Your bow and instrument are delicate; handle them accordingly. Train yourself to be conscious of where the bow and instrument are and how you are handling them when they are outside the case.
When you’re carrying either one, hold it firmly and keep it close to you; don’t bang it on things.
Never leave a bow or instrument on the floor (it could be stepped on) or where they could be knocked off and land on the floor.
Never leave one of them on furniture, where someone might accidentally sit on it.
Don’t ever applaud by tapping your bow on the stand. That’s a “good” way to break a bow.
Don’t touch the bow hair! (The naturally occurring oil on your fingers can make the hair unable to take up rosin, and then you might have to have it re-haired.)
Never use any chemicals or other liquids to clean the bow or instrument; they could damage it.
Your bow and instrument will play their best when all parts are in good working order, the hair is properly adjusted and rosined, and the instrument is properly tuned. When You Need HELP!is a guide for knowing when you need help from your luthier.
Turn the bow screw (at the very bottom tip of the bow) slowly, clockwise, to tighten the hair until it has a slight bounce when placed on the instrument strings. Don’t tighten too much—the shape of the bow stick should not change. The hair should pull into a smooth, unified look. (See the third item under "After Playing" in the right column.)
If there’s hardly any tone and the bow slides on the strings, apply rosin until it doesn’t slide and has a clear tone. If the tone is scratchy, there is too much rosin—play for a while, until the excess rosin is gone.
Leave the case open for several hours in a bright room every day or two—preferably while you practice—to prevent bow-hair damage from carpet beetles. See Bow Bugsfor more information.
Always store your bow and instrument in their proper places in your case or in an instrument stand. Never, ever place them where someone might sit on them, step on them, or knock them onto the floor.
Before putting them away, use a microfiber cloth to remove any rosin (or rosin dust, oil and dirt will build up on them, and could permanently bond with and ruin the varnish).
Use the screw to loosen the bow hair completely, and then tighten the screw one complete turn. (If you don’t loosen the hair, it could shrink from temperature or humidity changes and damage or even break your bow.)
Leave the case open for several hours in a bright room every day or two—preferably while you practice—to prevent bow-hair damage from carpet beetles.
Your Instrument's and Bow's Worst Enemies
Humidity and temperature extremes are enemies because they can completely ruin your bow and instrument.
Humidity. Both bow hair and wood stretch and expand in high humidity and shrink in low humidity. It’s important to keep your instrument and bow in neutral humidity, as much as possible. The best way to do this is to keep them in the case when you’re not playing. Also, you can keep a hygrometer in the case; this nifty little instrument shows you the current temperature and humidity, and those made for instruments show you when they are and aren't in their "comfort zone."
High temperatures. Bow and instrument varnish can be melt in hot temperature or in direct sunlight, even when it’s not that hot outside. Never leave your bow or instrument in a car (whether it’s hot or cold outside) or in direct sunlight. Yes, you can carry your case into that restaurant; we do it frequently. Not so easy with cellos and basses, but a slight embarrassment is better and cheaper than a ruined instrument.
Low temperatures. Wood can contract and crack in low temperature.
Too-tight bow hair. Humidity and temperature extremes can have even worse effects on a bow if the hair has not been loosened. If tightened hair shrinks, it can warp or break the bow stick. Always loosen the hair when you’re through playing, as explained in the third point under "After Playing," above.
Be sure to see Help!! for advice on when you may need to take your instrument or bow to a luthier.