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  • What is rosin and how to use it on a violin bow?
What is Rosin For Violin Bow

What is rosin and how to use it on a violin bow?

6 minutes

What is rosin? Why do instruments need rosin? How do you rosin a bow? Violinist Jamie Hutchinson has just finished a session at Abbey Road Studios, where she discusses:

  • What rosin actually is
  • What rosin is made of
  • How rosin makes a difference
  • The best way to apply rosin

Using her 300-year-old Italian violin to demonstrate, watch the film now, then head over to look at our Beginner’s Guide to the Violin.

What is rosin?

Rosin is a solid form of resin (the sticky substance that seeps out of trees; similar to sap). But while sap is used to make syrup and medicines, resin is used to make things like varnish and glazes.

How is rosin made?

Violin rosin is made by heating liquid resin until it becomes solid. It smells like pine and has a glassy, orange look.  It’s also very brittle in texture, so if you drop it on a hard floor, it will shatter like glass.

Why do you need rosin?

Without rosin, there isn’t enough friction between the hair and the strings – so the sound of the instrument is barely audible. The bow just glides off the string. Applying the rosin creates the friction needed to allow the hair to grip the strings and make them vibrate more clearly.

Students Be Careful

Rosin is highly flammable and burns with a smoky flame, so maybe don't try making it at home!
TAKE NOTE!

HOW TO ROSIN YOUR BOW

Every string instrument needs rosin.  Here are the steps to successfully rosin your bow.

Time Needed: 1 minute

Total Cost: $ 5

Rosin
Bow

Step 1

Make sure your bow is tight. Applying rosin on loose bow hairs can cause damage.

Violin bow tension

Step 2

Start with your rosin cake at the base of the bow. When applying rosin, do it slowly and gently. Pass the bow across the cake's surface from the bottom of the bow hairs to the top. Back and forth.

Violin Rosin

Step 3

Don't touch the hair with your finger (the grease on your fingers isn't great for the rosin to stick to the bow)

Violin Bow Hair

Step 4

Do just a couple of strokes; be careful not to apply too much rosin. Little and often is the key to success!

Apply rosin violin bow

Step 5

Rotate the cake rosin, so the surface wears equally.

Violin Rosin and Bow

Step 6

As you play, you'll notice fresh rosin dust float onto the strings and instrument. Just use a soft cloth to wipe excess rosin dust off as and when necessary.

Clean violin

Bonus Tip:

How to rosin your bow

To make light work of cleaning your instrument, we recommend the ToneGear Rosin Remover.

  • It cleans all of your strings, all the way around
  • It removes the excess rosin quickly and easily
  • It keeps your fingerboard clean
  • It makes the strings last longer
  • You don’t need to carry chemicals around with you to clean

It really is a no-brainer!

How to rosin a brand new bow

Your new bow will come without rosin. So for the first time, you’ll need to do between 30 to 50 strokes to build up a base layer of rosin on the bow.

Take your time; go too fast, and it’ll heat up the rosin and cause it to melt.  Expect to see a lot of dust; especially on the first time you rosin the bow. Don’t worry though; it’s totally normal!

What is the difference between light and dark rosins?

How often should you rosin a bow?

Violinists typically need to re-apply violin rosin every four to six hours of playing. Don’t worry about timing it though; when you need to apply more, the bow will start slipping around the strings more than normal, and the sound changes.

If in doubt, just add a small couple of strokes every few days.

Do I need to do anything to a new rosin cake?

Yes! You’ll see the surface of the rosin is nice and glossy. We actually want to make it easier to glide your bow along the rosin; so carefully grab a knife or fork, and score the rosin so get it a bit scuffed. Then you’re ready to rock – or play your Paganini – whatever your preference is!

How tight should the bow be?

This is a difficult question to answer that all beginner string musicians grapple.

Firstly, be careful to not over-tighten the bow; it can cause the bow to snap.

Under-tighten and you’ll feel it challenging to produce a decent sound on the instrument. If you notice the strings meeting the wood of the bow (through the hair) – this is a clear case of your bow being not tight enough.

Top Tip
Pencil

STEP 1

Grab a standard pencil. Any old pencil will do, as long as it’s a ‘normal size’.

P.S. Your free Ikea pencil won’t work!!!

Pencil in violin bow

STEP 2

Place it between the hairs and the bow at the centre.

Make sure at this point the bow isn’t too tight.

Pencil top tip

STEP 3

Tighten the bow slowly.

When the tension is right, the pencil will touch both sides.

Ta-da!

What is the best rosin to buy?

We really love the D’Addario Kaplan Premium Rosin.  D’Addario genuinely make the best rosin, and this premium product comes with a really great case, that makes sure you don’t get your rosin dust everywhere you don’t want it!  As a bonus, it’s also not that expensive considering you only need to buy one every six months maximum…

D'Addario Kaplan

The best rosin on the market
$ 11
/£8
  • BONUS: It comes with a premium case
  • BONUS: Case designed for one-handed use
10/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  10/10

Summary

Over time, applying rosin will become second nature, and something you’ll do without thinking about. Buy a reputable brand of rosin – we recommend the D’Addario Kaplan Premium Rosin with a Case – it’s easy to hold, is low dust, eco friendly, and is large enough to hold steady.

Finally, do remember; little and often is the way to go!

Let us know in the comments below if you liked the video.

FAQ's

How do you apply rosin to a violin bow?

A common question for all beginner violinists. Start with your rosin at the base of the bow. Slowly and gently glide it across the hair two or three times, every four to six hours. For more information, see our dedicated article here.

Why do you use rosin on a violin bow?

It creates friction across the strings. Without it, violins don't make a sound. See more on our dedicated article.

What can you use on a violin bow instead of rosin?

Nothing. Best to use rosin. See why here...

How do I know if my bow has enough rosin?

As a musician, you'll get to know how much rosin is needed for the best result. All instruments are different, so look at our dedicated article here.

How to Rosin your bow

Rosin for violins is like oxygen to humans; without it, things just don't work! See our tutorial on how to rosin your bow here.

What is Rosin & How Do I Use It?

All students need to learn how best to use rosin. Without these blocks of tree resin, your instrument won't make a sound. See our tutorial here.

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