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Musical Bows

It should be of no surprise that the bow used in musical instruments is hypothesized to have derived from the hunting bow that is used to shoot arrows. It would not be surprising if this were true. Visually, they are very similar, both with fiber joining the ends of a length of flexible material. The biggest difference in this oversimplification is where the fiber joins the end of the musical bow: the frog. The introduction of the frog is as mysterious as when, perhaps, the hunting bow and the musical bow diverged. Or so one would think!

The other day I came across a first hand account, the earliest first hand account, of the creation of the frog. Sometime before the 15th century (the account was undated), an archetier's apprentice by the name of Daniel was finishing five bows his master had recently completed, as his master was away. The bows were to be sent to a local musician later that day and his master made the best of bows. Unfortunately, excitement as to the end of his apprenticeship preoccupied poor Daniel's mind and with a careless stroke, his hand slipped and snapped the end of one of his master's bow where the hair attached to the stick. There were no suitable replacements and there was no time to make a replacement it!

Frightened over the prospects of his future, as his master and the musician were influential people, Daniel scrambled to patch the broken bow, hoping the musician would find this to be a new style of bow. Hurriedly, he delivered the bows to the musician before his master returned and saw his misdeed. A few days later, the musician showed up at the work shop with the patched bow and demanded to speak to Daniel's master. With fear in his heart, Daniel called his master. To his surprise, the musician enjoyed the patched bow the most and declared that all bows he ordered be made this way. Never had Daniel achieved greater success. The frog was Dan's best mend.

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