Rosin: what it is, the different types and why string instruments need it
What is rosin?
Rosin is a solid form of resin – a sticky, sap-like substance that comes from pine trees. In order to make rosin, fresh liquid resin is heated until it solidifies. Semi-transparent and brittle, rosin ranges in color from pale yellow to black and is used by string players to add friction to the hair of the bow so that it grips the strings and allows them to “talk”.
Why is rosin necessary?
Without rosin, there is little or no adhesion between the bow hair and the string – the bow will slide over the strings without enough friction to produce a sound
How do string players use rosin?
The player rubs the rosin over the hair of the bow to get an even coat. As it is applied, the hard rosin cake becomes a white powder that binds to the hair of the bow and creates friction between the hair and the string when the instrument is played. Players should be careful not to apply too much or too little rosin – too much will produce clouds of rosin dust with each bow stroke, while too little will not provide the grip needed to produce a clear sound.
What is the difference between rosin for violin, viola, cello and double bass?
As a general rule, the larger the instrument, the softer the rosin should be – the strings of cellos and double basses require a more flexible and sticky substance, so darker and softer rosins are used, while violinists and violists tend to use lighter, harder rosin for their instruments. However, climate also plays a role – darker rosins do best in cool, dry climates as they are too sticky for humid environments.
What are the best rosins on the market?
There is a wide variety of rosins on the market, ranging from cheaper boxed versions for students to expensive rosin brands for professionals. Student-grade rosin is generally grainier and may not produce as smooth and even tone. The more expensive rosins may incorporate precious metals, such as gold, silver, and copper.
Four brands of rosin:
World Famous Hidersine 3V Rosin
One of many Hidersine blends for different instruments and string types, the British company’s 3V is a light, amber rosin for violinists. Its harder consistency is designed to produce a bright sound with a crisp attack and a good level of pull between the bow hair and the string. For a darker, softer version, try Hidersine’s Duluxe Violin 6V. Both blends represent good value for money, selling for under £10 – and for those who want something a little more sophisticated, Hidersine also produce a top quality rosin, Reserve21, whose recipe includes ” WW grade Brazilian resins and British beeswax” and sells for just under £20.
Kaplan Premium Rosin – Dark and Light Blends
Suitable for violin, viola, and cello, D’Addario’s Kaplan Premium Rosin is advertised as “a high-quality formula that provides a clean, dust-free application.” Housed in a jewelry case for easy access, the rosin cake inside can be rotated for even distribution over the hair of the bow. Made in the USA, rosin is available in light and dark formulas that produce less and more stickiness, respectively. Priced at just over £10, it’s a robust choice for students and busy professionals.
Thomastik Vision Violin Rosin
Founded over 100 years ago, Thomastik-Infeld has become a respected name in the string world – but the company also produces several specially formulated rosins for its string ranges, in varying degrees of hardness to suit different instruments, playing styles and climates. While all Thomastik rosins are designed “to allow the bow to grip the string without sounding rough or coarse”, the Vision blend “grips the string well”, produces “minor dusting”, and is suitable for “cool climates”. and dry and during the winter,” according to the company. Priced at around £20, this rosin is designed as a handy all-rounder for professionals.
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Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold
Designed specifically to complement Pirastro’s Evah Pirazzi Gold strings, this lightweight rosin claims to produce ease of response in smoother dynamics, and also allow the strings to “ring” evenly in faster passages. The manufacturer is aiming for a homogeneous, smooth and supple sound in all circumstances by avoiding harsh timbre. According to Pirastro: “The Evah Pirazzi Gold rosin is distinguished by creating only a slight dusting without any residue forming on the bow hairs or the point of contact of the string. Priced at over £25, this rosin might seem more expensive, but there are definitely more expensive brands out there!