Pirastro Schwarz Rosin

October 25, 2020, 3:59 PM · Another rosin thread (it's been awhile, right?), but kind of specific.

I came across the following comment about Pirastro's discontinued gut string and matching "Schwarz" rosin:


"Pirastro has indeed canceled some lines, but thankfully not that many. Black Label ("Schwarz"-a gut string set that may have been as affordable as Gold Label-its rosin survived!)"

So I'm a little curious. The Schwarz is Pirastro's hardest rosin. They recommended it for steel strings (I use Helicores sometimes). Since Pirastro matches rosins so specifically to strings, does it make sense that they would market their hardest rosin for both gut and steel? Or is pairing rosins with string type just (as I suspect) a marketing hook?

Regardless, I recently dropped my Hill Light and broke it in pieces. It's a perfect excuse to try a new rosin. I've read a few good reviews about Pirastro Schwarz but it isn't talked about too much.

Before I plop down some $$ for Guillaume or the new Deja rosin, has anyone here used the Schwarz? How was it?

Replies (19)

Edited: October 26, 2020, 1:10 AM · I have often wondered why Pirastro has so many varieties of rosin, one for each string set: Perhaps to sell more rosin. If we want a perfectly optimized rosin, it would have to be different for the gut G string and the steel E string, which is impossible. If you want something cheaper than Guillaume, try Bernardel. It's only draw-back is that it makes extra dust. I also use Hidersine dark-cello grade, as a violin rosin.
October 26, 2020, 10:50 AM · That was my thought, too, Joel. Mixed strings sort of defy the strategy, don't they? I think I tried Bernadel long ago. Didn't like the dust. I'll give the Guillaume a try, and maybe try to re-melt my Hill light together. Thanks!
October 26, 2020, 12:12 PM · I endorse melting the old rosin into a reformed cake. I do that all the time* - even though I think I still have almost enough rosins to sustain all the string players in a major orchestra until retirements of the current crew. I did have ENOUGH but I've been giving them away the past couple of years.

* only when they break (about 3 or 4 times so far).

October 26, 2020, 12:24 PM · I agree with Joel and Andy. Pirastro's "matching rosin to strings" is just marketing rubbish. I've also successfully remolded several rosin cakes. I use a silicone mini-cupcake tray.
Edited: October 26, 2020, 2:10 PM · I had to retire my Guillaume and buy a fresh cake, as it had lost most of its adherence and was hard to put on. Just placed the new one on the old wooden container. The new one immediately livened up the bow and produced great tone-the old Guillaume rosin I knew. It was a new rehair, so yes, the rosin was "dead", and it wasn't user error (if anyone wants the cadaver so you can attempt any revivings at home, let me know.) It did last several years, but I am surprised at how some players have been able to use the same cake for decades-generally I have to buy more rosin before I am able to use a full cake.

(I assume I could use it suboptimally, but it's a lot of work and not the same rosin in a way.)

No offense to one-rosin lifers-if that works for you, great.

October 26, 2020, 5:10 PM · Thanks for the heads-up about Guillaume going stale. My Hill hadn't lost anything in the 8 years I had it, until I dropped it. My viola teacher from a few years ago plays violin professionally in the local symphony. She used an old cake of Hill Light. It had a deep canyon worn down the middle. She told me it was at least 20 years old.

Around that time I went on a rosin spree just to scratch the itch of curiousity. After all, they promise perfection and they're so pretty when they're new! I tried Bernadel, Melos, Salchow, Hidersines light and dark, Sartory (smelled like petrol!), Magic... Last of all I tried Hill Light. The one my teacher had recommended in the first place. She was right! It has been the Goldilocks rosin for me, as long as I remember that "less is more."

I gave the others to a teacher who gives lessons to underpriveledged kids. He passed the rosins out to his students who really appreciated them.

October 26, 2020, 5:15 PM · Nothing wrong with Guillaume rosin... it is my favorite. My old one just crystalized a bit so it is no longer fresh or of much practical use. I could theoretically use it, but the new, fresh Guillaume cake is much better. I used it about 4-5 years. Bernardel is good but I had a similar "crystallization" problem in less than a year. I guess I kill rosins?

In short, do not be afraid of trying the Guillaume just because an old rosin of mine died.

October 26, 2020, 5:22 PM · If it's that good I can afford a new cake every 4-5 years :-)

October 28, 2020, 11:52 AM · Bernardel is good but I had a similar "crystallization" problem in less than a year. I guess I kill rosins?

I have a theory about this. My theory is that rosin is plasticized by water. That means that a (relatively) small number of water molecules are present within the solid, enabling (through molecular motion, ultimately) the material to feel softer and less brittle. I would like to investigate the moisture content of a new cake of rosin vs. an old "crystallized" cake of the same brand. I would also like to know in what way you believe the "crystallized" substance has failed -- it doesn't transfer to the bow as well, or it transfers okay but still doesn't function well as you are expecting.

I have tried to add water purposely when remolding a melted rosin cake, but I'm not getting any kind of obvious results.

