Rosin and Bow Issues

Edited: November 10, 2019, 11:15 PM · Hi,
I Have been playing violin for a long time, and I have always had issues playing mezzo piano or piano sections- my tone becomes scratchy and not very clear. Though this problem in noticeable when I play quiet, I also notice it in higher positions loud or soft. I have tried Larica gold 2 rosin and melos light rosin. The melos felt very gritty and the larica felt plain scratchy. Though I have been unhappy with these rosins, I do like loud attacks that I could do with them. Do you think that my issue is not trying enough rosins, or is it my bow?

If the issue is rosin, what rosin is most known for smoothness and very high quality? I am not that particular about price. I live in Montana, so it is not humid at all. I am currently working on college auditions with Bach partita 3 and the first movement of the Bruch violin concerto.

Thank you!

Replies (18)

Edited: November 11, 2019, 2:18 AM · 1. If you are facing problems with tone and response in piano dynamics and high positions, this is a typical result of using high tension strings (higher tension than your instrument is designed for). You don't need to change the brand. Just try a lower tension version of strings.

2. Then, you may have a rosin buildup on your strings. You can refer this blog for more info

3. As you indicated, the quality of rosin also matters. We have not tested all rosins available on the market since there are really very many of them. nevertheless, this test may give you some clue

4. How old is your bow hair?

November 11, 2019, 2:36 AM · To endorse one of the findings on Warchal’s webpage, Vienna’s Best is very forgiving of the k-k-k kind of breakup you may be hearing.

Weather change where I am and unfamiliar strings combined to give me a larger dose than I liked (with Guillaume’s excellent rosin). Vienna’s Best solved the problem quite well.

November 11, 2019, 8:48 AM · Also try using less rosin, applied more frequently. I generally prefer just enough rosin to get the grip that I want for an hour or two, and then I reapply one more swipe. I really want powder to be minimized and no grit in my sound.

Vienna's Best worked decently for me. I also like Baker's Original, and, especially, Leatherwood (if you don't know what you want out of a rosin, buy the duo that has both the Supple and the Crisp and combine the use of both).

November 11, 2019, 9:05 AM · Aidan, it sounds to me like you need to experiment more with the "sounding point" position of the bow upon the string, and learn to optimize that (as well as the bow speed and pressure) for loud and soft, brilliant and velvety, and other tonal effect you may want to produce. This is most likely not a hardware or product issue, although that cannot be totally ruled out.
November 11, 2019, 9:25 AM · In line with what David said, do you have a teacher? If you do, have him/her watch you play and check for technical issues. S/he can also have a look at the rosin issue and give you some sense of whether you are using too much/not enough.
Edited: November 11, 2019, 9:46 AM · This is great timing, as I have brought up a similar question to my teacher and tried to blame my bow. It is all too easy to blame our equipment - and my teacher demonstrated what they are looking for from my sound with my bow, and their other bows - and, well, if my teacher can do it all with my bow then I have no excuse. The problem with the sound/tone resides within me and me alone at this point.

Thus, I agree with David and Tom, that the issue is most likely related to whatever is going on with your sounding point, bow speed and bow pressure. And, is the issue of scratchiness only under your ear or can your teacher/audience hear it as well? (My bow sound scratchy under my ear, but when my teacher played it, it was not scratchy to me a few feet away - even though my bow did not sound nearly as good as their nice bow.)

As for rosin brands... I did not like the Baker's rosin (and silly me bought two cakes - I have one partially used cake and a brand new one if anyone wants to buy them from me!), I used Melos dark for a while, and am now using the Thomastik PI rosin which I like a lot.

For the hair on your bow - when was it last rehaired?

Edited: November 11, 2019, 9:59 AM · Bohdan has identified important factors - one other is rosin accumulation on the bow. For the past 20 years or so I have checking the rosin on my bow by swiping it on my trousers (I always wear dark trousers). When the accumulation is too great I clean the rosin off the bow hairs.

I tried shampooing the bow hairs with detergent (soap) a couple of times, but that is risky to the wooden wedges in the tip and frog. So I have opted for cleaning the hair with alcohol for which I use the alcohol pads sod in drug stores for preping skin for injections. I fold a pad over the hair, squeeze the hair gently and draw the pad the length of the hair ribbon AND then IMMEDIATELY apply a single wipe with an absorbent dry cotton cloth. Then I reverse the pad and do the same thing again. I will do this with up to 4 pads (8 swipes of the hair) - until the dissolved rosin stain no longer appears on the white cotton cloth. I let the hair dry until it no longer feels cool to the skin on the back of my hand then I re-rosin in my usual way.

As I said, I've been doing this for up to 20 years with what I consider good results.

