Lora Staples - beginning violin and fiddle expert
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Everything About Rosin

Learn everything you may want to know about rosin

In this video, Lora talks about rosin, answering any questions you may have about it. What is rosin? What's it used for? Where do you find it? What are the best brands? How is it applied on the bow? This excellent video covers it all!

Released on February 4, 2015

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone, I'm Lora. I'm here for virtualsheetmusic.com. Today I want to discuss rosin with you. I get a zillion questions from people about rosin, so let me just try to give you the nutshell crash course on what you need to know about rosin.

Rosin comes in different colors or different darknesses. Generally there's light, amber, and dark. The dark rosins are going to appear kind of black in color or maybe even dark green. The ambers are just like an amber beer would be. It's kind of reddish, but not really pale to see through. It's nice and dark and with reds in it. Then the light rosin is more yellowish or golden in color.

The differences between them are that the light rosins are dustier. They're harder. They're actually physically chemically harder. The dark rosins are chemically softer. If they get hot, they're going to turn actually a little bit squishy. They're kind of like tar. The light rosins are very dusty and put more of a crunchy grab on the string, whereas the darker rosins put more of a sticky grab on the string and they are not as dusty. The lighter rosins for some reason seem to be favored a lot by fiddle players, and the darker rosins tend to be favored by classical players.

You can think of the amber rosins as being just right in the middle. They're going to have some of the desirable traits of the lighter rosin with a little bit more of a harder, crunchy grab, but they're going to have a little bit of the mellow softer tone of the darker rosins. If you're not sure what to get, I'd start with an amber and go from there.

I'll give you my list of my preferred brands of each of these types of rosins. Well, since I showed you my ugly rosin, I want to tell you what happened. I use Pirastro Olive. It's a dark rosin and I use it because I live in a hot desert climate. I've heard, and I believe it's true, that darker rosins are better adapted for a dry climate and lighter rosins perform better in extreme humidity. So you might need to have two rosins if you are in a place that switches with the weather from very humid like in a monsoon season to very dry. You might experiment with changing rosins with the weather change. Or you might just go with an amber where it will kind of be in between for either kind of weather.

I use this dark Pirastro Olive. It was brand new and I dropped it on a hard floor and it shattered. I was so mad. I've heard that you can melt it in an oven, so I gathered up all the little crumbles and crumbs and I put it in...well, first, I put it in a metal cup and I melted it in the oven. Then I let it cool, and then I realized how am I going to get it out of here without breaking it all over again.

Then I found a little paper Dixie cup that just so happened to be about this big around in the bottom of the cup. Being in the desert, very hot summer, I stuck it in the Dixie cup and I just left it in my car for a couple days. Sure enough, the internal temperatures of my car melted it down. It didn't make it as nice and pretty as I thought it would. See the edges are really mangled. But darn it, it still works and I'm going to use it until it's gone. Then I had to peel the Dixie cup away from the rosin. Then I just glued it back into its base with some Gorilla Glue. That's what that messy stuff there is, it's my Gorilla Glue.

Okay. That's rosin. Let me just tell you the brands that I would feel good about recommending to anyone. Good quality light rosin, I like the Kaplan Light. I don't have a huge amount of experience with the lighter rosins, so that's the only one I could really recommend, Kaplan Light. You can find it easily at any of the string suppliers online.

Good quality amber rosins are Salchow. William Salchow, I love that rosin. I used it for years. Bernardel is fantastic, as well. Hidersine or Hill rosin. Okay and those are the good ambers. I think those companies also make dark rosins, so I would feel very good about recommending an amber or a dark from Salchow, Bernardel, Hidersine, or Hill.

Then, the dark rosins, Pirastro Olive, of course. I use it. It's my preferred rosin and I love it. Hidersine, which I mentioned in the amber rosins. Then, A.B. Roth. I don't have any experience, but in my research I found this rosin. It looks very high quality and Roth claims that this rosin is great regardless of humidity, and it's used by many professionals. That's kind of intriguing. I might actually try that someday.

Some of my students have reported to me that they love the Andrea Solo rosin. They love it with their prim strings. They love it with their dominant strings. I've never tried it before but they say it's smooth and warm, which is two big pluses in my book. The Andrea Solo rosin. Then, of course, they rave about the Larsen rosin, and I believe the Larsen is an amber and it has a great reputation, as well.

There are a lot of really, really good rosin out there. Then you've got your designer rosin. There's rosin that has gold flakes in it and supposedly the gold flakes add a warmer tone to the strings. Who am I to mock that? I haven't tried it. You can find rosin that has gold flakes in it. Then there's this special green rosin called Jade rosin. I would qualify it as a dark rosin. It is heavy and sticky, but not gummy. It's literally the color of jade, kind of pretty rosin. Several of my friends use it. They like it. I have not tried it before.

All right, how do we know when it's time to rosin? Generally I just rosin about every four hours of playing I will do a medium rosin job. If I have been playing a ton then I'll rosin more. I rosin in small swipes like in one spot, then I move up and do several swipes in another spot. Then I move up, kind of in a scrubbing motion. I really work it into the tip because it's hard to get it in the tip. Then I work it into the frog, as well.

