Home For Passionate Violin Learners of all Levels
Complete violin learning platform made easy through:
    - Step-by-step lesson modules
    - Instant access to all content
    - All music and resources provided. No need to buy books
    - Private feedback channel with Beth Blackerby

Why Choose Violin Lab
Become a Member
You must be a member to respond to discussions.
Discussion

MY ZARELON SYNTHETIC HAIR EXPERIMENT

Hopefully this post won't offend the traditionalists and/or purists in the audience... but I had a problem and modern technology solved it. So hopefully you'll understand. Disclaimer: I have no relationship to the Zarelon supplier (Zaret and Sons).

I have humidity issues where I live, so the normal horse hair on my bows shrink and grow something awful as the seasons go by (especially in the dry winter). Relative humidity can go from 55% in the summer to 20% inside in the winter because of the dry furnace air. Even with a humidifier in the room, and in my bow case, the hair on my CodaBow GX got so short that the bow was almost at playing tension with the button totally loose.

So I decided to try out some Zarelon synthetic hair, in "Light (0.19 mm)" and "Light/Soloist (0.27 mm)" grades, on two identical bows. This posting is the result of my experiment.

Zarelon hair looks like clear fishing line. (Indeed, I've read about people using various grades of fishing line for their bows...)

When I rehaired with Z hair, the bow guy dusted the Z hair with some kind of "base rosin" powder, which is pretty standard practice for the shop. Apparently the function of the base powder layer is to make it a lot easier to give fresh hair the first coat of your favorite rosin. I found this to be true - previously it took me 5 or 10 minutes, and several rounds of rosin applications to get a nice even coat on the fresh horsehair on my bows. With the base coat of powder, the first application was 95% enough, done in a couple of minutes, no hassles. Then a touch up for missed spots, and the bows were good to go. So I'm a believer in whatever that base rosin powder coat was, since it definitely worked for me on Zarelon hair.

--

I’ve had several days experience with the two Zarelon hair bows now, and so feel like I can make a comment on things. The two Z hair grades were “Light (0.19 mm) and “Light Soloist (0.27 mm)”, mounted on identical carbon fibre CodaBow bows. I also compared them against normal horse hair (0.19 mm) mounted on a nice JT Jet Deluxe carbon fibre bow.

On smoothness in feel and sound:

I think the Zarelon Light (0.19 mm) hair had the smoothest feel and sound. Not by much (requires careful listening and feeling), but I always came up with the same answer. (Of course your mileage may vary...)

The normal horse hair was next, not quite so smooth in either feel or sound.

And the Zarelon Light Soloist (0.27 mm) hair was the least smooth by feel or sound to me, but I thought it was very, very close to normal horse hair – so close that it’s really hard to tell the difference.

It seems to me that they all bite about the same with my gentle playing style, but I can easily believe the Z hair Soloist 0.27 would have more bite than the others in more aggressive playing. It just feels like stronger, scratchier? (more bite?) hair, just by a little bit.

On “big sound”:

It’s easy for me to believe the Z hair Soloist 0.27 mm hair would “win” in this category, since it’s just stronger hair, has a touch more bite because of the larger strings, but probably requires a bit more aggressive playing style (than my usual gentle style) to really come into its own. When I learn to play more aggressively on more aggressive songs, maybe I'll have more to say on the topic.

On doing it again:

I would easily buy Z hair again (but I won’t have to, since it lasts forever… :-) 

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to normal horse hair again. The Zarelon hair is just superior in so many ways for me. No breaking. No humidity issues. No stretching. No shrinking. Normal rosin response. Smooth playing. Lasts forever. What more could you ask for?

Right now, I would buy the Light 0.19 mm grade again, based on my gentle playing style and my preference for smooth and silky violin sounds. But I freely admit that when I eventually start to chop and stress the hair and strings in an advanced, fast, aggressive double shuffle bluegrass style, I might prefer the 0.27 Soloist grade. I’ll have to wait and see.

