Best rosin for pure-gut strings?

September 17, 2007 at 11:57 PM · There have been lots of threads on preferred rosins, but I have never seen one specifically concerning pure-gut (unwound) strings.

Nate, are you out there?

I'm looking for a rosin that will minimize the innate scratchiness of gut, without sounding dull or dead.

My fav for synthetic & wound gut is Tartini solo (brown) but it REALLY accentuates the scratchies. Tartini Orch & green are smoother, but a bit boring on these strings.

Maybe there's no perfect solution, but I'm looking for suggestions.

Any suggestions?

Replies (42)

September 17, 2007 at 11:59 PM · Hi Allan, I use Bernardel rosin. I believe it's from France. It works excellently with my plain gut D&A. I've also used Hill dark. Pirastro also makes some rosins specifically for gut strings.

September 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM · I use royal oak.

But the scratchiness isn't scratchy 5 feet away--it is just luscious thick sound instead. You only hear this scratch under the ear.

September 18, 2007 at 12:08 AM · Bilbo:

What is that instrument on your profile page ?

September 18, 2007 at 12:57 AM · Last year I asked a baroque specialist shop in the UK what the UK early string players are using on pure gut strings, and was told: Kaplan Artcraft Dark, Liebenzeller, or Aquila's 'historical' product.

I was finding Hill Dark a bit too scratchy in some weathers at the time. I got the Kaplan and am happy with it although I'd like to try the Aquila at some point.

September 18, 2007 at 09:21 AM · Thanks, all. Plenty to try now!

Bilbo, I hear what you're saying, but I record with a mic 3-4' away, so I'm sorta' within the "scratch zone." Besides, even if the audience doesn't hear it (much) how do you stand it when you play? Granted, one can develop better bow technique, which is a good ting anyway, but some rosins will certainly still help.

September 18, 2007 at 12:47 PM · Hi Allan: interesting about the recording aspect. I find that weather has a big influence on the scratch and the behavior--especially of the d string, and perhaps the e string. The a doesn't seem as sensitive, and the G is wound so the core has an "optimum" stress. D strings have a below optimum stress, and e strings may be above optimum I would guess. I wonder if you've read anything about this?

Hi Joe: it is a charango.

September 18, 2007 at 01:42 PM · After 30 years of experience, we have made with the help of international professional musicians a rosin for violin, viola and cello bows.

The difficulty to doing a good rosin is the hygroscopy, the volatibility, the play of the musician, the speed of frictions, the strings used, the respect of the health...

September 18, 2007 at 06:23 PM · Bilbo wrote, " I find that weather has a big influence on the scratch and the behavior--"

Ah, that's interesting. My violins never leave my climate-controlled studio, kept at 45-50% humidity. I would imagine that there's less scratchiness when it's humid, yes? According to one of the pure-gut makers (I forget which) gut responds better when it's humid.

It is a strange conumdrum: The instrument itself sounds better when things are dry. All wooden instruments do. (this is undeniable) yet the strings we love sound worse.

I have written before about success with using olive oil, which seems to add some flexibility to the string and increase the timbral response. It also noticeably reduces the scratchies, but this only lasts for a few days. If you then keep applying the oil, the strings' sound begins to dull. Not much, (I didn't even here it at first) but enough to bother me when recording. Ughh...

So, I'm looking for a rosin alternative. It won't be quite the same (the strings won't be as complex) but will likely be a decent trade-off.

September 18, 2007 at 06:38 PM · Bilbo, I think I should comment on the recording aspect, so as not to mislead anyone trying to learn:

When I use a mic at 3-4 feet, this is for typical "down & dirty" recoding, wherein the sound of the violin is less important than getting it done quickly. Done with a good ribbon mic, in "just" the right spot, this yeilds acceptable results. However, for a critical recording, I would never use such a technique.

FWIW, my current favorite violin recording method is A-B stereo. -that means using two omni-directional condensers spaced widely apart. With the violin, I go much wider than typical, as much as 6-8 feet, and maybe 5-6 feet away if the room is excellent. If the room is dismal, this technique has no chance of working, but when things are optimum it yeilds the true sound of the instrument, catching the full spectrum of frequencies. It also helps if the area around the violin is reflective, yet not smooth. I use ART diffusors on my walls, though this is an expensive option. Recording violin well is DIFFICULT.

The Devil's instrument, indeed.

September 23, 2007 at 02:12 AM · BACK TO THE ROSIN:

I thought this would be simple, just buy everthing on the list and try them, but a few choices came up I wasn't expecting. Clarification needed:


Finding Bernardel is easy. Only one type, & cheap. Kaplan Artcraft Dark is also a simple thing. -but then it gets complicated:

Liebenzeller has two types for violin:

type I - Violin.

type II - (softer) Violin, Viola, Treble Viol

Which SHOULD be better for pure gut?

