Rosining a brand new bow is a huge milestone if this is the first time you are doing it. For a string musician, you’ll want to know how to rosin the bow with confidence as you’ll be doing it on a regular basis. Like everything else associated with playing a string musician, applying rosing on the bow does take some finesse and knowledge. The amount of rosin, the type and the frequency you apply rosin all affect the bowing and how the violin sounds.
Over time and with more practice you’ll start to naturally know how much to use when applying rosin to your bow. This is based on both personal preference and also what your desired sound quality is. Until you have the practice behind your belt and the intuition to do this though, here’s a guide on how to rosin a brand new bow.
Choosing Your Rosin
When you feel your bow hairs you’ll notice they are slippery and smooth to the touch. Applying rosin adds texture to the bow hairs and creates resistance. Rosin is actually made from the resins of different coniferous trees and it comes in a whole range of densities and colors. A darker rosin will be heavier and stickier and is generally used for larger string instruments. A lighter rosin has a lighter density and isn’t as sticky, so is more suitable for instruments such as violas and violins.
Climate will play a huge part in choosing your rosin. Much the same as your violin, the rosin will respond to any changes in temperature and humidity. Those who live in places with actual seasons may like to rotate their rosins to match the humid climate. For this reason, you should always store your rosin in your violin case and there should also be a humidity regulator there too so you can maintain your instrument properly.
If you have purchased your instrument and it has come with the bow included you should check with the store or seller to see if the bow has been pre-rosined. A new bow requires more effort to rosin properly because the hairs are new and completely rosin free. If there is already rosin on the bow you’ll be able to use the bow a couple of times before you need to do it again.
In this case by the time your bow needs a top-up of rosin you can follow the instructions for normal rosining of the bow. Even at this point you should only need to pass the bow through some rosin three or four times because it will have enough on it still.
If you’ve got a bow that you’re sure hasn’t be pre-rosined then you’ll have to apply rosin yourself. An untouched bow that has never been rosined will have to be passed up and down, from the bottom to the top, back and forth across the surface of the rosin for around 40 to 50 times. This will help to build up enough rosin to form a slightly abrasive surface which is exactly what you want.
Scoring the Surface of the Rosin
A new cake of rosin looks smooth and shiny but this will mean it will take a lot longer for you to apply rosin onto your bow hair. It’s for this reason that it is recommended to score the surface of the rosin with a plastic fork or knife. Gently scratch on the surface of the new rosin – you don’t need to apply too much pressure here. Keeping working back and forth until the top of the rosin is noticeably scored or dulled. Never gouge at or poke the cake of rosin. Once the surface is no longer glossy and is dull the rosin will easily adhere to your violin bow.
Rosin Your Bow
Now you’ll be ready to rosin your bow. It’s important that you never touch the bow hair. Any oils on your fingers rub off onto the hair and it will make it hard for the rosin to adhere to them. Below is a guide to rosining your bow.
- Tighten up the bow hair. Never rosin a bow that has loose bow hairs because you can end up causing damage.
- Take your cake of rosin and place it at the base of the bow. Gently and carefully pass the bow across the surface of the cake starting with the bow hair at the bottom and working your way to the top. Try to keep this as consistent as possible so you are applying rosin evenly. Moving too quickly will cause friction on the bow which goes on to generate heat, therefore solidifying the rosin.
- Always rotate the cake of rosin so that the surface will wear away evenly as time goes on. This helps you to avoid any tracks or grooves in the rosin that will make it almost impossible to apply an even coat of rosin.
- As you start to use your bow you will start to notice the new rosin dust that sifts down onto the strings and lands on the body of the violin. Grab a soft cloth and wipe off any excess rosin dust you can see when you’ve finished playing. This will help you to maintain your strings as well as protect your violin.
- Normally you will want to re-apply rosin for every four to six hours of play which for the average student would be about two times a week.
How Much Rosin?
You should experiment with how much rosin you need to apply to the bow and over time you will learn how the different amounts affect the sound and feel of your instrument.
- No rosin – With little to no rosin on your bow you will notice that the violin makes an almost hollow side. You’ll find yourself pressing harder on the strings to produce any sort of sound.
- Not enough rosin – Applying a bit more rosin but still not the right amount will create more sound but the bow will still struggle to move smoothly. This causes friction on the strings which isn’t good for the instrument.
- The right amount – Normally around four to five strokes of rosin on the bow will be enough to do the trick. when you have the right amount like this the bow will move smoothly and evenly on the strings to create a lovely sound.
- Too much – It’s easy to tell if you have too much rosin on your bow because you’ll see dust pouring from your strings. The bow will also have a sticky feel to it and you will need to make more effort to play on the strings. Any noise you do produce will be harsh and scratchy.
Keeping Your Bow Maintained
Keeping your bow in good working condition means that it will last longer and still produce a nice sound. Here are some tips to help you maintain your bow well.
- Follow our guide above to rosin the bow properly before you use it for the first time. It will take you a while to do this but doing so will extend the lifespan of your bow and will also massively improve the sound you get from the instrument. Believe us, it’s well worth the effort in the long run.
- Keep applying rosin as often as you think it is necessary. Rosin is used to help the hairs run smoothly across the violin strings. This reduces any friction on the hairs which stops then from melding together and will extend the overall life of your bow.
- Loosen the tension on the bow hair whenever you finish playing your violin. Also remember to tighten them back up again before you start to play the next time. It’s very important that you do this because it helps prevent stress fractures to the wood of the bow. This occurs when the bow hairs are too tight and the wood of the bow ends up bending backwards and then breaking.
- Wipe down both the strings and violin body after every time you play it. You should do this with a soft cloth or a microfiber cloth and always use two separate cloths so you don’t end up smearing more rosin onto the instrument.
- Keep your rosin in the same case as your violin. Not only is this useful from a practical standpoint, it will help to protect the rosin. Much the same as the violin the rosin is easily affected by climate changes and humidity. If the rosin is exposed to these elements it will become too sticky to use and if applied to your bow, it could potentially ruin all of the hairs.
And that’s it. Very soon you will be applying rosin on the bow like a true professional and it will just be a part of your practice routine. Until it becomes second nature make sure to keep our tips in mind so that you develop the right technique for rosining your bow.