At this point, I would declare my “jump in with both feet and put Zarelon hair on my two best bows” experiment a success. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. I’d recommend the hair (either grade) to anyone who is considering new hair on their bow. But be aware, your violin, bow, playing style, and personal taste will no doubt be different than mine, so your mileage will no doubt vary.

I know for me, I don't expect to ever go back to normal horse hair. The Zarelon hair experience has just been way too good for me so far (and I don’t expect anything to change).

Best regards to everyone

15 Responses
Posted: April 21, 2015
Last Comment: April 23, 2015
Replies


Posted: April 23, 2015
Hi Elmer, I don't know what 50# fishing line is like, but I really don't think this stuff will break. A guy I know tried it on his bow, then managed to REALLY snag the hair -- ONE hair -- on his shoulder rest, so hard that it yanked the bow out of his hand, and the bow was hanging and banging around from the violin until he got it untangled. But the little hair didn't break, and wasn't even noticeably stretched -- he couldn't spot the hair once it was back among its friends.

He also played some aggressive double shuffles, and asserted that if he had played that with normal hair, he'd already have at least a half dozen broken hairs hanging off his bow.

So no, I don't think this stuff breaks easily, or at all. Zaret himself said that he's never heard of anyone breaking any hair in 3 years, for what that comment is worth. It seems really tough to me. With care, I'm sure it will last as long as the bow, probably for decades.

PS. I looked up fishing line, and it looks like this stuff (0.19 mm, 0.27 mm) is in the 8-12 lb fishing line range.


Posted: April 23, 2015
"I would easily buy Z hair again (but I won’t have to, since it lasts forever… :-) "

Kevin, are you saying that you won't break any bow hairs? I know I do. Maybe I play more aggressively than you or just get my bow tangled up with unfriendly objects ( zippers and velcro are great for ripping off bow hairs). If the Zarelon is like 50 # test fish line maybe it will last forever.


Posted: April 22, 2015
I would die in such dry weather so I guess that would save me from having to worry about my bow hairs.


Posted: April 22, 2015

...OK, SOUNDS LIKE THE SOLUTION TO ALL THINGS.  HOW DOES IT DO AS FISHING LINE ?

HOW ABOUT A DEMO ??  MAYBE I CAN GET  OUR DIANE'S HUSBAND BOB TO USE THAT WHEN I SEND MY BOW OUT TO HIM FOR REHAIR.....  INSTEAD OF TORTURING THOSE MONGOLIAN PONIES  HE PULLS  THE HORSE HAIR OUT OF....LOL....



Posted: April 22, 2015
Kevin:
I cannot be completely sure,i could bring the city bow to the sea and test them against each other...the bow felt fine when i tested it in the city but i did not play it much at all.
My reasoning is that  humidity makes the bow hair more elastic,so it stretches more when you tighten the screw and also stretches/contracts (like a rubber band) under the variable pressures of playing.
But this is just guesstimate on my part,the Col Legno Standard is a nice bow for its price but at 100eur the quality controls are surely not the same as for a Coda GX,NX etc...there could be a differences in the stick flex and weight distribution that account for the bounciness.


Posted: April 22, 2015
PS. Just a tip for Z hair rehairs. This stuff doesn't stretch like horsehair, so if the position of the frog is important to you at playing tension (it certainly is for me), make sure you tell the rehair person where to locate the frog at playing tension.

I did that, specifying 1/4 inch between leather and frog at playing tension (to make room for my fat thumb), and the bow guy made it happen. So now everything is perfect (except me and my playing, of course... :-) )

Good luck!



Posted: April 22, 2015
Mc, I was thinking of your comment that your "by the sea" bow bounces more, and your thought that the sea air makes the hair more rubber like (and bouncy). But I admit that I don't understand that point of view, since hair is naturally quite stiff (almost as stiff as fine steel wire), and thus probably cannot affect the bounce of the bow.