With Royal Oak, we have some cheap lines, then the Profi Line- Hey, I'm a professional. Must be it! -but they also make:

Royal Oak Bernd Kuerschner - Special recipes for the requirements of historical instruments:

• For gut strings

• For low string tension

• For high string weight

• For easy response

Available for three different diapasons:

• hard: up to 40 cm

• medium: between 40 and 80 cm

• soft: over 80 cm

(see here:




September 22, 2007 at 10:02 PM · I use the Profi-Line one that is dark. I had an amber one too that seemed ok but it is gone now.

September 23, 2007 at 11:29 PM · Allan--the softer Liebenzeller 'should' be better.

September 24, 2007 at 02:51 AM · Thanks, Andres.

-and just in time as I am only now putting together a large order. Will report back soon re the various types.

December 15, 2010 at 10:53 PM ·

December 16, 2010 at 08:22 PM ·

Thanks, Nate.  I'll definitely try some. 

December 17, 2010 at 04:27 PM ·

I second Nate's recommendation.  Baker's rosin + gut strings = bliss.

June 12, 2011 at 07:06 PM ·

Perfect topic to add onto.  I started with Evah Ps and not so long ago moved to wound gut - Passiones.  I love these but I really want to go back to my childhood ( ;) ) and the feel of plain gut - at least A and D.  What to try?  Well why not step in where one of our accomplished violinists has already gone?   Nate posted on the recent 'Good Strings' topic Gamut tricolore heavy gamut wound G, plain D and A - thought I will not change the E yet (still have teh Pirazzi on which really works).  Actually, anyone know if the tension in this will be too high? 

I don't know how long this fad will last - but I'm hoping its a permanent change.  The strings are on order so I have time to also think about rosin.   Is the above still the best recommendation for pure gut rosin?  I started with Bernadrel (pale) with the EPs, had to go darker with the Larsen on the Passiones (to get immediate traction more than reducing scratchoiness) do I need to get more or less grip with the guts?  Or should I shift back to the Bernadrel (as suggested above).

NOw I have to remember how to use a looped string (blush).

June 12, 2011 at 09:33 PM ·

 Whatever you do, ignore my advice on this matter – for years now I've been using dark Kaplan cello rosin (which I use on my cello) on my violins, irrespective of the strings, and I have no complaints.

June 12, 2011 at 09:51 PM ·

What I gleaned here is that pale rosin has less traction than dark but that the latter tends to dampen the sound.  Another of those delightful violin tales that simply can't be tested thoroughly because of the myriad of different violins.  still, changing from a pale to a medium dark actually fixed my lack of traction problem so I have an 'N of 1' as scientists like to say (one example but not even the begining of a statistical argument).

Of course if one rosin did everything it wouldn't be very good for rosin sales - nor for violinists for that matter who seem to delight in the bizantine world of matching to their computers.

June 12, 2011 at 11:19 PM ·

Hi Elise,

I'm using the Gamut Tricolore heavy wound gut G with plain gut D & A and am very happy with Baker's Original rosin.  It seems well matched for gut strings in my (limited) experience. 

June 12, 2011 at 11:30 PM ·

Bernardel and Baker's are both very good all-around rosins, they work well with pretty much everything. I personally use Laubach Gold.

June 13, 2011 at 01:07 AM ·

Anthony:  I'll see if I can find Baker's can I assume there is only one grade? 

As mentioned I started off with Bernadrel and it was fine for the synthetics but did not provide enough grip for my passionnes.  I can see that gut is a new game.  As I recall, we just used 'rosin' when I was a kid - it was amber coloured and I don't think there was a whole lot of choice - but there again there wasn't a back then either :D

June 13, 2011 at 02:18 AM ·

Elise - Baker's makes two types, Original and Citron.  Original is the one I use, and is likely the better choice for gut according to their descriptions of Citron.


June 13, 2011 at 02:37 AM ·

Thanks... now I have to wait for the strings... I wasn't going to double the price by payinf for FEDEX!

June 29, 2011 at 05:23 PM ·

I just read my last post - well that worked well.  I just managed to time it perfectly to catch the Canadian Postal Service general strike :-\

Fortunately, its just finished so hopefully something will arrive....

And I just inquired about Bakers using the link above - you can't just buy it it seems you have to be approved ...

June 29, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

I use Baker's - I don't believe you need to be "approved", just "on the list".

Keep the scratch - that is what gives you articulation. We need consonants as well as vowels...




June 29, 2011 at 10:09 PM ·

...first thing I will do is scratch my name in the rosin! 

I got their reply which told me all sorts of interesting things about the rosin (amazing stuff) - but did not mention the price.  Indeed, after the spiel (milking trees at 2 drops an hour, 1 liter for 12 slabs etc) I'm beginning to wonder if I can afford it !

September 8, 2011 at 02:15 AM ·

Well, I'm on the (Baker's) list - but since then I have not heard a peep.  Is there an A list?

I'm using the gut strings now - they did NOT work with the Larsen red - but (as suggested above) the Bernadrel is pretty good - gets rid of the squeaks, or at least reduces them to the level where I can fix them with bowing. 

