Excess rosin on violins.Why?
I'm curious. Why do some fiddlers leave tons of rosin all over their violins? Is there any practical reason for this?
No. Just a fiddlers habit. To demonstrate their fiddlerism and demarcate themselves from classical musicians. Maybe also a bit of superstition. Nothing to worry about. And definitely nothing to imitate.
And don't call them violins. They're fiddles! (I've been trapped in an exhausting lecture a fiddler once thought he had to give me about that topic... But I cannot fully remember, were a few pints involved...)
If you think you ever want to clean it off -- you better not let it collect!!! After some point it will need professional help!
I have wondered this as well. My cousin has a mariachi group who played at our family reunion a couple weeks ago. The violinists rosined up frequently between songs and had a blanket of rosin all over their instruments. They also left their bows almost completely slackened. They sounded together and good, but very bright and kind of tinny. There was also a lot of rosin on their bows. I get that they're potentially not classically-trained, but is that literally just a style choice? Everyone does things their own way, but I would imagine regardless keeping that much rosin on your instrument or bow is going to damage it. They didn't even wipe it off after.
A cousin gave me a fiddle, caked in rosin. I used some plastics polish to remove it all. I probably removed some juju by doing that. There is also a rattlesnake rattle in it. And it had mechanical tuners. Sunburst coloring, no flamework on the back. Still have it, and as my ears deteriorated I finally got to where I could tolerate it and had the soundpost moved back up near the bridge where it belonged. My other fiddles sound better though. I might just move that rattlesnake rattle to one of my other ones though. Supposedly, besides adding juju, the rattle cleans out dust inside the box.
It's an old tradition. Most modern fiddlers I know are fully aware of the effect on a violin's tone and understand it, and many of them do keep their violins clean from rosin dust, especially if they have valuable instruments. They can tell the difference. But traditional fiddlers for centuries were interested in making a very different kind of sound from elite classical musicians, and they didn't need the ultimate refined singing tone at noisy events in the days before amplification. In my part of the world they were playing for dances, weddings, community celebrations or house parties in their rural towns and villages, not performing concertos in concert halls on Strads and Guarneris. They were often fishermen, farmers, carpenters, mechanics, etc., who had to work hard for their living, and in those days they played on inexpensive instruments they could afford. They were (and are) highly intelligent people, many of them were (and are) superb musicians in their own right, and many of them tended to distrust unsolicited advice coming from classical musicians who often looked down on them. There was a tenacious belief that leaving the dust on the violin gave it a better sound for fiddling. Rosin dust today is sometimes a statement, a marker, and many musicians like it not just to indicate their hard work but as a sign of their connection to the oral tradition in music going back to the earliest times. The traditions are still very much alive, and the repertoire is full of marvellous music. They deserve respect not condescension, even if they leave the rosin dust on their fiddles. Or violins.
Since classical violins and fiddles are used in such different ways, does anyone know if they are deliberately made or set up differently?
Fiddles can have flatter bridges to facilitate playing drones and double stops. Otherwise the bodies are the same.
The instruments are exactly the same. Sometimes there's a a difference in bridge set-up. Many fiddlers prefer to have the bridge cut flatter and lower to make droning on adjacent strings a little easier. Others use a classical bridge and standard height. Steel strings with fine-tuners are often preferred for their power and projection, but many fiddlers like gut or synthetic.
One way to satisfy opposing preferences would be to persuade a luthier to revarnish the area where rosin naturally accumulates with a varnish simulating the color of rosin dust. Including the end of the fingerboard of course. Or would such a revarnishing get the unfortunate luthier expelled from the craft, with his name being expunged from all monuments, inscriptions and labels?
Then God said to Abraham, ... “This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each fiddle among you must be caked in rosin. You must leave the rosin on your fiddle as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every violin must be left with its build-up of rosin. This applies not only to the fiddles of your family but also to those of your servants ..."
