Do different rosins actually perform differently?

September 4, 2020, 12:49 PM · This article from The STRAD magazine about 2 years ago is posted on line.

https://www.thestrad.com/playing/do-different-rosin-brands-actually-perform-differently-we-put-7-to-the-test/8119.article

I think it is worthwhile to read how a pro evaluates rosins.

I have used 6 of the 7 rosins tested (although since it has been over 60 years since I bought a cake of Hidersine I probably should not count that one).

Replies (37)

September 4, 2020, 3:30 PM · The study described in the Strad article was not blind. It would have taken hardly any effort or expense for them to ask an assistant to rosin their bows for them with the different rosins. Everything was subjective too -- no rubric, no means of ranking the products.

"I think it is worthwhile to read how a pro evaluates rosins." Maybe they're pro violinists, but they should have consulted with a pro in basic experimental design, as it would have added considerable value to their study.

Likewise kudos to the folks at Leatherwood, who send you an optimized ("bespoke") rosin formulation based on a questionnaire. All they're doing is planting positive bias in the customer's mind.

September 4, 2020, 4:04 PM · C'mon, everyone knows that the deciding factor in a rosin's performance is the price tag
Edited: September 4, 2020, 5:00 PM · They perform differently for the player, though I bet some may not differ as much, and the audience will likely will never be able to guess the choice. But since the violinist can often hear/feel the difference, it is worth using one that fits him/her and the instrument.

I do wonder about the prices of some, though there are good, pricier options.

As for the article-which I am not complaining about-it was full of players' preference bias, which is normal for such a subject. It kind of read as a mini advertisement for all the rosins involved, a few of which are not overly used and needed the exposure, for better or worse.

Thanks for the article, Mr. Victor.

September 4, 2020, 5:28 PM · I do find that different rosins perform differently. I am also a Leatherwood fan. I originally found that I liked the Supple a great deal, but hated the Crisp; I bought a pair. The Crisp, however, has turned out to be a great match for my backup violin and (carbon-fiber) bow -- and it's an excellent rosin for my son's cheapo student outfit. The Crisp is remarkably effective when rosining dirty or worn-out bow hair.

I've occasionally thought about ordering a bespoken blend, but I'm pretty happy with switching between the rosins depending on how badly I need a rehair.

I have a big bag of rosins accumulated over the years and they are definitely different from one another.

September 4, 2020, 7:37 PM · The "bespoke blend" is going to be like going to a strip-mall Mexican or Chinese restaurant. You order one of 500 items on the menu, and it's on your table in front of you, steaming hot, in 3 minutes. Now ... how do you suppose they do that?
September 4, 2020, 10:46 PM · Steam table & 12 sauces!
For rosin: 2 swipes of this and 1 swipe of that!
September 5, 2020, 2:50 AM · I saw a dramatic, instant improvement in my bow hand after switching from Hill Dark to Jade. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't the placebo effect because the switch was not entirely voluntary. I dropped my rosin cake on a concrete floor and shattered it so badly that there were no pieces big enough to use, went to the shop needing rosin immediately because I had a concert only days away, and bought Jade because they didn't have Hill Dark in stock.
September 5, 2020, 4:47 AM · I am convinced there are great differences! And whereas I indeed don’t like the extremely cheap ones that come with violin sets (too much dust), I don’t necessarily prefer the most expensive ones. Once, I got that new fancy Australian one as a gift (cannot come up with the name, right now), and it was really good, but not better for my setup than the Evah Pirazzi Gold, I was using at the time.

A rosin that is described as supporting a “brilliant, soloistic” sound, tends to make it more scratchy. If you go for one for a “warm” sound, the sound might get dull. After all, it is an affordable accessory and can be fun (or frustrating) to play around with.

The rosin is mainly responsible for the contact between string and bow, so I am not surprised, at all, that it makes a difference. Try to play a note without rosin, then you have an impression of the rosin’s influence.

May that comparison you cited not have been scientifically well set up, that doesn’t weaken the fact that there are differences.
And, as with everything about the instrument, there is no one best choice for everybody.

