Rosin preferences... light vs dark... and its impact on sound

September 19, 2011 at 08:19 PM ·

 I have been using a light color rosin, but am thinking about experimenting... I'd love to hear about other's experience using light vs dark color rosin and the impact on the sound.  Also Pirastro makes different rosin to be paired with their strings (Gold label, Obligato etc).  Has any one tried pairing the rosin with the strings vs using a different rosin also from Pirastro, and what impact that has on the sound?

Replies (22)

September 19, 2011 at 11:08 PM ·

Choice of rosin is a very personal thing and everyone seems to have their own favorites.  But, if you haven't tried the Andrea rosins yet, you should.  They are outrageously expensive, but well worth the money.  I predict that you will be very pleased with the resulting tone and response of your bow.

Light vs. Dark . . . Personally, I don't find much tonal difference.  (I'm sure there will be others who disagree.)  The dark is softer and stickier.  You might switch to dark in the winter when the air gets dry and go back to light in the summer when it is humid.  But, some players don't find this necessary.  Also, of course, the darker rosins are more appropriate for the larger instruments, where lighter rosin is more appropriate for violin.  It also depends on your climate.  And, some rosins only come in one shade.

Some of the Pirastro rosins are quite good for the price, though I generally prefer Salchow in this price range.  Many of them do have abrasive additives, which can brighten the tone (which may or may not be what you want).  The more abrasive rosins (goldflex, etc.) also tend to sound thinner and more edgy to my ear, to say nothing of what they do to your varnish. 

Hope that's helpful.

September 20, 2011 at 12:33 AM ·

I think you should only try Andrea as a last resort, it seems to be popular with cellists and violists, but most violinists I know who've tried it didn't like it.

The best all-round rosin I know of is Bernardel. It provides just the right amount of grip for most strings, doesn't produce too much dust, and you don't need to apply it too often.

I'm currently waiting to buy Baker's rosin, though, which I personally feel to be the very best.

September 20, 2011 at 01:01 AM ·

September 20, 2011 at 02:05 AM ·

Brian - I've asked this a couple of times but have yet to get an answer.  Can you describe Baker's rosin?  In particular would you rate it as sticky or smooth, hard or soft?  (Dark or light if you like). 


September 20, 2011 at 01:39 PM ·

I'm beginning to wonder if Baker's actually exists... noone seems to ahve actually seen it! :-\

September 20, 2011 at 01:49 PM ·

They only made 13 lumps of it, ever! (Baker's dozen!!)

In fact I've used for the last 2 years some rosin I found in a case. In fact I think it's probably viola rosin, and it's probably 20+ years old. It seems fine though, and it doesn't make me sound like a viola ...

I seem to have always used just any old rosin.


September 20, 2011 at 02:33 PM ·


Email them, they are very informative nice people. As for the rosin, they make 2 kinds, an old Cremonese recipe which is very sticky and dark and a Vuillaume recipe which is light and smooth. Both are very very very high quality and worth every penny. It just depends on your personal tastes.  

September 20, 2011 at 03:28 PM ·

Elise - Baker's Original rosin is approximately the color of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (the ale, not the bottle - do a Google image search to see what I mean if not familiar).  It is semi-translucent and the side of the cake appears smooth, shiny and non-sticky to the touch.  Don't know if this helps to classify it, but it is certainly lighter in color than the Andreas/Tartini solo rosins I have used. If I'm not mistaken, previous batches have been a bit darker (not sure if this is simply darkening with age).

September 20, 2011 at 04:20 PM ·

Color-wise, it's maybe a reddish amber color (if I remember correctly), I have a cake of the Vuillaume version which is orangeish. I prefer the original over the "Vuilluame Citron" which I find to produce an overly bright and rough sound (at least, it did on my old violin). I've gotten to put several swipes of the original on my bow a few times, and every time, it was like my right arm had suddenly gotten twice as good..

September 20, 2011 at 06:13 PM ·

Thanks guys - I'm on thier 'slate' now and this info is exactly what I need.  With my (pure) gut strings I need a hard, non-sticky rosin so I'll know to order the standard Vuillaume when I come up on the Baker's dozen list :D

But if there is a dark and a Vuillaume and a Vuillaume citron thats three, not two kinds..


September 20, 2011 at 06:28 PM ·

There's no such thing as "standard Villaume." There's their original formulation, and the "Vuillaume Citron."

September 20, 2011 at 06:58 PM ·

Brian - ah.  What kind of strings do you use?  With my passiones I had to go to a stickier rosin but the gut whistle with that and the harder and paler the better (now use Hill light or bernadrel).

September 20, 2011 at 08:14 PM ·

I am very convinced by the Bernadel Kolophonium. But I notice that the difference between brand new and half a year old is quite significant. Anyone who has problems with Kolophonium i would suggest to get a fresh one first before thinking too much about the brand.