I would point at the bow as the "bouncy" part of the bow/hair spring system, but since you have carbon bows, humidity affecting the springiness of a wood bow cannot be the case. Maybe when you're playing by the sea your bow hand is just that much more happy and full of energy, leading to more bouncing? :-)

I suppose the test of what's happening is if you rehair with Z hair on the sea bow, and the bow still bounces - then maybe that would rule out the hair of both kinds?


Posted: April 22, 2015
Mc, nice to see another black sheep -- I also play an electric, w/carbon fibre bow, Zarelon hair, etc. I don't miss the hassles of my old acoustic from 25 years ago at all. I freely admit that the sounds of the two setups are obviously different (how could they not be), but everyone would also have to admit that any two violin setups probably sound different too.

It seems to me that as long as a player's setup sounds good to them, then they are happy, and the particular device, technology, etc are probably of less concern.

I'm happy to have helped the VL crew and Zaret (yes, he's quite the character). If anyone is interested, he also sells refurbished bows with Zarelon hair on them (0.27 mm size) for $50 USD. That might be a cheap way to explore Z hair, if you can live with the bow. I was mostly interested in how it sounded on my main bows, so I just took the plunge and went straight toward answering the question of "How would this stuff sound / play on my good bows?" And I have no regrets whatsoever.

Wishing everyone happiness if they try out the Z hair...

PS. Mc, thanks for posting the Zaret link.

Raúl Rivas
Posted: April 22, 2015

I have just seen your post and I have ordered 4 hanks for the next rehair !!! Thanks!


Posted: April 22, 2015
I rented my first cello from Mr Zaret. Definitely an interesting fellow that one.   I did have a chance to use one of his bows. I Like the idea that it's indestrucable but for some reason I kept favoring the real horse hair and still don't know why. There seemed to be just a slight difference in feel for me.  But it seems perfect for your area that you live in.  It won't make your bow so moodie


Posted: April 22, 2015
Zarelon Synthethic Bow Hair:





Posted: April 22, 2015
That is very  cool Kevin.
I have humidity issues too,i have two identical student carbon bows (Col Legno Standard) and the one that i keep by the sea is way harder to keep from "bouncing".I think the humidity makes the bow hair more rubber band like.

I love to experiment with non-traditional gear so i bought an Incredibow and two lenghts of replacement synthethic Incredihair.
The Incredibow is a carbon super lightweight baroque (reverse camber) bow.It is kept always tense since neither the carbon or the synth hair will stretch or suffer from this.It does feel a bit different than a normal bow but it plays fine and it is always ready to go.I do prefer the tone of the Col Legno though.

The Incredihair must be very similar or just the same as the Zarelon you describe,no stretch,lasts forever ,looks like fishing line etc...it took the Bernardel rosin fine and it feels very good to play.
I will take the coast bow to a Luthier and have it rehaired with the Incredihair,perfect bow for harsh conditions/backup.

I play an electric and a carbon fiber acoustic,both with fiddlefretter stickers.The synth hair makes me a full heretic i guess .But hey,if it works ...
Nice to see i'm not the only black sheep!. :)




Posted: April 22, 2015
That's cool Kevin.  I would do it in a heartbeat on my spare bow if I knew where to find the stuff.

KarenJ
Posted: April 21, 2015
How did you hear about this hair?  is there something to read about it?


Posted: April 21, 2015
PS. The bow rehair guy didn't have to do anything special to rehair with Z hair. He could basically treat it like normal horse hair, using the same glues, heat / hair dryers, etc. etc.

I was kind of lucky since he had done some synthetic rehairs before, and so was familiar with Z hair, and opined that it was one of the better synthetics out there.

Oh yes, and the shop liked to keep rehaired bows overnight so that the powdered base rosin could "dry", whatever that means. So I just followed along, and picked them up the next day, took them home, rosined them up in a couple of minutes (easy), and was happily playing in no time.

Wouldn't it be nice if everything in my violin life turned out to be so easy? :-)