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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Does it matter, what kind of rosin one uses?

April 20, 2012 at 3:52 PM

The legendary Jascha Heifetz famously told his students that it didn't really matter what kind of rosin one uses on the bow.

At least that's the lore here in Southern California, where the great violinist lived for he latter part of his days and taught at the University of Southern California. He apparently had an old cake of Hill.

I can't figure out if he really meant it, or if it was his way of saying, "Stop obsessing over what kind of rosin I use; if you want to play like me, practice!"

At any rate, I'm feeling that the sticky stuff is important enough for me to consider a change, as my rather dark rosin is feeling a little slippery, even when the bow hair is new. I went through a bit of a crisis when Tartini rosin closed shop, and I've been using Andrea (which is the same as Tartini, but different). I like very much that it has no cloth; it's easy to use. Also, I will keep it forever because my Suzuki group students like to play "hide the rosin" with it. One student goes in the other room while another hides the rosin, then the first student has to find the rosin, guided by the volume of the rest of the group. Forte means you're getting close. They like looking for the "cute little guy" on the Andrea rosin.

I digress.

Our Emily Grossman ordered some kind of miracle rosin, which made me curious. ( How's the Baker's working out, Emily?) I'm going to try some Melos. There's always the old Pirastro, too, or Hidersine, which says it's "The Perfect Violin Rosin," and it is quite good. I had a cake of this for a very long time when I was a teenager, until I dropped it and it shattered into a million pieces.

If you are happy with your rosin, you really don't need to experiment. You can probably use the same cake for the rest of your life -- unless you drop it. Then you have to catch up on the rosins of the day because yours may well be out of circulation.

The properties of rosin seem important to me: whether it goes on smoothly and easily, how much it sticks to the string, if it flakes too much. Some people need hypoallergenic rosin. The packaging can also be a deal breaker. No one enjoys struggling with a sticky cloth that keeps falling off the rosin cake. For children, they need their rosin completely encased in wood so they can apply it. (They'll still drop it and break it.)

Maybe, in the end, it doesn't matter what kind it is all that much. Are we all being typically obsessive-compulsive, worrying about the properties of rosin?

I put the question to you: Does it matter what kind of rosin you use?

From marjory lange
Posted on April 20, 2012 at 5:28 PM
I have to say it used to make no real difference whether I used hill, a.b. or an anonymous cake I have that long ago lost its id wrapping. On my modern viola and happy little violin, any of those worked well.

Now, however, I'm custodian of an old, lovely, but picky violin, and melos works most gently on this particular instrument. My nose also prefers it.

there's probably a relatively fine line between concern for having good equipment and obsessing over getting 'the best' equipment; I try to stay on the more relaxed side. (I do notice more people borrow my melos than my a.b. rosin, for what that's worth...)

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 20, 2012 at 6:31 PM
My vote is yes, but with a caveat. I think for most people the difference is small. My deficiencies as a violinist are not likely to be cured by changing rosins, and I would guess that is true of most violinists except the professionals. While probably most of us would notice some minor improvement by finding the "right" rosin, I would guess that for most of us, almost any decent rosin will do the trick, and it is probably not worth the effort to stress over it. My $0.02.
From Patrick Lengkong
Posted on April 20, 2012 at 8:35 PM
It definitively matters to me! When I used Hidersine, I love the sound to practice with. It was very nice to listen to. Later out of curiosity I tried Pirastro and the sound was more appealing. I can't say which is better for me. The Andrea Tartini or The Liebenzeller Gold 2. Those 2 rosins really projected really great. The Liebenzeller made the sound piercing clear. Something I didn't know existed. Rosin Really matters for me. A few years back I carried 4 cakes of rosin in my case. Now I only carry 1
From Christian Vachon
Posted on April 20, 2012 at 9:14 PM

I find that rosin does make a difference. For me, I have been using Salchow for several years now. I find that it has what I seek: good traction, very little buildup on strings and hair and very little dust (which is good for the instrument).

It also works for the climate in which I live, which makes a difference too. Like anything, I think that rosin choice is a personal one influenced by many variables, but one that should definitely not be overlooked.