September 5, 2020, 6:23 AM · I agree with Emily. They behave differently, but the choice is personal, not objective.
September 5, 2020, 9:59 AM · "Maybe they're pro violinists, but they should have consulted with a pro in basic experimental design, as it would have added considerable value to their study."

"Study" would be a generous term for the process described in the article - almost as generous as applying the term to what I might have done in high school at the time.

The article is of course a consumer choice piece with a title that attracts attention but doesn't have any substance as it seems to raise a question that has some meaning or value but doesn't, because in the wide range of rosin it's 100% certain that they produce different results, which is intended to impress the reader and lend credence or value to the purchase price of the magazine.

To even think that the authors are interested or capable of taking an actual scientific approach to the domain is, I think, in error - to imagine that with a few changes in methodology it could become substantial.

They seem to be attempting to qualify different physical substances through the ears and hands of a single person. Who does that in science?

Which is not to say that the objections aren't valid - they certainly are; just that they aren't even close to being close, or interested - in the right domain or medium for that, and so I raise objections for a greater level of awareness of that.

Edited: September 5, 2020, 12:58 PM · A problem with some products is that one constituent may be snake oil. I have a theory that the price tag and the proportion of snake oil can be in positive correlation with each other. Caveat emptor!
September 6, 2020, 2:26 AM · I do feel that different rosins can make the violin sound differently. I couldn't bring myself to pay a very expensive price, but when I changed from the 'standard cheap rosin' to one that was a little better, I was much better pleased, and there was less dust too.

And of course, though this theory may have nothing in it, if I feel better about my playing, I will probably play better.

Edited: September 6, 2020, 2:50 AM · Remembering the old chestnut about the distinguished violinist (Heifetz?) who was complimented on the sound of his violin, has anyone ever applauded the performance of your rosin?
September 6, 2020, 4:59 AM · But would anyone even comment on the performance of someone's bow - and yet surely the quality of one's bow makes a difference?
September 6, 2020, 5:34 AM · I thought blaming the one brand for being hard to break in was a little much (can't they just gently score the rosin?).

I also was amused by the one that claims to have a rosin infused with meteoric iron.

September 6, 2020, 8:13 AM · Paul, Leatherwood is essentially handmade by one guy; I'd guess it's a side gig for him and not a full-time job. (I'd be surprised if he sold enough of it for it to be more than just him and maybe his wife or something.) It's effectively an artisanal, one-off product.

No one else can hear a meaningful difference in your rosin, even if under the ear there may be significant difference. Ten feet away someone keen-ear can hear a difference but it's a tiny factor in your tone.

I do like my original-recipe Baker's, although I think much of my fondness for it was based on when the tin was completely fresh. (I strongly disliked its 'Vuillaume'-style formulation, though.)

And I continue to keep a cake of Vienna's Best in my case, as well.

September 6, 2020, 9:44 AM · LOL! I love how the articles cycle at V.com. We had almost an identical one on the magic of Baker's a few years ago. Where is that epitome of schtick now?

Personally, I find that Baker's makes me play like the dancing of elves in the twilight, the mystery of the deep-forest trolls at night and the passion of Greek gods in their Mount Olympus sylvan hideaway.

On the other hand, Pinefresh rosin is more like a Cyclops with a bad case of morning-mouth.

September 6, 2020, 10:26 AM · Well, Rosin can inspire poetry, anyhow! ^^^^

Thank you, Elise - this thread is a pleasure to read.

September 6, 2020, 11:58 AM · Again-- yes, they are different. Not always better or worse.

Standard choices at the moment are Baker's original and Guillaume, although Andrea Solo/A Piacere have their place as well. A good, if somewhat brighter, alternative to Baker's is the Deja rosin, available for very little on Etsy.

I do like leatherwood, but I can't stand the leather wrapping and suspect that it, too, tends to deteriorate over time.

Edited: September 6, 2020, 1:19 PM · Elisa - I clearly need to find some Baker's rosin, it is obviously inspirational ;-)

Lydia - you got me curious about Leatherwood, and I've read other posts on that rosin over the last 2 years. Not curious enough about it to invest in it at my level (Suz 4), but curious.