Still, I would love to try the mythical Baker's ... :-\

September 8, 2011 at 02:39 AM ·

Hi Elise,

Baker's rosin is a seasonal product - if you are on their emailing list they will contact you for your order when the next batch is ready.  They often limit the number of units that can be purchased by any one individual so that more people can order from each batch.  Not sure when the next batch will be available though.


September 8, 2011 at 02:45 AM ·

THanks Anthony.  Sheesh.  I hate waiting.....  Is it ready now? ........ ....... How about now??

Oh, shucks.....

September 8, 2011 at 11:29 AM ·

"But the scratchiness isn't scratchy 5 feet away--it is just luscious thick sound instead. You only hear this scratch under the ear."

That's like playing near the bridge, it might sound harsh and unpleasant under the ear, but a few feet away it sounds great.


September 8, 2011 at 11:39 AM ·

Rosin? What's that?

I just use any old rosin that comes to hand. Been using viola rosin for a while. Oh, that's why it sounds awful ...

The comment about articulation was good, I think. Notice Heifetz scratches but has great articulation and sound.

(Moving the mic 1 foot further away might make a difference, Alan, but I'm sure you know that!)

September 8, 2011 at 12:56 PM ·

well, it bothers my teacher and somehow she seems to never make a scratch.  So thats what I aspire to.  Improve my technique?  Nah, its the rosin... :D

September 8, 2011 at 02:23 PM ·

If you had sat next to many famous soloists doing concertos like I have you would know about scratch!! But a few feet away it sounds lovely, so that's what the audience hears.

When you hear Heifetz and other good players you get a lot of bite on every detached note, and even then some!! It always comes accross more on recordings, especially close miked ones like Heifetz  prefered.

People who don't scratch are usually very nice, and polite, but well, you know. (And just because they don't scratch doesn't mean they are free of fleas ...)

It used to bother one of my teachers that I didn't scratch enough, and I'm not referring to itches.

September 8, 2011 at 02:59 PM ·

How interesting - another case where we need the remote sensing device (earphones linked to a distant microphone) to hear what we really sound like...

September 8, 2011 at 02:59 PM ·

[Echo in the concert hall deleted]

September 9, 2011 at 02:12 AM ·

Don't want to divert the thread, but this link also touches on the scratch issue:

September 9, 2011 at 09:15 AM ·

So i went to my favorite violin shop to ask what rosin they recommend with pure gut strings.  The assistant admitted that he would personally never ever use pure gut strings because he liked a high tension (?) but recommed one for baroque instruments.  Seemed to make sense.  I got it home and opened the sleeve - and was alarmed to find a very dark puck (hey, I'm in canada ;) ).  True to form, the rosin gripped like crazy - and was a disaster.  You could see the strings bending as the bow was drawn accross them.  The sound was loud and clear - but the scratching was awful.

I wiped the stuff off and went back to the Bernadrel (pale rosin) as the affirmation. So if I am using Heifetz strings - what kind of rosin did he use? From a couple of web sites - including this interesting celebration of his 110yr jubilee:

[this refers to his official site as the source of this info but I couldn't find anything about rosin thereI] read that he used a sparing dusting of light Hill.

Wish I read that earlier - [I suppose the baroque rosin might be useful for a game when the street freezes over.... :p ].  Back to the shop I go....

September 9, 2011 at 03:50 PM ·

I've been using Bernadel Rosin since I took up the violin again last March. It has an attached cloth and it just seemed natural to rotate the "puck".

There was a remnant of the meniscus from when the rosin was pour and it was fun watching the untouched "dot" disappear. Boy I have an exciting life.

Twenty years ago when I bought the violin I was given some Super Sensitive rosin and I never liked the grove the wooden trough forced on you.

September 10, 2011 at 12:48 AM ·

OK So I got the Hill light.  And, well, yes, its fantastic.  It has enough grip to activate the G and E metal surfaces but not so much that it squeeks on the pure gut D and A.  Apparently Heifetz knew what he was doing :D

Interesting that the rosin really has modified the tone.  The strings are all smoother sounding.  Its going to take a bit more adjustment as the reduced grip means more pressure.

One other observation - its easier to play close to the bridge!!  This is particularly interesting because if you watch Heifetz videos, where they give a closeup to his playing, sometimes he seems to be almost straddling the bridge.  Let me see if I can find one....

14 and 39 sec for example.  Interesting also how he reflects his bow away almost all the time.  That really helps stopping the strings from scratching....

Which raises a question about the much-lauded Baker Rosin (that I have yet to try).  Can someone tell me if its hard/soft, dark/light and sticky (to touch) or smooth?



September 10, 2011 at 02:09 PM ·

Masterly playing. I thought I heard one note a fraction out of tune but I was wrong! Either that or I got used to it.

That intensity of sound is almost unique to him.

September 10, 2011 at 08:10 PM ·

Well Peter - the strings and the rosin are a major clue.  All I'm missing now is the violin.  Oh, and genius that is (blush) ... :D

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