From Adalberto Valle-Rivera
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 4:17 AM
Whether Mr. Heifetz was serious or not, I used to hold a similar view, believing that what mattered was that the rosin was not junk, and that it was fairly "good enough." And indeed, good enough rosin will always work, and one doesn't need "fancy" rosin to play well, nor to be able to pull a great tone. However, the Andrea Solo made a believer out of me, and now I will never think that rosin doesn't matter as much, for it does, and it makes quite the difference. One can do with almost any rosin, but great rosin makes the art of making music much more pleasurable and fun (in the case of Andrea Solo, I love the huge, easy tone it helps you draw, it being very grippy and quite edgy, and with very little dust accumulation over the violin-no rosin I ever tried made such a noticeable difference, and I am not sure I am curious enough to try anything else after having used this "wonderful sounding" rosin.)
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 4:27 AM
Laurie, of course you can resurrect a broken cake of rosin if it isn't shattered into a million pieces! My daughter broke mine when curiosity got the best of her. I got a huge lecture from my teacher about letting my daughter near my violin, and she has told me more than once how she melts it back together. The secret is to make an aluminum foil mold of the right size and shape, and watch it carefully as it melts because it's very flammable.
From Paul Deck
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 4:41 AM
@Francesca, can you tell me more details about melting a broken rosin cake back together? What is the temperature? (Or, what was the heat source?) I have some cracked cakes of Bernardel that I would like to fuse together again.
From Marsha Weaver
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 11:23 AM
I've tried several different rosins -- Hidersine, Pirastro Gold, Clarity, the ninety-nine-cent Pocket Rosin from Woodwind & Brasswind, etc. No matter what I used, my violin was still very quiet (couldn't hear myself in orchestra), and a little on the "edgy" side. Then I purchased Liebenzeller Gold II (at the recommendation of my orchestra director). What a difference!! The tone has smoothed out nicely, and I no longer have to try to play with my ear a fraction of an inch from my violin. This is great -- I'd rather be known as a violinist than a contortionist!! :)
From Anne Horvath
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 12:40 PM

I started out violin life with Hill Light.

After many twisting and turning paths, including a meandering jaunt down Tartini Way, I've come back to Hill Light.

I didn't know Heifetz used Hill rosin. Somehow, that makes me feel better. Or worse.

From Nicky Paxton
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 1:01 PM
I note from Marjory that AB rosin is available in America; I hadn't known that before. A teacher of mine recommended it as the best available in England at the time. Usually on different bows, I use AB dark for more 'bite' and Hidersine for a smoother tone. But I wouldn't get over-concerned; although I voted Yes, I would use any serviceable brand.
From Terry Hsu
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 2:29 PM
This is good rosin. I was at a bowmaker's and he had a cake and I tried it. Amazing stuff. I've tried Baker's and I've tried Melos and this tops them both.

From Bart Meijer
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 4:20 PM
For any good brand of rosin, there is a famous player X who uses it. And what's good enough for X is good enough for me. One saves a lot of money that way.
From Wayne Wilkinson
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 4:41 PM
I used AB Dark for years when I lived in Ohio, but when I moved to Illinois it started to sound (and sometimes feel) gooey, so I started using Jade. The change in sound surprised me because Ohio to Illinois isn't a huge climate shift. The only other thing I can think of is that I also changed from Dominant to Obligato strings around the same time. Maybe that was the issue?
From Wayne Wilkinson
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 4:51 PM
Oh, and Laurie - I checked the Andrea packaging online. That guy doesn't seem all that cute to me.
From Simon Streuff
Posted on April 21, 2012 at 5:57 PM
I am very happy with Bernadel. Before I played Liebenzeller Gold 2, it was also good, (better than the pirastros in my opinion) but warmer sound. Bernadel gives more clarity and bite, its very fine. But one has to take into consideration the instrument and the bow to create a good sound with the rosin you chose. But I think rosin can make a difference, because good rosin feels good while playing. Soundwise i think everybody has his own ideals. Many rosins can work but must not work for everybody. I am curious about this baker rosin, but I also believe that spending time and energy in practicing and sticking with the very good bernadel will bring me further than trying to catch some of that rare stuff. I anyway like to buy new rosin quite often if possible, so if the baker gets old, one has to wait again to get a new one??
From Annette Brower
Posted on April 22, 2012 at 3:47 AM
I have 3 bows and a different rosin for each...for entertainment I suppose. I have Hill dark, Salchow, and Melos. Melos is my favorite....smooth, clean, with good friction. After 34 years of playing violin, I'm still working on using up a chunk before I break it:-)
From Terry Hsu
Posted on April 22, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Perhaps I'm being too cryptic with my previous ebay listing post. If you take a look at it, you'll find the following:

