Rosin is a sticky subject. If you don't get a grip on it you won't go far in
playing your violin.
Seriously, violin rosin is a very serious business for anyone who plays a bowed
instrument. The more you know about it, the better off you will be.
What is Violin Rosin?
Rosin is the substance that a violinist uses to make the hair on his bow sticky.
If a bow's hair has never been rosined it will not produce usable sound when
drawn across the strings. Once rosined, the hair actually grips the string and
pulls it . . . but since the bow keeps moving the string snaps back to its
original position . . . where it is caught again by the rosin on the hair and
the cycle is repeated. This happens very, very quickly. In the case of your
A-string 440 times per second. Without the rosin's grip, the hair just slides
over the string and you essentially hear nothing.
How is Rosin Made?
The basic ingredient in violin rosin is
purified pine rosin, and then comes the
step that violin rosin makers will not talk about. Each manufacturer has his own
recipe. The recipe is a closely guarded secret. Different resins may be added.
Some add beeswax. Others even add gold, silver, lead or copper flecks, saying
that it adds to the rosin's ability to grip the string. The mixture is cooled,
and bubbles are forced out. The thick goo is poured into molds to form the cakes. There is an excellent page showing the production of rosin at
Is there a Difference Between Rosins?
Rosin choice is quite personal. Generally speaking, the darker the rosin the
softer it is. Softer rosins tend to be stickier. While stickier rosins produce
greater grip on the string, they also produce a grittier sound. Softer rosins
also throw off more powder, making things difficult to clean.
A harder rosin will not be quite as sticky, and so will not grip the string as
strongly. The problem is that if the rosin is not sticky enough you will not
produce the full sound that you desire.
I suggest looking for something in the middle. A dark amber seems to work well. Look for a rosin that is smooth and free of bubbles. Some
folks prefer rosin in the form of round cakes. Most student outfits come with
cake of rosin mounted in a wood block. There are good rosins that come both
ways. As you progress and become better at handling your bow you will probably
start looking for a stickier rosin and will probably become more selective in
the rosin you use, but at all stages of your violin playing career you will be
experimenting with rosins.
How Do I Rosin a Bow?
The goal of applying rosin to a bow is to get an even coat of rosin over the
entire length of the hair. Too little rosin and you will not get enough pull to
use your violin to its fullest potential. To much rosin and you will coat your
bow and violin with a fine coat of sticky
There are several rosining techniques, but the one I recommend is to use long
slow strokes along the bow's entire length. Press the bow gently against the
rosin and move it in both directions so that you collect rosin dust on both
up-bow and down-bow strokes. Change the position of the rosin as you go along.
If you are using a round cake, turn the cake slightly after a few strokes. If
you are using a rosin in a wood block use the right side, left side and middle
of the cake. Doing this will prevent you from actually wearing a channel into
the rosin. Keeping a smooth surface on the rosin cake will make it most
As you draw the bow back and forth, be aware of the amount of effort it takes to
move the bow. I realize that it never takes much, but you will find that as more
and more rosin clings to the hair it will become easier and easier to draw or
push the bow across the cake. The change will be very subtle, but if you pay
attention you will learn to feel it.
Once you have reached a point where the bow travels smoothly STOP. Putting more
and more rosin on the bow will just produce that cloud of rosin dust that your
neighbor will find so distressing. (More about this in a moment) I like to tap
the bowstick on my hand a few times to knock off any excess rosin before I start
When you finish playing, gently wipe off your violin with a lint-free cloth. A
lint-free cloth is necessary so that the lint doesn't actually cling to the
rosin on the violin. (A well-upholstered violin is not the sign of a violinist
who knows how to handle his instrument.) At the same time you clean off your
violin, wipe the rosin from your bowstick. (As always, avoid touching the hair
as much as possible.) Caked on rosin does not look good. It is also harmful to
the sound of the violin. If you don't wipe the rosin off, you'll soon need to
use a cleaner on the violin.
It is also a good practice to wipe the rosin from the playing area of the
strings, especially the undersides of the strings. The amount of rosin on a
string greatly affects he playability and the tone produced by that string.
How Often Should I Rosin My Bow?
This is another question whose answer varies. The bow hair, the strings used,
the temperature, the humidity, the style of playing and the violin's
responsiveness all contribute to the answer. The answer can vary from "every few
hours" to "every few days." I can definitively say, though, that students do not
need to thoroughly rosin their bows every day.
My practice is to "touch up" my bow every day I play. It is more a part of my
mental preparation to play than an actual need for the instrument, but actually
running the bow across the rosin 6 or 8 times actually does even out the layer
of rosin on the hair. If I hear the tone of the violin changing dramatically
that is the time that I actually thoroughly rosin my bow. Even when I was my
most active on the violin, a thorough rosining was almost never needed more than
twice a week.
My Brand New Rosin Doesn't Work!
If you've never used rosin before, you may not realize that you have to "start"
rosin. A new cake of rosin has been smoothed or polished. Simply drawing bow
hair across it will probably not pick up any rosin at all! You need to rough up
the surface of the rosin before it will cling to the bow hair.
How to do this?
Different methods with the same result. Some folks use a pocket knife and simply
score the surface of the rosin in a crosshatch pattern. Some folks use a bow
that already has rosin on it and stroke the rosin 100 times or so to scratch up
the surface of the rosin. I even heard one teacher say that you need to scratch
the surface of a new cake of rosin with the screw of the bow that will be using
that rosin. She claimed there was some sort of metaphysical bond that formed
between the bow and the cake of rosin at that time, and that the rosin would not
work as well on any other bow. Me? I just take a piece of fine sandpaper to the
top of the rosin and rough it up a little.
|The type of rosin used for instruments is determined by the diameter of the
strings. Generally this means that the larger the instrument is, the softer the
rosin should be. For instance, double bass rosin is generally soft enough to be
pliable with slow movements. A cake of bass rosin left in a single position for
several months will show evidence of flow, especially in warmer weather.
Where to buy gum rosin or pine rosin?
Where to buy Rosin?
Our rosin products are available for sale at
www.ChemicalStore.com. For large orders please call in advance and verify the
availability, wholesale discounts and shipping options. If you cannot find any
product in the online store of your choice, please use the search option of the
store or call (973)777-3113 for further assistance.
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