I've not made any precise measure ments of the following, but as far as I can tell there is definitely a difference between freshly appleid rosin and rosin that has been on the bow and played for any length of time - I suspect it is because the "old" rosin has melted and changed its physical character. The cellist, David Finckel seems to be an advocate of using lots of rosin and re-applying it often, but most pros I've heard of seem to think "less is more."

I'm with Lydia in being an advocate of Leatherwood Rosins. Early on in their marketing they advertised a 2-for-one sale and that's when I bought the violin, viola, and cello Supple and Crisp cakes directly from Baker in Australia. (I thought it strange that they shipped it to me in California via Frankfort - but I enjoyed tracking its progress around the world anyway. It all depends on which shipper they use.) I use it all the time - but only at home - it's too dear to risk damage or loss. For back-up away from home I use some other rosin, usually a tiny cake of Magic that fits in my pocket.)

As far as noisy bow-string sounds are concered, this thread reminded me of something the concertmaster of my college orchestra said after attending a Heifetz concert some 65 years ago; he had sat up close (first row or so) and said he could hear the bow-on-string sounds. I would advise the OP to try recording his sound from some distance to see what transmits. I had attended a Heifetz concert (Beethoven concerto) about 4 years earlier and sat in the balcony almost above the stage and heard nothing untoward.

November 12, 2019, 1:23 PM · And it might be the strings or the violin. A really good, and probably expensive, violin will have the marvelous quality of being able to play piano with good tone quality, fast response time, and still project to the back wall of the hall. Strings; the unfortunate trend over the last few decades has been to use increasingly bright, loud, heavy gauge strings. Remember that it is the fundamental of a tone that carries, projects to the audience, not the surface white noise.
November 12, 2019, 2:40 PM · Recently, after using Jade L’Opera rosin for about a year, I searched for something that would be less scratchy on my regular Vision strings. I bought the Vision violin rosin and was instantly impressed. I believe it is softer than Jade, and it has good grip and far less scratchy noise. It might be worth a try.
November 12, 2019, 8:41 PM · Before going too crazy and critiquing your technique, it's important to make sure your equipment is in proper working order. That said, try playing without canting the bow so much, so the hair is sitting flatter on the strings. Strings, bridge, post, that your bow is rehaired properly. Crossed hairs can be a huge factor. I have an article and video posted here about checking for crossed hairs:

This is something you can check, if its one or two hairs, you can pluck them out yourself. Mixing rosins can also cause this noise you're noticing. It's probably also prevalent when you play louder as well but not as noticeable. Also, as you develop as a player, your sensitivity to these little things are developing. And that is good thing.

November 12, 2019, 11:22 PM · Ok, thanks for the responses. I will try these things and ideas and get back to you soon.
November 14, 2019, 6:11 PM · Mr. Warchal, thank you for posting that great comparison of rosins. I had already tried the Andrea Solo rosin and agreed with your assessment of it, so I figured I could agree with your assessment of the others as well. Because of your description of the Andrea A Piacere I purchased some and I love it! My Codabow Joule makes my violin sing prettier than ever with it! And my Incredibow sounds better than ever! Thank you!
November 27, 2019, 1:28 AM · Nice. Also, my bow hasn't been re haired in a year. What is optimal hair change if I am playing 2 or 3 or 4 hours a day? Also I do have crosshairs on my bow.
November 27, 2019, 1:30 AM · Also is it good to start with rosin that is made specifically for a type of strings? I use vision.
November 27, 2019, 7:13 AM · If you are playing on average 2-3 hours a day, I recommend rehairing 4-8 months depending on repertoire and time of year. This article I did explains more in detail:

Rosin doesn't have to match the strings, I prefer Guillaume rosin for most of the year in Michigan. It give you the grip of Andrea without sounding gritty and allows for more subtleties. I definitely don't recommend mixing rosins. This is my article on rosins:

November 30, 2019, 12:54 AM · Thanks. I think an important thing I learned is that I had way too much rosin on the bow.
Edited: November 30, 2019, 8:11 AM · Johann, I am sorry to confuse you, but considering your original post , the problem may be also very opposite. Many players still do not know that having not enough rosin on the bow hair makes the sound harsh (and the response poor of course). The point is that a rosin buildup that does accumulate on strings may cause the problem. You need to clean them regularly, but never use alcohol or any other liquid. Should this not help, your string tension is definitely too high (considering your instruments needs).
November 30, 2019, 11:14 AM · @A.-C. Re: Tilt of the bow. I have always thought that having the hair flat on the string muffles the sound somewhat, chokes some overtones but does not stop the hiss. Having the bow tilted compresses the hair into a narrower band, finds the optimum point of contact, giving a clearer, louder sound.

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