Thankfully I like Melos just fine - and have Melos Dark coming so I can compare with Melos Light. I found the price range interesting on this - Shar has almost the highest prices for it out there, but found it at Concord Music for significantly less.

September 6, 2020, 12:51 PM · One question I have for people who think there are no differences between rosins: if changing the composition of rosin on the hair (different hardness, mineral content, whatever) makes no difference, wouldn't it be logical to think that changing the amounts of the SAME rosin would also make no difference?

In other words, there could be no such thing as too much or too little.

Of course, you could ask the same question about bows in general, and the tension of hair. Leaving aside the handling and balance, does hair tension make any difference to tone? On the same stick?

September 6, 2020, 4:56 PM · Stephen, in that context I think it's like chocolate chip cookies or ice cream. "Enough is enough! More is too much!"

On the other hand, cellist David Finckel seems to believe in rosining a lot and often. (Maybe he just didn't use the right rosin? I don't know!)
I always want to start with enough rosin on my bow so it shows white on a dark cloth (my trousers).

September 6, 2020, 6:15 PM · Well, yes. But you do believe there is a correct amount. This implies that rosin matters.
September 6, 2020, 6:36 PM · I think he means that a rosin by any other name is still a rosin....

September 6, 2020, 8:55 PM · I will make one positive vote for Hidersine-dark, cello grade, as a violin or viola rosin. jq
September 6, 2020, 9:02 PM · @Stephen rosins may indeed be different, but I think if one is truly trying to decide which is better or worse for himself/herself, then one should try to find a way to blind-test them. But there is hardly any way for an individual with finite resources to do that.
September 7, 2020, 5:26 AM · To compare rosins properly we should try each one on the same bow, with clean hair from the same horse.....
September 7, 2020, 8:34 AM · [I hate to reveal this, but its really not the rosin. Its actually the player.]
September 7, 2020, 9:32 AM · I've implied elsewhere on vcom that the quality of the bowhair amy have an effect too significant to ignore.
Edited: September 7, 2020, 10:17 AM · Elise of course the player matters, but the player needs to be matched to the violin, and the violin to the bow, and the bow to the bow hair, and the hair to the rosin, and the violin to the strings, and the strings to the tailpiece and the fine-tuners and the chin-rest clamps, and if you make even the slightest mistake in choosing ANY of these vital accessories, then your tone will be absolutely WRECKED. Or you will, at very least, always have that nagging feeling that it can be better for reasons that you can never hope to fathom.

Now I'm going to go check out what's happening in the tattoo thread.

September 7, 2020, 12:52 PM · Andrew Victor in an earlier post wrote an extremely well worded, concise explanation of the physics associated with bowing a string with a rosin containing bow. This is what Andrew posted:

"The rosin on the bow hair grips the string while pulling (or pushing) it from its equilibrium position until the restoring force of the string exceeds the gripping force of the rosin ("static friction"). The magnitude of that force is due to the static friction of the rosin on the bow and the rosin on the string.

When the restoring force of the string exceeds the gripping force of the rosin the string returns toward its equilibrium position and then beyond, slipping along the rosined bow hair until the bow hair grabs it again. This slipping is slowed in proportion to the "sliding friction" coefficient of the particular rosin used. The higher the static friction (within limits) and the lower the sliding friction of a rosin the more range of sound and response are available to the player. This grab-slip-grab-slip process occurs very fast, at the frequency of the string vibration rate (i.e., 440 times per second for "concert A" pitch)."

Based on these physics, the best rosin is one that has high static friction and low sliding friction. This allows for the maximum amplitude of vibration for the string being played. As Andrew points out, this gives the best range of sound and response for the player. In my many years of playing, I have used an abundance of rosins. They are not all the same. You do not apply them all the same. To achieve the best sound different rosins need to be experimented with by applying differing amounts in order to maximize these two frictional force components.

For me the rosin that works best is Larica Gold II. This rosin's performance is optimized when a minimum amount is applied. For 2 hours of continuous play time, 2 swipes are all that are necessary. My definition of a swipe is 1 down bow and 1 up bow. The rosin only coats the string with no white residue deposited on the top plate. After playing, the rosin can easily be removed from the string with a microfiber cloth. It is remarkable rosin. I play my violin consistently for about 90 minutes every day. One cake of rosin lasts many years.