Used cakes of old bernardel rosin sell for about $125 on ebay.

New cakes of new bernardel rosin sell for about $10. You can get it anywhere.

I find that old bernardel rosin is exceptionally good.

From Dottie Case
Posted on April 22, 2012 at 8:59 PM
I love Jade. It eliminates surface noise, and is so smooth but with good hold.
From Anthony Fusco
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Rosin Yeah I like soap the best . It is inoffensive . Of course I am joking .
From Paul Deck
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 1:47 AM
Mr. Mojo Rosin ....
Mr. Mojo Rosin ....
From Ray Randall
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 5:54 AM
I've tried them all and found Baker's far above the rest with Melos a close second.
From jean dubuisson
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 9:21 AM
Brussels-based master bowmaker Pierre Guillaume has his own brand of rosin, anyone has experience with it?


From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 5:44 PM
Wayne, I think the non-cuteness of the "cute little guy" on the rosin is what made my students laugh so hard, and of course they've had to keep the joke alive all semester!
From Royce Faina
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 11:26 PM
So far every violinist I have met that really knew what they are doing... it didn't really matter, either you're good or you're not. Most of us use rosins as a pencil eraser, we find one that covers over and or blame our inadaquate, inabilities.
From Peter Charles
Posted on April 23, 2012 at 11:43 PM
There is as much rubbish spoken about rosin as there is about the non use of a shoulder rest.

Rosin is rosin so use the cheapest you can find. Use your energy instead by trying to find out how to play the fiddle.

From Terry Hsu
Posted on April 24, 2012 at 12:18 AM

I used to think that was true too. I had a cake of rosin that I melted together from 3 different rosins and used for 20 years.

Then I tried some of the better rosins. I no longer believe that all rosin is the same.

From Patrick Lengkong
Posted on April 24, 2012 at 1:26 AM
Rosin is very important. For people that liked the Salchow, I have loved it on my other violin. It blended in more with the qualities. But on my current violin it mudded the sound, and was very grippy on the strings. It was way different when I put it on different bows. I looked at the Gustav Bernardel rosin on eBay and seriously?
$157.50 what a waste. I saw the little packaging thing on the Andrea Rosin, and Pirastro. I double checked and saw that "Rosin is best used in one year. Some Sound Qualities can expected to be loss it used longer. Exposure to extreme temperatures will shorten the life span."
And on the Pirastro Page.
"Getting old, all rosins are losing their characteristical formula slowly. They dry out too much. We recommend to use rosin within one year only."
I don't think $157 for rosin is worth it, no matter how good it would be.
It would be like paying 4 trillion dollars for a smashed Stradivarius.
But I agree rosin is a big deal.
Although apart from the expensive rosin. That seller on eBay seems to sell a Collin-Mezin for $5,000. Pretty good deal if your asking me. Others go around $10,000 I know the shop near me has one for higher.

From David Rumpf
Posted on April 24, 2012 at 5:03 AM
I would agree that more improvement in sound will come with consistent practice, but different rosin formulations will make a difference in playing, especially under different climactic conditions. I personally like the Andrea David rosin because they named it after me (I'm a violist). It made me a better player, but probably more from taking a bit more practice to get accustomed to it than just the rosin itself. I DO like it's predictable responsiveness.

From Terry Hsu
Posted on April 24, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Until you've tried old bernardel rosin, you won't understand. But good luck finding it unless you're willing to pay $200!!


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