Buyer's Guide to Rosin
Superb clarity and articulation. Instantly impressive, but quite expensive.
Andrea Solo rosin brings out an extremely brilliant tone - ideal for solo work. For studio and orchestral work, some players prefer a rosin with a darker sound. Andrea A Piacere (formerly Tartini Green) is also very popular. It has almost as much bite as Andrea Solo, but with a smoother, more mellow tone.
Salchow is the standard house rosin used in many of the world's finest shops. It had an excellent grip, without being sticky, and a warm, full-bodied tone. This is an old-fashioned rosin, made from a traditional recipe. Excellent! Salchow Light is an excellent choice for orchestral and studio work - very smooth with a clean, but not overly bright articulation. Available in light and dark.
One of our best-selling rosins,
Bernardel has a smooth, clean response and a warm tone. Traditional recipe. Excellent! Another great orchestral and studio rosin.
A relatively hard rosin, Hill works well with steel strings. Popular with fiddlers. Available in
light and dark.
Liebenzeller, Larica rosins have flakes of metal, such as gold, silver, and copper, blended with the resin. Precious metals and other abrasive additives are used in many rosins, but the Larica/Liebenzeller rosins are some of the highest quality in this category. Larica Gold rosin, in particular, is very popular. The gold gives the rosin a sharp, clean articulation, without making the tone overly-bright. However, care should be taken when using Larica rosin on fine instruments; metal abrasives can dull the varnish.
Pirastro makes a wide range of high quality rosins, matched to the string lines that they produce. Our best selling Pirastro rosin is
Oliv/Evah Pirazzi Rosin. The new Evah Pirazzi Gold Rosin has also received rave reviews, as a warm, full sounding rosin with clean articulation.
Melos rosins are very warm in tone. A good choice for beginners, since darker rosins tend to suppress squeaks and squawks. It also blends well with sharper rosins - adding warmth to, for example, Andrea Solo rosin. (See the note on blending rosins, below.) Available in
No discussion about rosin would be complete without mentioning the high quality rosins made by T.C. Baker. The name is ubiquitous in rosin discussion forums. Mr. Baker's rosin can only be purchased directly from him, at
www.bakersrosin.com. And, it is made in very limited supply, so it can be difficult to obtain. But, it is an excellent product - warm and rich with a good bite. Although we can't supply you with this product directly, we do encourage customers to give it a try.
Characteristics of Rosin
- Soft vs. Hard - Softer rosins are stickier and offer more grab on the string. They also tend to produce a stronger, grittier tone. Harder rosins glide more smoothly over the strings, offer less bite and a smoother, more polished, feel and sound.
- Early vs. Late Harvest Rosins - Generally speaking, dark colored rosins are softer than lighter ones. In rosins made from traditional recipes (from live trees), the color indicates the time of year that the resin was harvested. The light amber color of the winter and spring resin gradually gives way to the softer, darker, golden-red resin of summer and fall. However, many rosins are now made from chemical by-products of the paper and lumber industries, rather than from live trees. The color of these rosins is not as reliable an indicator of hardness. And, even with traditional rosins, the color and hardness are strongly effected by various additives, such as bees wax or abrasive metals. The color of the final product, therefore, is not always a reliable indicator of its hardness.
- Dark Sound vs. Brilliant Sound (Tone Color) - Different rosins have distinctly different playing characteristics and tonal qualities. Players often describe the sound produced by different rosins as being brilliant (bright) or dark (warm). A rosin that accentuates the higher, treble frequencies is said to be brighter in tone than one that does not. Rosins that draw a more powerful sound out of the instrument are also sometimes said to sound brighter.
- Bite/Attack - The best rosins allow the player to articulate notes in a clean, effortless manor. Such rosins are said to have a good bite or attack. The qualities of the attack vary widely among rosins, i.e. fast vs. slow, sharp vs. mellow, bright vs. dark, clean vs. scratchy. The bite of a rosin is tied closely with both its softness and its tone color, with softer rosins tending toward a stronger (though slower) attack, and brilliant sounding rosins tending toward a sharper, rougher attack.
- Rosin Age - High quality, natural rosins, made from traditional recipes (from live trees), age quickly, becoming dry and brittle over time. Professional players often replace their rosins every 6-12 months. Rosins that are derived from chemical byproducts from the paper and lumber industries sometimes last longer, depending on their composition. Cheap student rosins tend to be very dry and of poor quality to begin with, so aging has little effect.
- Application - Players often over-rosin their bows, which can have a deadening effect on the tone. Cheap or dried out rosins require more rosin to get the job done. But, a quality, fresh cake requires very little. We recommend 3-5 strokes, up and down, before each session. Depending on the rosin, and the length of the sessions, you may require slightly more or less. If you find that the bow is not grabbing the string properly, then apply a bit more. But, if you see clouds of rosin in the air and on the fiddle after playing, then you are using too much. Note: Rosin should be applied in long, slow strokes.
- Abrasive Additives - Precious metals are sometimes added to rosin before it sets, in order to impart certain playing characteristics. Flecks of gold, for example, tend to yield a sharp, clean bite, and a warm tone; while silver brightens and focuses the sound. Please note, however, that abrasives can quickly dull or damage the surface of fine varnish.
- Rosin for Violin vs. Viola - Generally speaking, the larger the diameter of the string, the softer the rosin should be. Fiddlers, who tend to use thin, steel strings, often prefer rosin which is quite hard. Violinists in general tend to prefer lighter, harder rosins, though this is not a hard-fast rule by any means. The thicker strings of the viola call for a softer, stickier rosin, though many violists still choose to use relatively light-colored rosins. Cello players almost invariably choose soft, dark rosins, while Bassists tend to select from among the few very soft rosins that are specially made for their instrument.
- Solo Playing vs. Studio and Orchestral Work - Professional players often use different rosins for different settings. A bright, relatively hard rosin with a sharp bite may work best for the concert hall, where projection and clean articulation are desirable, while a softer, darker rosin may yield a more interesting tone in the studio.
- Blending Rosins - Some players achieve desirable results by blending multiple rosins (applying one over top of the other). For example, we've had great success in applying Salchow Dark Rosin over top of Andrea Solo Rosin, resulting in a full, warm tone and a clean, sharp articulation.
- Priming - For best results, new hair should always be primed with powdered rosin before applying regular rosin. Powdered rosin is simply regular rosin that has been crushed into a powder. Raw hair is primed by thoroughly rubbing the powdered rosin into the hair with a piece of leather or cloth. Priming allows the rosin to adhere more evenly to the hair, resulting in a more even, consistent response from the bow. We prime our bow hair with crushed Salchow rosin.
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