September 7, 2020, 4:00 PM · For years, I liked the Millant-Deroux rosins, alternating between the Colophane 2000 and Jade depending on the season. I'd still recommend them to anyone needing to grab a reasonably-priced cake of rosin off Amazon.

The grip that feels the best to you will be personal. Rosin is relatively cheap.

Edited: September 8, 2020, 12:37 PM · Apparently Larica rosins are made by the original Liebenzeller formulas.
http://www.larica.ch/en/index.html

I used Liebezeller rosins pretty exclusively during the first decade of this century. I bought my first cake of Liebenzeller I Gold at a violin shop in Bethesda, MD around 1965 (during a work trip to DC). I never could get enough rosin on my bow. So 35 years later when I rediscovered the brand (on the internet) I ended up obtaining mostly L-II for violin and L-III for cello. In addition, due to one thing or another I ended up trying all 5 of the "metals" - even copper, which a sample of which was sent to me free (and unsolicited) by Ellen G. at cellos2go.com. The copper is clearly for beginners because it lets you mess around indiscriminately with the bow and not get a bad sound.

My preferred Liebenzeller blends were Gold and "Meteoric Iron". I played cello in a weekly piano trip for almost 20 years and used the Liebenzeller rosins for at least 10 of those years. I found that the rosins started to fail me about 90 minutes into a session and I had to add rosin to the hair. I never figured out what accounted for the failure - perhaps the rosined hair had "glassed over." But I don't really know. From that I switched to Tartini/Andrea rosins, from that to Magic (which eventually came in 3 grades). I finally ended up with Leatherwood, bought directly from the maker in Australia when he had a half-price sale - so I bought 6 cakes, 2-each for violin, viola and cello - Supple and Crisp. I think it's the best.

Collecting rosins I always thing of Frank, whom I worked with many years ago, he collected vintage Porsches. So the cost of my collection did not faze me.

Edited: September 8, 2020, 10:29 AM · An objective comparison to answer that question would use only one bow (as to eliminate that variable unless on can find bows that are virtually indistinguishable in all aspects from one another), cleaned in the same fashion between trials, with unknown 2 rosins to the player applied in repeated random order but equal and sufficient number of times (that's at least 30) as to have valid statistical significance. Very tedious, any taker? Meanwhile do I keep applying $15 Magic Rosin every couple of weeks or dish out over $100CDN on a Leatherwood cake... let me think.
Edited: September 8, 2020, 12:41 PM · Magic makes good stuff! I was impressed enough to share it around a string quartet session and all the other players were as impressed as I was. The sound of the group was enhanced as well. I have and have used cakes of all 3 grades of Magic.

That was before Leatherwood was ever advertised in the USA.

September 9, 2020, 5:46 PM · My understanding with regard to Liebenzeller rosin is that it was originally manufactured by hand by a lady who lived in Liebenzell, Germany. Liebenzell is a town located in the Black Forest area of Germany. The rosin was popular and well regarded. About 15 years ago it was no longer available. There was an outcry by the fans who greatly appreciated this rosin. A Swiss company named Seitz Rosin Manufacturing purchased from the Liebenzeller rosin lady, her recipes for the various types of rosin she produced. I would assume that this would be exclusive rights to the recipe but do not know. In 2008 Seitz Rosin Manufacturing produced this rosin and marketed it under the name Larica.

It seems that Seitz is very careful in their manufacture of this rosin. I am old enough to have used the lady in the Black Forest version of Liebenzeller rosin. Larica is absolutely as good as the original. Sietz Rosin Manufacturing does use the original recipes. What I do not know and am suspicious of is the authenticity of the rosin that currently appears in Liebenzeller boxes. For me I am sticking with the known good Larica Gold II.

Edited: September 10, 2020, 11:42 AM · Good topic.Although I find Leatherwood to be excellent I try to keep rosining to a minimum and keep up regular bow rehairings.

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