the sound of the string. When the string is to be played with the hairs, the harpist grabs them, one end in each hand, and spans them horizontally to the string. The best place to bow the string is slightly below its middle. 

The bow hairs can be used on both of the strings between which the hairs are placed.

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Two strings bowed with bow hair.

Sound

The sound of strings bowed with string hairs is similar to strings bowed with a bow. However, it is possible to change the tension of the hairs and thereby create greater nuances of tone color and quality. For example, the player can change gradually from a loud scratching noise to a clear gamba-like tone. It is equally possible to move from the fundamental pitch of the string to an overtone by changing the pressure.

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Changing from pitch to noise.

Notation

A verbal explanation is required.

Range

While it is possible to bow all the strings of the harp with bow hairs, it is most effective in the middle and low registers.

Additional remarks

By preparing the harp with many sets of bow hairs, fast changes between bowed notes are possible.