September 20, 2011 at 08:47 PM ·

Bernardel is really good, but I've noticed that it seems to lose grip and produce more dust after using it for maybe a year or so.

I currently use Dominants. Other strings I often used were Olivs, Passiones, and Evahs, and I recently tried the new Tricolore wound gut along with Gamut plain gut A strings.

September 20, 2011 at 10:17 PM ·

I use Jade rosin on Obligato strings. I used to use AB Dark rosin, but it sounded too harsh when I switched to Obligatos (sounded fine on Dominants). I'm not sure what Jade is made from that makes it different or if it counts as a light or dark rosin (its green in appearance although I seriously doubt there is actual jade stone in it). I can't even find a website for the company (in France I think). Another upside is that Jade produces very little dust and allows for the right amount of grip and glide for any bow stroke I need in orchestral playing.

September 20, 2011 at 10:50 PM ·

September 21, 2011 at 02:05 AM ·

Jade is made by Thorvaldsson E.U.R.L. - the same folks that make Millant.  And, they are indeed located in France.  You can find them on the web at  Yes, Jade is a very good rosin.  Thanks for the tip on Baker's rosin; I'll check it out!

September 21, 2011 at 07:34 PM ·

I've tried so many rosins that I can't remember - it's easier to ID the few I have not tried.

The factors that make a rosin for me are: (1) tone control, (2) staying power - (i.e., the rosin keeps behaving the same way well into the 2nd hour of playing).

My favorites at different times in the past 10 years (in reverse chronological order) have been:

Stevens (from Paul Stevens Violins in Ardmore, PA) $8 for violin rosin, $10 for cello. (You can google Paul Stevens Violins and order the rosin.)

Andrea (Symphony grade)

Tartini (Symphony grade) - a brand that became Andrea a few years ago

Liebenzeller (Gold-III and Pyrite-III)

I enjoy using Baker's rosin for its superior tone control, but it does not have the "staying power" for me that I desire. It was fine for solo work, when I could hear myself and adjust, but in ensemble or orchestra environments I could not tell how my sound was changing to make that adjustment.

For 40 years, until about 10 - 15 years ago I tried most of the other rosins on the market and was one of the believers of the adage "Rosin is rosin!"

You should also be aware that my hearing is no longer what it should be so my opinions are just that (mine, for me).

You should also be aware that (as with real estate) location/climate can be "everything" for rosin selection.

I have read that rosin color is just used as an indicator that is incorporated by convention  into a rosin's formula for the purpose of identifying some property like hardness, or softening/melting temperature, and that it is not the color that makes it hard or soft. Not all rosins use the color indicator.

Finally, rosin does flow when heated. It can stick between the metal windings on the string; it changes physical properties on the bow. It is a good idea to clean the strings regularly - especially if your sound seems to change. A fresh coating of rosin on the bow may bring the behavior at the hair/string interface back to what you want, but you may have to clean the hair - or re-hair. Personally, I get a lot of extra mileage by cleaning the bow hair, much as I may enjoy visiting my luthier and going out for lunch while he rehairs my bow(s).


November 3, 2011 at 03:58 AM · I've used many rosins over the years. My current favorite is Lebenzeller Gold 1. It produces a good sound with clarity and substance, good adhesion and almost no dust at all - and this with quite a few different violins and bows in my collection.

I'm still open to experiment though. Some time back I put myself on the Baker mailing list - and just heard from them that they are ready to accept my order if I'm still interested. Now I can't decide between the Original Formula and the Vuilliaume Citron. I get the sense that one produces a somewhat brighter sound, and the other a darker one. I'm thinking that just maybe I'd try one of each as a counter-balance along with my choice of bow itself to a paricularly bright or dark fiddle. To anyone who has tried both, does this make sense?

November 3, 2011 at 04:09 AM · I just got my Baker's rosin, and it's as good as I remembered. Sure, get both, you have to try both to see which you like better. One of my friends sounds dramatically better with the Vuillaume Citron than with the original formula, so it really just depends on the player and instrument.

November 29, 2011 at 12:36 PM · I have tried Goldflex and I would not recommend it!Bernadel was among my preferable rosin,melos also I liked(the dark,most)-this playing with the titanium strings.

Now I have obligato rosin for Zyex..and it sounds good.

By the way,I was always wondering,the kind of strings is not a factor of choosint the rosin?!

November 29, 2011 at 06:47 PM · Just for once, I'm asking the same question on two threads. I recently bought a cake of Kaplan's Light no. 6 rosin as an impulse buy. What opinions do readers have of Kaplan's rosin? It hasn't so far caused any tonal change.

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