Edited: October 28, 2020, 1:06 PM · Mr. Deck,

For all my "dead" rosins, they are ridiculously hard to apply, and when you finally do, the grab still sounds fairly good for a time, but quickly goes away. So one needs to reapply, and possibly over-rosin (because it is not clear it is being applied, as it has "crystallized".) Day and night with the new Guillaume and the dead Guillaume. The tone changes from excellent to "very good but it doesn't last" when comparing the new vs the old.

So yes, I could "use it" but it is very hard, and not the same as it used to be.

I imagine thousands of players just use the same rosin for decades by rubbing the hair vigorously on it every day. There is no wrong answer, but for me, I rather spend on another cake that sounds good without the extra effort (the Guillaume refill cake is not very expensive nowadays, especially compared to the leatherwood brand and some others.)

(On the same token, for Cecilia rosin users, I think the half cake option is more practical, unless you are sharing the rosin with many players-as in a family rosin, or a rosin being used by many people in an orchestra or conservatory. If it will go bad in a few years, it is not worth paying so much for a portion that will likely go unused.)

(Mr. Deck, I have no use for the older cake, so if you want it, let me know. I cannot promise you will be able to do much with it, though.)

October 28, 2020, 1:50 PM · The half cake of Cecilia rosin is the exact same size as the regular cakes of the previously sold Tartini and Andrea rosins (that is until the "two-faced" Andrea Sanctus cakes were marketed).
October 28, 2020, 2:01 PM · Mr. Victor,

Then now it is more affordable! My old Andrea Solo cake was like $32-33 dollars some years ago. Have nothing bad to say about it other than its main advantage is maximum grip, which can make it very edgy and powerful, for better or worse.

I am not trying out new rosins now, but the new "Signature" may be a good value at the half-cake price.

October 28, 2020, 2:40 PM · If Paul's theory about rosins drying out holds water (pun intended!), then perhaps hard rosins such as Hill Light change very little over the years because they start with less water to begin with?

I ordered some Corelli Crystal 230's from Concord Music yesterday, and could not resist adding a Guillaume and Pirastro Schwarz to my bag. We'll see!

October 29, 2020, 3:59 PM · I find it highly unlikely that the reason for rosin changing properties with age is water evaporation. Water is present in the air and the water in rosin would reach an equilibrium with water in the air much faster. And it would go up and down with the seasons. It is much more likely that a volatile component of the rosin is evaporating. Different rosins will have different amounts of volatile components depending on how the rosin is distilled and thus different brands of rosin will age differently.
November 7, 2020, 9:17 AM · Received my new rosins. Adalberto is right about the Guillaume. It's terrific! Using Tonicas with a Helicore Heavy C, the contact across the strings feels very smooth but not slick.

My playing is at such a beginner level that, while I might hit my notes, it doesn't exactly sound "musical". I've been wondering, when will my playing start to sound like music? After a few hours getting used to the Guillaume's feel I'm suddenly drawing notes that ring! For me at least, Hill Light draws a louder sound more easily, but Guillaume draws a sweeter sound.

When it came time to re-rosin I tried the Pirastro Schwarz. This is the WORST rosin I've ever used, bar none. It made every note sound scratchy and thin.It didn't feel gritty, but it sounded gritty. No volume, either, which was a mercy. It brought out the worst in my instrument. I changed bow pressure, bow speed, tried wiping some of it off. Nothing helped. I couldn't get it off my bow fast enough. I won't even give this stuff away.

November 8, 2020, 8:44 AM · After all, it's the rosin that makes the tone: the bow is only there to hold the rosin in a convenient straight line!
November 8, 2020, 9:58 AM · My very unscientific findings: rosins do go stale. Maybe not always as quickly as Baker cautions, but it is often worth trying a new cake if you are losing enthusiasm for a brand.

And yes, some rosins work better on different strings. On different violins, in different seasons, in different climates. With different bows and players. I'd be reluctant to take a manufacturer's appraisal at face value, but there is no harm in seeing whether your current setup might be improved a small bit with a different formula.

November 8, 2020, 1:40 PM · I cannot say the Pirastro Schwarz is a bad rosin without using it-I imagine it sounds a bit edgy? I imagine that with the right match, it could work well.

The "edgiest" rosin that sounds very good and I liked was Andrea (now Cecilia) Solo, but in my experience, it tends to impart its "tone" (as far as such a thing exists), just like some strings tend to have a strong, characteristic voice. So I know it's quite excellent, especially for sheer volume, but the Guillaume gives me both great volume and a wonderful, rich tone, so I haven't looked for any other alternatives once I found it was a good match for my playing and violin. It is also not too expensive, relatively speaking. Hoping we never lose the Guillaume (or its exact formula) as a rosin option.

Yes, as I mentioned above, rosins go "bad" for me way before I am done using a whole cake, though that does also take a while.

November 8, 2020, 2:13 PM · I wouldn't call it edgy, unless by edgy you mean that scratchy sound I get when I drift too close to the bridge too slowly with the frog end of the bow and it goes SKRITCHHHH... that's what the Pirastro sounded like everywhere. Plus thin tone, no ring, no color, no volume. I was really shocked that a rosin alone could do all that.

Granted, they call it a hard rosin and recommend it for steel strings, but Hill light is a hard rosin that works great with steel, synthetics and gut. The Schwarz made a nice-sounding, inexpensive Chinese violin sound like a $30 VSO.

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