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Applying rosin to your bow: tips and tricks

11 Jan 2021
by Jeroen

Rosining your bow for the first time is often a big step for the beginning string player. When practicing and building up a beautiful sound is still a real search, applying rosin can feel like something you can do with confidence.

But also here some tips can help you to refine the working method and make rosin application an art, part of a daily (or multi-day) routine. The type of rosin, the quantity and the frequency with which you apply it can have a great influence on the sound quality and enjoyment of playing, whether it is violin, viola, cello, double bass or any other instrument from the extensive string family.

Over time you will automatically feel how much rosin you need and when it is time to bring your bloc of rosin back up again. It depends on a large number of factors and one person will have to rerosin his or her bow more often than another. But before you intuitively master this, a few tips can help.

Choosing the right rosin for your instrument, bow and climate

Unrosined bow hairs are smooth; if you try to play your instrument, not much sound will come out. Rosin adds the necessary grip. Nevertheless, the choice of rosin is very important. It is a natural product, made from the juices of various coniferous trees. There is rosin in a whole rainbow of colours: from light, almost yellow rosin, to extremely dark, almost black and all shades in between. Dark rosin is normally stickier, more suitable for large and lower string instruments, such as cello and double bass. Violinists and viola players usually use the lighter coloured rosin, for better and lighter articulation on the higher strings. However, do not stare blindly at the colours. You make a personal choice by experimenting, as a violinist you may benefit from a very sticky rosin and vice versa.

Rosining your bow

 

  1. Tense up your bow (as you normally play). Applying rosin to an untensioned bow can damage the hairs.

  2. Put your thumb on the frog to create a buffer so that the rosin block does not collide with the little iron.This is to prevent rosin flakes come off the rosin.
  3. Set the rosin on the frog and move in a smooth, slow movement to the tip and back. Repeat this a few times. It is important to use some pressure. The rosin should be applied consistently over the entire length of the hairs, as regularly as possible. Repeating the movement for times is enough, but some musicians need more or less, depending on their playing style and instruments.
    A 'tremolo' movement at the tip and on the frog, as you often see, is not necessary for anything. You have the most weight on the frog - of your hand and arm - and so it is undesirable to create an extra grip. We often have to play softly on the tip, that typical, beautiful string sound. This is going to be tricky if you have a large dose of rosin there.


  4. Put your rosin back in the box, well packed, to keep it as fresh as possible and to prevent it from drying out (because yes, most rosin degrades over time!)

  5. Enjoy your ultimately rosined bow!

Some extra tips

  • DO NOT EVER touch the hairs of your bow with your fingers. The grease that is transferred to the hair this way does not allow the rosin to adhere optimally.
  • Turn your rosin block (if you have a round one) a little bit every time you use it to make the best use of every square millimetre of the surface. If you always your rosin in the same direction, you will get grooves. In the long run, this makes it difficult to apply the Rosin homogeneously on your bow.

  • Clean the dust of the strings, your instrument and the wood of the bow with a dry cloth after each playing session (preferably a microfibre cloth). Filthy strings react much slower, and this can strongly degrade your articulation and sound. Rosin that remains on your instrument will over time form a hard layer, which is very difficult to remove.

  • Normally you need new rosining every 4 to 6 hours. You will eventually feel yourself when you have too little rosin on your bow.

  • To obtain an ideal division of your rosin, you can experiment with useful tools, such as the Cecilia rosin spreader.

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When do you have enough rosin?

  • No rosin

With a new bow or fresh hair, you will usually have hair without rosin. It is impossible to get a nice, stable tone with normal pressure here, let alone to articulate it. The sound is very small and weak and the bow tends to go in all directions.

  • Too little rosin

When you apply only a bit of rosin, or have been playing for a long time without rosining, you will notice that the sound becomes inconsistent. You have to use a lot of pressure to create a stable tone. Especially string changes are very difficult to articulate well.

  • The ideal amount of rosin

The bow will create a beautiful, warm tone, consistent across all strings.

  • Too much rosin

When you have too much rosin on your bow, after a few notes you will find yourself in a white cloud of dust. Your sound is harsh and scratchy and the bow feels 'sticky' when you move it over the strings.

Before you know it, optimally rosining your bow becomes part of your routine! Be sure to check out our wide range of different rosins!

 

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