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New video: Is your hair strong enough to play a Stradivarius?

We know all too well that advertisers will stop at nothing to attract a nanosecond of your attention. JWT Singapore and JWT Manila have just set the bar that bit lower.

‘What if human hair was so strong, it could do anything?’ the ad-masters asked themselves, tossing around another identical brand of shampoo. ‘We need to come up with something that resonates easily with the masses, and music hit the spot,’ said Tay Guan Hin, JWT’s Southeast Asia Executive Creative Director.

So they equipped a professional string quartet with bows made of human hair by Philippines bowmaker Paul Goh. The quartet played 240 minutes of music with zero hair breakage. ‘We’ve wanted to do something different for the hair category for a long time, something out-of-the-box. Hair Quartet was brilliant, because it was a fresh new take on a simple product demonstration that really leveraged the power of a live performance,’ said Sze Tian Poh, Southeast Asia and Australasia Vice President, Hair, at Unilever.

Who gives birth to these people? They claim the hair on the bows had been washed in Unilever Cream Silk.

They claim.


Do not try this at home.

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  1. Sebastian / LondonJazz says:

    Haydn saw them coming in 1787 in Op 51:

    “Pater, dimitte illis, non enim sciunt, quid faciunt”

  2. What claptrap! If indeed horsehair is used in bows because of its strength, as the video claims, then a far more convincing demonstration of “strong” hair would be to subject it to any number of scientific tension measurement tests. Strand for strand, I bet the human hair will fail first, and probably because it is thinner than horsehair.

    The fact that none of the human hairs broke when used in the bows can also merely be the result of the same amount (volume) of hair being used — more, weaker (human) strands could very well equal the staying power of the same voume (but fewer strands) of horsehair. It would be a kind of “strength through unity” thing, something that Mussolini (and Josef Mengele) would understand.

    We get no comments from the players (or an actual recording of them playing) about the character of sound these bows produced or how the “spring” action of the bow was altered, if at all. Could they get the same spiccato and martele effects?

    I believe the reasons hair from horses (and other large quadrupeds) has been used in bows for centuries also must include non-strength-related characteristics, like how the microscopic surface roughness of the hairs interacts with the strings and with rosin.

  3. Chris Walsh says:

    In fairness to the advertisers, the only thing they’re actually trying to demonstrate is the strength of the hair, not the musicality (or lack of same) of human hair bows. Makes a change from vacuous models tossing their locks around in slow motion.

    Sixtus is quite right, though. If the experiment had been successful from a musical point of view, we would have heard the quartet playing as well as seeing them.

    • No you wouldn’t. Why would hearing the quartet – who might not even be particularly great players – relaly add to the message being conveyed? It wouldn’t have added to the key message for the majority of viewers, so it’s pointless to record, edit, and show.

  4. interested bystander says:

    One would think that hair washed in something called “Cream Silk” could not possibly resonate the strings on the instruments involved.

    • Chris Walsh says:

      The crucial consideration is whether the hair, when coated with rosin (and how does the shampoo treatment affect the hair’s ability to hold rosin?), will combine with the action of the bow to provide the distinctive pull-release, pull-release motion that gets the violin string vibrating. Resonance isn’t what is happening here.

  5. Shin Liza says:

    Hi! :) I am one of the violinist in the said video. Although I still prefer using my own bow, but using this bow is quite a different thing. It was indeed strong and perfect for a specific genre of music. Every bow has its pros and cons (whether a human hair or horse hair is used). Nonetheless, it was a good experience for us. Human hair and horse hair have different characteristics. I was really having second thoughts on using it. We don’t even want to use it at first. But when we were able to practice with it, it’s actually good. We never imagine that they would pick us (just a normal string player in our country) to put this to the test.

    Well, yeah, it’s a publicity stunt. But for us, it was a good experience. There are hundreds of better string players in asia than us, so we’re quite lucky to be chosen.

    I don’t know why they didn’t use our own sound, but there is this one video (a teaser, I think), they used our own sound there. But, I just need to clarify that we are not models and we didn’t act during the shoot. It was actually a gig for us, quite tiring but fun (just like any musician would feel).

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