Rolland agrees with musicians who contend the bow is more important than the violin.
“The violin, as an instrument, is purely mechanical,” he said. “It’s beautiful, of course, it’s a piece of art. But the function is to make the string vibrate. But what makes the string vibrate? It’s the bow.”
As his latest innovation, Rolland has devised a new kind of frog — the small piece on the bow, usually made from ebony, that allows the horsehair to be tightened.
In the violin, he said, “only a small part of the hair is in contact with the string.” The musician “has to compensate instinctively, contract some muscle in the hand to master this part of the bow. This new frog will allow them to be more relaxed, less tense, and to integrate easier this movement.”
Rolland had been thinking about this problem with the traditional frog for many years. About five years ago, he began trying to develop a better piece. His first frog was too angled. He created 15 more versions, each one just slightly different, until he was satisfied. The final design will become available to musicians early this year.
He also has other inventions underway, but declines to talk about them yet.
Decades of making bows have taken a toll on Rolland: Five years ago, he had to stop playing the violin because his left hand was too stiff from his work.
“Bow-making is not really compatible with violin-playing,” he said. “This requires a lot of force and power. We have to use our hands as vises and clamps.”
He could not bear the idea of not playing music, so he has returned to the piano.