A trick for the frog, cover your ferrule with your fingernail so that your rosin runs into your fingernail, not into the metal, which will break your rosin. Let it just run into your fingernail and then you can go all the way to the frog.

One student once told me that he was told by someone to scratch his brand new cake of rosin with a pin to get it started. That's so weird. I've never heard of that. Any rosin that's worth anything at all does not need to be scratched. It comes, and it's really shiny and smooth on the coating. But, as soon as you start rosining up your bow, you're going to start to see that smooth coat disappear and you'll get to the worn in, dull look on your rosin.

One final trick. People always get a groove in their rosin so that before long they've worn this deep groove clear down to the base and then the two sides are unusable because it's just not as good to get all the rosin on your hair. Easy trick to avoid that groove that wastes the two halves of your rosin and that is as you're doing those little swipes that I showed you, rotate your rosin around just a little. Do you see what I'm doing? Just make sure that you're rotating a little bit at some point and you'll never, ever get a groove in your rosin.

Okay. That's as much as I would ever, ever rosin for four good hours of playing, sometimes even longer. I use minimum rosin because if I use too much rosin my tone gets crunchy, I get too much build up on the strings and it's just a mess. I've learned how to use the bare minimum.

When you need rosin you will know it because your bow will feel like it's slipping around. Of course, that can also be from bad technique or having a crooked bow arm on the string and that can get confusing. If you suspect you might need rosin, hold your bow up under a bright light and see if there's a little bit of a sheen or a glisten to the horse hair. That's a sure sign that you need rosin. When you've got a good coating of rosin your horse hair should be white if you have white hair, but it should be dull with absolutely no glassy, shiny sheen to it. After you're done rosining, I like to loosen the hair. Then I just swat it on my open palm of my hand a little bit, which distributes the rosin down to the under layers of the hair.

All right, that's it for rosin. I hope that this has answered some of your questions. Thanks for watching. Post your questions below. I'll answer them personally. I'll see you in the next video.
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Eileen Sephton * VSM MEMBER * on December 2, 2016 @1:49 am PST
Thanks, Lora. I love the tip about circling the action to avoid the grooves - mine usually end up with a deep cross shape in the middle and four unused corners, but I might try the cup cake case in the car to melt it back together for a second go. I have to say, though, that I always give a new block a light sanding on the top to get it started, after the embarrassing experience of taking a bow back to the shop because it wasn't making a sound - problem was that the new block of rosin wasn't doing anything. - maybe that was an inferior brand.
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Lora - host, on December 2, 2016 @12:37 pm PST
Hi Eileen, you made me giggle about the sand paper. It's so strange....LOTS of people do this, but I have never ever ever had a problem breaking through that new "glaze" of new rosin just by using my bow hair. Good luck with the hot car....gonna have to wait for summer!
Susan * VSM MEMBER * on September 9, 2015 @5:52 am PST
Thanks, Lora for this excellent tutorial on rosins—I hadn't a clue what kind of rosin to buy or when and how to rosin my bow. I, like Michael, live in a mobile home in Florida, but I am here in the hot, humid summers as well. I will order some light rosin right away!
zafar on April 12, 2015 @9:15 am PST
That what the most useful tip on Rosening the violin bow. How and When to apply the rosin. Thank you so much Lora. God bless You
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Lora - host, on April 13, 2015 @9:47 am PST
Thank you, Zafar! I am very glad to know my video helped you!
zafar on April 13, 2015 @12:00 pm PST
Hi Lora, May I ask you for an advise on one of the problem I experience sometimes in my right hand for bowing, The bow slips on the strings while moving down from the heel of the bow. Kindly comment your expert advise on this problem. I hope this might also help other readers. Thank you
Lora - host, on April 14, 2015 @8:10 pm PST
Hi Zafar
That sounds like your wrist is stiff. Your wrist must bend on the up bow as if you are looking at a wrist watch to see what time it is. Your wrist must bend exactly the OPPOSITE on the downbow, pushing the heel of your hand out as you approach the tip of the bow. ALSO, your fingers must be flexible as well, but it starts with the wrist.
I have some videos about this on Youtube. They are called, "two bow holds for every violinist". I will see if I can get the links up here. But meanwhile, you can find it by going to my channel on YouTube, "Red Desert Violin", and search "two bow holds for every violinist".....you will find them!
Jarl * VSM MEMBER * on March 12, 2015 @8:58 am PST
Very helpful; thanks.
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Lora - host, on March 12, 2015 @11:21 am PST
Thanks, Jarl! :-)
Seun Akin-Ajayi on February 12, 2015 @7:58 am PST
This is really helpful. But what is your advice for Violin players in a continent like Africa, Nigeria in particular?
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Lora Staples on February 13, 2015 @8:17 am PST
Well, my main advice would be to take advantage of all the widely available resources online, and it appears that you already are! I am not sure how readily available teachers are in your area, but I have excellent online instruction. You can learn more about it by looking to the right of these comments.
Anne Finlay-Brown * VSM MEMBER * on February 12, 2015 @7:32 am PST
When I had my bow re-haired I was given a piece of sandpaper to 'rough up' the rosin to make it work better! Anne
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Lora Staples on February 13, 2015 @8:15 am PST
That is funny! I do not understand why this is so widely believed! Oh well....no harm done! Go ahead and rough it up! It won't hurt anything!
Michael * VSM MEMBER * on February 6, 2015 @12:10 pm PST
Thanks Lora, Your lessons are real valuable to me. I spend the winters in Florida and Summers in Michigan where temperatures and humidity are always different it seems. I practice in a basement in Michigan and in a hot mobile home in Florida...should I be using two different types of Rosin and If I do, should I always clean the bow each time?
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Lora - host, on February 13, 2015 @11:26 am PST
Michael, I think I would use 2 different rosins in your situation, yes. Some people have said not to mix rosins on the same bow hair, but I don't think it will hurt anything....you will just have a "blend" for the first week or so.

