A rosin question

May 25, 2020, 3:12 AM · Hello,

When I got my first cheap violin, the shop gave me Pirastro Schwartz rosin. I’ve been doing some research and found that this rosin is recommended for steel strings and since some time with my new violin I’m using dominants or pirastro tónica which are synthetic.

With the rate of my playing (1hr per day) since November, and the cake looks pretty much new (I do put a little every day). At this rate it will last like 10 years.

I’m a beginner playing still Bach at the end of Suzuki book 1 to give a reference, but doing Polo and other tricker exercises) but I do wonder if having a cake made for steel strings is taking anything from me in terms of tone, playability and bow noise ?

Should I just stick with it or is it recommended to change it? If weather has any impact, temp is always with AC at around 24c and humidity 60 to 70%.

I’ve read many post but couldn’t reach any conclusion...

Thank you.

Replies (21)

May 25, 2020, 4:00 AM · Which rosin to use is a personal choice, but in order to make that choice one has to try many rosins. Over the past year I've tried many different rosins, some I really like, some are pretty good, none I hate.

My wife uses Hill Dark and Hill Light, depending on the season and the weather conditions.

The Hill rosins are the ones that I use the most often and each time I use them I think, "Okay, that settles it, these are the best." But then I use others and think "Gee, they work nicely, too!"

So much of how well or how poorly a rosin works for an individual depends on personal taste, on the actual climate it's used in, on the specific strings in combination with the bow and the violin and the playing style. Some people will say it doesn't matter, just put some on the bow and play. Others are very particular. And any specific brand or type of rosin will have some people who love it and others who hate it. It can run into a lot of money, trying rosins that others recommend. Luckily I'm a professional music teacher so any such expenses are written off on my taxes, so I didn't mind trying the rosins on the following list.

Rosins I currently own ranked from "Best" to "Just okay":
Hill Light
Hill Dark
Andrea Solo
Andrea a Piacere
Kaplan Light
Kaplan Dark
P. Guillaume
Jade L'Opera
Magic Rosin Ultra

May 25, 2020, 4:24 AM · Thanks for the detailed answer, I guess changing rosin wouldn't be a night and day difference then to justify getting a new one now.
May 25, 2020, 4:46 AM · If you do not drop your rosin it can last 20 years or even much longer. The difference between rosons is the grip they give on the string and the degree of dustiness. If you are happy with your Pirastro rosin there is no need to buy anymore or change but It is fun to switch it up occasionally. In the wintertime when the humidity level drops I find some brands work better than others.

Warchal strings has an interesting article on rosin and a blind preference test which you might find of interest.

Edited: May 25, 2020, 7:03 AM · Hidersine's dark rosin is supposedly formulated for steel strings, but I use it happily on Dominants, as I do Hill dark, which, afaik, is not formulated for steel strings.

If you are on Suzuki book 1, then stick with what you've got. Or switch once, then give up switching for a couple of years. Some people merely get addicted to switching because it gets quicker "results" than practising!

It's interesting that David ranks Guillaume as little more than OK. Nicola Benedetti ranks it as the best, but I've tried it and, although I do love it, it seems no better than my usual Royal Oak Classic, which is much cheaper. Otoh, I have two cakes of ROC and they are not the same colour, which may be a sign of inferiority.

A reason to switch might be that 24@60-70% is hot and humid compared with my usual playing conditions (currently in London it's 24 @ 44%), and ROC and Guillaume I'd class as dark amber rosins, so they may be right for you. But, as I suggest, if you do try them, stop there - don't go in search of some perfection that won't exist until you are perfect!

May 25, 2020, 7:02 AM · When it reaches 70 or more I notice the violin sound to change for worse. I guess I better practice than looking for rosins ??
Edited: May 25, 2020, 7:05 AM · I've probably amended my post a couple of times since you last read it.
But yes, we are "beginners", and practice will have the biggest effect of all the things we can do.
But if you get humidities of greater than 70%, as you imply, then you may be wise to buy one amberish rosin.
Edited: May 25, 2020, 8:23 AM · I like a rosin that grabs the string well during the static friction phase (gripping) but minimizes friction during the sliding phase. I have found that Thomastik Peter Infeld violin rosin does this very well so too does Rostanvo rosin at half the price. I also want minimum dust and maximum endurance (i.e. a rosin that will retain acoustic strength through the duration of a rehearsal or concert). I also want to make sound I can hear in midst of surrounding symphonic sound.

My rosin of choice these days is one of those from Leatherman, but because of their high price they never leave home with me so I carry different types in my case(s). The actual type of rosin I choose depends on the instrument I am playing and the bow I am using.

Over the past two decades the rosins I have favored have been (listed chronologically going back in time):
Andrea (Tartini)

I live in the climate of the San Francisco bay area (but not the chill of San Francisco itself or the coast) so humid heat is rare.

The color of a rosin seems to be a matter of "color coding" rather than have an inherent relationship to its playing qualities. The MAGIC brand rosins are all colorless, yet cover a full range of "grippiness."