Nice one, Paul. Now someone insert that into the middle of a reading in a church service and see if anyone notices ;)
I've seen many many times, at least in the area where i live and play (northern Italy) that folk violinists not only leave a blanket of rosin, but often put also zero care on their violins and bows and strings, deliberately.
@ Parker Duchemin, mea culpa for my condescension (i.e. might not be able to tell the difference in the sound), even though I'm a fiddler.
Ask this guy.
I suppose different fiddlers do it for different reasons. Some perhaps want to make a conscious statement, while others just don't care all that much for their instruments.
I read somewhere that rosin was hard to come by for the old Appalachian fiddlers. They let the rosin build up, and when they needed some, they ran their bowhair over the buildup.
Wow. I had no idea. And I feel horribly guilty if I miss just ONE DAY of carefully wiping the rosin from the strings and the violin!
Those are amazing comments. I guess it's a case of style, like heavy metal groups have shoulder length hair, pop singers dress in provocative outfits, country singers seem to like to wear cowboy hats everywhere, and so on. Frankly, I find too much rosin on a violin/fiddle lazy. It looks to me like someone with a cold who didn't bother to wipe their nose. However, dress how you like, make your instrument as ugly you can, that only works up to the point. Because when the bow hits the strings looks don't really matter above the singular question - can you play that thing or not? Are you any good or are you just trying to look like you know what you're doing? So, look however you like, but if you can't play it, it doesn't really matter.
Looking the part is just as important for classical players. Unless you're Nigel Kennedy
" I read somewhere that rosin was hard to come by for the old Appalachian fiddlers."
Michael, I don't think it's lazy, whatever it looks like. Custom, perhaps, a bit of studied indifference, and often a firm belief that it helps the sound. I've spent a good deal of time with fiddlers in the last 20 years, and I'm trying hard to learn to fiddle properly, though I'd still call myself a classical violinist (and I do clean my violin carefully!) Hard to generalize, but fiddlers are anything but lazy, in my experience, and ethnomusicologists will tell you how hard they work to get the sound they need. Good ones, that is. Lots of them clean the rosin too. But as you say, the only thing that finally matters is -- can you play that thing well! And as Steve pointed out -- classical musicians do have their own styles and dress codes. Something to do with their traditions, I dare say, which would look pretty funny at a barn dance.
"Why do some fiddlers leave tons of rosin all over their violins?" From my personal prejudice: Disrespect for the instrument and laziness.
Looks like some players need plenty of rosin to play Bach
Re Paul's post of August 27, I got it into my head to translate it into Latin - there's a Latin study group I'm involved in. For fun, I decided to run the text through Google Translate to see what disaster would ensue. I was not disappointed - my worst fears were confirmed.
Holy Moly. If you have Amazon Prime and can watch this, jump to the 8:40 minute mark of this video for some impressive rosin accumulation, and possible varnish damage, on the blonde woman's fiddle.
W.R. mentioned the Mariachi fiddlers. I do that. The majority of Mariachi violinists are un-schooled. Because they are competing with the trumpets they try to play as loud as possible by using excess rosin, a heavy bow hand,and all steel strings, on their cheap equipment. It doesn't work. Instead of sounding louder they just sound noisier, edgy. The very best professional groups, like Vargas,Camperos, Sol de Mexico, don't have those problems, can sound very impressive, with a playing style I would call a survival of 19th century romanticism.
@Steve Jones: Oh, the artist formerly known as Nigel Kennedy looks the part. He is very careful to look the part.
@Michael - hope this isn't a relation of yours being dissed?
Joel, thank you for the clarification. Everything that has been said on this thread has been what I suspected, but it's nice to hear confirmation and specifics on the topic as well! I think I might try to look up the professional mariachi groups you mentioned.
Thanks Wesley. The best Mariachis are large (~12), expensive, and booked far in advance. Vargas is in Mexico City, those other two are in Los Angeles. Another major center would be San Antonio TX.
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