Master Hand Violin Shop
Most instrumentalists were taught that they should rosin their bow, but many come in to our shop not actually knowing why and how (and if) to rosin. Considering that in our experience, at least 95% of beginning renters manage to lose their rosin within the first couple weeks of playing, (and only about 40% manage to recover their stand partner's rosin), we are not surprised that few know why to rosin. What we do find surprising is that these players manage to keep playing without rosin until they need to move up an instrument size. Rosin is an absolute necessity for playing a string instrument with a bow; the rosin particles allow the bow hair to grip the string. Without rosin, the instrument produces no sound, and, except for in rare cases, this is not a good thing.
Rosin is mostly just pine tree sap. Much like collecting maple syrup, at the right time of the year, a tree is tapped and sap is collected for rosin. From there, each rosin maker has his own special and top-secret recipe with which he bakes and concocts his rosin. Oftentimes he adds in various particles, elements, and chemicals which he hopes will improve the rosin. The end result is a product that flakes into just enough particles when rubbed with bow hair, and further particulates when rubbed against a string.
The major difference between rosins is the color of the rosin; rosins come in light and dark. Light rosins, which are collected during the winter, make smaller, less sticky particles. This leads to a lighter and smoother sound. Dark rosins, which are collected during the summer, tend to make bigger, stickier particles, which make a deeper, grittier sound, particularly in humid weather. Cello and bass players tend to prefer dark rosin, whereas violin players prefer light rosin. The majority of violists perhaps like dark rosin, but there are still many who opt for light rosin, depending on their needs.
Many brands come in both light and dark rosin. Differences in rosins can be subtle, and predicting which brand of rosin is perfect for your instrument is nearly impossible. Many factors influence the sound of rosin: the strings on the instrument, the sound of the instrument, the bow, the humidity and temperature in which the instrument is played, and personal preference. One way to choose a rosin is to purchase a rosin that is specifically designed to match the strings on your instrument. Pirastro and Thomastik make rosin specifically matched to their strings. Alternatively, you could purchase a rosin that has good name recognition, such as Andrea (formerly Tartini), Bernardel, etc. And don't forget to ask your teacher if she has a preference! For the most part, you can't go too wrong with rosin, as long as you buy a decent rosin (~$10+ in price). Cheap rosin (~$1-$2) is too powdery and gritty and may temporarily decrease the sound quality of your instrument.
What about the rosin for sale that is neither light nor dark, but rather totally clear? This is hypo-allergenic rosin; by using synthetic hydrocarbon resin, Supersensitive has been able to make Clarity, a rosin for allergy sufferers. If Clarity is not your style, there a couple other hypo-allergenic rosins to choose from, as well as some low dust regular rosins. If you don't have allergies, you probably will not prefer hypo-allergenic rosin.
In all your new rosin excitement, please be aware that it is possible to over-rosin your bow. Over-rosining can be identified either by large quantities of powder produced over the strings or by a gritty sound made by the bow. With too much rosin, the sound of even good rosin can be obscured, diminishing the importance of the rosin. At the end of the day, most people find it more important that they use rosin, rather than which rosin they use. But a good rosin is still important, and the best rosin for your instrument is only going to be found by experimenting.Share on Facebook