Edited: May 25, 2020, 12:07 PM · The Pirastro Obligato rosin is a good match for Dominants, very good grip and less metallic tone, fuller sound.
Edited: May 25, 2020, 1:34 PM · You can stick with it. I like to sand the top of the rosin with a fine grit sandpaper. It creates some powder that I think is helpful when applying rosin. You can switch rosins when you have bow rehaired (once a year at least). Ask the shop what they suggest.
Edited: May 25, 2020, 3:33 PM · You can score the top of the rosin gently with a knife. A square grid works fine to produce the powder and transfer it to the bow. It won't risk transfering some "sand" to the bow hair. You don't have to wait for a rehair to try different rosins.
Edited: May 25, 2020, 5:50 PM · Rosin,- being a low-budget musician, I have never tried the very expensive brands of rosin. I suspect that one reason Pirastro has a different rosin for each set of strings is-- to sell more rosin. I use Hidersine Cello rosin, Bernadel, & Melos. I thought Guillaume was rather ordinary. I read somewhere that Heifetz used one of the Hidersine rosins, which was the standard "student-grade" rosin when I was younger. An amusing thought; Heifetz using cheap rosin and $2 Goldbrokat E strings, on a million dollar instrument.
Edited: May 25, 2020, 6:19 PM · I generally have the same preferences as Andrew Victor: high static friction and low sliding friction. But I haven't tried as many rosins, because I thought for many years that I was fine as long as the rosin was "good enough"; I used only Hill Light on violin and Hill Dark on viola until October 2018. I now use Jade L'Opera on both instruments.

BTW, my order of preference among the three is the exact opposite of David's. For me, Hill Light and Hill Dark are "just OK" and the Jade L'Opera rosin I'm currently using is far superior to both. But it probably depends on a whole lot of factors, including climate, playing style, bow, and strings. I have lived in hot, dry climates for almost the entire time I've played string instruments (all but the first nine months), whereas I notice from past posts that David is in New England.

May 25, 2020, 6:33 PM · If a rosin meant for steel strings is going to adversely affect your playing on synthetic or gut at all, it is most likely to be when you're trying to play soft or with a flautando tone. You can decide how much this matters at this stage.
May 25, 2020, 6:35 PM · I live in Indiana which gets quite humid in the summer. I use Piastro Oliv which seems good for the winter - it's what my violin store suggested at the time - I use Vision Solo strings. I think I should at least try a more amber rosin for the humid summer heat we tend to get here as my small orchestra is returning to masked/social distance rehearsals - any suggestions?
Edited: May 25, 2020, 11:07 PM · Is the core material of a string relevant to the choice of rosin?
These days, for example, most cello strings are steel core, but they are wrapped with metal wire of a different element or alloy.

The steel E strings most of us use must have a rosin that also works with the aluminum, silver, tungsten or whatever metal(s) the rosin sees on the rest of the set.

Personally, the only rosin incompatibilities I have found might relate to whistling E strings - but I never suspected that as a cause (until this instant, and I doubt it). I have not had a whistling E string problem since I switched to Thomastik Peter Infeld Platinum-plated and Warchal E strings.

Just wondering!

May 25, 2020, 9:30 PM · If you are just beginning as a student, I would recommend Gustave Bernardel. It works on every type of violin and it makes beginners sound great. It’s 12-15 dollars and you can probably find it at your local music store or online. It’s pretty popular here in Wisconsin where the humidity stays in the mid/dry range.

Good luck x

Edited: May 25, 2020, 9:38 PM · Whatever rosin you buy, make sure it has the following features:
(1) Ludicrously expensive,
(2) Waiting list to buy it,
(3) Short shelf life (according to manufacturers)
(4) Provided in very elegant packaging.

Bernardel rosin for me.

May 26, 2020, 12:52 AM · We deal with high humidity all year. Melos and Andrea Solo are my little one's favorites. I have a thing for Rosins so we have tried a lot of them (including Baker's...like I said, I have a thing for rosins) but now, she won't switch.

Millant-Deroux doesn't get much love around here but it is a good rosin and less than $10.

June 10, 2020, 1:12 PM · I've been eating my words lately. For years, I believed that expensive rosins were nothing more than a marketing ploy to appeal to people's snobbish need for exclusivity. Was I wrong! I recently splurged on Andrea Solo Rosin (thankfully, it was on sale) and I must admit that it is vastly superior, at least for me, than the rosin that I had been using now for the past 35 years! I'm now a believer. Remember to sugarcoat your words because you may have to eat them someday!
June 10, 2020, 1:25 PM · Different doesn't always mean better, but there are, nevertheless, differences.

Glad you found a brand that works for you.

June 10, 2020, 1:56 PM · I beg to differ: different does mean that some are better for some reasons (i.e., music, instrument, bow, temperature/humidity, player, etc., etc.) and, perhaps, others are better for others.

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