Of course, if you have 2 different bows, that's even better....but I like playing on the SAME BOW at all times....it helps my consistency. SO, I would use a light, hard rosin in the hot mobile home....actually....I think a hard, light rosin would be best in BOTH places.....isn't humidity high in both places?

THe alternative would be for you to try that Roth rosin that claims it is unaffected by temp and humidity changes......that sounds like a dream come true.....and woth a shot. (watch the video.....I forgot the name of it, but I clearly say it in the video...I think it was AB Roth. Good luck!
mike brayshaw on February 5, 2015 @8:23 am PST
Thanks Laura, excellent answers, Rosin applic. to bow.
I had been told, some time ago that when the Rosin is new and shiny surface, a course sandpaper rubbed on the surface of rosin makes it easier to apply to the bow hairs. Would this be detrimental when playing.
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paul plak * VSM MEMBER * on February 5, 2015 @11:51 am PST
My teacher says this is recommended, but everyone may have their own opinion. In my view, it only helps getting the rosin to start covering your horse hair quite quicker on first use. After a few uses, it is no longer useful.
paul plak * VSM MEMBER * on February 4, 2015 @2:54 pm PST
Thank you for your explanation. Yet my teacher had different views on some of your comments :
1 - never mix green (dark) rosin with amber rosin on the same bow. Once you start, stick to the same rosin. I think that makes sense, having a stable bow behaviour that doesn't change makes for easier control. It also makes sure you don't have two different
products mixing up in an unforeseen way. What do you think ?
2 - always use rosin under the same angle, so as to create patterns in the rosin. According to him (he's a respected professional violin and viola player), turning the rosin or using it at different angles slightly damages the horse hair
3 - he agrees dark rosin is preferred by professional or advanced classical players
4 - he also recommends moisturizing or scratching a new rosin surface, as they're so even and slippery when new.
I've also broken my dark Pirastro rosin, I didn't know I could mend it by heating it up. Maybe I'll try that. But now it's winter here and the car trick won't work.
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Lora - host, on February 4, 2015 @7:49 pm PST
Hi Paul! Professionals often disagree....so it is ok!
I am not sure about #1....it could be true, I am not sure.
I disagree with #2. (but it's ok....he might have a point)
I disagree with #4.
If you can find a TIN cup to melt your rosin in an oven, that can work. The problem is getting it OUT when it cools....you have to break it again unless you find a cup you can PEEL off of the rosin.
Thanks for your input!
Shirley Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on February 4, 2015 @10:57 am PST
Thank you, Laura! I would like to echo Martyn's concern about rosin "getting old." I live in a desert climate (Colorado), and often wonder if my dark viola rosin is getting old and dry - course, could be, as you mention, my "technique." Thanks again. Shirley
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Lora - host, on February 4, 2015 @7:53 pm PST
Shirley, I think of rosin sort of like amber....the best preserving agent on the planet! The only part of the rosin that is going to age and get dried out is the outer-most part. If you are using your rosin 3X per week, then you will be constantly uncovering fresh new rosin!

Now, a chemist or biologist might dispute my theory.....but really, I just do not see rosin "going bad".

LORA'S REFERENCES

Recommended Rosins
Amber-light rosin with case for violin, viola, and cello by D' Addario
Kaplan Premium Light Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Medium-Dark Rosin For violin, viola and cello
William Salchow Medium-Dark Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Amber rosin for violin, viola and cello
Gustave Bernardel Amber Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Original rosin from England
Hidersine Series I Amber Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Amber-light rosin for violin, viola and cello
Hill Light Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Dark rosin for violin, viola and cello
Pirastro Olive Dark Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Deluxe, dark rosin for violin, viola and cello
Hidersine Dark Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Dark rosin for violin and viola
A. B. Dark Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Dark-amber rosin for violin and viola
Andrea Solo Dark-Amber Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Amber rosin for violin and viola
Larsen Amber Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Amber rosin with gold flecks for violin, viola and cello
Pirastro Goldflex Rosin Buy it on Amazon
Premium rosin for violin, viola and cello
Jade L'Opera Dark Green Rosin Buy it on Amazon
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